Looking for engagement rings can be a stressful process–especially when you don’t have a Prince Harry budget. But we have good news: You can still have an absolutely stunning ring without your S.O. spending all of their savings… you just need to know what to look for. We’ve brought in expert jewelry designer and engagement ring goddess Stephanie Gottlieb to break down her five rules for finding the perfect engagement ring that will make you swoon sans a significant investment.

Educate yourself

Before heading into your local jewelry store, Stephanie advises that you read up on what makes a diamond unique so that you can find out what aspects matter to you the most. “Educate yourself about diamond quality so you know where sacrifices can be made to get to the desired size/budget. This is the first thing I do with my clients, is go through the Four C’s and outline where the “boundaries” are for each specific client.”

Know that your ring doesn’t have to be a diamond

Diamonds are the most expensive stones out there, so if you want more bang for your buck, going for a different (and also extremely beautiful) rock is a good call. Stephanie loves a Blue Sapphire because “It’s classic, timeless, and has a very regal feel to it.” But if you want something that looks like a diamond, there’s also a great option that won’t blow the bank. “If the client is wanting something that simulates a diamond because the budget is not there, I do think Moissanite is starting to fill this void.  It definitely has a different sparkle and appeal than diamond, but it is a good simulant.”

And if you want a diamond, it doesn’t have to be huge

“A new trend I’m seeing is clients wanting to do a nice eternity band in place of the one large diamond. They then add a second band as their wedding band, which I think is very cool!”

Know what cuts will stretch your budget

“I really think Round gives you the biggest “bang for your buck” in terms of having the biggest visual appeal when compared to stones of the same size. But any of the elongated shapes will also achieve the appearance of size…the Pear tends to look huge in smaller carat weights, and has a better price tag.”

Cut and color only matter for certain shapes

“[The importance of cut and color is] different for each shape; for example in the Round, Emerald, and Asscher, I think the Cut is the MOST important because when you sacrifice the cut grade, you sacrifice the beauty of the stone (the alignment of the facets and the sparkle factor).  But in the other shapes, the cut grade is pretty subjective, and doesn’t necessarily reflect in the look of the stone, so I would say Color is then most important because it’s the most obvious to the naked eye (Cushion, Oval, Pear, Radiant, Heart, Princess, Marquise).”
Interviewed by Molly West