Diamond Engagement Ring Buying Guide: How to Choose an Engagement Ring
Marriage is one of the most important occasions in the life of any man and woman. In this respect we can note that the engagement in its turn is the first step to it and it’s really important to think over every single detail and aspect of engagement in order to secure the perfection of everything else that succeeds the engagement. Thus choosing the engagement ring is probably the most significant thing for the whole day, since the ring you choose will symbolize your love and affection and will open the doors leading to the married life. It’s quite a responsible and time-consuming task and certainly there are a number of things that needs to be taken into account when buying an engagement ring. So that’s what we are going to speak about right now, introducing the basic aspects that you need to know on how to choose a diamond engagement ring.
The History of Engagement Rings
The idea of engagement rings is closely connected with the idea of wedding rings. The latter are the symbols of eternal love and faithfulness and put together the two rings symbolizing eternity. The tradition of using engagement rings dates back to the times of ancient Egypt. It is believed that the “artery of love’ passes from the ring finger straight to the heart. As for the differences exiting between the approaches towards right and left hand priority, the basic factor here is the religious belief of the Eastern nations, according to which the right hand is given a higher priority than the left one and that’s why those belonging to the Orthodox church cross themselves from right to the left, while the Catholics start from the left and move to the right.
First it was St. Nicolas to come up with the decree that every man should gift a golden ring to his beloved woman as a sign of love and life-long affection. Later in 1215 Pope Innocent III issued a similar decree also allowing the fiancés to buy silver and iron rings. The fiancée was to wear the ring throughout the engagement.
Tips for Choosing an Engagement Ring
Coming to the actual process of choosing an engagement ring, we can speak about some general principles that work in any case. In any case you will need to consider some basic aspects like the material, the type of the stone and the overall design of the ring.
The Material of the Engagement Ring
Starting with the material we may, of course, note that gold is the primary material for engagement rings in general. Because of being too soft and not long-lasting the gold of 999.9 standard, which is the original 24-carat yellow gold (carat standing for purity) is hardly used for making any type of jewelry, including engagement rings. In order to make it stronger and steadier, original yellow gold comes alloyed with another metal for durability, like silver and copper. However, the optimal solution for this is the gold of 750 standard or the 18-carat gold, which has a yellow shade and includes some silver in the mixture. The 585 standard, which is the 14-carat gold, is also an option. In order to have the pinky overtone copper is added to the gold.
To explain you more in-details the difference between the carats of gold, here we present the primary types of gold available in the market:
• 24k gold, which is 99.99% pure gold. It’s never used to make jewelry, since it’s way too soft. 24k gold is either bought by jewelers to alloy it with other metals for making various types of jewelry, or by those, who want to make lifetime investments.
• 22k gold, which is 91.67% pure gold alloyed with other metals. This type of gold can be used for making jewelry.
• 20k gold, which is 83.33% pure gold alloyed with other metals. Usually, 20k or higher gold is yellow in color and such a high karatage is mostly popular in Asia and the Middle East.
• 18k gold, which is 75% pure gold alloyed with other metals. This is the most widely spread karatage in Europe. Some Americans also give preference to this option. Such gold usually comes in yellow or other colors.
• 14k gold, which is 58.33% pure gold alloyed with other metals. This type of gold is the most common one in the USA and it can be found in yellow or other colors. 14k white gold is usually harder and it can be used for prong settings.
• 12k gold, which is 50% pure gold, alloyed with other metals. This gold is usually used for making class rings and it can be other color than yellow.
• 10k gold, which is 41.67% pure gold, alloyed with other metals. This is one of the lowest carats of gold and in some cases it’s not even considered gold in the USA.
The alternative engagement rings made of white gold also deserve a special attention. In order to have that specific and gorgeous shade additional materials like nickel and palladium are added to the gold. You really need to be attentive for finding out the exact type of mixture that has been used for this or that ring, since unlike palladium, which is hypoallergenic and is considered a precious metal, nickel does not have those advantages and might even cause allergic skin reactions. For the fans of exotic engagement rings the alternatives made of titanium and wolfram are also suggested. The combined options uniting several metals in one mixture can also be tried out taking into account the preference for knowing the certain proportions.
Using platinum is another trendy and popular variant for engagement rings, but unlike the fact that this metal is considered to be more precious than gold, it is overshadowed with the shade of white gold having a dirty gray tone most of the times.
The Stones of the Engagement Ring
The next important aspect about buying an engagement ring is the choice of the stone. There exist a number of criteria, according to which the diamonds, which are most frequently used here, are classified. The most significant options that from that list are the tone, the carats, the clarity, and the faceting. Speaking in a more professional language of the diamond, we can say that diamonds are usually classified according to the 4C’s grading system, which is the Cut, the Color, the Clarity and the Carat. Understanding this language will help you pick the ideal stone for your fiancée’s engagement ring.
Diamond Cut: The faceting or the cut is one of the most important aspects defining the quality of the diamond, which is responsible for the shine and the final looks of the stone. The more successfully the faceting is done the more beautiful and the bigger the diamond will look. Actually, the term cut stands for two definitions: the diamond’s shape and the quality, determined by the perfect shine and symmetry. If the remaining 3 Cs define the diamond’s natural formation measuring its weight, color and clarity, then the cut is more often associated with the cutting skills, thanks to which a well-cut, yet lower-quality diamond can perform a better sparkle and an unmatchable beauty than the better-quality one, which has been cut in a wrong way. The main diamond cut shapes are:
• Round Diamond: The round form of the diamond is the most standard form, which consists of 58 facets. The round brilliant diamond is usually the bestseller among all the precious stones, because they offer maximum sparkle. They make up three-quarters of all the diamond purchases. Usually, the round diamonds come positioned with the majority of the diamond sitting below the setting, thus letting the wearer see only one-third of the entire stone.
• Princess Diamond: Coming with 57-70 facets, princess diamonds come in an angular form and they look unmatchable in classic and geometric settings. Princess diamonds are the next top-selling diamonds after the round ones, offering the same brilliance, yet at a more affordable price tag.
• Cushion Diamond: Cushion diamonds are the perfect stones embellishing vintage engagement rings. They appeal to those couples, who appreciate vintage and romantic styles. Cushion diamonds feature 58 facets and are usually thicker, thus best reflecting colors.
• Heart Diamond: Heart shaped diamonds are the ultimate choice for die-hard romantics, who quite often symbolize the heart diamond engagement rings with their own hearts given to their fiancées. They are actually the rarest diamond shapes available.
• Marquise Diamond: Also known as Marquee or Navette diamonds, Marquise diamonds usually come in larger sizes, since they appear in the settings where more of the stone shows from the top view. These diamonds have a more distinctive elongated shape and they usually tend to make the wearer’s fingers look longer and slenderer.
• Pear Diamond: Also known as Teardrop diamonds, Pear-shaped diamonds look quite identical with the marquise ones, which is the reason why they perform the same effects as those. They are composed of 57 facets.
• Oval Diamond: As the name hints these are oval-shaped diamonds, which also have the featuring of elongating the wearer’s fingers. They consist of 56 facets, and belong to the round category of diamonds due to their elliptical shape.
• Emerald Diamond: Emerald diamonds stand out for their classic and elegant looks, omitting less fire and looking more transparent than the round shapes. They have 24 facets.
• Radiant Diamond: Featuring 70 facets, radiant diamonds are great alternatives to the cushion and princess forms. They come in a sharp rectangular form, looking bigger thanks to their surface.
• Asscher Diamond: Asscher diamonds are step-cut and they also look sleek and elegant as the emerald ones. These diamonds also enjoy a big popularity among the fans of the romantic and vintage styles.
The diamond’s cut quality is usually determined by three factors, being:
• Proportions, which are the angles and sizes of the diamond’s facets.
• Symmetry, which is the precision of the diamond’s facets.
• Polish, which determines the smoothness of the diamond’s surface.
When buying a diamond, you’ll be given a certificate, where the cut grades are described according to the GIA ((Gemological Institute of America)) standards of the Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. A diamond is considered to be Well-Cut, when light is reflected from one facet to the other, disappearing from the top of the diamond. A Too-Deep diamond cut makes the light escape through the opposite side of the pavilion, while Too-Shallow diamond cut makes the light pass through the pavilion, before reflecting it.
There are no rules for choosing a particular cut of a diamond and no one can ever say that this cut may be better than the other type. Everything depends on the person’s preferences. However, if you still don’t know what diamond shape your fiancée may give preference to, you can always opt for the round form, since they never fail in performing a high shine and brilliance.
