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One of the most difficult but very enjoyable buying decisions one will ever make is to decision of an engagement ring.  This is true for both parties. With so many different choices it seems as though it is almost impossible to decide on the perfect engagement ring or wedding band and engagement ring set.  It is understandable.  Between the different shapes of center diamonds, many styles of settings, and matching band options it really sounds like a frustrating experience. 

But wait, with great guidance and a little homework, it also is the first step to a happy marriage.  As active sales professionals in the field, we help different people with their engagement ring requests.  Believe us there really are as many different rings as there are couples.  One thing that we realized in the past several years is that the gentlemen are becoming very much involved in the process.  It is not “this is what my fiancée wants, I came to pick it up” situation anymore.  The gentlemen do their homework, and have a big say in the decision making process. 

Here, we tried to make this process a little more understandable, thus easier.
One of the most asked questions is “how much should I spend?”  For years, the rule of thumb for engagement ring was “two months’ salary”; however the truth is, there is no limit to quality and value of the ring.  Keeping the two months’ salary range in mind you are in safe waters if you spent a little over or a little under for a ring you think is “the” ring with exceptional value and quality.  Don’t forget, nothing replaces the peace of mind and value of a quality engagement ring.

A man, seldom, pops the question to his girlfriend out of the blue.  So it is good practice that the gentleman, once he decides that their relationship should go to the next level, should start gathering information.  It all depends on the person and the relationship - whether the girlfriend should be included in the selection and the purchase of the actual ring. The gentleman should start asking questions to her friends, mother and sometimes the girlfriend herself for hints.  With this information, he should start looking for suitable settings for desired center and side stones at a reliable brick and mortar jewelry store or an on-line outlet. 

As we mentioned before, there are many different shapes of center diamonds.  The most popular of these shapes are round and princess.  There has been an increasing demand for fancy cuts like cushion, asscher.  Also there are some classic cuts like emerald, oval, marquise etc.  Your Jeweler should be able to show you samples of your desired stone shape.

Another important decision is what kind of metal the stones should be set on.  We use, mainly, three kinds of metals.  Platinum, 18K and 14K white, yellow or pink (rose) gold.  There are certain differences between them, which can be listed as:

Platinum: Strongest and purest of them all, this metal will last a lifetime.  Granted it is more expensive due to the fact that it is found rarer than gold.  It is, though, very strong thus resistant to damage and wear and tear.  Platinum will not lose its white color even though it will lose the shine faster.  It will not tarnish; however, it is a little bit more difficult to work with as far as polishing and repairing goes.  It is labor intensive, thus tends to be more costly.

Gold:  No matter what Karat it is, gold is the most commonly used metal in jewelry production.  The difference between 18K and 14K is the gold content in the mixture of the metal.  To be more thorough, 18K has 75% gold and 25% strength giving alloys in the mixture; whereas, 14K has 58.3% gold and 42.7% alloy in.  Because it is a softer metal than platinum, it is a little bit more prone to damages and wear and tear.  However, because it is an easy metal to work with, more design possibilities are available.

Next step is choosing the setting style. Major setting styles are as follows:

Solitaire Settings:  Call it classic, or popular, or plain, Solitaire setting is the most sought after setting styles in the industry.  It mainly consists of two parts (sometimes everything is mingled): a shank, and a prong head.  The shank, the circular ring portion is plain and can be in any metal of your choice.  The prong head, which will be the nest of the diamond for as long as you keep the ring, is situated right on top of the shank.  It can be either four-pronged or six-pronged.  The former shows the stone a little bit more but the latter is believed to offer more security.  Contrary to the popular belief, Solitaire setting style is not only for round stones but it is available for any shape of stone.

Settings with Sidestones: As the name suggests, these are settings that have stones on the shank next to the “main attraction” the center stone.  Depending on the design and thickness of the shank, it might have stones going down either in prongs, or pave’ style or channel setting.  Lately, we have been seeing settings with stones going all the way around the shank or on all three walls of it.

Three-stone settings: These are settings that have one stone on either side of the center stone.  They could be all same size- which are referred to as anniversary rings- or big center stone and a smaller stone on either side; e.g. 1.00ct in the center and a 0.30ct on each side.

As we said before, the gentleman must do his homework before deciding on the ring.  The lady’s taste, lifestyle and admirations will give him a lot of clues as to what setting to go with.  More often than not, we are seeing that a gentleman will, for budget issues or so-called “to-be-on-the-safe-side” syndrome, choose a solitaire setting and present the stone in it so it can be reset later on down the road.

