An engagement ring is a symbol of eternal love and commitment, and is intended to last a lifetime. Whether you are shopping alone before the proposal, or with your beaming fiancée after she has said yes, choosing the right engagement ring can be a potential minefield.
This simple guide will take you through every step of choosing a diamond engagement ring, and will explain the significance of a diamond ring, how you can find a ring she’ll love, what metal and setting you should choose for the ring, and how to determine the size and quality of your diamond. There are also some useful tips on deciding how much to spend.
First let’s take a brief look at the history of the diamond engagement ring.
Many women dream of the moment they’re presented with a sparkling diamond engagement ring and most men turn automatically to diamonds when they start to think about proposing. In fact 80% of engagement rings bought in the world today are diamond rings, but what is it that makes a diamond ring the ultimate engagement symbol?
Here are some key facts about the origins of diamond engagement rings:
Before you start to think about the perfect diamond for your girlfriend’s engagement ring you will have to get the ring itself just right. The ring comes in two distinct parts, the metal band and the setting, and you will need to choose a type of metal and a style of setting.
Choosing the metal for an engagement ring involves a little research into your girlfriend’s jewellery collection. Does she wear mainly gold jewellery or silver jewellery? Most women have a strong preference for one or the other, usually depending on their skin tone, so once you know which one she wears you can start from there.
If your girlfriend wears mainly gold jewellery, your best option is an 18k yellow gold ring. However if she prefers silver jewellery you have a choice between platinum and white gold. Here is a quick comparison of platinum and white gold.
|Very expensive||Less expensive|
|Very strong and pure metal||Softer, more malleable metal|
|Not easily damaged and won’t wear away||Easy to damage and will wear over time|
|Difficult to polish and repair||Easy to polish and repair|
Choosing the right setting for an engagement ring is a matter of personal style. The most popular setting is a six prong solitaire setting, but there are plenty of others you could choose from. Here are three common engagement ring settings:
This is the most common setting for an engagement ring and is used in the popular solitaire ring. With a prong or claw setting the diamond is raised up from the metal band and is held in place by a number of metal prongs or claws. This type of setting allows light under the diamond adding to its sparkle. A four prong setting, as shown in this illustration, is popular as it shows off more of the diamond, whereas a six prong setting is slightly more secure.
The prong or claw setting can be used for a solitaire ring with a single diamond, or with multiple diamonds. A three stone ring is often used as an engagement ring with a large central diamond and a smaller diamond on each side, or a different central gemstone flanked by diamonds. The three diamonds of this type of ring symbolise the past the present and the future.
A bezel setting can also be used for an engagement ring with a single diamond, but it is seen as a more practical choice. The diamond is totally encircled by a metal collar that holds it in place, and the stone is usually set closer to the ring than with a prong or claw setting. A bezel setting is a contemporary choice and a good option for women that lead very active lives or have physical jobs. A doctor may prefer a bezel setting, for example, to avoid the possibility of scratching her patients.
A channel set engagement ring features a number of diamonds lined up in a row. As the name suggests, the diamonds are set in a metal channel, and they are flush with the band of the ring.
An engagement ring that features purely channel set diamonds is a modern design, and again is quite practical. However, rows of channel set diamonds can also be used either side of a claw set solitaire to give the central diamond more sparkle, as seen in this illustration.
Making the decision to buy an engagement ring before you propose is a brave step, but having the ring as you go down on one knee will add romance to your proposal and will let her know that you are serious. Buying a diamond engagement ring shoes you have put a lot of thought into your proposal. You are more likely to find a ring that she loves if you do a little research into the following four areas:
Think about your girlfriend’s personal style and the type of clothes, jewellery and accessories she wears. Is her wardrobe ultra modern and constantly changing with the times or does she prefer simple classic pieces with just the odd fashionable accessory? Does she shop for vintage or retro clothing? Your girlfriend is more likely to fall in love with a diamond engagement ring that reflects her sense of style.
Your girlfriend’s lifestyle will have a big impact on the style and setting of the ring you buy. What job does she have? What are her hobbies? Does she do a lot of sports? You don’t want her to have to keep taking her ring off so if her job involves physical contact with people, if she does a lot of manual work, or if she is constantly at the gym, a traditional prong setting may not be very practical and you should look for a channel setting instead.
There are plenty of ways you can secretly find out your girlfriends ring size without trying to measure her ring finger while she’s sleeping. The simplest approach is to borrow a ring that she often wears and take that to the jeweller with you so it can be measured.
