Pristine, precious, and durable under all duress: The crowning diamond atop the modern-day engagement ring is a suitable symbol of love and commitment. With its popularity, however, comes the trickiness of navigating its complex industry, especially when they begin at such intimidating prices. Where to begin? What to do? Fret not, this guide will help you.
In This Article
Start With A Budget
The maxim of spending at least three months’ salary is now seen as old-fashioned and is no longer a reliable gauge on how much one should spend on an engagement ring. Albeit a significant purchase, the budget should be decided based on your personal financial situation. Don’t let this ring be a burden to yourself. Consider your future goals and relationship values, weigh in your earnings and future spouses’ expectations. If a diamond ring is beyond the budget, consider the alternative of a coloured stone or a lab-grown diamond instead. A white sapphire or moissanite carry a similar sparkle for a fraction of the cost.
Choosing the Best Style
This ring should be a reflection of your partner’s personality and style. There are many different engagement ring styles available out there, ranging from minimalist to vintage, and everything in between. So, before you start shopping consider their style, how does she dress? Boho and artsy, modern and minimalistic or bold and eccentric? If you’re planning to surprise her, ask her close friends or family members for their advice. Chances are they have answers for you or better yet, know exactly what she wants.
Metals like yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, or platinum are popular options for an engagement ring. Beyond the look, they differ also in durability and cost. Therefore, it’s worth researching the different types of metals to see what works best for your specific lifestyle. For gold, a higher carat means a softer metal. If your partner’s work involve exposing the ring to harsh chemicals or if she does a lot of work with her hands, you may want to opt for 10K or 18K carat metal. A lower karat is always an alloy with other metals, such as copper or silver which results in a stronger metal.
Platinum is one of the strongest precious metals and often a luxe choice. Platinum bands are more versatile, thought they do bend easily, they rarely get damaged with wear and tear. The metal retains its colour, and scratches or tarnishes can simply be polished out by your jeweller.
Selecting The Perfect Stone
The 4Cs of a Diamond
The 4Cs—which stand for cut, carat, clarity, and colour—are a phrase you’ll see very frequently on the websites of jewellery stores or other guides to the world of diamond engagement rings. They represent the four main measures of a diamond’s quality and worth.
Cut doesn’t refer to a diamond’s shape (for example, whether it is round, a heart, or pear-shaped). It is in fact an assessment of how well a diamond has been sculpted to best interact with light and produce the brilliant sparkle for which diamonds are known and loved. Some desirable visual effects to look out for when choosing your engagement ring are fire (the scattering of white light into all colours of the rainbow), brightness (the level of white light it reflects), and scintillation (the amount of sparkle produced, and the pattern of the shadows each diamond’s reflections cause).
Carat is the universal unit of measurement for a diamond’s weight, not to be confused with karat, which is a unit of gold’s purity. One carat is 200 milligrams, and each carat can be further subdivided by 100 points (two decimal places, e.g., 3.00 ct., 3.40 ct., 3.76 ct.), allowing for extremely precise measurements. Some jewellers may refer to diamonds below one carat in points alone, such as by calling a 0.60 carat diamond a “60-pointer.” Naturally, larger diamonds are rarer and deemed more valuable. There are certain milestones in weight, also known as the “magic sizes” (0.50 carat, 0.75 carat, and 1 carat), past which a diamond may suddenly jump in value. For example, though there is little practical difference between the masses of a 0.99 carat and 1 carat diamond, there can be a considerable gulf in price between them.
Clarity is in essence how pure a diamond is. As the product of a billion years or more of natural formation, no diamond is perfectly pure. Their impurities are known as inclusions, for those that are internal, and blemishes, for those external. However, not all inclusions and blemishes are visible to the naked eye and would therefore have no influence on a diamond’s overall appearance. The purer and clearer a diamond is, the more valuable. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Diamond Clarity Scale, recognised worldwide, assesses each stone by a total of 11 grades over six categories:
|no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification
|Internally flawless (IF)
|no inclusions visible under 10x magnification
|Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
|inclusions so small they are difficult for a specialist to see under 10x magnification
|Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
|inclusions visible with effort under 10x magnification but can be categorised as minor
|Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)
|inclusions noticeable under 10x magnification
|Included (I1, I2, and I3)
|inclusions obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
Colour is, ironically, graded primarily by the absence of it. The more colourless a diamond the more chemically pure it is, and, therefore, the more valuable. The GIA uses a D-to-Z diamond colour-grading scale to assess each stone’s degree of colourlessness by comparing them to standard stones with a set colour value under controlled lighting and viewing conditions. D is the most colourless, and Z the most colourful. Most diamonds are tinged with yellow or brown, but stones with more yellow or brown than a Z stone, or diamonds that are a different colour entirely, are considered fancy-colour diamonds.
Now that you’re more familiar with the 4Cs and their accompanying vocabulary, the world of diamond and engagement ring shopping should be far easier to navigate!
The Shape of Your Centre Stone
Aside from the cut, carat, clarity, and colour, one other characteristic of diamonds to pay attention to is the shape, specifically of a diamond’s silhouette or outline. When deciding on a shape, it’s important to consider the ring’s compatibility with one’s personal style, how the diamond’s shape interplays with finger size, and what ring setting the diamond would look best on, among other things.
Where to Shop for Engagement Rings?
With so many jewellery stores to choose from, getting to know the services they offer or features they specialise in would be hugely beneficial. For example, there are diamond and ring shops which focus primarily on lab-grown or natural-mined diamonds respectively.
Lab-grown diamonds are practically identical to natural ones, both cosmetically and chemically. Some benefits include generally being cheaper than natural diamonds, and the guarantee of receiving a diamond that was ethically created without additional certification. They cannot be told apart from naturally mined diamonds with the naked eye, and require specific equipment to be distinguished. When looking for sellers of lab-grown diamonds, it helps for them to be certified by internationally recognised gemological organisations, such as the GIA or International Gemological Institute, for full transparency regarding their origins and characteristics.
Natural diamonds, on the other hand, may be more expensive, but also carry a higher resale value. While the rarity of natural-mined diamonds is certainly alluring, it’s no secret that the diamond mining industry has a past riddled with exploitative practices. Fortunately, there are jewellery stores and ring-makers which commit to using natural diamonds that are conflict-free. Kimberley Process certification is the key phrase to look out for.