Diamond Carat: Carat is the conditional value equaling to the size of a grain. The weight of 1 carat is 0.2 g. The more the carats of a diamond are, the more precious it is, but still, it’s not only the size that matters. One carat features 100 equal parts, which are known as “points’. One point stands for 0.1 carat (1/100) carat. Several diamonds featuring fewer “points’ are not as expensive as a single diamond with higher “points’ or of one carat. Thus three diamonds of 1 carat each can’t equal with one diamond of 3 carats, since the latter is bigger in size and is rarer.
Diamond Color: The next important aspect we noted above is the shade of the diamond. Many people think that diamonds have no color, but the truth is that they do have a certain shade. The natural tones of diamonds are the shades of yellow and brown. Still, the less noticeable the natural tone is the more precious the stone is. The additional tones like red, blue, yellow, purple, pink are called fantasy shades.
According to the GIA, there exists a 12-letter alphabetical scale, which defines the color quality of a diamond. The letters vary from D to Z, where D represents the highest-quality diamond, which is almost transparent, and the Z features the deeper tones. When the color of the diamond is more intense than the Z one, then it falls under the category of fantasy colors. When a fancy colored diamond’s shade is high and rare, it can be more expensive than the clearest, D diamond. The common diamond colors are:
• D diamonds, which are almost see-through and colorless.
• E and F diamonds, which are also colorless. The color difference between D, E and F diamonds is so slight that only experts can differentiate them.
• K, L and M diamonds, which are slightly colored.
• Diamonds from N through Z, which all have a visible light tint. Logically, diamonds with less color are rarer and more expensive than the colored ones.
As for the fantasy colored diamonds, they can come in pink, champagne, yellow, blue and green tones, as well as super-rare red purple and orange hues.
Actually, not everyone can afford buying the most colorless D type of diamonds, however if you know their color compatibility with the right shade of gold, you can get the effect of a super-transparent stone. Thus, the guide is as follows:
• A colorless diamond will reflect a yellowish hue when put on a yellow gold setting.
• Colorless or almost transparent diamonds look super-sparkling and brilliant on a white gold or platinum setting.
• A yellowish diamond will look whiter on a background of yellow gold.
Diamond Clarity: As for the clarity we can add that this is one of the most significant and essential aspects of the stone. The crystal clear stones are the most expensive ones not having a single scratch or other faults. According to the general classification, the range of purity and quality goes from 1 to 5, having 11 grades in all. The small imperfections known as “inclusions’ can be discovered using a 10-power magnification, which is seeing the diamond 10 times bigger its actual size. The clarity grades of diamonds can be as follows:
• The FL Grade (Flawless): These are almost perfect diamonds without any inclusions as observed with a 10x loupe.
• The IF Grade (Internally Flawless): The IF diamonds have no internal flaws, however, they feature tiny finish imperfections and therefore don’t fall under the category of FL.
• The VVS Grades (Very, Very Small Inclusions): These are diamonds that have such small imperfections that even a qualified observer can hardly see. These can be some significant finish flaws only.
• The VS Grades (Very Small Inclusions): These are diamonds in which it’s very hard for a qualified observer to see larger imperfections or several small ones.
• The SI Grades (Small Inclusions): This term refers to diamonds, in which a qualified observer can easily find flaws under observation conditions. However, these inclusions may be some finish imperfections of no significance.
• The I Grades (Imperfect): This is the case, when a qualified observer can see internal flaws with the naked eye. Such inclusions highly reduce the quality of the stone.
As you see, the diamonds of FL and IF types are the perfectly clear options. They form the most impeccable category of all. The VS1 and VS2 types are also noteworthy, since they cost less, but you may notice the impurities only with the help of zooming with special tools. The SI1 type can become a good compromise in terms of the price and the quality, but you will need to consult a specialist beforehand. For an engagement ring, it’s advised to opt for a diamond with a clarity grade of SI2 or higher. In addition, you need to follow to have the certificate from a popular and authoritative laboratory, like GIA. If you have the chance it would be better if you bought the stones separately from the rings to be able to examine them better and to see their peculiarities separate from the ring first. For you to know, only about 2% of all the diamonds in the world actually fall under the category of FL, and almost most retail stores have VVS diamonds as their highest grade.
Common Types of Diamond Flaws
Knowing the common grades of diamond clarity, you may also like to discover the main types of diamond flaws, which are subdivided into two groupings: internal flaws also known as inclusions and external diamond flows, also called as blemishes. The list of such flaws goes as follows!