If she wears the ring everyday and you can’t get away with taking it you could draw round it like a stencil on a piece of paper, slide it onto a tapered candle and mark where it fits, or take an imprint of it in a piece plasticine.
If you have been in a relationship for a while and have discussed marriage, your girlfriend may suspect that a proposal in on the cards. If this is the case you can be sure she will be dropping hints and tips all over the place about the type of ring she would like, you just have to tune into them. Look out for magazines left open at particularly sparkly pages, or a link to a jewellery store that suddenly appears on your favourites list.
When you start shopping for that once in a lifetime gemstone you might be surprised at the complexities behind choosing a diamond. The first decision you have to make is the shape of the diamond, followed by the famous 4Cs, cut, colour, clarity and carat.
Let’s take a look at each in turn.
The most popular diamond shape for an engagement ring is round, but princess-cut is also a solid choice. Other rarer shaped diamonds include oval, emerald-cut, marquise-cut, radiant-cut, Asscher-cut, heart-shaped, and pear-shaped.
Think about the length and width of your girlfriend’s hands and fingers when choosing your diamond shape. While a round or princess-cut diamond may look just right on long slim fingers, an elongated shape such as an oval or emerald-cut may work better on shorter wider fingers.
Of all the 4Cs, the cut of the diamond has the greatest impact on its appearance and sparkle, and so you should choose the best cut you can afford, even if you need to sacrifice a little colour or clarity. Getting the right cut for your diamond will really breathe life into it, whatever its clarity or colour.
The cut affects the way the light reflects off the diamond, and therefore the way we see it. In a perfectly cut diamond, all the light bounces back and emerges through the top, giving maximum sparkle. With a diamond that is cut too deeply, the light may escape out of the sides, and with a shallow cut diamond, light may pass straight through and be lost through the base.
Diamond cut classifications include poor, fair, good, very good and ideal. You should aim for at least a good cut if you can afford it.
You may think that all diamonds are white, but they vary greatly in their degree of whiteness. Most of the diamonds we see actually have a slight yellow colour.
Although we describe this characteristic of diamonds as their colour, what we are actually measuring is their lack of colour. A totally colourless diamond is very rare, highly sought after, and very expensive. However there are plenty of diamonds that have so little colour that it is undetectable to the naked eye.
The colour grade of a diamond is given using an alphabetic scale as follows:
|D||Completely colourless and very rare|
|E-F||Colour traces can only be found by a gemmologist|
|G-H||Colour exceptionally hard to detect with naked eye|
|I-J||Colour very slightly detectable as warmth or tone|
|K-M||Noticeable yellow colour|
|N-Z||Strong noticeable colour|
Colour grades D-F are very rare and extremely expensive. Looking for a diamond with a colour grade G-J is a good option as they will be more affordable, but the colour is hardly noticeable to the naked eye.
Tiny natural imperfections can be found in all but the rarest of diamonds, and clarity is a measure of the size and number of these imperfections. Although the scale of clarity may appear complex, many experts believe that clarity does not have a great impact on a diamond’s beauty, and that it is acceptable to sacrifice some clarity for a better cut.
Gemmologists often refer to imperfections in diamonds as inclusions, and a diamond with imperfections is described as included.
Diamonds are graded for clarity according to the following scale:
|FL / IF||Flawless / Internally flawless|
|VVS1 / VVS2||Very very slightly included|
|VS1 / VS2||Very slightly included|
|SI1 / SI2||Slightly included|
|I1 / I2 / I3||Included|
The first two categories are very rare and expensive so unless you have a large budget look for something in the very slightly included, or slightly included ranges.
Ideally you should look for a diamond with inclusions or imperfections that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and sometimes you can find diamonds which fit this description but are classified as slightly included and priced accordingly.
Many people believe that a diamond’s carat relates to its size, but it is actually its weight. 5 carats weigh 1 gram. To relate the carat to the size of the diamond, you would also need to measure the diameter of the top of the stone, and look at the cut as that determines its depth.
Diamond carats range from a quarter of a carat to five carats. Here are three tips to help you choose the right diamond weight:
As a one off symbol of unending love, an engagement ring should be of a very high quality and that tends to mean a high price tag. However, the amount you spend on an engagement ring should never be more that you can afford, especially as you will soon have a wedding to pay for.
The following five tips will help you decide how much you can afford to spend on that sparkling diamond: