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May 12, 2016 7 min read

Giacomelli Jewelry’s engagement “guru” helps answer real questions from guys across the country.

Ever since I got into the jewelry business, I get asked so many questions from guys ready to propose, who need help picking out a ring. As a 30-year-old guy in Los Angeles, I have several friends who’ve gone through, are currently going through, or are about to go through the stress, anxiety, and overall confusion that surrounds planning the perfect proposal. I popped the question not too long ago to my girlfriend (she said yes!), so let me help you get the same result.

Jim H. from Valparaiso, IN:
Hey Daniel,
I’ve been dating my girlfriend for a little over a year now and am starting to look into engagement rings. I’ve done some researching on the internet, but I’m still confused on the basics. How much should I spend? What’s the proper size diamond to get? 1 carat? 2 carats? I want to make sure I’m getting a quality product but I don’t want to overspend either. I’m starting to get overwhelmed. Do I really need to spend 3 months salary? Let me know what you think.

Daniel: Wow, there’s a lot here to unpack. First of all, congratulations on getting ready to take that next step in your relationship. These are some great questions that I think most people think about when considering an engagement ring. 

When reading your question it made me realize how much society is to blame for this whole situation.  Through movies, tv, advertising, etc, our culture has set forth these made up rules about what’s expected in an engagement ring. I truly feel for anyone who thought they had to spend three months salary on an engagement ring, and possibly put their financial future in a vulnerable position. Let me set the record straight once and for all, that this is bullshit.

Which diamond to get?

There is no right or wrong size, you don’t need to spend three months salary if you can’t afford to, and some women might not even want something super flashy and expensive.

Your first step should be finding out what kind of center stone or ring style your girlfriend is into. A diamond center stone is the most "traditional" choice and where most of the expense is, but your lady may not be a traditional girl and may prefer something other than a diamond. Lab-grown diamonds, salt and pepper diamonds, moissanite, and sapphires are all popular alternatives to the more costly mined diamonds and will lower your cost significantly if budget is an issue.

If you do know your girl wants a diamond, my advice to you is to not get caught up in carat weight. While carat weight impacts the price and overall look of the ring, it’s not the only factor. You need to take the cut type and quality, color, and clarity of the stone.  To simplify it for you, the cut affects shape and how light reflects and refracts, the color relates to how white the stone is, and the clarity refers to the degree of imperfections (called inclusions). 

My personal opinion, and full disclosure, the opinion at Giacomelli Jewelry, is that carat weight alone is a little overrated. We wouldn’t want to sacrifice on the color of the stone, and we wouldn’t want there to be too many inclusions that affect the look of the ring. We recommend to use a G or H color diamond that is near colorless, and less expensive than a D color. Chances are you won’t tell much of a difference.

credit: GIA

The same philosophy applies to clarity grades. For most people, it doesn’t make sense to spend a premium on a flawless stone. Yes, a "slightly included” stone has some blemishes, but you’d only be able to see them at 10x magnification. Practically speaking, who cares?

Clarity scale. Credit: GIA

At the end of the day, if you can afford a diamond over 1 carat, and truly like the look of a bigger stone, and aren’t sacrificing much on cut, color or clarity, then go for it. If you can’t afford it, then there’s nothing wrong with a diamond in the .75 carat range, especially if the design of the ring is cool. Either way, make sure your diamond ring comes certified from a reputable institution like GIA - Gemological Institute of America. That way you know exactly what you’re getting.  

Seth S. from Providence, RI writes:

I’m definitely ignorant when it comes to what’s in style and what’s cool. How do I know what style of ring my girlfriend wants?

Daniel: I get this one a lot. You want your proposal to be a romantic surprise, so it’s not like you can just straight up ask your girlfriend what she wants. I would argue that you actually could directly ask her, and just put extra effort into the “when" and “where” of your proposal so that it’s still a surprise. However, for the traditionalists out there, there are some subtle and secretive ways to get the intel you need. You just gotta put on your detective hat.

1) Ask her friends

You’ve probably already thought of this one. Your girlfriend’s girlfriends will be more than happy to advise you here. I guarantee you that they’ve had discussions about her preferences. Her best friend will probably send you photos and links to sites that will help narrow down your search. Even if you get just one nugget from her like, “She definitely DOESN’T want a solitaire”, that will be useful when shopping around. Just make sure you swear her friend to secrecy and don’t involve too many people.

