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Choosing An Engagement Ring
10 RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (RING SHOPPING)
So you’ve finally made it here. The moment when you decide you cannot live without the love of your life and you are ready to propose. Congratulations! Now what? Luckily for you, generations before you have gone through the same right of passage in searching for an engagement ring and now you can learn from their mistakes.
The process can be a bit daunting and nerve-racking. Of course you want everything to be perfect. It can feel as if you’re about to go into battle but I am here to help you. There are things you should know when buying an engagement ring. To give you an edge for success, here are your compiled 10 Rules of Engagement (Ring Shopping)!
1- Know What Style She Loves.
Whether you are going to be a secret covert spy or just downright obvious, do your research on what your future fiancé’s tastes are. This ring will be on her finger everyday so it is about her style, not yours. Take notice to what she gazes at a bit longer than others when perusing magazines, passing by jewelry stores, or watching commercials. Listen to comments she makes about her friends’ and family members’ rings. Does she like the simple look of a solitaire or does she lean more towards added side stones? Do her tastes reflect a vintage or modern style? If you can’t pick up on subtle clues, do not hesitate to fit some pointed questions in while talking about your future together. Knowing is half the battle.
2- Diamond Shape Is Key.
Much like the style of the setting, most women will have a preference of diamond shape. Although round cut diamonds still make up the vast majority of yearly diamond sales primarily due to their timelessness and elegant simplicity, fancy cut diamonds are growing in popularity. Oval, emerald, and cushion cuts currently hold the top spots for fancy shapes. If you find yourself in a bind getting this information, sticking to the classic round cut diamond is the way to go. Speak to your jeweler about their policy on switching out the center stone should your fiancé want something different.
3- Budget. Budget. Budget.
The dated thought of spending two months salary on an engagement ring is exactly that… dated. You need to decide what amount works best for you and stick to it. All of the sparkly diamonds you are about to see will make it very easy to toss your budget out of the window because, of course, you only want the best for your sweetheart! The best can be accomplished without spending so much that you only leave room in your savings for Ramen noodles on the reception menu (delicious as they may be). Be upfront with your jeweler on your budget and stick to it. A reputable jeweler will work with you to get the best ring possible at your price point.
4- Educate Yourself.
With a plethora of choices before you, all diamonds can very easily start to look alike to the naked eye. Know the 4 C’s (cut, color, clarity, and carat). There are a few key points about these that most people might not know, but I am here to give you some industry secrets. Shhh!
- First, cut doesn’t refer to the shape; it refers to how well the diamond was cut from the rough. The range is from Excellent to Poor. This is possibly the most important of the 4 C’s because it will determine the level of brilliance, or sparkle if you will, she gets when showing it off to anyone who asks to see it (and sometimes anyone who hasn't asked)!
- To the average consumer, which most of us are, the highest colors can’t be distinguished by glancing at them. The price difference between a D color and an H color is thousands of dollars; thousands you don’t need to spend because unless you are walking around with the grading certificate no one will know. Diamonds range on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (yellow). In most cases, diamonds don’t start to show a hint of yellow until I color. If you do your legwork you might even be able to find a white looking I or J color. If you are at a crossroads choosing between a higher color or clarity for your budget, opt for the clarity. Here’s why:
- Clarity refers to the imperfections in a stone. Flawless sounds like the way to go, I’m sure, but it is not necessary. Trained gemologists use magnification and very specific testing guidelines to detect the flaws in diamonds and to give them a certification grading based on their findings. Without magnification an SI1 or SI2 diamond can appear flawless. In the industry, this is known as “eye clean”. Search for a center diamond that has the highest clarity you can afford without visible imperfections. No woman dreams about a black speckled diamond.
- Carat. The bigger the better? Yes and no. When you decide on the optimal carat weight, whether it is 1 carat, 2 carats or beyond, consider this thought: Go about 0.15-0.20 carats below that and focus on the measurements instead of the carat weight. The common misconception is that all diamonds of the same carat weight look the same but that is not true. Carat weight refers to the total weight of the stone but does not account for the weight distribution. Dropping down to the next weight tier down (so to speak) but picking a diamond that has most of its weight at the top of the stone, giving it a “spready” appearance will allow you to get the look of the carat weight you want without having to shell out the money for it. A “spready” 0.80 carat diamond can yield the same table measurements as a bottom heavy 1.00 carat diamond. Feeling empowered yet?
