How to buy an Engagement Ring

A few months ago, we partnered up with super talented Ruby Jean, of Ruby Jean Photography, to answer some tough questions about buying Engagement Rings. Not only did we love to help readers navigate the somewhat intimidating world of jewelry, but we also had the best time with a mini photo session! We hope this Blog is an interesting and fun read for you.

There may come a time when you, or someone you know is ready to pop the big question. You know, the “will you marry me” question. I’ve always wondered, if I was in the position where I was purchasing an engagement ring for someone, how would I even know where to start or what to do? What style is best? What if he/she doesn’t like what I pick out? Well, wonder no more! I teamed up with one of Brown Goldsmiths jewelry designers, Julia Ballaron, to answer ALL of the questions about how to buy an engagement ring.

Brown Goldsmiths is a small jewelry store founded by Steve and Judy Brown in the 1960s in the Old Masonic Hall in Freeport, Maine. The two began their business forging silver pieces for friends and family, which then expanded to fine metals and high quality gemstones. We have served our local community and beyond for over 50 years, creating a variety of Signature pieces, and countless custom and one of a kind pieces. Much of what you see displayed in our showcases is crafted just upstairs in our studio. We create pieces using hand-forging, wax injection models, and Computer Aided Design (CAD for short) to make our customer’s fine jewelry dreams come true. In addition to what we make ourselves, we also stock a variety of jewelry from vetted and trusted vendors, whose craftsmanship measures up to our high standards. 

Pictured: Oval Diamond Solitaire Ring


We start by asking them about their significant other. We want to know their name, how they met, how long they’ve been together, etc. Engagement ring shopping can be daunting, so by asking about their partner, it gets them focused on their relationship and their own feelings, which helps them relax. 

If they came in to look for their partner, we then start to ask about what they know about their partner’s style preferences. Sometimes they know exactly what to look for, either because they looked together or because they shared a pinterest board or other inspiration. Do they like a certain gem type/shape? Do they wear yellow gold or white (or rose?) Do they like simple, classic pieces or statement pieces with lots of bling? Do they have an active lifestyle or not? All of these questions inform the kind of ring I’ll show the client. We really try to get a complete picture of their lifestyle and their style preferences so we can help them choose a ring that’s perfect for their partner.

So ladies and gents! If you are hoping to surprise your partner, I’d start paying attention to their jewelry style, and listen for any dropped hints, and hey, perhaps check out their Pinterest account!!!


Many believe that when they walk into a jewelry store, they must pick a ring from what’s shown in their showcases. In reality, that’s for people who want to walk out the door that day with a finished ring. Often, looking and trying on is a great way to figure out your style. You of course can go completely custom, but there are very easy ways to customize a ring. You could have it made with a different gem shape, or maybe change the metal type.


Pictured: Jubilee Engagement Ring


There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much you and your partner are willing to spend. Forget the “rule” of two months’ salary. It’s all about what you and your partner have decided you’re willing to spend on an engagement ring. The sky’s the limit when it comes to how much you could spend, so try to make sure you have a number in your head. 

Sometimes, if you’re asking for an estimate for a ring, the sales person will offer a few options, and one of those might be more than what you’ve expressed as your budget. At Browns, that isn’t meant to pressure you into making a larger purchase than you’re comfortable with. We want to make sure you have all relevant information before you make a decision on as big and important a purchase as an engagement ring. We don’t know if your budget is flexible, so we want to make sure you’re fully informed. It comes down to whatever makes you and your partner happy.

Pictured: Double Halo Split Shank Engagement Ring


Lifestyle considerations: If you love to get out and hike/rock climb/garden/etc, a ring with a ton of small, bead set diamonds probably wouldn’t be the best choice for you. We would steer that person towards a more durably designed ring, like our Luna Ring, Floating Diamond Ring, or Ridge Ring. If you’re not quite so active, or know you have the discipline to take off your engagement ring while doing these more physical activities, you’d be fine with a more delicate style ring, like this Double Halo diamond ring or the Emerald Cut Trio ring. Different styles are designed for different kinds of people, and understanding what works with you rather than against you will help immensely. We don’t want people to buy a ring they love, then have issues later because they wore it to death and it now requires extensive repair work.


We tell everyone that we recommend coming in and having your jewelry cleaned and checked every six months. Just like you wouldn’t expect a car to keep running perfectly with no maintenance, how could you expect your ring to remain as perfect as the day you bought it? Over time, metal wears away and gemstones can get abraded and chipped. If things are left unattended, it’s much more likely you could lose gems because they weren’t checked. Catching possible issues early will not only save your jewelry, but also save you money in the long run.

Pictured: Embrace Diamond Engagement Ring


One thing to consider is metals. The 14k for gold means that 14 parts out of 24 are pure gold, or 58.3%, while the remainder is a mix of other metals. 18k contains 75% pure gold. With white gold, because it still contains pure gold which is yellow, the metal in its bare state is always a little warm in color. In order to get it looking bright white, jewelry stores rhodium plate the jewelry. Rhodium is a metal in the same family as Platinum, so white gold rings get submerged into a Rhodium solution, electricity is conducted through the ring which attracts the Rhodium particles to the metal and creates a very thin coating over the metal. If you don’t like the idea of having to keep getting your ring rhodium plated over its life, Platinum might be the mental choice for you. Unlike white gold, Platinum is much more pure within the alloy, often 90-95% of the total material. Platinum is also naturally bright white, and does not require any kind of plating to maintain its brilliance. 

As far as gemstones go, diamonds are the main choice for engagement rings because they are the most durable gemstone available. Rated at a 10 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale, Diamonds are the only gemstone that can be worn every day over years and years and still look amazing. Second to that is corundum, which includes Sapphire and Ruby. These are gemstones we call “everyday” gemstones, which can be worn all the time and still look quite good.

On the other hand, things like Opal, Amethyst, Peridot, Emerald, Topaz, Moonstone, and much more are softer, and are likely to chip, abbraid, or even get destroyed without much wear.

Most people want to wear their engagement ring every day, and when a ring gets that much wear, only a few gemstones can stand up to that much abuse. If, on the other hand, you plan on being very careful with your ring and when you wear it, or if you plan to replace it every few years, you could consider a softer gemstone.

Pictured: Luna Diamond Engagement Ring

So when they said “Diamonds are forever” they weren’t wrong! Huge thanks to Julia for sharing her wisdom, be on the lookout for part two of this blog series, which is all about alternative engagement rings!

Another take-away I might add is to let the readers know to ask questions. A good jewelry store will be knowledgeable and will be willing to answer all of your questions. Jewelry has a lot that goes into it, and even people working in the industry are learning new things every day. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so be sure to speak up if you have a question or concern. 

We love helping our customers make their jewelry wishes into a reality. Please don’t be shy! Contact us any time and we would love to work with you.

Pictured: a shot from Part 2 of our Blog Series – Alternative Engagement Rings