We all know that engagement ring shopping is a stressful thing. Getting all the little details right is a difficult process, and knowing what you’re actually looking for takes some learning. With that in mind, we have put together this guide of all the things you absolutely need to know before you buy an engagement ring.
The Four ‘C’s
Working in the jewellery industry, you come across the term ‘the four ‘c’s’ quite a bit. It breaks down like this:
These are the essential elements of diamonds that you need to know before you buy one. Let’s have a closer inspection at what each term really means.
Obviously, to the untrained eye, most diamonds are similar in colour – that whitish sparkly hue. The depth of colour in diamonds, however, goes on a scale that changes the appearance of a diamond quite drastically. The scale for diamond colour grading goes from D-Z. The gradings: D, E, and F are considered to be colourless, and are therefore the most valuable diamonds; however everything from a J and above will look excellently coloured. If your bride likes the idea of something a little different, then you can get quite a low colour graded diamond for a cheaper price that will show a yellow or even brownish colour.
At its very core, the carat is the size of the diamond. The higher the carat weight, the larger – and thus more expensive – the stone will be. The difference between a diamond that is 1 carat and a 2 carat stone is a lot more than you might be expecting, so make sure you have a rough idea of the range you want to look at. Even diamonds under 1 carat look very eye-catching and maintain a great sparkle, so don’t get too perturbed about getting the ‘right’ carat weight.
The cut of a diamond is a bit more complicated to explain. The cut describes the shape of the stone, but this also impacts the inner inclusions of the stone, changing how it refracts and reflects light. Different cuts create different patterns within the stone, but it makes more sense to focus on how the overall shape of the stone is affected by the cut. The range of cuts is extensive, but some basics are: round, oval, square, marquise, emerald, pear, princess, asscher, cushion, and heart. This element of the ring is very important, and depends massively on your bride’s style.
The clarity of a stone is possibly the most difficult element to assess with an untrained eye. The clarity basically describes how flawed a diamond is. The grading scale for the clarity of stones ranges from F – I3. The gradings are as follows: Flawless [F], Internally Flawless [IF], Very Very Slightly Included [VVS1/2], Very Slightly Included [VS], Slightly Included [SI], Included 1 [I1], and Included 2/3 [I2/3]. Everything between F and VS is practically invisible without considerable magnification. Inclusions tend to show up as dark marks and an almost blurry quality in the stone. Obviously, you want a stone with a good clarity grading, but you don’t need to spend the money it costs to get an F-graded stone to get a really glistening diamond. This element of the four ‘c’s is best discussed with a professional’s advice on hand.
Once you have a basic understanding of the four ‘c’s, you can move on to think about more essential elements of engagement ring shopping.
As in all areas of life – budgeting is important. Especially considering that an engagement ring is one of the most important purchases a person is likely to make in their lives. You need to establish your budget before you even begin to look at engagement rings. Once you start to look, be very careful about how far beyond your budget you’re willing to explore – if at all – because if you see a ring that is the one and it is well over your budget, then you’ll definitely find yourself in a very difficult situation.
The general belief that an engagement ring should cost two or three month’s salary is – thankfully – antiquated in today’s society. Now, much less money is expected to be spent on an engagement ring. This means the budget is really up to you. Vintage and antique rings – or other second-hand rings – are excellent value for money, as you will find higher quality stones for considerably less than you would find them brand new on the high street. Furthermore, you get a unique item with a nice bit of history attached if you decided to go with antique or vintage rings.
With a budget in mind, as well as some knowledge of what you’re looking for from the stone itself, you only need one more thing before you can begin to seriously go out and start shopping.
Obviously, this is a huge component of the engagement ring process. You NEED to know the right ring size for your fiancée. Some rings – like eternity rings for example, with stones around the entire circumference – cannot be resized. Other rings can only be resized to a small degree, so it is essential that you ensure you know the ring size for your bride-to-be.
If you’re in a situation where just asking what size the ring needs to be is not a possibility, something you can try is finding a ring that you know she wears on her ring finger, then try putting it on your finger and use a pen to mark how far down it goes. With this, you can go to a shop and show this to the professionals there, and they will be able to tell you what size you need.
If that is not a possibility either, use a ring she has and try some guess work from there. It is always safer to guess slightly on the larger side than on the smaller side, as – generally speaking – rings are easier to modify to a smaller size than a larger size.
The ring size is the last thing that you need to make sure you have completely covered before you set out into the world and actually begin exploring the options for buying an engagement ring.
Ring metals vary a decent amount, and you need to consider which ring metal will be the right one for your fiancée. There’s the basic gold, platinum, and even potentially silver, to consider, but then within that there’s yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. Furthermore, there are more different options such as palladium and titanium.
Generally speaking, it’s probably best to go with metals that are similar to jewellery items your significant other already owns. Also, don’t forget to consider her skin tone, as different shades of metals complement different skin tones.
The metal your engagement ring is made from is can improve the look of the actual stones used in the item itself if you are tactical about it. Yellow gold, for example, makes diamonds appear to be brighter and whiter than they actually are. Similarly, white gold and platinum can make a diamond appear more yellow-toned and duller – but don’t let that put you off, as it is far from the deciding factor in choosing an engagement ring.
There is more still to consider when searching for an engagement ring, particularly when you are looking to buy without the bride-to-be being present.
Settings and Stones
The setting of a diamond engagement ring – if it is even a diamond at all – is very important. The setting is essentially the overall look of the ring, as well as the way the stones are set in the ring. This is important as it can completely change the appearance of the ring. There are different styles to consider here: Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Contemporary, and Retro, to name but a few. In terms of the settings themselves, there are halo rings; pavé set diamonds, bezel settings, and numerous others.
This is where you need to know your bride-to-be’s preferred styles to decide which setting and stone is right for your proposal. Don’t feel like you need to buy a diamond if your fiancée doesn’t seem the type to want one. If she loves red and isn’t interested in diamonds, maybe ruby or garnet will be better for her. Perhaps even something like vintage emerald engagement rings would be preferred by your significant other. Don’t be afraid to be brave when it comes to this element of the purchasing decision.
The only things you still have to consider are the authenticity of the ring, and insuring the item itself. You should ensure that the item you’re buying has been independently authenticated, and make sure that it is supplied with the relevant certificates so that you can rest easy knowing that the money you spent was used to buy a genuine item. As well as this, consider insuring your engagement ring. If you have home insurance, you can add the engagement ring to your items covered. It will obviously add a little to your insurance bill, but trust us, it’s definitely worth insuring such a valuable purchase – should the worst happen.
Armed with this knowledge, go forth, browse, purchase, and propose! Good luck, and don’t forget to make a decision that you can really believe in.