On May 3rd, 2019, I got engaged to my wonderful, kind, perpetually-smiling boyfriend of over 2 years. It was such a magical moment, and being a Youtuber, Robbie had filmed it all with 2 DSLR’s, 2 Go-Pros, and no less than 5 cellphones. The events that transpired were definitely surprising, but the ring he proposed with was certainly not. You see, two months prior to the proposal, we had decided that we should find a ring together, seeing as how I would wear it for the rest of my life.
Setting aside whether I would recommend picking out a ring with your soon-to-be fiance before the proposal until the end of this post, the search for the perfect engagement ring started months before he got down on one knee. We had entertained the idea of diamond-alternatives like moissanite and white sapphire at first. After all, we like to think of ourselves as practical millennials. But a few weeks into our 6-week trip to Beijing, China to visit my side of the family, it became clear that though we didn’t care about the material or the size of the stone, my relatives had a different idea. Apparently, the ring must check all the boxes on a family checklist that we knew nothing about:
In a moment of despair after visiting upwards of ten stores in a high-end mall in China and coming out empty handed, we turned to the internet. We typed in the numbers for the 4 C’s we needed into a search bar, and to our surprise, the first results that popped up were diamonds in our price range from Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, and James Allen! We couldn’t believe it! That was our first introduction to strictly online retailers.
We were ecstatic, though cautious. I mean, buying an engagement ring off of the internet sounds super sketchy! We felt like we had no way of ensuring we’d get the diamond we’ve selected. What if we got it and I didn’t like it? What if it looks different on my hand than I’d imagined? What if the sizing wasn’t right?
That was when the countless hours of research came in. Being a total math-brain, I was determined to convert the confusing and subjective ideas of what makes a good engagement ring into cold, hard numbers. And that’s exactly what we did. In the end, we had a complete checklist with not only the 4 C’s, but also details about fluorescence, depth, certification, and more. Basically, we had made a passport for our dream diamond ring.
Armed with our “passport”, it really came down to finding an online retailer with the setting that I liked. After browsing endless solitaire settings (who knew there were so many ways to set a single stone!), the one from James Allen won out. From then on, it was easy. We simply typed all the numbers into the filter and picked the diamond we like the best. The 10x magnified pictures of the diamonds showed every detail and made the selection process easy. We got it set in a platinum setting because I’m a total klutz. And 20 minutes later, we had made one of the biggest purchases of our lives.
The ring came in 2 weeks later in an inconspicuous white shoebox, complete with a lifetime warranty, a 60-day free resizing, a GIA certificate, and an internal appraisal that was nearly 30% higher than our purchasing price. It was actually quite amazing! The band I ordered was about a size and a half too big, and we made the decision to get it sized on Diamond Jewelry Way next to our apartment instead of sending it back and waiting 3 weeks for it to return to me. We also decided to get an in-person appraisal that wasn’t from James Allen, and it scored even higher than the initial appraisal. Needless to say, we were ecstatic.
In the months after the purchase, Robbie and I had talked more about our “risky purchase” from the internet and dissected the reasons why we had such a good experience. We’ve concluded that shopping for engagement rings online could indeed be a great option if you’ve done your homework. And here’s why:
Now, I promised at the beginning of this (monstrously long) post that I would comment on whether I recommend buying the ring with your partner and waiting to plan the proposal. Like everything in life, it depends on the couple. For me, I loved having the peace of mind of knowing I’m 100% happy with the ring and that it’s insured and sized correctly. However, I’m a very nervous person who hates surprises. So for two months, tensions were high in and out of our apartment as I tried to find out details about the proposal, when it was going to happen, whether Robbie was going to lose the ring, etc. Robbie would be the first to tell you that his biggest mistake was telling me that he had started planning the proposal because it just kicked my anxiety into high gear. I’m sure he’d agree with me that if he could do it over again, he would have hidden the ring as soon as it was sized and insured, not told me when he started to plan it, and just generally not talked about it as much, even when I would ask him about it non-stop.
Despite my being a ball of nerves for 2 months, the proposal happened and it was as perfect as my ring. You can watch the video of it below. Now, wedding planning is in full swing and we are both very excited. And I’m sure through this process and well into our marriage, we’ll be doing the one thing I keep harping on in this post: doing our research.
When I was auditioning for colleges four years ago, I was lucky enough to have been offered a practice room 15 minutes before my audition at all of the locations. Of course, when auditioning to be a classical voice major at a college, you typically audition in the music building which contains an abundance of sound-dampening practice rooms. Then, when I was auditioning for Avenue Q at Rhino Theatre last December, I stayed in my car and warmed up before I went in. And then, just last month, I went for my first audition in New York City. Being that it was in a studio, I did not have the option of warming up (after the initial morning warm up) in a practice room or my car. I ended up going into the girls' bathroom just to do some sirens in private.
I came home after the audition and went on Facebook. In what was sure to be creepy proof that your phone listens to you and tracks your every move, an advertisement for Beltbox: "a portable voice dampener for performers" popped up. It claimed to let you "take the warm-up room with you" and is great for "warming up in the shower." Okay. I'm intrigued.
Three days and 50 bucks later, the Beltbox showed up at my door in an Amazon box. The back cover claimed to allow the user to:
The box came with the mask as well as a carrying pouch and a hands-free strap (not pictured). Excited, I promptly put it through a rigorous test by singing my whole senior recital program into it (not really, but basically). Here is what I've found:
For Musical Theatre and Contemporary Music:
For Classical Music and Opera:
The Beltbox accomplishes what it sets out to do: dampening your voice. I've used it a couple of times when other people were napping. When they woke up later, they did not report hearing my practice sessions. It has also made it easier for me to practice my belting due to the small pressure build up within the mask.
As to whether it is worth its $49.99 price tag, it depends. I think if you are a musical theatre performer or contemporary singing, this would be great for you. You'd be able to warm-up without disturbing others and hone your belting skills. It would also be great for high school and college students, or anyone living in an apartment. If you're a classical singer, however, I'd pass on this. The sound reduction is minimal and it messes with the breathe. Ultimately, I shouldn't have been surprised that this nifty little mask favors the contemporary singer. It is called BELT-box after all.