Buying A Diamond Engagement Ring

Buying a diamond engagement ring can be a scary thing. You’ll be shelling out big bucks for a shiny little ring filled with such portent and symbolism. What if the rock is really made of glass? What if it’s fatally flawed? What should you know before you buy the ring? The information below will send you out into the diamond-buying world armed with all you’ll need to make the right choices.

Where to start. As with any important purchase, it’s best to gather as much information as possible before you begin to shop. We’ll go into the details of just what makes a good diamond, but first, it’s a good idea to decide where you’re going to buy the ring.

Maybe the best point to start is with a trusted friend or family member who has recently gone through the process. There’s a good chance that someone you know has a relationship with a reputable jeweler and will send you there with a greeting and a recommendation. If you ask around and can’t find a recommendation, try to find a store where you can speak with a Certified Gemologist Appraiser or graduate gemologist. If the store doesn’t have such a person, move on.

How much to spend. The diamond industry came up with a formula designed to encourage customers to spend without going bankrupt. Generally speaking, they advise you to spend the equivalent of 2 months salary on the ring. Don’t worry, if your salary isn’t in the upper brackets, jewelry dealers -- even Tiffany’s -- have rings in your price range. And remember, this is a somewhat arbitrary amount of money. It’s up to you to decide the amount you can afford.

It may sound silly, but there are indeed good seasons to go diamond shopping if you’re looking for a good price. Holiday gift-giving causes the price of diamonds to soar, but come January the prices plunge. Prices dip again in July. Who knows why?

Buying a diamond engagement ring can be a scary thing. You’ll be shelling out big bucks for a shiny little ring filled with such portent and symbolism. What if the rock is really made of glass? What if it’s fatally flawed? What should you know before you buy the ring? The information below will send you out into the diamond-buying world armed with all you’ll need to make the right choices.

Rules of thumb. Jewelers and your dad alike will know about "The Four C’s." Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat weight. These are the criteria generally used to define the gem’s value and quality.

Cut. The cut is the only factor that has been determined by a human being. A skilled diamond cutter can bring out the brilliance of a stone, making cuts that reflect the maximum amount of light inside the stone and up through the face of the diamond. The cutter aims to produce a perfectly symmetrical stone whose right and left sides are mirror images of each other. A wonderful stone can be ruined by an unskilled cutter. An Ideal Cut Diamond is the term used to describe a round, brilliant diamond with 58 precisely placed cuts, proven to reflect the greatest amount of light. A Premium Cut Diamond is also highly prized, symmetrical and reflective, but is not quite as perfectly cut. An Inferior Cut Diamond has been cut to retain the maximum weight of the original, uncut stone since this yields a higher carat number. Cutting may either be too deep or too shallow, causing light to reflect out the bottom of the stone and reduce its brilliance. Polishing of the diamond is also grouped under the "Cut" heading and can affect the grading scale of the cut. A well-cut, symmetrical diamond can be downgraded if poorly polished. The American Gem Society (AGS) Diamond Grading Scale grades diamonds from the rare ideal cut which scores a 0, to the most inferior cut which scores a 10.

Color. Reputable jewelers keep a set of Masterstones in their store. This is a set of real diamonds displaying the full range of stone color. It is difficult for the untrained eye to tell the color of a particular stone, and the Masterstones can help. Again, the AGS ranks the stones from 0-10, in .5 increments with 0 representing the most highly prized colorless stones, and 10 labeling the inferior quality diamonds which possess hues of yellow or brown. The Gemological Institute of America ranks stones with letters from D-Z, D being the most highly prized. The ranking works as follows:

0-1.0 or D-F Colorless
1.5-3.0 or G-J Near Colorless
3.5-4.5 or K-M Faint Yellow
5.0-7.0 or N-R Very Light Yellow
7.5-10 or S-Z Light Yellow

Clarity. To the general public, the idea of "flaws" in a diamond determine its value. However, the word "flawed" implies certain deficiencies in the diamond, which are actually naturally occurring features within the stone. It is more accurate to discuss the number of "inclusions" within a certain stone. Almost every stone, even those of the highest quality, has some inclusions. The clarity of each stone is ranked either on a 0-10 scale by the AGS or a more complex scale by the GIA. The scales are listed below:

0 or FL, IF


No inclusions visible by an expert using a magnification of 10x

1-2 or VVS1-VVS2

Minute inclusions

Very difficult for an expert to see using a magnification of 10x

3-4 or VS1-VS2

Minor inclusions

Difficult to find using a magnification of 10x

5-6 or SI1-SI2

Noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification

Few or no inclusions visible to the naked eye

7-10 or I1-I3 Obvious inclusions under 10x magnification

Some inclusions visible to the naked eye

Carat weight is the final criteria used to determine the value of a diamond. Jaws drop when people brag about the 2 carat diamond they purchased. In reality, the stone’s value is determined by its color, clarity and particularly its cut, as well as its carat weight. An inferior cut 2 carat diamond with a color rating of I2 and a clarity rating of 7.0 is worth much less than a colorless, ideal cut diamond with no inclusions. The carat weight of the diamond you purchase should be of less concern than the other factors influencing its quality.

That said, the carat weight of the diamond does have a considerable effect on the price you’ll be charged. It is important to be sure that the weight the jeweler quotes you is accurate. Reputable jewelers such as AGS and GIA members will use electronic scales capable of determining weights as small as .002 of a carat. Naturally, they should weigh the diamond that has not been fixed into a ring. Ask your jewelers to show you how they weigh diamonds. If they’re reluctant to do this, consider this as another red flag and move on to another dealer.

The Setting. Ask your jeweler to discuss the prong setting with you. Prongs are the metal brackets that hold the diamond securely in place once it’s been set into a ring. Badly formed prongs can cause a host of problems, from the diamond moving around in the setting to the outright loss of the stone. It is important that each prong is tightly and securely formed over the crown of the stone, so the metal is flush against the stone. Be sure that the thickness of the prong is adequate, particularly at the "heel" or the point where the edge of the stone cuts most deeply into the prong. It is at this point that the metal is at its narrowest.

The Shape. There are many shapes available on the market today. Jewelry designers frequently experiment with new shapes, but the most classic cuts are round brilliant, emerald, oval, pear, marquis and square. The shape you choose generally does not affect the cost or quality of the stone. Instead, it is more a reflection of the natural shape of the rough diamond before it was cut.

The Paperwork. Your diamond should be delivered to you along with a lab report certifying its authenticity. It will state the quality, weight and cut of the stone. It is a very good idea to take out an insurance policy on the ring you decide to buy. These policies are generally not offered through your diamond dealer, but fall into the category of Home Owners Insurance. Consult your broker for details.

Congratulations on your engagement! The very best of luck in finding the ring that’s just right for you


More Good Stuff


Weddings are our specialty

Corporate Events

We can help to make your corporate event the moral booster and "thank you" that you want.

Kid Parties

Your kids grow up so fast. Let them have fun while they are young.