Buying an engagement ring is one of the most expensive single purchases you will make in your life so it’s important to know what you are buying into before shopping around. Unless you have already decided not to get a ring at all or get one without a diamond (see here for general ring advice) read on….
The main thing to consider when buying an engagement diamond ring is the diamond (see here for general ring advice). The diamond is the centrepiece of the ring and there are crucial factors to consider, these are often called the 4 cs – cut, carat, colour and clarity. You should really add a fifth c for cost and perhaps prioritise this C in pole position over the main 4 Cs. Whatever happens, you should never pay so much for your symbol of love to your partner that you challenge the foundations of that love by risking your finances. Before you can consider the 4 Cs you need to know what shape to go for. Perhaps go and see some different styles in person to help you decide what shape is best for your partner, or even better, go with your partner to choose after proposing (perhaps propose with a token ring). The main shapes to choose from are Asscher, Cushion, Emerald, Heart, Marquise, Oval, Pear, Princess, Radiant and the classic Round Diamond. To help with the rest of the selection, try to take a look at the GIA, AGSL or other certified gemstone certificates to prove the 4 Cs are what the seller tells you what they are. High end retailers like De Beers may have their own certification procedures but the labelling is standard across all reports.
So onto our 4 Cs:
The cut of the diamond is the main C to look for. The cut determines the amount of light transmitted back to the eye from all light sources going into the diamond. This sparkle measure by the naked eye is often called ‘fire’. The more symmetrical the diamond is the more fire you get back. If a diamond is cut too shallow then the light travels straight through the diamond and if it is too deep then the light gets reflected through the side of the diamond. An ideal cut allows for the light to be transmitted like a mirror back to the eye looking into the diamond. The best cut by certification is Excellent cut or Ideal cut (dependant on the certifier). The next best is Very good cut and then Good cut. There are 2 more cuts that you shouldn’t really consider which are Fair cut and then Poor cut. If you have the budget then try to always get an Excellent or ideal cut diamond. These cuts will show fire in almost any light condition. The other cuts might look good under the concentrated halogen bulbs in the store but will appear lifeless outside. A better cut will also appear larger than a diamond larger in size but of a low cut.
The colour of a diamond ranges form D to Z. D is currently the clearest diamond money can buy. The colours A-C are reserved for the future if any clearer diamonds are found. D, E and F colour are totally colourless and the naked eye would find it very hard to tell between D and F. G,H,I and J colours are classed as near colourless and appear clear and white to the eye unless placed next to another diamond with a clearer grade. K-Z colours should not be considered as these are yellow-brown in colour and not very desirable. If you can get it in your budget then go for a diamond that is between D and H.
The clarity of a diamond is the third C to look at and is measured by the physical imperfections found inside the diamond. The best grade is Flawless or Internally Flawless (FL or IF) diamonds which have absolutely no imperfections even under ultra high magnifications. These diamonds are really rare. The next best category is Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 to VVS2) diamonds which have imperfections that can’t be seen with the naked eye but may be able to be seen under 10x magnification. Very Slightly Included (VS1 to VS2) diamonds still can’t be seen by the naked eye but can be seen under 10x magnification. Slightly Included (SI1 to SI2) diamonds have imperfections that can be seen easily under 10x magnification and may be seen with the naked eye. A good diamond cutter will when possible cut the diamond so that the inclusion is found around the area under the metal prongs of the ring. If you buy a diamond smaller than 1 carat then you will probably not be able to see the inclusion with the naked eye. The last category (which I don’t recommend getting) is Included (I1,I2 and I3) diamonds which show up visible imperfections to the naked eye eg. lumps of bubbles that sit inside. These imperfections will badly effect the light reflecting and travelling through the diamond.
The final category is Carat which is a measure of the weight of the diamond. Notice that the measure is in weight and not in size which means that a diamond weighing 2 carat does not look twice the size of a 1 carat diamond. Once you have taken into account the other Cs, the carat will likely be determined by the remainder of your budget. A small diamond of about 0.3 carat is not much smaller than a 1 carat diamond, you will more likely see more difference in the type of setting used on the ring. Size is definitely not everything. Remember that the bigger the carat, the better everything else has to be as it will be easier to spot a dull cut, a yellow colour and also imperfections. S1 inclusions can be visible to the naked eye on 2 carat diamonds but remain expensive.
Unless you are going to buy the diamond separately from the ring, you are likely to buy the diamond engagement ring as a whole purchase. There will be many compromises between all the grades of each of the 4Cs of the diamond and perhaps the material of the ring. There may also be compromises as to how many diamonds there will be on the ring, a popular modern choice is to have a large diamond set between 2 smaller diamonds. This is reminiscent of some of the multi diamond settings from the early 20th century. It can be cost effective to have many small diamonds on a ring rather than one large one as they are less rare and so less expensive to produce. Personally nothing beats the classic look of a single diamond centrepiece on a plain or pave diamond ring. The setting is so important as this is the factor that will really make a diamond look bigger or smaller. A high Tiffany style setting allows for a lot of light to enter the diamond from all sides (even underneath) and keeps the diamond isolated as the centrepiece. This solitaire setting has been copied many times and remains the most popular setting for a diamond engagement ring. The original Tiffany setting has 6 prongs which is great for hiding imperfections and holding the diamond securely. If you can find a 4 prong version like the De Beers Forever setting then it will allow even more light through the diamond. don’t go for anything less than 4 prongs though as the diamond could fall out without you noticing. If you want to make life easier for yourself when it comes to finding a matching wedding band then go for a high setting with a ring that is straight and not curved in any way so that the wedding band can sit flush to the wedding band.
Good luck in finding your perfect diamond engagement ring! To chat about the above go to Kwai Chi’s Forum
In the following video Kwai Chi explains everything you need to know about buying a diamond engagement ring including what to look for in cut, carat, colour and clarity as well as different metals and styles for the ring.
The ring shown in the video is a De Beers Forever Diamond Ring
Other high end jewellers who sell good quality engagment rings include
If you’re looking for high quality independant places to go then try
www.hatton-garden.net Hatton gardens in London, Enagland (It’s a street)
http://www.the-quarter.com/index2.htm The Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, England
Antwerp in Belgium
Kimberley in South Africa
New York in USA
Kimberley in Australia (famous for pink diamonds)
Jaipur in India
To read about wedding bands click here
To chat about this article go to Kwai Chi’s Forum