Purchasing an engagement ring requires more preliminary effort than your average shopping excursion. Before you even set foot in a jewelry store, you've got to do some homework.
First, figure out what you can realistically afford to spend. You've also got to factor the annual cost of ring insurance into your overall budget. Typically, insurance will run from 1 to 3 percent of the ring's value.
Next, become an expert on settings, styles and stats. Learn the Four Cs (carat, clarity, cut and color) -- and ask your bride what aspect is most important to her. Some will sacrifice the sparkle for the size or the color for the cut.
You're not the first guy to buy a diamond ring, so talk to trustworthy friends who've been down this road. Find out what they wish they'd done differently, and get recommendations for helpful jewelers who delivered a quality product. If you're interested in designing your own ring or resetting a family stone, get names of jewelers who specialize in those areas.
Above all, remember that finding the perfect ring takes time, and several shopping trips may be necessary. Play it safe: Bet on at least three weeks to get the right ring or longer if you're placing a custom order.