How To Pick An Engagement Ring

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Engagement ring on fingerThinking of popping the question but are a little nervous about buying the right ring? We don’t blame you! Engagement ring advice is hard to come by. Typically, if you’re getting ring advice it’s from a retail jeweller. And let’s be honest, they’re probably trying to sell you the most expensive engagement ring. We’re here to help you! We have no jewelry stores so consider us an unbiased third-party, an older brother or sister if you will, helping you through the engagement ring search. This is our engagement rings 101 article and we consider it the ultimate engagement ring guide. So without further adieu, let’s dive in!

What Are The 4Cs of Diamonds?

You’re going to hear a lot about the diamond 4Cs during your engagement ring buying so you’ll want to understand what they are. A diamond’s price is determined by the 4Cs so it’s important that you know the quality of diamond you are purchasing or you may be making “unnecessary” upgrades. The first thing you’ll want to know is about a diamond’s color

Diamonds Have Color?

Green diamondAn ideal diamond color would be colorless aka the absence of color. A structurally perfect and chemically pure diamond has no color, similar to a pure drop of water. Diamonds are graded by the Gemological Institute of America, Inc. (GIA). The grades range from D to Z, D being the best grade (colorless) and Z being the worst (a higher presence of color). Meaning that diamonds with a D grade are more expensive than diamonds with a Z grade.

Does that mean that you have to buy a diamond with a D grade? No, some of the hues are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye. Many jewelers only carry the higher grade diamonds, which are typically considered to be D thru M.

Diamonds Have Clarity Too?

Diamond up-close look at clarityDiamond clarity has to do with the diamond’s internal characteristics known as inclusions and the external characteristics, or blemishes. A diamond’s clarity is determined by the size, number, relief, position and nature of these characteristics as well as the overall appearance of the gem. There is no such thing as a perfect diamond, you might as well know that or you’ll never stop searching. However, the closer to perfection, the higher the value.

GIA’s clarity scale ranges from Flawless (FL) to Included (I1, I2, I3). Flawless means there are no inclusions or blemishes visible under a 10x magnification. Included means the inclusions are very clear under a 10x magnification. Here is a definition of the other categories and grades.

  • Internally Flawless (IF) – No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – Slight inclusions that they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) – Minor inclusions are observed with effort under a 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SIand SI2) – Noticeable inclusions under 10 magnification

Does that mean you have to buy a diamond with Internally Flawless clarity? No, to the untrained eye a VS1 and SI2 may look identical. However, they are quite different in price and quality.

How Does The Diamond Cut Affect The Quality?

Diamond piecesThe cut is what makes a diamond sparkle. The ability to transmit light is what aids in this. What makes a “perfect cut” diamond are its proportions, symmetry and polish. Determining a diamond’s cut grade is the most difficult grade to analyze since the grader must evaluate each size and dimension of the sides to the diamond.

Here are the items taken into consideration:

  • Brightness – Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond
  • Fire – The scattering of the white light into the different colors of the rainbow
  • Scintillation – The amount of sparkle the diamond produces and the light and dark patterns caused by the diamond’s reflections

Other items taken into consideration for the diamond’s cut grade are the design and craftsmanship. This includes its weight in relation to its diameter, girdle thickness, symmetry of its facet arrangement and polish quality on those facets. There are 5 grades ranging from Excellent to Poor (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor).

Again, does that mean you have to buy an Excellent cut diamond? No, you can get a lower cut diamond and it will still be beautiful. Unless your soon to be fiancé has been dropping hints about what they want 😉 and you can afford it.

Cut is often thought of us the shape of the diamond (round, oval, princess, emerald, etc.). But there is so much more to it. This video does a good job explaining the elements that define a diamond’s cut.

What About The Diamond Carat Weight?

Gold wedding bands on a scaleA diamond’s carat weight is how much the diamond weighs. Carat is a measurement defined as 200 milligrams (1 carat total weight equals 200 milligrams). Each carat can be divided into 100 points. This lets the measurement be determined precisely to the hundredth decimal. Again, diamond price increases the higher the carat weight because larger diamonds are more rare which makes them more desirable.

So, What’s the “Lowest” Grade Diamond I Could Get Away With?

It is common for most people to want the biggest rock with the most diamonds on their ring made of the highest quality. Now, we’re not saying you should buy your ring according to this because each person has their own likes and some may find that to be gaudy, insanely expensive or simply unnecessary. However, if you are trying to get the biggest diamond with what “appears” (to the untrained eye) to be as the best ring, here are some guidelines we have created which you can go by.

  • Color: No lower than J
  • Cut: No lower than Good
  • Clarity: No lower than SI2
  • Carat: This is up to you to decide how big is big

What is a Conflict Diamond?

Conflict diamonds are diamonds sold to fund armed conflicts and civil wars. Profits made from the diamonds are worth billions of dollars and have been used to cause wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and the democratic Republic of Congo. These wars have cost millions of lives.

How Do I Know I’m Not Buying A Conflict Diamond?

In 2003 the Kimberley Process was introduced to reduce the number of conflict diamonds. This process implemented requirements on parties to certify that rough diamond shipments are conflict-free. Many jewelers will have “conflict free” written on their site and if they don’t feel free to ask them about it. That way you can confirm that you are not paying for something you do not want to be a part of.

How Much Should I Really Spend On An Engagement Ring?

Many people say that you should spend 3 month’s salary on an engagement ring. That’s bogus. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should spend on an engagement ring. It’s your money, you know how much you have and you know what you’re comfortable with spending. And honestly, it shouldn’t be about the ring at all. It’s about the love between you and your soon to be fiancé. It’s not about the size of ring or the price tag. It’s about the everlasting love between the two of you. Just remember that while you’re searching for the perfect engagement ring.

Ready to Buy An Engagement Ring?

You’ve done the research, now it is time to buy! Check out our Buying Engagement Rings Online comparison article to find the best vendor for your needs.

Still confused? What questions do you have about engagement rings?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She is one of Exploring Life's Mysteries most experienced researchers. When reviewing products and services her natural curiosity helps her dig deep and unearth the truth behind the marketing. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly grew up camping at the nearby lake with her family when she was a young girl. It wasn't until she met her husband that she rediscovered her love for the outdoors and began taking regular vacations to the national parks. Some of Kimberly's favorite memories include camping in a tent, hiking beautiful terrains, sitting around a campfire eating s'mores and sipping on a cold craft beer.

After three years of dating and exploring different regions of the U.S., Kimberly's husband proposed to her with the help of Exploring Life's Mysteries' online engagement content that she had researched and written. Not only was he able to design her ring himself, he was able to do so at great cost savings.

Kimberly likes starting her days with a warm cup of Nespresso, and she enjoys going for walks with her family and hound mix, Sally. In the evenings, she likes indulging in a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate while cozying up by the fire pit in her backyard.

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