Valentine’s Day is the second most popular day of the year to pop the question, making February 14th an exciting and important day for countless couples around the world. As has been the tradition for much of the last century, many people will opt to buy a diamond ring for their beloved, but how do you know which ring is the right one? How much should you spend? Where should you look for that perfect piece of jewelry, and how do you know you’re getting the best deal?

Do your homework

Before you set out in search of any piece of jewelry, make sure you have a good sense of your partner’s taste. Maybe they like floral patterns but hate big, over-the-top designs. Maybe they like small settings but don’t want a diamond chip set into a band. Maybe they’re a fan of the big and the flashy but don’t want a real diamond. Maybe they aren’t a fan of clear stones at all. Whatever the case may be, make sure you know what they like, possibly even wandering through a few jewelry stores or browsing custom designs on Etsy. There are endless options out there, so before you commit to a design, make sure it’s something that is meaningful to both you and your partner.

So Perfect Proposal

Once you know roughly what design you’re looking for, consider your price point. The old rule of thumb says that you should spend about what you make in two months on a ring. While that isn’t possible for everyone, there are still plenty of options that will help you pick the perfect ring, regardless of your budget. Thanks to advances in technology driven by the controversy over conflict diamonds, many precious stones are available as lab-made alternatives now. Artificial diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds are perfectly clear and chemically the same as their naturally-occurring counterparts, but they cost a fraction as much. If a natural gemstone is a must-have for your partner, diamond lookalikes such as moissanite are a fantastic alternative for anyone on a budget. However, some people are fussier than others about what’s in their engagement ring, so know what you’re getting into before you substitute the classic diamond for a modern alternative.

The ultimate buyer’s guide

If you’re choosing to go with the classic diamond ring, there are a few things to keep in mind while looking for that perfect piece. Before you start searching online or head to any jewelry store, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some of the terms used in the jewelry business. If you can start off by asking for what you want in terms of size (carats), clarity, and source, you’ll already be well on your way to finding exactly what you want. Again, knowing what your partner wants can make picking the size easy. Some people may want to show off a big ring while others like them small and out of the way. Band design and material are also important to consider.

Finally, if you’re spending a pretty penny on a ring, particularly from an online seller, make sure you get a certification for the diamond. You may want to get the stone appraised by a professional as well to make certain you got what you paid for. Finally, always buy on credit. If you pay cash or debit, once you pay, the seller has your money and there’s no going back if something were to happen. If you buy with credit and things don’t go according to plan, you can turn to the credit card company for help and they’ll generally take your side. Finally, if you’ve searched high and low but still can’t find the right piece, consider checking secondhand diamond shops and estate sales. You may find a ring that has its own interesting history for a fraction of the price.