How to Buy an Engagement Ring Online and Not Be Unpleasantly Surprised

Because you can't exactly dump him.

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Wrote you a song: With this ring I thee wed/Got it on the internet/How bow dah? It's a tune more and more millennials are singing, with 45 percent of young diamond-buyers shopping from their smartphones, according to luxury jewelry resale site Delgatto. But it's also an act of convenience or economy or environmental consciousness that's not without risk. Here, two experts on how to avoid f*cking up royally and triggering a vendetta that only ends when your great-great-great-great-grandson falls in love with the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of the scam artist who sold you a chunk of cubic zirconia.

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How do I make sure the seller isn't a crook (for my descendants' sake)?

You've got to do some legwork even before your first interaction, says Anna Rasche, the RealReal's manager of jewelry authentication and graduate gemologist. What's their return policy? Do they have a customer service department? Can you speak with someone on the phone? Do they guarantee their merchandise to be authentic? And you shouldn't just skim a few testimonials from past clients, says Chris Del Gatto, cofounder and CEO of Delgatto—read lots so you get a more complete picture of who you're dealing with.

How do I make sure the ring isn't garbage so my partner doesn't dump me on the spot?

If you've done the above, you can be fairly confident you aren't working with a swindler and that the only thing you should be worried about is your bride/groom getting cold feet. But still, trust your discerning eye, Rasche says. Most fine jewelry will be stamped with a purity mark (like 14k) to indicate that it's made with a precious metal, whereas "highly visible seams from a mold, gems that are held in place with glue, rough/uneven polishing, and an absence of purity marks may all be indicators you're looking at a not-so-nice ring."

Best surprise ever.

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What sorts of documents do I need to ask for just to make sure I don't end up at a convent?

  • clear photos that have a zoom feature, and at least one photo that shows the ring on a model so you can have some sense of scale
  • written descriptions of all materials and measurements
  • an independent laboratory certificate from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) for diamonds and colored stones
  • a valuation document stating in detail the seller's analysis of an item's materials and quality

What if I do everything you say, but I'm still not happy with comes in the mail?

Well, you've checked the return policy, so that bit's not a shock, at least. And a legit seller should work to make sure this is a piece you'd want to wear every day and not keep shoved in the safety-deposit. But for your own part, before you plop down a month's salary, have a long think about what *you* want, above anything else.

"People make purchases they come to regret when they buy what they think is popular or a better value, as opposed to buying what they love," Del Gatto says. "Jewelry is an investment only in the fact that it pays dividends in the happiness it brings when the wearer puts it on. That should be the overriding factor, always."

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