External Diamond Flaws
• Natural ” when the diamond has a rough, unpolished surface
• Cleavage or Feather ” when the diamond features some kind of inclusion along atomic grain
• Pit ” when the diamond has a tiny indentation on a flat surface
• Fracture ” when the diamond has an irregularly shaped break
Internal Diamond Flaws
• Cavity ” when the diamond has a small opening on the surface
• Nick – when the diamond features a tiny surface chip
• Included – when the diamond has inclusions
• Carbon spot – when the diamond has a crystal within it
• Grain line – when the diamond features some kind of irregularity
• Pinpoint – when the diamond includes a small white crystal
• Scratch – when the diamond has a minor groove
• Chip – when the diamond is broken along the external edge
• Cloud – when the diamond has a group of pinpoints
• Internal grain line – when the diamond has a visible internal grain structure
• Laser drill hole – when the diamond apparently features a clarity enhancement applied to remove any type of inclusion
• Bearded or feathered girdle – when the diamond features a small hairline fracture along the girdle into the stone
The Design of the Engagement Rings
The basic design tendencies of the engagement rings are divided into the following categories:
• Classic forms with a single precious stone in the center
• Ethnic inspired options carrying the hints of a certain culture like the Celtic and the Jewish ones
• Stylish and modern interpretations
The characteristic features of the classic forms require one or several diamonds of rounded faceting with the traditional yellow or white gold. As for the modern solutions, using colorful diamonds with diverse types of polishing may be used including matte and glossy options and non-standard faceting. Finally, the art-design engagement rings include all the craziest and the most innovative solutions and design features that we can ever imagine. The vintage engagement rings are also included in this style. In addition, you may also experiment with the combinations of stones, picking such options, which have a single diamond in the center, accompanied with smaller sizes of other stones put around it.
The setting is just as important and significant as the other characteristics, since the setting is the framework holding the stone, and is thus one of the most essential details forming the actual look of the ring. Apart from going for the traditional options, you may also try out the experiments like picking a bezel setting for a classic round stone or combining the stylish and modern oval shapes with the classic four-prong setting.
In order to find out the actual preferences of your beloved one, you may follow her style and the jewelry she wears, trying to find out the materials of jewelry she often opts for, the styles, etc. Thus you will be able to figure out whether she likes golden or silver pieces, with yellow, white, or red tones, or weather she gives preference to the classic styles or the vintage alternatives.
It is really important to know the taste and the preferences of your beloved one, and to choose the ring in accordance with that. For instance, if your future wife really likes heart shaped stones on rings, then it would be a really great surprise for her. In addition, you can also go for the most incredible and coolest innovations ever. We can also add the fact that the classic style suggested by Tiffany&Co is one of the most widespread options with the diamond, which has 57 facets, fixed securely on the ring. This is the choice of such celebs as Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johansson. As for the innovations, you may also try out the oval and the pear-shaped variants, the stepped options being the emerald types, etc. by the Bay, the latter is the fave option of Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Jessica Alba, and Victoria Beckham.
However, buying a diamond engagement ring is not at all compulsory, since many ladies give their preference to other colored precious stones like sapphire, topaz, pearls, amethyst, ruby, etc. In this case, however, you also need to remember that each gem has its energetic influence and when picking a certain option you may also take into account the sign of Zodiac and other such kind of details for your one and only.
One more great idea is ordering the ring to be made exclusively for you taking into account your preferences and wishes for a certain design option or a detail. It is way more preferable than buying something ready made, since the individuality and the uniqueness of the pieces are way higher in that case. In this case one more thing that you need to remember is that you really need to be patient and to order the ring taking into account the fact that sometimes it may take up to six months to make it. Still, going to a specialized shop you can also have the advice of the specialists, who will demonstrate the peculiarities of this or that type of stone, their differences and other significant details.
At-Home Diamond Care Tips
Getting a diamond engagement ring is certainly breathtaking, however, you also need to care for it properly to enjoy its brilliant shine for many years and then to show your “love story’ to your children and grandchildren. It’s recommended cleaning diamonds every six months, since diamond rings (and generally any other type of diamond jewelry) easily get dirty touching makeup and other materials. This makes them lose their shine and brightness. You can either take your diamond ring to a professional to get a regular cleaning, or you can do that at home.
