Buying a Used Engagement Ring
Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Perfect Pre-Owned Diamond Eing
By Alastair Smith · Updated: March 21st 2023
Currently looking at used engagement rings, but not sure whether it’s the way to go?
Understandable. An engagement ring is a big purchase, both emotionally and financially, and you want to get it right.
Three things to know when selling your engagement ring:
- Prices for used diamond rings can vary wildly. It’s worth checking a variety of retailers to ensure you’re getting a fair price.
- Buying a diamond with a valid certificate from a trustworthy organisation is essential to ensure that you are actually buying what the seller claims.
- Once you’ve found your dream ring, it’s a good idea to act quickly as it’s not always easy to find a replacement if you miss out.
Pros and Cons of buying a used diamond ring
We’ll start with a list of pros and cons of buying a pre-owned ring, as it’s the best way to summarise what you need to think about:
- Cost savings: Perhaps the biggest advantage of buying a used engagement ring is the cost savings. Used rings are often significantly less expensive than new ones, which can be especially helpful for couples on a budget.
- Eco-friendly: Buying a used ring can also be a more eco-friendly option than buying a new one. By purchasing a ring that has already been made, you are reducing the demand for new resources and energy that would be required to create a new ring.
- Unique style: Used rings can offer a unique style that is not often found in new rings. Vintage rings, for example, can be especially unique and charming, and may have special significance for couples who appreciate history and tradition.
- Wear and tear: One of the biggest concerns when buying a used engagement ring is the wear and tear it may have endured. Used rings may have scratches, missing stones, or other damage that can affect the overall quality and value of the ring.
- Limited options: While used rings can offer unique styles, they may also have limited options compared to new rings. If you have a specific style or design in mind, it may be more difficult to find a used ring that matches your preferences.
- Authentication: Another potential issue with buying a used engagement ring is authentication. It can be difficult to determine the authenticity of a used ring, especially if it has been modified or repaired by previous owners.
Things to consider when buying a used engagement ring
Buying a used engagement ring can be a smart choice for those looking to save money or find a unique piece of jewelry. But it’s not as straightforward as buying a brand new ring.
Here are the key factors to think about when buying a used engagement ring:
Condition of Second Hand Diamond Rings
By definition, a pre-owned ring has been used, and every ring will show some signs of use. How much will carefully the ring was looked after while being worn and how well it has been prepared for resale.
Diamonds themselves are extremely scratch-resistant, so shouldn’t show any signs of wear and tear. If there are visible cracks or chips in the center stone, you should avoid them as this could become a major problem in the future.
The ring metal is where signs of use are likely to be most obvious.
- Platinum dulls over time, but can be brought back to
- White gold is covered by a thin layer of rhodium which needs to be replaced aver 18 months or so. If the rhodium has not been re-plated, the ring is likely to look dull.
- Yellow gold, particularly 18k yellow gold, is quite soft, so may show obvious scratches and look dull.
If you are buying from a jeweler, it’s likely that the ring will have been polished and rhodium re-plated, if needed. However, if buying from an individual, this work may need to be done for the ring to look its best.
Finally’ it’s also important to check the setting and prongs to ensure that the stones are secure. If one of the prongs that holds the center stone is bent, the center stone could potentially fall out in the future.
Size of a Pre-owned Ring
There are limits to how much a ring can be resized without affecting the structural integrity of the ring, while some ring styles can’t be resized at all. It’s therefore important to understand what is and isn’t possible before making a decision on any pre-owned ring.
If a ring needs to be made larger, a jeweler can shave some metal from the inside of the ring to make the band thinner or heat and stretch the ring slightly. This only works to increase the ring by about half a size.
If the ring needs to be increased more than a half-size, the jeweler will have to cut the ring band, add a piece of metal, solder it to the ring, and shape it into a perfect circle before polishing it
Making the ring smaller is essentially the opposite – a small section of the band is cut out, then the remaining ends are joined back together.
Antique rings, platinum rings and rings with diamonds set into the band are all more difficult to resize than plain gold bands.
