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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Buying an Engagement Ring - An Illustrated Guide

wedding bandsAn engagement ring is probably the first important piece of jewelry you'll ever buy. So to help you navigate the confusing world of colors, styles, shapes and stones, here's my illustrated guide to buying an engagement ring:

Step One: What's Your Budget

Sneaky salespeople like to convince you that an engagement ring's price tag is directly linked to how much you love someone. Engagement ring magazine spreads usually feature impossibly large diamond rings, but the advertisements are emblazoned with low prices and special deals. Expectant proposers may have sticker shock when the pictures and prices don't quite add up. Before you waltz up to that counter, blinded by your love and the salesperson's sales talk, figure out what you can reasonably spend. If you have to use your credit card, or take out a loan, try to have it all paid off before the wedding. (The two-months salary guide was invented by the diamond industry, by the way. Spend what you feel comfortable spending.)

Step 2: What's Her Engagement Ring Style?

You're going to have to make a lot of choices – platinum or gold? Modern or traditional? Flashy or understated? It's easier if you've done your homework beforehand. Look at the jewelry your sweetheart wears on a daily basis – if it's all silver with intricate designs – look for a platinum engagement ring with intricate designs (often called filigree). If it's just a few heavy gold pieces, then look for more modern or simple designs.

If you have trouble deciding, considering bringing along someone who knows your sweetheart well, a few pictures of her, or some of her favorite pieces of jewelry

Step 3: Diamonds, Flash and Bling

Most of the cost of an engagement ring is in its stone.
If you're buying a diamond engagement ring, you should be an educated consumer, and know about cut, clarity, carat, and color. Two diamonds can look remarkably similar yet have vastly different costs.
For example, right now if you were looking for a round diamond of about 1 carat, you'd find:

$18,966: Blue Nile has a 1.01-carat round diamond with a Very Good-cut, D-color, and IF-clarity
$3971: Zales has a 1.01-carat round diamond with I color, and SI1 clarity (cut not specified)
$1986: Mondera has a 1.10 Carat round diamond with a Very Good-cut, I color, and I2 clarity.

Step 4: Diamond Engagement Rings Aren't the Only Story: Gemstones

Diamonds are forever, says the marketing campaign, but other stones are also lasting and beautiful in engagement rings. You might fall in love with colored gemstones. Choose them to surround a diamond, or have a colored gemstone as the main stone- you might find that you can get a larger engagement ring for less than a diamond would cost.

Step 5: Consider Diamond Shape.

A classic round diamond solitaire engagement ring is extremely popular (accounting for more than 75% of diamond sales), but that's hardly the whole story in diamonds. When you're considering engagement rings, look at what really sparkles and catches your eye. Expert diamond cutters can carve create newer cuts with different and more intricate levels of refraction. There are also hearts and other shapes that you might find perfect for your engagement ring.

Heavy Metal : Gold, White Gold, and Platinum Engagement Rings

The metal of an engagement ring can affect its style as much as the diamond. Does your future fiancé tend to wear more silver or gold jewelry? Do you like the look of diamonds more against gold or against silver? The most common metals for engagement rings are:

Gold – The classic look of gold explains why it might be the most popular choice for an engagement ring. Be a savvy shopper: gold jewelry is available in several different carats; typically 9k, 14k and 18k, which indicate the proportion of pure gold to other metals in the ring. (18k is 75% pure gold.). To the average shopper, the important differences between the carats are a) color: 18k has a richer, more yellow color than 9kt. b) Price: 9kt is considerably cheaper than 18k. c) Durability: 18k is slightly harder, making it stand up better to everyday wear.

Platinum – For those who don't like the look of gold, or who are looking for something more durable, consider platinum. Romantics like platinum engagement rings because it's pure, as they imagine their love to be. Be aware that platinum costs considerably more.

White Gold – While it doesn't have the steely whiteness of platinum, white gold is a good, more affordable alternative.

For example, at Diamonds International currently, the gold and white gold rings pictured above cost $595 each (as pictured with .33k diamond solitaire). The least expensive platinum solitaire available is a .5k diamond, and costs $1785.

By Nina Callaway

1 comment:

Meredith said...

This is good information to know about engagement rings. I’ll have to bookmark it for later reference.