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A Guy's Guide To Buying Diamond Engagement Rings

Updated on May 7, 2012
Beautiful emerald and diamond wedding set
Beautiful emerald and diamond wedding set

Getting engaged is a huge decision and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. However, once you are ready to move forward in surprising your (fingers crossed) fiancée with a ring the next step is to actually decide what style of ring is the best match. Not all women want a huge rock on their finger, so taking into consideration the style of jewelry she enjoys, the type of activities she enjoys as well as the type of engagement rings she admires are all important considerations.

While most engagement rings will have diamonds, there are also options to have engagement rings with other precious or semi-precious gemstones. Precious gemstones include diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires while the semi-precious gemstones include most other quality gems. Options for engagement rings with semi-precious stones include tanzanite, citrine, topaz, amethyst, garnet or peridot to name just a few. 

Just keep in mind that not all of the semi-precious stones are as hard as diamonds and some are very prone to scratching, chipping and damage with wear. There is a hardness scale, known as the Mohs' scale, so try to look for gemstones with at least a 7 to 7.5 rating on the scale for everyday wear. Diamonds rate at the top of the scale as a 10 with pearls down near the bottom at a 2.5-4.5.A great link for information on gemstones including their Mohs scale rating can be found at

The Famous 4C's Of Diamonds

The following is a very simple explanation of the 4C's of diamond and gemstone grading. Not all gemstones are graded using these methods, but most are to some degree.

Carat – this is the easiest to understand and refers to the actual weight of the diamond or gemstone. Typically the larger the carat of the diamond or gemstone is the more expensive it will be provided it is relatively free from flaws or other imperfections. A good size of diamond or gemstone for an average sized engagement ring is between 0.5 and 1.0 carats. Some rings with multiple small diamonds will have the carat as a combined total. Larger solitaires will be more expensive per carat because larger high quality diamonds are less common, driving up both the price and demand.

Clarity – clarity is not really about the color and the transparency of the diamond, it is about the presence or absence of visible or virtually invisible blemishes or inclusions. Blemishes are flaws on the outside of the diamond and inclusions are flaws on the inside. Since all diamonds have slight imperfections under magnification, clarity is really a difficult thing to assess unless you really know what you are doing. Generally most diamonds in engagement rings will be SI (Slightly Included) or above on the scale. This still means that without 10 times magnification the inclusion is not visible with the naked eye. Perfect diamonds are F which stands for flawless. VVS (very very slightly included) or VS (very slightly included) are great choices for diamonds and gemstones as well.

Color – color is a bit like clarity, it isn't easy to tell slight variations unless you are a trained gemologist or jeweler. The ideal diamond is colorless and is ranked as a D with diamonds that are virtually nearly colorless ranging down to a L in the alphabet. Below that is an M which is faintly yellow when viewed against a pure white background. The most yellow color is Z, which is noticeably light yellow. Fancy diamonds can be gray, brown, blue, pink, red or deep yellow. This are very rare and often are color enhanced to add to the intensity, but all enhanced diamonds have to be marked as such on the diamond grading report or certificate.

Cut – the cut of the diamond is NOT THE SAME AS THE SHAPE . Cut refers to how the jeweler cut finished the diamond. It specifically refers to the proportions, finish and symmetry that leads to the internal reflection or fire that is so prized in a diamond. A good cut gives lots of flash through facets on each side of the diamond that reflect light into the center. A poor cut allows the light to escape, creating a flat look with little brilliance and dazzle. Some cuts, such as the round brilliant, actually have 58 different facets or sides cut into the diamond to create the internal reflection.

Choosing A Diamond Or Gemstone Shape

Diamonds and gemstones come in many shapes, some shapes which are dependent on the specific cut used to create the gem. Generally only the best and most flawless diamonds are used to create the round brilliant cut and round shape, allowing for those eye catching solitaires that are very popular. Most round shaped diamonds are going to be stunning in any setting.

Square to rectangular shapes for diamonds and gemstones include the Asscher, emerald, cushion and princess shapes. The radiant cut is a newer style of diamond that allows the many facets of the round brilliant in a square shape. These all have slightly longer facets for a deeper look to the diamond. These shapes suit all hand types.

Marquise shaped diamonds are longer and oval in the middle, with two pointed ends that run lengthwise along the finger. These are great as solitaire diamonds or in settings with other diamonds or gemstones. The pear shape or teardrop diamond shape is similar to the marquise but only has one pointed end, the other end is rounded. These are very flattering for women with longer fingers.

Oval diamonds and gemstones are beautiful for women with shorter fingers and smaller hands. They can be used as solitaire engagement rings or in combinations with other gemstones on the band.

Trilliant diamonds are very rare but incredibly striking in appearance. They are triangular in shape and cut to have many highly reflective facets. Typically most trilliant diamonds will have at least 44 different facets to give a brilliant solitaire style.

One of the most romantic looking shapes is the heart cut diamond. These diamonds are cut in the shape of a heart, typically with a moderate cleft that gives the striking heart shape. Finding a perfect setting for a heart cut diamond is important as they can be difficult to match with other rings and gemstones.

Heart Shaped Diamond
Heart Shaped Diamond

Always View The Grading Report Or Certificate Before Buying

Whatever diamond or gemstone and shape you decide on be sure to get a copy of the grading report or certification. Always look for certificates and reports from established grading laboratories such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AMS) or the International Gemological Institute (IGI). These are not appraisals but they do clearly detail and describe the diamond or gemstone. If you want a separate appraisal before making a major purchase, the jeweler shouldn't have any concerns and will enable this to happen. Of course you will have to pay for the service, but you will need the appraisal anyway for insurance purposes.

Remember that jewelery stores are always going to try to "sell up" when it comes to engagement rings. Don't be pressured into spending 3 or 5 months salary, just buy what you can realistically afford. Look for options such as combining several smaller diamonds or diamonds with other gemstones to get more ring for your money. Even if you can't afford that spectacular engagement ring, consider getting a more modestly priced ring then upgrading with a stunning eternity ring in a few years time.

Some Additional Considerations On Diamond Buying


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    • Mardi profile imageAUTHOR

      Mardi Winder-Adams 

      8 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Wow, what a celebration! Thanks so much for your comment Peggy and Happy Anniversary!!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      You explained all of this beautifully. My wedding rings turn 40 years old this month!


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