If you’re looking at a ring that needs to be resized, you’ll need to factor the cost of this in when considering the overall cost savings of buying a used ring.
Certification of Used Rings
When buying a used engagement ring, you want to ensure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims.
The best way to do this is to look for a certification from a reputable organization, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), to confirm the quality and authenticity of the ring.
The best way to do this is to look for a ring that is accompanied by certification from a reputable organization, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or IGI, to confirm the quality of the center stone. Most GIA or IGI-graded diamonds have their report number inscribed on the center band (known as a ‘girdle’), which allows you to match it to the report number:
Checking this allow you to verify that the diamond you are reviewing is indeed the one that is on the certificate.
Seller Reputation and Trustworthiness
There are a whole host of places you could buy a second hand diamond ring from, and we have a whole section on where to buy a pre-owned ring from later in this article.
However, as a guideline, we recommend that you purchase from a well-established business who can guarantee the quality of the ring that you are buying and are available if required after the purchase. Established businesses have a reputation that they want to protect, so it it in their best interest to provide good service throughout the process.
Of course, the choice is yours, but buying such a significant purchase as a diamond ring from an individual means exposes you to the full force of ‘caveat emptor’ – ‘buyer beware’.
If anything goes wrong with the purchase or, then you are likely to have little recourse once the transaction is completed.
How much can you save buying a used engagement ring?
The amount you save will depend on many factors, including:
- Where you buy from
- The size and specs of the diamond
- Whether you are looking at a brand name ring, or a more generic setting
While there’s no exact amount, it’s likely that you will save between 40% – 50% if you choose a pre-owned diamond ring over new.
We’ll look at three examples to understand the range of saving that you can expect when buying a second hand diamond engagement ring compared to new.
Cost Saving on a Used Solitaire Diamond Ring
Pre-owned used diamond ring marketplace ‘Have You Seen The Ring’ has this 1.51 carat round brilliant solitaire diamond ring available for $4,200:
An identically specced 1.51 carat, F color, VS1 clarity ring would currently cost $9,501 on RareCarat:
The pre-owned diamond ring is therefore $5,301 less expensive than an identically specced new ring:
The pre-owned diamond ring is therefore only 44% the price of an identically specced new ring.
Cost saving on a pre-owned designer engagement ring
Pre-owned Tiffany diamond ring specialist The Diamond Oak has this pre-owned 1.05 carat, F color, VS2 clarity Tiffany ring for sale, priced at $13,500:
We can find a new ring with the same diamond specifications on the Tiffany website for $18,300:
The pre-owned ring Tiffany ring is therefore priced $4,800 lower than a new ring with identical specifications – a pretty significant difference:
While this isn’t quite as large a percentage difference as the previous example, used designer brands are always priced higher than generic pre-owned diamond rings, so a used Cartier diamond ring, Harry Winston, Bvlgari etc will likely be comparable to the above example when compared to a new equivalent.
Cost saving on a used lab-grown diamond ring
For our last example, we’ll compare a used lab-grown diamond ring to a new equivalent ring.
Lab-grown diamond rings are fairly new to the market and are already considerably less expensive than minded or ‘natural’ diamonds, and the market.
This 3.25 carat, D color, VVS2 clarity ring with a pave band is being sold for $9,800 on ‘Have You Seen The Ring’:
A new equivalent ring would cost from around $16,300:
It should be noted that the new ring is from one of the lower priced diamond sellers, and at many retailers a lab-grown diamond of this size and quality would be priced considerably higher.
However, the used ring price is still $6,544 cheaper, or a 40% discount on the the new price:
At many jewellers, the price of the new lab grown diamond might be significantly higher, which means the saving would be even greater.
How much you could save by buying a pre-owned diamond ring
As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the exact amount you’ll save by buying a used ring will depend on many factors
Where to buy a pre-owned diamond ring
There’s a host of places that sell pre-owned diamond rings, and each has their pros and cons.