Side Note: DON'T BE FOOLED BY CLUSTER RINGS.
There are jewelers that offer inexpensive engagement rings featuring a small number of cluster diamonds in place of a solitaire center stone. While this may look nice and come with an attractive price tag, it is a bit of an illusion. A one carat diamond will always be worth more than 2 half carat diamonds, all other specs being equal. These clusters are typically made up of tiny diamonds around the 0.01-0.03 carat range and are grouped together to appear as one large diamond. These tiny diamonds are called melees and are good for the side diamonds on the setting, but as for a main center diamond there is very little value compared to a ring without a single diamond in the center.
5- Heavy Metal.
No, I am not referring to a long-haired band. I am talking about platinum, white gold, yellow gold, or the trendy rose gold. Be armed with the knowledge of which your lady prefers. Another factor to keep in mind when choosing a metal is the hardness. Platinum is softer than 14K gold. As a result, it will get scratched easily, making it a high maintenance metal. If she plans on wearing it everywhere she goes, 14K gold might be the best choice for you. Keep in mind that metal color will also play a role in the look of the center stone. If the stone is of a lower color and contains a hint of yellow, choosing yellow gold will enhance the yellow in the stone. If you opted for a vivid yellow (popularly known as a canary) diamond choosing a yellow gold setting, or at the very least yellow prongs, is a good idea. A white gold setting, or white gold prongs will bring out the whiteness of the diamond. A growing trend is using a different gemstone besides a diamond as the center stone. If you fall in this category, choose a metal that enhances the color of the gemstone.
6- Diamonds Aren't Your Only Choice.
Colored gemstones are climbing the charts in popularity when it comes to engagement rings. Presenting her with a gemstone engagement ring is not only a great way to making her ring unique, but also another way to stay within your budget. Sapphires, emeralds, and morganites are trending right now. In keeping with the tradition of giving a diamond when popping the question you can always get a setting with pavé-set diamonds on the band or don the center stone with a diamond halo.
7- You Don't Have to Settle For Pre-made.
You did exactly what I suggested you do. You listened to her subtle hints, you watched her eyes light up when she saw different styles, but there’s a problem. She likes a few different things and you don’t know which to pick. Have no fear! Create a custom engagement ring. That’s right... build your own! It sounds expensive but trust me when I tell you that it is more affordable than you think. A true jeweler specializes in custom designs and since all of their orders will be made from scratch, every ring begins as a blank slate.
8- Size Matters.
Her ring size, that is. Picture this: You have done all of your research, settled on a budget, chosen your jeweler, and the ring of her dreams is in your possession! You plan the perfect scene, get down on one knee, profess your love, utter the words “Will you marry me?”, she screams “YES!”. Then you hear the record scratch… the ring doesn’t fit. Let’s avoid this moment together. This is not something you want to happen. There are a few ways to find out this vital piece of information.
- Locate a ring she wears but won't miss and take it to the jeweler to have them measure it.
- If you think the ring will be missed, trace the inside of the ring on a piece of paper and show it to your jeweler.
- Request a free ring sizer online and if she is a heavy sleeper measure her left ring finger while she snoozes.
- If all else fails, ask her or a close friend/family member.
9- Get Certified.
GIA is the leading gemological institute with the most stringent guidelines for grading diamonds and gemstones. You can rest assured that the diamond you’re told you are getting is exactly what sits in her ring with a GIA certificate. Ask to receive the original GIA certificate of your diamond with your purchase. Any reputable jeweler will have no problem providing this. This is the blueprint for your diamond. From the 4 C’s to its measurements, polish, symmetry, fluorescence, certification date and more will all be provided on your document.
Take the stress out of walking around town with this expensive new investment and get it insured. Your jeweler can make a suggestion on who to use or your homeowner’s/renter’s insurance can add it to your policy. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that in the unfortunate case it is lost or stolen, you are covered.
Have fun. Good luck. And Congratulations!