Once you’ve decided on what kind of ring to get, now you are at the most important junction: Deciding on the center diamond.  With so many different shapes available it takes a little longer time to decide on this aspect of the engagement ring purchase process.  At this point we would like to stress the fact that when comparing stones please keep in mind that not two stones are alike.  Therefore, not only when comparing the shapes, even when comparing two stones of the same cut it is not an apple-to-apple comparison.  The reason to this is the elements factoring in the quality and value of the stone is nearly endless.  In the following section we will try to explain these factors briefly to give you an introduction to diamonds.  We hope this helps you.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at the contact information listed on our website.

Shape:  Often mixed with Cut, Shape is the actual shape of the diamond.  Most popular shapes are: round-cut, princess-cut, cushion-cut and emerald-cut.  Also sought after shapes are radiant-cut, marquise-cut, pear-shaped and heart-shaped.
You might have heard of something called the Four Cs of diamonds.  They are as follows:

Cut: The biggest effect on sparkle is caused by the Cut of the diamond.  Even with great color and clarity a poor cut will make the diamond look dull.  If a diamond is cut too shallow or deep it will not reflect the light as it is supposed to.  The cut grade ranges from ideal to poor.  We suggest that you get the best cut stone within your budget. The better the cut, the bigger the sparkle.  The sparkle is caused by the proportionally right facets.

Color:  It is simply the whiteness of the diamond.  The less color the diamond has the more valuable it is.  The color grading of a diamond is marked as letters.  D being the highest –or colorless - and Z being the most colorful, the price changes dramatically as you go from one color grading to another.  The standard grouping of the color grading is as follows:

D – E – F: Colorless
G – H – I: Near colorless
J – M:       Noticeable color
N – Z:       Very noticeable color.

The color that we see most in diamonds is yellow. There are also other colors, such as brown, pink and blue. Color grading in white diamonds should not be confused with the fancy color grading of the stones.  Although the more yellow a white diamond has the less valuable it is, in the case of natural fancy color diamonds, the more color intensity it has the more valuable it is.  Fancy color diamonds have a totally different color grading system ranging from intense yellow to faint yellow. 

Clarity:  The easiest way to explain clarity is ‘the amount and size of the imperfections within a diamond’.  The imperfections within a diamond could be a black carbon, a white spot, a feather, or a pinpoint, etc.  However, please be assured that, it is normal to have those imperfections in there.  The trick is to purchase the diamond with the least amount of imperfections that your budget allows.  Also keep in mind that most of those imperfections are not even visible to the “naked eye”.  That means, without an aid that will help you see them (a loupe, magnifying glass, a microscope) you will not see it.  Although when compared to SI clarity, VS and VVS clarity stones are more costly, it is not rare that sometimes a Clean SI clarity stone is a very good purchase.  As long as you cannot see the said imperfections with an unaided eye we can assure you that you’ve made a good purchase.  We know we might have confused you with the acronyms about the clarity grading we hope the following explanation will clarify things:

Diamond clarity grading

IF , FL:   Internally Flawless or Flawless; no internal or external imperfections, very rare and extremely costly
VVS1, VVS2: Very, Very Slightly Included; Very difficult to see the imperfections with magnification, 10X jewelers loupe, Superb quality diamond.
VS1, VS2:  Very Slightly Included; the imperfections are not visible to the unaided naked eye.  Less costly than the higher VVS grades.
SI1, SI2:  Slightly Included;  Imperfections are visible under jewelers 10X magnification; and some of them are noticeable to the naked eye.  Good buy for your money. 
I1, I2, I3: Included; The imperfections in these clarity grade are clearly seen with the naked eye.

Consumers are extremely concerned about the clarity of a stone.  It is our recommendation that you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a clarity grade and decide on a stone that you are happy to look at not be preoccupied with the inclusions that are inside it which you can only see under magnification.  Because, frankly, no one will walk around with a jewelers magnification to inspect your engagement ring or wedding band.  It is all about what makes you and eventually your significant other happy.  

Carat:  Carat is simply the weight of the diamond.  Gold is measured in grams; and diamonds in carats.  A carat is divided into a hundred units.  Although there is a relationship between the carat and the actual face-up size of the stone, it is not very easy to put clear cut borders for size.  For example, a 1.00ct round stone is generally a 6.5mm circle (table); however, if the stone is a deep cut stone then the most of the weight would be at the bottom of the stone which will make it a smaller table stone.  At this point, the Cut comes in to play.  If the cut grade is good, then the stone will be close to ideal proportions.  A diamond scale is used to weigh both small and big diamonds. Every hundred points make up a carat.  Therefore, 0.50ct is half a carat stone, etc.

All these things play big roles on the overall quality of a diamond.  Just like the diamond itself, the proportions and the different aspects of the diamond are unique.  We suggest that you judge stones on a per-stone basis.  Because sometimes, even with gemological lab certificate, some diamonds are downgraded, unjustly we might add, which in return provides the consumer to acquire a beautiful stone in the lower grade price level.  There really is no hierarchy between these Cs.  Personally some consumers prefer one over another, it might be good practice to average every C according to your budget. 



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