Girls gush over their engagement details while their betrothed often sweat bullets to ask one of the most life changing questions, “Will You Marry Me?”
I still get giddy when reminiscing about my own engagement. My husband proposed to me twice. No, not because I said no the first time (I didn’t by the way). The first proposal was in the middle of one of our many wrestling matches. He didn’t let me win often and that time, he completely distracted me by just popping the question out of no where. Why then you ask? One, my husband cannot keep a secret, and two, it’s very difficult to surprise me. What a great surprise huh?
The second time he proposed was the night before my college graduation. He asked me to marry him again under the Tower at Uptown and placed the most beautiful vintage ring on my finger. Then we danced the night away at Bongo’s Cafe, where some of my closest friends awaited to celebrate with me.
Before purchasing my ring, my husband did a lot of research and learned quite a bit about diamonds. Since I had been oohing over vintage engagement rings for months, I had learned a lot myself. I had to be involved in the ring selection process. Since you now know that I’m a difficult person to surprise, I’m sure this is not a shocker 🙂 It’s not a bad idea to take your fiance along for the experience.
If you’re like Lenny, my husband’s coworker, you prefer to surprise you girlfriend instead. For blog purposes, we changed this hopeless romantic’s name. Lenny is proposing to his girlfriend today, 11.11.11. He asked for advise to shop for the best diamond engagement ring within his budget.
Lenny and his girlfriend have been dating for seven years. They love to travel and have many cherished memories. Eleven is his fiance’s lucky number. What better day to propose than on a day full of luck?
The first thing he said to me was, “I have no clue if I’m getting ripped off!” I advised him that it’s best to visit a reputable jeweler, and understand some of the characteristics that determine a diamonds price and quality.
First things first! Don’t fear the purchase! Diamonds are accessible to everyone! There are 4 C’s to remember when shopping for the perfect engagement ring. They are Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight. Lets begin!
Cut – The Cut of a diamond is often confused with its shape (i.e. princess, round, oval, pear (tear drop), emerald, marquis, radiant and heart shaped). The Cut is relevant to the proportion of the stone’s shape (See left example). A cut and polished diamond has facets. A Facet is the top of the stone. It allows light to enter through the top of the stone and be reflected through the facets again. (See example 1 below).
The bottom of the diamond is called the Pavilion. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the ideal Pavilion cut for a round stone is between 55% – 65% from the bottom of the diamond. This means that when you’re looking at the stone with the naked eye, the bottom of the stone should not be too flat (See Example 2) or too sharp (See Example 3). Notice how the light reflection is affected?
Color – While diamonds come in many colors, the average person looks for a white diamond. Many white diamonds have small hints of yellow. The GIA rates diamonds from D – colorless to Z – light yellow. It takes years of training to spot the smallest amount of yellow in a diamond without a loupe (magnifier). This type of yellow is not to be confused with a fancy yellow or a Canary Yellow Diamond, a completely different stone classification. The information presented here is primarily for white diamonds. Slight color variations may depend on the stone’s clarity, which takes me to our next point.
Clarity – There are many characteristics and variables to consider when determining a
diamond’s clarity. A flawless diamond has no inclusions and therefore allows more light to be reflected. Many diamonds have some inclusions (imperfections).
These imperfections are a natural part of the stone. Some are visible to the naked eye while others can be seen through a 10x loupe.
Inclusions can be sporadic and may be found anywhere within a diamond. It’s location plays a large role in the stone’s clarity. Inclusions that are closer to the edge of the diamond versus the middle of the stone allows more light to shine through.
Sometimes metal prongs (hold the stone in place) may hide some of the imperfections that are found closer to the edge of a diamond versus the center of the stone. The more centered the inclusions, the less clarity the stone will have. Sometimes inclusions may make a stone look cloudy.
It’s best to look at loose diamonds (not on the ring). This allows you to view the diamond in 3D from every angle. Cracked or chipped diamond should always be avoided. These types of flaws weaken the stone. As you look through a few stones, you’ll begin to notice each diamond’s unique characteristics and values between the different shapes and sizes.
Carat Weight – The carat weight is probably the most common C in regards to diamonds. It’s not always the most important C to consider when shopping for the perfect ring. In the diamond industry, a diamond’s size is referred to as 1 Carat, 1 and a 1/12 Carat and so forth. If the engagement ring has accent diamonds, your jeweler will advise you on the total carat weight, including the accent diamonds and center stone. In some cases, the accent diamonds will weigh less than a carat each but add over 1 carat to the total carat weight of the ring.
Does size matter? According to the GIA, two diamonds of equal weight can have very different values depending on the other three characteristics of a diamond’s 4Cs: clarity, color, and cut. When shopping for a white diamond, decide what’s important to you and balance your diamond’s clarity and carat weight. Don’t purchase a diamond just because it’s bigger!
Most women love a beautiful, sparkly diamond. Your soon to be fiancé will cherish her engagement ring for years because it’s your expression of love and commitment. Select a diamond that has the least amount of inclusions within the carat weight you desire but also within your budget.
When you begin shopping for the perfect engagement ring, you’ll have
the opportunity to see many settings for the diamond you select. Unless your girlfriend is as helpful as I was, you’ll need some guidance. I always hinted that my dream wedding ring would be vintage with a princess cut diamond. I may have hinted that a few times during the holidays, birthdays and maybe even dinner. Since I had no clue when my sweetheart would propose, I kept mentioning it whenever possible.
On the other hand, some girls don’t give out many hints. Do your homework! Need help? Don’t be afraid to ask your girlfriend’s mom, sister, or best friend for assistance, unless they can’t keep a secret. Sidekicks will be a wealth of information and a great help to gather information (i.e. her ring size). They may also know what style engagement ring your girlfriend has been dreaming about since she was a little girl. While you were playing GI Joe with your friends, paying no mind to your future nuptials, your girlfriend was probably planning her dream wedding years in advance.
There are many beautifully shaped diamonds to choose from. The round, brilliant diamond cut is one of the most popular engagement stones. The princess, round and oval cut diamonds are also popular. These are timeless pieces. Other shapes include heart, pear, marquise, cushion, asscher, emerald and radiant cuts. The stone you select is a matter of preference and what fits within your selected setting (ring).
Lastly, there’s a little secret you may want to consider. Diamonds and engagement rings are more expensive from November through February. These months are peak engagement season with the holidays and Valentine’s Day being popular dates to Pop the Question. Princess cut diamonds may be pricier too. This doesn’t mean they are not attainable.
Education is a powerful tool to have before purchasing an engagement ring. Do some research and don’t feel rushed to purchase a ring. You’ll want to love your purchase! For more shopping tips and information, check out Blue Nile, a great diamond resource.
Pictures and additional resources were found at The Four C’s of Diamonds and the Gemological Institute of America.
Do you remember that exact moment when you knew she was the one? How did you ask for her hand in marriage? Need help with the proposal? Click here!