The Real Questions to Ask when Engagement Ring Shopping

Halo Engagement Ring

The holidays are here, and if you're a single gal, you might be fantasizing about a special someone surprising you with a romantic New Year's getaway. Not just any jaunt, but the one where he drops down on one knee and asks you to be his forever. I bet you have the ring picked out already (down to the clarity), but there are a few other things to consider when selecting the only jewelry you'll wear (like every day) for the rest of your life. 

Bradley Ballen, an old school wholesale jeweler in the Miami Seybold Building, specializes in diamonds and precious stones. For over 30 years, he's served as the middleman for countless engagements (including my own) and basically knows everything there is to know about all things sparkly. Brad was kind enough to show me around his shop and share valuable insights on what to ponder prior to purchasing. 

Is the diamond GIA-certified?

The Gemological Institute of America is the only not-for-profit and trusted grading system within the gem industry. The primary goal of a GIA certificate is to provide value transparency to the public. This little paper explicitly outlines the diamond's value with no room for interpretation. If the stone is not GIA-certified, you can't be sure what you're getting, and resale will be nearly impossible (not that you're looking to make a buck on this transaction, but something to keep in mind should things take a turn for the worst).


Should my habits impact my ring style?

The short answer is yes. Unless you're a hand model and are contractually required to cocoon your appendages via a vacuum seal, you might have noticed that you use your hands quite a bit. Your behavior will inevitably affect your ring over time. For example, platinum damages more easily than white gold, while white gold tends to yellow. Therefore, jewelers typically recommend white gold for men and women who use their hands frequently. It's a good idea to audit your daily activities and then ask your jeweler for a suggestion based on your patterns. 


What is the shelf life of my engagement ring?

If this ring is meant to symbolize your long-lasting affection, you might want to ensure it has some staying power. Each setting, stone, and metal comes with its pros and cons. Halo settings, while increasingly popular, are pretty risky business because the surrounding diamonds will likely fall out with wear and tear. Often, the jeweler will replace them at no cost, but that should be confirmed prior. For those who are considering a less traditional route like birthstones - rubies and sapphires are equally valuable, but emeralds are soft and can break over time. 


How can I avoid engagement ring buyer's regret? 

The safest way to make sure your fiancée loves the heck out of her bling is to involve her in the process. Take her to a shop and pick out a style the jeweler can reproduce. If the proposal's a surprise and a walkthrough is just not possible, go with a solitaire style, which is easy to adjust.


How can I be sure my diamond is sourced humanely? 

The diamond industry has made significant improvements in the regulation of gem sourcing thanks to organizations like The Kimberley Process, which have emerged to prevent the traffic of conflict diamonds (however not without their critics). Additionally, projects like The Peace Diamond, the $6.5 million Sierra Leone jewel whose profits solely benefit the community of its origin, are bringing awareness to the financial disparities of the trade. The reality is that it's nearly impossible to guarantee a peaceful barter process, but a GIA certification is the best way to trace your diamond's path. 

If the murkiness of the gem trade makes you a little skittish (as it should), an alternative for a ring finger that screams #goals is with a synthetic diamond (a lab-designed stone, constructed in the same conditions as a natural diamond). First arriving on the scene in 1954, the technology has become more commonplace in the last few years. With no discernible differences, synthetic diamonds value at about fifty percent less than their organic counterparts and have no societal implications. Still not yet widely embraced by mainstream diamond dudes, synthetic stones are increasing in popularity as we become more conscious of the global impact of our purchase decisions. 


If you have more questions about navigating the ring process, send us an email at or to speak with Bradley directly, contact him at