Discover more from Multifaceted
How to Buy Rings for Yourself: A Guide for Independent Women With Good Sense and Incredible Style
Feel inspired, educated, and empowered to find your style and shop smarter! Here's what you need to know when building out your jewelry collection.
This article was originally published on a WordPress blog that I’ve retired in favor of Substack. Thanks for reading!
Love admiring rings from a distance but not quite sure how to become a savvy shopper? Not sure if it’s better to order online or venture into a jewelry store? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve put together this comprehensive guide that will take you through the whole process of how to buy rings for yourself!
One of the things I love most about fine jewelry is how it lasts for generations. And how the stories each piece holds are passed down through the generations as well. With that in mind, I’m dedicating this guide to my great-grandmother, Lily. She was born in 1895 – and in 1985 she went and bought herself a sapphire and diamond ring like a total boss. Her reason? You can’t take it with you – and at 90 years old, why not enjoy it while you can?
I’ve always loved that story, that mantra, and the idea that you can enjoy treating yourself to jewelry, just because. That's why I want to share all my best advice with you on how to buy rings for yourself.
My hope is that this guide will help you feel inspired, educated, and empowered to find your jewelry style, shop smarter, and take home a precious treasure of your own.
Now then, time is ticking – let’s go, lady!
➸ Get to know the 3 jewelry categories
1. Fine jewelry
When you think about the question of how to buy rings for yourself, you're probably thinking of fine jewelry. If you want something that will last a lifetime (and beyond), opt for a ring made of your favorite precious metal.
Sterling silver is the most affordable metal in the fine jewelry category. Platinum and solid gold rings will be more expensive but add a level of luxury to your collection. All of these metals are durable and well-suited to everyday wear.
Fine jewelry pieces can also contain precious gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and others.
2. Demi-fine jewelry
If you love the gold look but not the price tag, shop for demi-fine rings. These can give you more ring for your buck since they don’t contain as much gold.
The demi-fine category usually includes gold vermeil and gold filled jewelry. These are typically made with a layer of gold over a lesser-value metal.
However, they aren’t going to be “forever” pieces because the metal isn’t a solid gold alloy. The outer layer will likely wear down or tarnish over time. But this type of jewelry will last much longer than a lower-quality piece of gold-plated costume jewelry.
You can find demi-fine rings featuring all sorts of gemstones, from cubic zirconia to diamond and everything in between. They often feature enhanced and lab-created gems as well as more affordable natural gemstones.
3. Costume jewelry
Fashion rings are typically made out of metal alloys that contain base metals like brass, copper, nickel, aluminum, iron, pewter, or titanium.
These are the least expensive and can be ideal for trying a new trend or completing an outfit. Keep in mind that the gleaming finish on a costume jewelry ring will quickly tarnish and wear away with regular use. The base metals might also cause skin discoloration or irritation.
Any sparkling stones are typically imitations of precious stones – think rhinestones, crystals, and cubic zirconia.
➸ Keep in mind these 3 cost considerations
As we’ve seen, different metals (and metal alloys) will come with different price tags.
Ranking fine jewelry from most to least expensive, platinum and gold lead the way, followed by sterling silver. Demi-fine jewelry such as gold vermeil or gold filled rings will be less expensive than solid gold, and often on par with sterling silver. Costume jewelry is the least expensive option. Cheap and cheerful!
When exploring how to buy rings for yourself, you can also educate yourself about how different materials are sourced to find the sourcing methods that best align with your personal values.
You might consider supporting brands that use ethically-mined gems and metals, sustainably lab-created gems, or recycled metals and gems. Some of these practices may cause the price tag to be higher or lower; it will vary from one brand to another.
In pricing out precious metals and gemstones, size matters. A heavy, solid gold, diamond-encrusted statement ring will be a lot more expensive than a super-skinny gold band featuring one teeny-tiny diamond – even if they’re both made up of the same type of gold and feature the same type of gemstone.
Here are some rough starting costs for solid gold pieces in different styles, based on what I’ve seen from online jewelry retailers. These can be helpful benchmarks when you're just starting to learn how to buy rings for yourself:
$50 to $200+ for a skinny gold stacking band
$300 to $500+ for a traditional gold band with a few modest gemstones
$1,000+ for a statement ring with larger gemstones or more gold
Regardless of the material and how much of it is used in a ring, you will always pay a premium for name-brand rings by leading designers. These types of pieces are considered signed jewelry if the brand’s name is engraved inside the ring. You might see this term if you’re shopping for estate jewelry.
