Bridal Power: How Real Women Shop for Wedding Jewelry

Gone are the days of ­clueless lovestruck lads ­wandering aimlessly amidst a sea of ­solitaires. Their future ­fiancées (and their jewelers) have become major players in the ring-buying process.

Jamie Wolfson didn’t know exactly what kind of engagement ring she wanted until she spotted a 1.10 ct. ­emerald-cut diamond that inspired lifelong devotion at her local jewelry store, Goldmine Jewelers. 

The 31-year-old Long Beach, N.Y., resident was actually shopping for diamond earrings with her boyfriend—to whom she wasn’t engaged at the time. Prompted by a rather cheeky question from the jeweler—“Why aren’t you guys shopping for another kind of diamond?”—Wolfson and her beau began poking around the store’s bridal section. That’s when the sparkling gem caught her eye.

Minutes later, the couple found the “perfect” white gold setting. And unbeknownst to Wolfson, her guy had put down a deposit while she wandered around.

Jason Aron for Expressions Cinema
Simy Dornbush bought Jamie Wolfson’s ring behind her back—but only once she picked it out.

“I had no idea if he had bought it that day or what,” says Wolfson, who’s planning a late fall wedding. “But I loved that it was really ­spontaneous. It felt very meant to be—two pieces that were a perfect fit.”

The couple plans to return to Goldmine to purchase solid white gold wedding bands. And the jeweler who helped the couple find Wolfson’s ring? He’ll be invited to the wedding, says the bride-to-be, adding, “He really took good care of us. There were no negatives to the experience.”

While the day she chanced upon her engagement ring will certainly loom large in Wolfson’s memory, her ring-buying experience—and style of ring—are typical of the average modern bride.

Fortunately, Aram Ohanyan had “a pretty good idea” what Gohar Khojabagyan wanted in a ring.

The Knot’s latest Market Intelligence Report, which polled 10,000 engaged or recently married women and 1,000 recently engaged men on the details of their bridal jewelry shopping experiences, found that 31 percent of couples shopped together for their rings in 2011, and 34 percent of those who bought the rings were influenced in their decisions by jewelers or salespeople.

Thirty-nine percent of those polled bought their engagement ring at an independent ­jewelry store, while 35 percent purchased theirs at a national chain. And the report shows that as consumers become more educated about diamonds and more comfortable with customization, they are more frequently purchasing the center stones and settings separately.

Bill Fredericks Studio
Matthew Brodnan had a platinum and pavé diamond setting made for Christine Henderson.

Gohar Khojabagyan, a New York City bride whose ceremony will take place next year, chose a white gold ring with a colorless 1.90 ct. diamond center stone and a pavé diamond band—a style she subtly spelled out to her fiancé when they discussed certain friends’ engagement rings over the years. “I think he had a pretty good idea of what I wanted,” she says. “Something simple and classic.”

On a friend’s recommendation, Khojabagyan’s fiancé bought the ring at Shirazi Fine ­Jewelry in downtown Los Angeles, and relayed that the experience was an all-around positive one. “The jeweler showed him lots of different settings and tons of stones, so he was able to look through a lot,” says Khojabagyan. “And he didn’t know much about diamonds, so the staff was really good about educating him on that front.” The couple lived in L.A. at the time and have since moved to New York City, but Khojabagyan says they will definitely buy their wedding bands from Shirazi.

Both Wolfson’s and Khojabagyan’s rings match up with the report’s findings for what the majority of brides wanted, stylewise, in 2011.

Hollis Conway
Ian Nyeste surprised Maggie Flynn with her ring.

Seventy-three percent of rings purchased by those polled were white gold (with platinum coming in a distant second at 16 percent), and 93 percent had either a bigger center colorless diamond or a three-diamond look.

Christine Henderson, an Atlanta-based bride planning to tie the knot Sept. 15, didn’t shop for her ring with her intended, but she gave him a good idea of what she wanted by showing him a photo of Tiffany’s Novo ring, which features a round, cushion-cut diamond riding high on top of an eternity band.

Henderson’s fiancé was working with a 1.90 ct. diamond that had been passed down through his family. And she “had seen a lot of rings with three diamonds, one big and two small. But I knew I wanted to showcase the diamond by itself,” Henderson says.

Her fiancé went to Jon’s Fine Jewelry in Cocoa Village, Fla., to create a platinum setting worthy of the sizable gem, which now sits prominently on a simple diamond eternity band, à la the Novo.

The store has been a go-to for her future in-laws for years; and while her fiancé will wear his grandfather’s wedding ring, Henderson will buy her matching eternity band at the shop.

Maggie Flynn, a newlywed in Los ­Angeles, didn’t play a part in her ring selection—a rarity among modern brides. But her then-fiancé knew her main concern regarding ­engagement rings was unethical diamond mining. Luckily, her intended’s family had a diamond to bequeath her, which “was really relieving,” says Flynn. “Not to have to worry about the ethical implications of a diamond made me feel good.”

On the recommendation of a friend, her fiancé took the diamond to national chain Robbins Brothers in nearby Glendale, Calif., to have the setting created. “He asked the opinions of some ladies in his office, but didn’t want to ask my friends and blow the surprise,” says Flynn.

All the secrecy paid off. Flynn loves the ring—which features a pavé diamond band and two small diamonds flanking the center stone (all the new diamonds are, of course, conflict-free)—and was completely surprised by it when her honey popped the big question.

“He said the ring ‘just looked like me,’ and he was right,” says Flynn, who returned to Robbins Brothers with her fiancé to buy a pavé ­diamond wedding band along with her husband’s plain white gold band.

“They were really helpful and showed us a variety of things,” says Flynn of the store’s employees. “We told them what we wanted to spend and they didn’t try to up-sell us. We’ll be having an ongoing relationship with them.”

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