7 Essential Tips for Buying a Diamond Engagement Ring
Yes, there's the 4Cs, but there's also fancy stones and her taste to take into consideration. Here's a quick cheat sheet for those about to pop the question.
Congratulations, you’re making the courageous decision to propose. I applaud your bravery and am happy you’ve found someone worthy of a lifetime of your company. Now, of course, you just have to ask. As you know, this typically extends far beyond the terrifying words, "Will you marry me?" Traditionally, that phrase is accompanied by a ring, a token of your love, affection, promise and bank account. Before we go any further, I want to posit that you don’t have to buy her or him a diamond ring. If that’s not what you guys are about, don’t force it. Ultimately, however you do this should demonstrate that you know this person better than anybody else on this earth. However, if they want the rock and you’re going to get it, let’s make sure you have some background knowledge before you head to the jeweler.
Rules and advice
You don’t have to go this alone.
There’s a lot of pressure put on this tiny stone, which is appropriate because diamonds are formed when carbon is exposed to earth-crushing pressure. I’d suggest bringing in reinforcements to help you decide on the exact right ring. By now, you’ve hopefully met your companion’s friends and family. Should you want some guidance, they’re an excellent place to start. It’s also fairly common to make the ring decision together these days. I know plenty of married couples who did some joint ring shopping, ensuring that everybody winds up happy.
Sneak a peak at her jewelry box.
Before we start on about carats and what not, figure out her style and what kind of metal she wears. Does your intended have a lot of platinum jewelry? Have they mentioned a disgust for all things gold, especially rose gold? Hopefully by now you’ve learned enough of their taste to make a very well-educated decision. After deciding on the basics, you can add in the fixings like scrollwork or inscriptions. That’s again, a matter of their taste. In my honest opinion, it’s best to keep things simple, but I’m not the one wearing this ring.
Get rock solid, ahem, rock knowledge.
Now that you’ve figured out the band, it’s on to the rock or rocks. Most engagement rings have a diamond on them, a tradition you can thank the marketing minds at DeBeers for. Remember, after the two of you share this moment, this ring will come under the scrutiny of every single person in your network of friends. It may be blasted to Instagram (please discourage at all costs) or find its way to Facebook and it will most definitely be the subject of conversation amongst all of your affianced’s brunch dates. So, let’s make sure you’re not walking out of the stall with more than your dick in your hands, so to speak. Every diamond in the world is measured on a standard of 4 Cs. These measurements stand for color, cut, clarity and carat weight.
Color is the most obvious of the 4 Cs, because, it refers to the stone’s color. The best color rankings are D, E and F, all of which are considered colorless. The ranking basically describes how much light the stone reflects. The Rihanna lyric, "shine bright like a diamond" is probably referring to a near colorless diamond, the less color the brighter the shine. The color scale goes from D-Z, the latter meaning light yellow with a poor reflection of light. It’s nearly impossible to find a completely colorless diamond, so don’t go nuts on this end.
Consider going fancy.
Exempt from the color scale are fancy diamonds. These gems are stones with strong hues like yellow, blue, pink or red. Fancy diamonds are considered more rare, are more expensive and are exempt from the D-Z scale. The ring that loosely bonded Bennifer together all those years ago was a fancy diamond, but even then, she’s was still Jenny from the block. If you’re going the fancy diamond route for your ring, I would like to be your friend so I can hang out in your mansion.
Choose your cut wisely.
This is very important. The cut of a diamond doesn’t refer to the shape, but to how it is sliced and diced. When you look at a diamond, I’m sure you notice the different facets, faces, and edges. These are all elements of the cut, and each detail works together to let the diamond shine at its maximum. So, whereas color may refer to how clear and empty a stone is, cut allows the light to reflect perfectly. A poorly cut diamond won’t be quite as brilliant in the end. Although round brilliants are fairly standard, there are other options to consider: princess, cushion, heart, pear, marquise, radiant, oval, Asscher and emerald. Each of these highlight different qualities of the stone. Like all aspects of this ring, the cut will come down to personal preference, but just make sure you’re choosing one that brings out the best of the rock in question.
Clarity counts, but don’t get hung up on it.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to a diamond than meets the eye. In fact, what doesn’t meet the eye is usually what makes a diamond more expensive. The third C, clarity, is a measure of how flawed a diamond is. The ideal here is the "FL" grade, meaning completely flawless. This just means that when viewed under a microscope, there are no blemishes or inclusions, which are marks of impurity within the stone. Much like the legendary D diamonds, FL diamonds are extremely rare. Don’t get hung up on buying an FL. The next grade down from FL is IF, or internally flawless. The scale continues to "very very slightly included all the way to just straight up "included." Stick as close to the top as you can.
Bigger isn’t always better.
The last of the 4 Cs is the one you’re probably familiar with: carat weight. The higher the carats, the bigger the stone. Simple. The Hope Diamond, which you saw on your middle school field trip to The Smithsonian, for example, clocks in at 45.52 carats. Damn. That’s one big rock. A lot of guys I know think that bigger is better here, but consider who you’re giving this to. Big diamonds can be ostentatious, and that may be totally fine for the receiver, but just give it a second thought.
You’ve now got a very basic working knowledge of the diamond engagement ring world. March confidentially to that jewelry store armed with your new learnings, take a deep breath, and remember, it’s only the rest of your life.
Editor’s Note: "He went to Jared!" is not a good look.
By John Jannuzzi
February 12, 2014