As the managing editor of the New York’s Weddings issue, I regularly cultivate my inner bridezilla. I started my search at Cartier, mainly because I’m partial to anything French. The rings here range from just under $5,000 to well into the millions, so it’s easy to lose your head. My favorite was the Declaration d’Amour, a princess-cut solitaire ring with diamonds on either side of the platinum band (1.6 carats; E color). A princess is more or less square, which I always thought would look a little pudgy, but it didn’t. And the 1.6-carat weight was perfect. 635 Fifth Ave., nr. 52nd St.; 212-753-0111.
Continuing up Fifth Avenue, I walked into Fortunoff, even though there’s something a little musty about the place. I was surprised to find endearing salespeople and a diverse selection. After scouting their vintage rings, I tried on something a bit more sensible and affordable: an oval-cut 1.3-carat diamond with two baguettes on the side. The setting was simple and dainty, which I liked because sometimes all you notice is the hardware. Though the clarity reflected the light beautifully, the color (G) was slightly jaundiced. 681 Fifth Ave., nr. 54th St.; 212-758-6660.
I mistakenly thought that De Beers would be mass market because it’s the world’s largest diamond producer. Yvan, one of their “brand ambassadors” impressed me with his knowledge, his willingness to educate me, and the suaveness with which he kept slipping diamonds on and off my bare, and very virgin, left ring finger. I swooned. Yvan was pushing the round cuts—the priciest rings—which were a bit boring for my taste. I preferred the 1.77-carat cushion-cut solitaire (F color, VS2 clarity). It looked really clean, tidy, and modern. But I’m more label conscious than I’d like to admit, and the De Beers name didn’t have the right cachet. 703 Fifth Ave., nr. 55th St.; 212-906-0001.
Tiffany & Company
At Tiffany, I drifted away from solitaires on platinum toward the sapphire, emerald, and ruby rings in search of something more atypical. Then an avuncular salesperson redirected me back to the diamonds. He cracked a joke every ten seconds, with back-to-back punch lines. I ushered him to the one ring I really liked: a pear-shaped three-stone ring (flawless D color; near-perfect VS1 clarity). I had always grouped pears with other adolescent shapes, like hearts and marquises, but this one was soft and pretty. 727 Fifth Ave., nr. 57th St.; 212-755-8000.
Harry Winston, Price Upon Request
Next, I headed to Harry Winston, where I was brought to a side room. A salesperson laid out a black velvet tray of massive stones for me to try on. I slipped on the biggest one which looked like a headlight! The 7.76-carat ring with tapered diamond baguettes on either side looked outlandish on my unmanicured hands. How would I type with this thing on? Brush my teeth? Look my friends in the face? The stone itself was incredibly clear and sparkly; all of Winston’s diamonds are D, E, or F, and it shows. 718 Fifth Ave., at 56th St.; 212-245-2000
I made my way to the Gallery Eclectic downtown. The extremely attentive shopgirls showed me everything from the traditional solitare to spooky black diamonds (very Angelina circa Billy Bob). I picked an Asscher-cut 1.23-carat ring in 14-karat white gold which was elegant, straightforward, and bold without being at all obnoxious. The setting is just as important as the ring—I prefer it in platinum—and the basket on which the diamond was set was thankfully streamlined. Clunky hardware can look a little too much like my seventh-grade braces. 43 Greenwich Ave., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-924-4314.
Doyle & Doyle
At Doyle & Doyle on the Lower East Side, I was shown two dozen or so engagement rings, all of them antique. The prices were a lot more reasonable than what I had seen all day, especially uptown, but they didn’t appear to be any less high-end. I settled on something more off-center than the usual diamond solitaire: an emerald-cut sapphire ring with diamonds on either side (1.28 carats). It had a retro fashion feel, without being at all matronly. And though the stone broke with convention, it was still very classic and, more important, it suited me quite well. 189 Orchard St., nr. Stanton St. 212-677-9991.
Marisa Perry Atelier
My last stop was at the Marisa Perry Atelier in Soho. There were traditional settings, a few modern ones, and two newly debuted Art Deco–style collections. The prettiest was the Larisa— a round-cut diamond on an antique-looking micro-pavé setting. Its mounting was made so you can slide your wedding band right under the ring without having to get one that dips down and around the base of the stone. Plus, an optical illusion occurs when you look at the Larisa—the center stone appears a lot larger than its actual carat weight, good for brides who think that size matters—which, let’s face it, it kind of does. 154 Prince St., nr. W. Broadway; 212-566-8977.