Speaking of which, antique, vintage, and estate rings can vary in cost depending on a variety of factors. These include age, origins, materials, design, rarity, and desirability to today's consumers. You'll notice these cost fluctuations when you start shopping around and practicing how to buy rings for yourself.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, an item must be 100+ years old to be considered an antique. The FTC notes that any items 50+ years old are vintage, whereas Etsy considers anything 20+ years old to be vintage. Pieces less than 20 years old are usually considered contemporary. As for estate rings, these are simply pre-owned; they could be antique, vintage, or contemporary.
Additionally, custom-made, limited-edition rings by artisanal jewelers tend to be more expensive than mass-produced pieces. However, mainstream jewelry stores may impose higher markups than ecommerce retailers.
TIP: Comparison shop! If you’re looking for a certain ring style, shop around to see what different retailers are charging for it.
➸ Do some ring research and discover your style
Gather some ring inspiration online
Here comes the fun part! Start browsing around to discover your ring style. You can save some pictures in a folder on Instagram or create a Pinterest board to capture the mood.
Start with the brands you’re familiar with, and don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and discover new designers and jewelry shops. Read more about styles you like to get the ring lingo down. (Navettes and three-stones and signets, oh my!) That way, you can search for and speak about what you want with confidence.
Identify patterns to discover your ring style
Jot down a few notes about what you’re most drawn to:
Mood? (powerful, feminine, edgy...)
Metals? (yellow gold, silver, rose gold...)
Textures? (hammered, smooth, woven...)
Stacking style? (lots of dainty rings, just one statement ring...)
Gemstones? (a cluster of diamonds, one big opal, rainbow gems...)
Setting style? (solitaire, eternity band, halo...)
Brands? (note any jewelry designers that stand out)
A big part of discovering how to buy rings for yourself is exploring and refining your taste in jewelry. Once you’ve collected some inspo images, you can figure out your style and what type of rings you’re drawn to.
Try on some rings in person
This is an important step, even if you’re planning to purchase a ring online. It can also be more fun than looking online since you get to try things on!
Once you have some reference points around the styles you like, visit a local jewelry store. (Just remember, this is strictly for research purposes! You’re not buying anything just yet.)
TIP: Say something like: "Hi, I'm planning to buy myself a ring and am just starting to shop around to see what my options are. Can you show me what styles you have in my budget and style?"
Don't be shy! The boutique atmosphere can be intimidating, but you shouldn’t feel out of place or pressured to make a purchase that day.
Good jewelers and shop assistants will understand that you’re just browsing. They’ll be happy to assist and establish a relationship with you as you grow your budding ring collection.
Your objective for this initial visit is to try on different ring styles to see what you like the look and feel of in person. Explore different band thicknesses, metal colors, gemstones, and even try rings on different fingers. Disclose your budget and ask about each ring’s price to see what you can get for your money.
Rings are very different in person compared to pictures online. You might find that you liked rose gold in pictures online but actually prefer white gold with your complexion – or that you find multiple stacking bands to be uncomfortable and prefer just one statement ring.
Take note of what you’ve learned about your ring style after trying on a few pieces. Reflect on what looks good and feels good to you. Parse through your favorite and least favorite styles. This type of assessment will help you refine your taste.
Find your ring size
If you’re looking to build up a ring collection, you may want to order a metal or plastic ring sizing set online. They’re available for around $10 on Amazon and can be useful to have on hand. The sizing ring should slide snugly past your largest knuckle and sit comfortably at the base of your finger. If it slides right off without a bit of gentle wiggling, it’s probably too loose.
There are also a few ways to approximate your ring size at home if you don’t have access to a jeweler or ring sizing set. You can use a ring sizing belt, a strip of paper, or a tape measure to check the circumference of the widest part of your finger. Then you can cross-reference that measurement against a ring sizing chart available on a jewelry store’s website.
Figuring out your ring size is something you can do during your in-person jewelry store visit. Consulting a professional is the best way to ensure an accurate reading, and it only takes a few minutes. Just ask the jeweler or shop assistant to determine your ring size for a particular finger. They’ll slip different metal sizing rings onto your finger until they land on the perfect fit.
➸ Get acquainted before you commit
Find your favorite ring – then wait
If you find an amazing ring that fits your style and budget, that’s great! But since purchasing a ring can be a significant financial and personal decision, it’s a good idea to sleep on it.
The ring you love is probably not going to fly off the shelves tomorrow. It’s easy to feel pressured after spotting a vintage ring that gives you the butterflies. Just remember that it’s not the last ring on Earth! A quick search will almost always turn up others in a similar style.
If new styles keep catching your eye and you’re getting trigger-happy around the “buy now” button, take a step back. Spend some time figuring out what you like and why, so you can better refine your style and make a plan.
But, if you keep coming back to the same ring day after day and feel chemistry with it, waiting a few days will help you be sure you're making the right choice. It will also give you enough time to do your due diligence.
