You’re ready to propose, Congratulations! You’ve found the one, and now it is time to go engagement ring shopping, but there’s a lot to consider when to choosing an engagement ring. I put together some engagement ring shopping tips to help you choose the perfect ring for your perfect person.
Know What You Want to Spend
Despite the popular DeBeers slogan, there’s no need to feel like you need to spend three month’s salary on an engagement ring. In fact, according to Bride’s magazine, the average amount a couple spent on an engagement ring in 2020 was $3,756. That figure has fallen by almost half since 2018!
The availability of lab created diamonds has grown, and consequently prices have dropped by 30% or more when compared to earth grown diamonds. Lab grown diamonds have the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as earth-grown diamonds and are indistinguishable side by side.
Another interesting fact about lab created diamonds is that instead of taking 3 billion years, a lab grown diamond is made in just 6-10 weeks!
Engagement Ring Styles and Diamond Shapes
When engagement ring shopping, you will need to make 2 major choices – the ring’s center stone and the rings setting. Both can have a big effect on the overall price and appearance of your engagement ring.
Generally speaking the more intricate the setting, and the higher the total carat weight of the setting, the higher the cost will be. Pave bands, halos, and three stone engagement ring settings will cost more than a simple solitaire. Metal choice will also affect the cost of your engagement ring setting. There are a range of metal options available for engagement rings with different price points, weights, and levels of durability.
As for the center stone, there are many shapes to choose from for a unique look. The 10 most popular diamond shapes you will probably see when engagement ring shopping are: round, oval, cushion, princess, pear, emerald, marquise, asscher, radiant, and heart cut. Round cut diamonds are classic (and the most popular choice when engagement ring shopping) but I have been seeing more and more oval cut diamonds lately! Generally round cut diamonds will be the most expensive, followed by princess cut due to the precision needed for the cut. According to Brilliant Earth, radiant, emerald, cushion, and asscher cut diamonds are more affordable because they use most of the rough diamonds and you are not paying for the parts of the diamond that need to be cut off and are not usuable. The marquise cut has the largest surface area and perceived size, so it can be an option if you are trying to stretch your budget. Each diamond shape has an ideal depth and length-to-width ratio that will showcase the shapes unique attributes.
Engagement Rings and the 4 Cs
The 4 Cs were developed in the 1940s by the founder of GIA, Robert M. Shipley, as a standardized set of attributes to use to categorize and grade diamonds. They are: Cut, Carat size, Clarity, and Color.
Cut is the factor that most experts agree has the biggest impact on how much your diamond will sparkle. The precision of the cut can account for 50% or more of a diamond’s value. A diamond’s cut is graded on the number of facets, how symmetrical the facets are, and how well positioned they are to reflect the maximum amount of brilliance and light.
Cuts are graded as excellent or ideal, very good, good, fair, or poor. Several factors influence the cut grade such as depth, polish, and symmetry. Only about 3-5% of diamonds receive an excellent or ideal cut rating.
Different companies also have coined their own terms for cuts. Hearts on Fire and the Astor Ideal Cut are examples of this. Certain shapes also have special cut names, like the hearts and arrows cut pattern.
Round brilliant cut diamonds are the only stones to receive official IGI cut grades, while all other shapes are graded using a four-step system combining polish and symmetry assessment with proportions qualifications, shape-specific requirements and light return grading.
It is best to choose the best cut that you can afford with your budget to ensure the diamond is as stunning as possible.
While many people confuse a diamond’s carat weight for how big it is, it is actually a measure of the stone’s weight. Different cuts of the same size can appear to be different sizes. Typically a round cut diamond will look larger than a princess or asscher-cut. Fancy shaped diamonds like an oval, marquis, or a pear-cut diamond will often have the largest visual size, though the cut and proportion of the diamond is still an important factor to consider.
Other factors that influence how large the diamond appears are the size of your finger, the size of the band (thinner bands make diamonds appear larger), and the setting that you choose. A Halo setting will make the diamond appear to be larger by bordering the center stone with a ring of small diamonds.
Carat weight is something that gets a lot of emphasis and is seen as a status symbol. Larger diamonds of good quality are harder to source, so carat weight also has an impact on the price of the diamond with higher carat weights tending to be more expensive.
Ultimately, you need to decide based on your budget and preferences where carat weight falls on your priority list. A large, lesser quality diamond will grab attention, but you may also be sacrificing sparkle and clarity so you need to decide what matters most to you and your fiancé.
Clarity measures how many inclusions or blemishes are found in a diamond. Blemishes are imperfections on the surface of the stone, while inclusions are internal defects.
They are rated (from least included to most): FL (Flawless), IF (Internally flawless), VVS1 and VVS2 (Very very slightly included), VS1 and VS2 (Very slightly included), SI1 and SI2 (slightly Included) and I1, I2, and I3 (Included).
In Included grades (I), flaws are likely visible to the naked eye. Slightly included grades (SI) will have visible flaws under 10x magnification, while very slightly included grades (VS) will also be visible at 10x but will be more difficult to see.
Very very slightly included grades (VVS) have inclusions that are difficult to see under 10x magnification, even for a trained eye. These diamonds are sometimes referred to as “eye clean”.
Internally Flawless diamonds (IF) are free from inclusions, but may have very minor surface blemishes while Flawless (FL) diamonds are completely free of both internal and external flaws. Less than 1% of diamonds are flawless, and the price reflects that rarity.
Certain cuts will also show flaws more readily, like an emerald or Asscher cut so keep that in mind if you are shopping for a fancy-shaped diamond.
For most people, the best value for your money will be in the VS to VVS grades.
Certain cuts, generally those with fewer facets, will look better with a higher clarity because fewer facets and more flat area will show imperfections more than their many faceted counterparts.
The ideal color for a diamond is clear or colorless.
The color grade is rated with a letter from D all the way down to Z.
D is considered “absolutely colorless”
E-F are graded “colorless” and only a trained gemologist can distinguish between stones in the D-F range.
G-J are “near colorless” and posses a slight yellow tint that will only be noticeable next to a diamond of a higher grade.
K grade diamonds are “faint” with a slightly more noticeable yellow tint.
L-Z are graded “faint to light color” and have a warm tint that is visible to the naked eye. L diamonds are usually half the cost of a comparable G graded stone.
Diamond color will be more apparent as you get a larger stone, so keep that in mind while shopping.
There are also a range of fancy colored diamonds if you are looking for something different. These range from yellow, red, or orange to brown, pink, blue, green or purple. Pretty much any color under the sun! Only 1 in every 10,000 natural diamonds possesses natural color making them rare (and often expensive).