In this section, we’ll look at buying a pre-owned ring from:
- Local jewelers
- Antique / vintage stores
- Online marketplaces
- Diamond dealers
- Consignment stores
Buying a Used Diamond Ring From A Local Jeweler
Many local jewelers don’t sell second-hand jewelry because they would rather focus on selling new jewelry – the profit margins are better and it is less work for them.
If a local jeweler takes in a used ring as part of a trade-up, they will normally sell it to a dealer who then will sell it to a wholesaler.
While you may be able to find a local jeweler who has some used diamond rings for sale, it’s likely that the selection is very slim and prices are likely to be high due to the jeweler’s high overheads.
If you have a recommendation, then it’s definitely worth looking into, but we recommend always comparing to other options to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.
Buying a Used Diamond Ring From A Vintage / Antique Store
Antique stores can be an incredible source of unique and vintage ring designs that can be difficult, or impossible to find elsewhere. These rings may have intricate, handcrafted designs and the interesting histories or stories attached to them, which can add to their sentimental appeal and value.
Online antique jewelry specialists in particular can make it easy to find a vintage rings from a variety of eras, with filters to narrow down the selection to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
One thing to know about buying an antique ring is that their value and beauty are generally considered as a whole, rather than examining the diamond and setting separately, as a newer ring might be.
Many antique diamond rings were created before diamond cutting and grading are as exact as they are today, so their center stones may not be ‘high quality’ compared to a new stone.
Other things to consider are the wear and tear that antique rings may display. These need to be examined on a piece-by-piece basis and most antique stores don’t offer warranties or have limited return policies.
If you do find an antique ring that you love, after you have inspected the ring thoroughly for quality and condition, it’s a good idea consult a professional jeweler or appraiser to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.
Buying a Pre-owned Ring From An Online Marketplace
Online marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay can be a great place to buy and sell almost anything. Almost everyone is on these platforms and the choice is huge.
When it comes to buying a used diamond ring, there is a lot of ‘noise’ – thousands of listings of low quality diamonds, moissanite rings or actual retailers trying to take advantage of the reach these platforms give.
One way to reduce the noise is to search ‘engagement rings GIA’, which will only return items which have been graded by GIA:
The obvious disadvantages of buying such a significant purchase as a diamond ring from a marketplace is the risks you take.
Meeting a buyer with a significant amount of cash, the risk that the ring you are considering isn’t what’s listed and the lack of any post-sale warranty or guarantee are just some of the risks to be considered and mitigated.
Buying a pre-owned engagement ring from a consignment store
Diamond dealers are people who both buy and sell diamonds, often to the jewelry trade itself. Some diamond dealers will take in diamonds as part-exchange when people are upgrading their diamonds, or will actively buy pre-owned diamonds through platforms like Worthy.com.
As a result, if you can find a good diamond dealer, they can be a great source of high quality, certified diamond rings. An example is The Diamond Oak, who we previously used as a part of our cost comaprisons:
The advantage of a diamond dealer is that they know what sells and what doesn’t, so usually only buy high quality diamonds to sell on. They will also be likely to ensure that each diamond is accompanied by a grading report and the ring has been well-prepared for sale.
Buying a used engagement ring from a consignment store
A consignment store sells items on behalf of someone, then takes a commission after the sale is made.
Online jewelry consignment stores typically have a good selection of rings available and also have filters to allow you to narrow your search:
As a way to sell a diamond ring, consignment stores can be ‘hit-or-miss’ – your ring could potentially be up for sale for a long time, until someone who happens to be looking for exactly that ring stumbles across it.
But, as a way to buy a pre-owned ring, consignment stores are a great option. They look after the vetting of the ring, provide security around the transaction and make it easy to find what you are looking for.
If you can’t find a local diamond dealer, then an online consignment store is a great option.
How To Buy A Used Engagement Ring: Our 9 Step Checklist
There’s a lot to think about when buying a pre-owned ring – even more than when buying a new ring.
This checklist will ensure you get a high quality used ring, don’t pay over the odds and maximize the chance that you afterwards.
