I want to get engaged. What do I do about the ring? Help!
If you’re looking for a ring you’ve already got the hardest part figured out and that’s finding the girl. Take a deep breath. Most women are so thrilled to get engaged that you could put a ring pop on her finger and she’d love you just the same. I’m guessing you can do a little better than that though, so here are some things to consider…
Budget: As with any large purchase the first question is budget. A few retailers and private jewelers offer payment plans but most don’t. Put together a number that you are comfortable spending out of pocket keeping in mind that you will also be responsible for insurance and wedding bands down the line. If you are planning to pay with a credit card make note of any expected fees. Start saving as soon as possible and don’t let anyone pressure you. Take your time so that you have a healthy budget to work with.
Style: You know your girl. Is she romantic or sporty? Showy or reserved? A fashionista or completely classic? Enlist the help of a girlfriend to get some intel on styles or diamond shapes that she likes. Listen any time she mentions someone’s engagement ring and make note of her reaction to the style. My advice is always lean classic. Remember the marquise shape diamonds of the late 80’s? Yikes. Similarly the Princess cut was very popular in the 90’s and has drifted in and out of fashion. Alternative engagement rings are also quite popular these days but be careful as most have little to no resale value. Trends come and go but she has to wear this ring forever.
About the 4Cs: The Four Cs stand for Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight. The GIA has a great guide here.
Color – Generally I’d want you to stay in the D-J color range. D-F being “colorless”, G-I “near colorless”, J with “faint” color. Depending on the shape of the stone, different colors are more acceptable. For example, in diamonds with large open facet styles like Emerald, Asscher, and Round Brilliant cuts you can get away with lower color because the color is dispersed through the large facets. For diamond shapes with lots of small concentrated facets like Cushions, Ovals, and Radiants higher colors are ideal.
Clarity – Clarity refers to the type and position of the inclusions inside the diamond. A trained professional using a 10x loupe can identify the inclusions inside of the diamond. Your GIA lab report will contain a “plot” or a map of the inside of the stone. Since you won’t be carrying a loupe every day it’s really just important to select a diamond that is “eye clean” meaning that you can’t see any inclusions with your naked eye.
Cut – The cut of the diamond is the factor that “fuels a diamond’s fire sparkle and brilliance.” A GIA cut grade is only available on round brilliant diamonds at this time. Polish and Symmetry are the considerations on fancy shape diamonds (anything that’s not a round brilliant is a fancy shape) but they are less important. In fancy shapes you want to look for diamonds that are pleasing to the eye with even faceting. A reputable jeweler will show you what to look for.
Carat Weight – Carat is the unit by which a diamond is weighed. One carat is defined as 200 milligrams (0.2g) . With everything else being equal diamond prices increase by weight, but diamonds of the same weight can have different values and prices based on the other Cs.
Insider tips to consider: You obviously want the biggest and best diamond for your budget. It’s important to think about the factors at hand and make a judgment. You can’t get something for nothing so think to yourself, like your relationship, sometimes you have to compromise. Maybe you can pick a lower clarity in favor of a higher color? Maybe you can sacrifice a lower color for a larger ct weight stone to fit your budget? It comes down to what the important factors are for you. (I will personally sacrifice clarity for a higher color any day. As long as the stone is 100% eye clean.) Discuss the options with your jeweler and always see the diamond in person for yourself.