Her close friends will guide you in the right direction.

2) Check out her social media activity, especially Pinterest.

I highly recommend this approach. Chances are she has a Pinterest board full of rings she likes. What could be easier than clicking through the 5 to 10 (or 100's!) of rings she has pinned. She’s pretty much done the work for you. All you have to do is pick the one you like best that fits your budget.

3) Pay attention to what she says.

You’re already doing this, right? Are you sure? You’d be surprised how clueless most guys are when it comes to actually seeing what’s right in front of them. I totally get it. When I’m out to brunch on a Sunday, I’m thinking about things like my fantasy football lineup, and will the Bills actually beat the Patriots today (probably not, sadly). But here’s the thing, your lady is definitely dropping hints and if keep your ears open, you’ll pick up on the clues. You can even direct the conversation.

Her: My friend Abby from back home just got engaged?
You: Oh really? Thats awesome. Tell her congrats. How did Tom propose to her?
Her: It was amazing. He did….(proposal story)
You: Very cool. How’s the ring? Are you a fan of it?

There are so many opportunities like this to get her opinions. Maybe you’re on vacation, sitting by the pool, and she’s looking through a guilty pleasure celebrity gossip magazine. Look through it with her and talk about what she thinks looks cool and stylish. Does she like classic or modern? Does she want something simple and basic, or does she want something more original? You’ll definitely get a sense of what she likes and what she doesn’t like. 

4) Tell her you want help picking out a watch for yourself.

I like this one a lot. Even if you don’t really need a watch, you can pretend like you do and take her to a store that also sells engagement rings. Since you’re already there anyway trying on watches, it will be very natural to talk about the rings that are on display. Just be natural about it:

You: That ring with the colored stones looks pretty cool.
Her: It does look cool, but those are rubies. I actually like sapphires better.

Boom! Now you know she prefers sapphires over rubies. It’s that simple.

Bottomline, you might have to employ a number of these tactics. You’ll get bits and pieces of information from each one and then it’s about putting the puzzle together. It’s not uncommon for guys to come to us and say something like, “She likes pear shaped diamonds, rose gold, and something that feels classic and timeless. Do you have anything like that?" It’s always easier for us to help customers when there’s an initial direction vs. a completely blank slate. It will reduce your stress too since you can cut straight to the point and not have to go through hundreds of different options.

Don't worry. It's going to work out

Don't worry, it's all going to work out. 

Mark K. in Dallas, TX writes:

Daniel- please help me understand what type of gold I should be getting. Between 14k, 18k, and all the different colors, what do I need to know?

Let’s start by making clear that the karat “K” we’re referring to here is different than the term carat weight, which we use when discussing diamonds. The next thing you need to know is that for the most part, gold jewelry is not 100% gold. Only 24K gold is 100% gold. 24K is rarely used (often only for ceremonial purposes) for the simple reason that pure gold isn’t really that durable. In fact, it’s not that hard to bend a 24K gold band. It just doesn’t live up to the everyday use that’s required out of jewelry. This is why gold gets mixed with other elements such as copper, to increase the strength of the metal. The karat “K” is a way of referring to the degree in which gold is mixed with other metals.
Karat Pure Gold Percentage Price Durability

14K Gold

58% $ Strong
18K Gold 75% $$ Ok
24K Gold 100% (technically 99.5%) $$$ Poor

You can also find 10K and 22K gold out there, but 14K and 18K are the most common for fine jewelry. 

As for the other part of your question, there's different gold colors: yellow, rose, and white. Remember when I said that gold gets mixed with other metals? Well, the metals it's mixed with is what creates the different colors. 

Pure Gold  + Zinc, Copper, Silver = Yellow Gold
Pure Gold + Copper, Silver = Rose Gold
Pure Gold + Silver/Nickel/Magnesium/Paladium = White Gold

As for which type of gold you should buy? I like the durability of 14K gold. An estimated 90% of American wedding bands are 14K. As for the color, it's personal preference and paying attention to what your girlfriend likes. Some people are not in love with white gold because of it's similarity to silver. You can't go wrong with yellow gold, and rose gold is very popular right now. Rose gold looks great with alternative gemstones like white sapphires. 

You're good as gold.

With this info, you're as good as gold now.

If you have a question for Daniel about engagement rings or jewelry in general, send him an e-mail at

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