I would recommend the following actions:
1. Decide how much you would like to spend.
2. Put money away monthly in a bank account that has a small amount of interest.
3. Start educating yourself about good quality diamonds on reputable internet sites such as James Allan, Good Old Gold, Blue Nile, Whiteflash, Diamonds by Lauren and Brian Gavin. (These are much cheaper than High Street jewellers and have better quality diamonds – a win-win situation!).
4. When the time comes ring up these sites and talk to them about what diamonds and settings are available.
5. If money is tight choose the nicest diamond you can afford and have it set in a simple setting. You can always change the setting at a later date when you have more money.
6. As far as nice diamonds go, always choose excellent cut so that you get plenty of sparkle. Cut provides 98% of the beauty of a diamond. You can compromise on everything else. (If you like round diamonds make sure that you have certification from the FIA or the AGS.)
7. If you like yellow gold metal you can go down to a K colour and the diamond will still look white. If you like white gold or platinum you can go down to an I colour and the diamond will still look white. Sometimes people prefer slightly warmer diamonds and go even lower in colour.
8. You can go down to VS2 in clarity and under normal circumstances the diamond will still look flawless. You may even get an SI1 diamond where flaws cannot be seen or they are at the edge and can be covered by a prong.
9. If I had to choose a site I would probably go for Brian Gavin. He is actually a diamond cutter and so has a reputation to uphold. I’ve also seen some of his stones on this site and they look wonderful.
10. In the meantime just try on lots of engagement and wedding rings at local jewellers just to find the sort of thing that you like. You might be surprised because you can never be sure that you like a ring until you see it on your hand. Make sure that you try lots of sizes, shapes and settings.
11. You will see pictures of lots of rings on this site. Most people have bigger rings than the average for the US so don’t be seduced by diamond size. I’ve seen beautiful rings with 5 carat diamonds and I’ve seen beautiful rings with 0.15 carat diamonds. Somehow there is no substitute for good taste.
12. When you get your ring just enjoy it.