Here are our 10 steps we recommend you follow when buying a used engagement ring:
- Determine your budget
- Review available options
- Check the size
- Check the certification
- Check the price
- Inspect ring
- Obtain a warranty or guarantee
- Get an appraisal
- Insure your ring
1. Determine your budget:
As with buying a new ring, it’s important to decide how much you’re willing to spend on the ring before you start looking at your options.
Choosing an engagement ring often results in ‘price creep’ as there is always a bigger diamond, or a higher cut quality to consider.
Our top tips here are:
- Ignore the 3 month salary rule – spend what works for you.
- We don’t recommend going into debt for your engagement ring. After all, you’ll be paying for a wedding soon and those things are expensive
- Write your budget down and use it as a hard reference point when searching online. If using filters online, put this as your upper limit in search tools and don’t look above this:
2. Review available options
You may have a good idea of what you are looking for, but it’s always worth keeping an open mind to see whether you can more for your money or if you are focusing your budget in the right place.
- Different ring styles can cost surprisingly difference amounts – a ring with a 1 carat center stone is much more expensive than halo setting with a combined total carat weight of 1 carat.
- Non-round diamonds can offer significantly more value for money than round diamonds. For example, oval diamonds can be price 40% lower than round diamonds, while actually looking larger.
- Choosing the highest levels of diamond color and clarity don’t make a huge visible difference to the appearance of your ring. VS2 clarity and G color are a good balance of beauty and value.
- Designer rings are likely to be priced significantly higher than generic rings. It’s worth considering how important a designer brand is for you compared to other characteristics like diamond size and quality.
3. Check the ring size
If you’ve found a ring that seems to tick all the boxes, the next step is to ensure it can be sized to fit the wearer.
Making the ring one size larger or smaller is usually quite simple. Any more than this will require some work from a jeweler and some rings may have a limit on how far they can be resized.
Before buying any ring that will need to be resized, discuss how easy this will be with a jeweler and make sure you understand any costs involved.
4. Check the certification
Most high quality diamonds should be accompanied by a grading report from an independent lab. You can check these online on the grading organisation’s websites:
Some rings may only be accompanied by an appraisal, rather than a grading report. These are usually created for insurance purposes and may not accurately reflect the quality of the diamond as the center stone is often not removed from the ring when assessed.
If possible, insist on a grading report, rather than just replying on an appraisal.
5. Check the price
Comparing the price of new diamond rings is easy – there are hundreds of thousands of identically specced diamonds to compare a potential purchase to.
For used diamond rings, it’s a little trickier. Each pre-owned ring is likely to be a unique combination of setting style, precious metal and center stone size and quality.
However, there are enough online resources that offer a significant number of pre-owned rings that you should be able to find a similar ring to the one you are considering to understand whether a price is fair.
Sites like Have You Seen The Ring have several hundred pre-owned rings available to review at any one time and should allow you to understand whether the price you are being asked is fair.
6. Inspect the ring
Once you’ve chosen your ring, inspect it carefully for any damage or defects. Areas to examine, or request high quality pictures of include
- Close-up of all prongs, to ensure they aren’t bent
- Macro image of ring band to assess level of scratches
- Laser-inscription to check that it matches the grading report
- Hallmarks and stamps inside the band – especially important if buying a designer ring:
It’s also a good idea to ask:
- when the prongs were last tightened
- when the ring was last polished,
- if the setting is white gold, when it was last re-plated
7. Obtain a warranty or guarantee
As with any purchase, there’s always a chance that you may discover something that wasn’t expected after you complete the transaction.
If a seller isn’t willing to provide a warranty or guarantee with a pre-owned ring, it may be because they know of an issue that they aren’t disclosing.
If possible, it’s a good idea to request a guarantee for the ring, in case there are any issues with it. This will allow you to take it to a jeweler to get it independently appraised, and then give you some recourse if any issues are found.
8. Be decisive
If everything looks to be in order, it’s a good idea to make a decision on a used engagement ring quickly, to ensure you don’t miss out.
Unlike buying a new ring, it isn’t always easy to find an alternative to the perfect pre-owned ring once you’ve found it, and high quality rings at good prices are often snapped up quickly.