Examine the hallmarks
It’s typical for pieces of fine jewelry to be stamped with one or more hallmarks on the inside of the band. These markings most often indicate the metal content. On some pieces, additional hallmarks will identify the maker, year of production, country of origin, and other details.
Here are the most common hallmarks that identify metal purity:
18K or 750 = 18 karat gold
14K or 585 = 14 karat gold
10K or 416 = 10 karat gold
9K or 375 = 9 karat gold
925 = sterling silver
TIP: If you see a yellow gold ring marked 925, it’s likely gold vermeil. This means there’s a thin outer layer of yellow gold over a base of sterling silver.
If there isn’t a hallmark, the ring could still be a piece of fine jewelry, but you’ll need to get more information from the seller. They should be able to test the metal purity to find out what it’s made of.
Get your questions answered
Whether you’re shopping for new or estate rings, or you’re browsing a jewelry boutique or online shop, make sure you get as much information as possible about the piece you’re considering.
In person, it’s easier to get some of your questions answered because you can examine the ring closely. Ask to borrow the jeweler’s loupe for a magnified look at the details.
If you’re shopping online, you’re relying on photos and descriptions that might not tell you everything you need to know. Reach out to the seller directly, if you’re browsing a marketplace site, or send a note to the customer service agent if you’re shopping on a retailer’s website. The best sellers are quick to respond with more information.
Here are some of the important questions you should aim to get answered:
What size is the ring?
Can it be sized by a professional?
If so, how many sizes could it be brought up or down without causing issues?
What are the dimensions of the ring (e.g., band width, profile height)?
Can I see a photo of the ring on someone’s hand?
What type of gemstones are featured in the ring?
Are the gemstones earth-mined or lab-created?
What are the 4 C’s: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight?
What metal(s) is this ring made of, and what is the metal purity?
What do the hallmarks indicate about the ring?
What is the age and history of this piece?
What can you tell me about the condition of the ring?
Can you describe any damage or wear in more detail?
Take a look at customer photos
Glamorous marketing shots and stark product photos don’t always reflect what a ring will look like in real life. That’s why it can be useful to check out customer photos, either in the reviews section or where the brand is tagged on Instagram. This is especially helpful for popular ring styles and leading brands.
But even if you’re interested in an estate piece, searching photos of different rings in a similar style can be helpful. Don’t be surprised if you find the same vintage ring design in multiple places!
In addition to your image research, read some reviews about the seller. Customer comments can help calibrate your expectations for the buying process as well as for the piece itself.
➸ Shop smart and be diligent before you buy
Make sure your purchase will be protected
When learning how to buy rings for yourself, you really don't want to find out financial mistakes the hard way.
If you’re shopping online, it can be tempting to find that perfect piece for your collection and transfer an amateur vintage jewelry reseller your money over Venmo. But what happens if they never ship your piece or it gets lost or damaged in the mail?
Before making your purchase, make sure you understand how payments are processed and how your purchase will be protected. You should only buy jewelry online if the transaction is completed through a legitimate, secure checkout page.
Marketplace sites like Etsy, 1stdibs, and eBay come with some consumer protection measures. This makes them preferable to a casual Venmo transfer scenario. Also, unlike PayPal Friends and Family transfers, regular purchases through PayPal also include some buyer protection measures. The seller will pay a small fee, but you will be safer.
If possible, buy the ring on a credit card with a bank that will refund you if anything goes wrong.
Check the lead time and shipping policy
It’s important to confirm that the seller will be insuring your package during shipping. If anything bad happens to your package, the seller can file a claim and refund your money.
Additionally, you should make sure you understand the shipping rate and timeframe. An important part of knowing how to buy rings for yourself is learning where and how your jewelry is made, and how this impacts the lead time.
Custom-made pieces will have longer lead times, so your gorgeous gold ring might not arrive for two or three weeks. Some sellers offer expedited shipping, but this can get pricey.
Review the return policy
Don’t forget to read the seller’s return and cancellation policies. You typically won’t be able to cancel or return a custom piece.
Sellers of other new and estate rings may allow you to return your ring for any reason, or they may operate under a final sale policy for all purchases – it all depends on the retailer.
But when you're just getting started and figuring out how to buy rings for yourself, having the option to return something can offer peace of mind and financial protection.
Take advantage of promotions
If you’re excited about a particular brand, newsletters and social media accounts can clue you into flash sales. Online sellers will often send you a new customer promo code if you subscribe to their email newsletter. Just be careful with all of that glittering goodness in your feed and inbox!
You might also consider waiting for a holiday sale. Saving 20% or more on a high-value purchase can mean significant savings. In addition to the usual sales around Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, and Christmas, jewelry brands will often drop prices around other observances like International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day.
But, let’s be honest – we deserve dazzling jewels and discounts all year round!
Now that you know how to buy rings for yourself, happy shopping!