If you wear your diamond engagement ring every day, you need to clean it every week. You can use ultrasonic cleaners for this, however, make sure to avoid using such products if your diamond has some cracks or inclusion. In this case, you can clean your diamond with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a clean liquid detergent. Don’t forget to rinse the diamond thoroughly with water and dry it with a soft cloth. Last but not least follow these diamond care dos and don’ts for the perfect long-lasting shine of the stone!
• You need to store your diamond jewelry in a separate jewelry box in order to avoid any scratches, when they touch other diamond, pearl or gemstone jewelry pieces.
• Even though you might be cleaning your diamond ring at home, make sure to take it for professional cleaning and inspection twice a year.
• It’s wise to ensure your diamond jewelry against theft and lost, since they do cost a lot both in terms of money and your personal feelings connected with them.
• Avoid wearing your diamond engagement ring when washing the dishes, cleaning the house or generally doing other household chores.
• Also make sure you take off your diamond engagement ring prior to applying lotions, creams, hair products or makeup.
Common Myths about Engagement Rings
Myth 1: The Size of the Diamond Matters Primarily
Actually, it’s not really true that the size of the diamond is the first and one of the most significant aspects about the engagement ring. Just the opposite! Finding the exact style and the favorite details that your fiancée has for rings is way more important and pleasing. You just need to find out her preferences and pick such options, which may not even be too big and enormous, but may have a superb quality in terms of the materials used and the quality of the stone.
Myth 2: Identical is the Best
No matter how much your fiancée might like the ring of her friend, she will never ever want to have an utterly identical option for herself, even if she speaks about the great quality and the stunning looks of that ring all time. Of course, using the details you learn from her talks may be used further, but opting for identical options is not what she would be extremely delighted and pleased with.
Myth 3: The Wedding Ring Should Match the Engagement Ring
It’s really a widespread idea that the engagement ring and the wedding ring should be matching with each other, but this is already obsolete. The typical style of the engagement rings is thus the look with the diamond in the center. But the modern tendency goes for changing the traditional ideas and patterns including experimental variants, which may involve non-standard materials, colorful stones or other forms and designs. Knowing the taste of your fiancée is more important to create some matching combos with the engagement and the wedding rings after marriage.
Myth 4: White is Always Better
We can’t argue that the combination of white metal with white pure stones looks superb and unfailingly beautiful, but the tendencies leading to including the craziest details and design solutions in the looks significantly widens the scope, at times even leaving the traditional white with white combos aside.
In addition, the pinky accent of the gold used is becoming more and more popular in Europe looking unexpectedly cute and gorgeous. It is also suitable for any skin tone because of the specific color plays it has. The innovative solutions lead us to nice interpretations as the floral rings with pinky gold and the yellow diamond.
Myth 5: You Definitely Need to Be a Specialist
Not at all! You by no means have to be a proficient specialist to be able to choose the correct form and quality of the engagement ring. You just need to remember the following tips and tricks here going as follows:
1. First of all you need to be aware of the basic styles, shades, types of stones and other characteristic features to be able to identify them with the rings you are looking through.
2. Choose the top rated jewelry shops.
3. Be sure to have the size of the finger taken beforehand. In order not to go wrong with the size you can follow attentively approximate size of the rings that your beloved one often wears, or take one of her rings with you. In addition, you can also make the approximate draft of the outline of the ring on a paper in order not to risk being discovered. If she doesn’t wear rings on her ring finger, it will be a bit harder to find the exact size. In this case it would be better if you asked a relative or a friend to take her to the jewelry salon and to find everything out.
If the Engagement or the Wedding Has Been Canceled
Unfortunately sometimes everything doesn’t go as smoothly as everyone wants and things like break-ups happen before the engagement or the wedding. In this case, if you have already been given the ring by your ex future husband, you definitely need to give the ring back. One major reason for that is that for many families the engagement ring is a family relic passed from generation to generation. And even after the registration of the marriage, if you have decided to divorce, giving back the engagement ring is one of the primary things you need to consider.
Here were the most important and basic aspects concerning choosing the engagement ring that we would like to share with you, hoping that you will be able to figure out everything and to pick the most suitable and exact forms and designs of engagement rings to leave your future wife absolutely breathless with the invaluable present you are going to give her. Being able to match the styles with the preferences of the one and only you are going to give it to, you’ll secure the flabbergasting and chic outcomes and the total success!
Photos courtesy of Yervant, Brilliant Earth, Vogue
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