The major cost of the engagement ring is often the sparkling diamond or shimmering colored gemstone that you select to adorn it. To avoid costly mistakes, it is very important to learn as much as possible about the stone you are considering. The best way to take the risk out of buying a particular gem is to familiarize yourself with the gem. While the average consumer can’t hope to make the same precise judgments as a qualified gemologist whose scientific training and wealth of practical experience provide a far greater data base from which to operate, the consumer can learn to judge a gemstone as a “total personality” and learn what the critical factors are; color, clarity (sometimes referred to in the trade as “perfection”), sparkle and brilliance, and weight, and how to balance them in judging the gem’s value. Learning about these factors spending time in the marketplace looking, listening, and asking questions before making the purchase will prepare you to be a wise buyer more likely to get what you really want, at a fair price.
Selecting a Diamond
The diamond engagement ring has emerged as the universal symbol of love and commitment between two people. Not only is it the formal beginning; visible “announcement” of your your engagement, but the centuries old symbolism surrounding diamond reflects both the preciousness of the moment and commitment made by two people in love to cherish each other forever.
While some woman prefer other gems to diamond, or opt for the special significant of a family heirloom, a diamond is the overwhelming choice of today’s bride.
Some brides to be have no doubt been taken by surprise with the unexpected presentation of an engagement ring, but it is probably safest to go about the task of selecting the ring together. While the element of surprise is very romantic, keep in mind that the engagement ring is meant to be worn for a lifetime. So it is especially important that the bride-to-be really loves it; that it reflects her personal taste and style. If you are a die hard romantic who wants to surprise her, we suggest placing a photo of a ring you like inside the “tiny black ring box” and presenting her with this instead; it combines romance with practicality, and you are sending another important message: not only do you love her, but you understand the importance of working together on such important decision!
The previous and following articles, we will give everything you need to know to purchase a diamond with greater confidence; whether you are shopping for an engagement ring, wedding or anniversary band, or simply a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry to commemorate an important moment. The greater your awareness of the elements that determine diamond quality, the better chances of knowing what you want, getting exactly what you are after, and deriving lasting pleasure from it.
– What is diamond?
Chemically speaking, a diamond is the simplest of all gemstones. A diamond is plain, crystallized carbon; the same substance, chemically, as the soot left on the inside of a glass globe after the burning of a candle; it is the same substance used in lead pencils.
The diamond differs from these in its crystal form, which gives it the desirable properties have made it so highly prized; its hardness, which gives it unsurpassed wear-ability; its brilliance; and its fire. (But note that while diamond is the hardest natural substance known, it can be chipped or broken if hit hard from certain angles, and if the “girdle” has been cut too thin it can be chipped with even a modest blow.)
The transparent white colorless) diamond is most popular variety, but diamond also occurs in colors. When color is prominent it is called a fancy diamond. Diamond is frequently found in nice yellow and brown shades. Diamond color such as pink, light blue, light green, and lavender occur much more rarely. In diamonds, the colors seen are usually pastel. Deep diamond colors in hues of red, green, and dark blue are extremely rare. Historically, most colored diamonds have sold for more than their colorless counterparts, except for light yellow or brown varieties. Yellow or brown in very pale shades may not be fancy diamonds but off color stones that are very common and sell for much less than colorless diamonds or those with true “fancy” color.
In addition to natural color diamonds, “fancies” that have obtained their color artificially, through exposure to certain types of radiation and heating techniques, are readily available. The bill of sale (and any accompanying certification appraisal, etc.) should specify whether the color is natural or induced. If induced, the price should be much less, although the gem will often be just as beautiful as one with a natural color.
– The four factors that determine diamond value
Diamond quality and value are determined by four factors. These are called the “Four C’s.” If we were to rank then based on their important in determining the value of a diamond, we would list them as follows:
– Color (body color)
– Clarity (degree of flawlessness)
– Cutting and proportioning (often referred to as the make)
– Carat weight (which affects the size)
In terms of determining beauty, however, we would rank them in a different order:
1. Cutting and proportioning
4. Carat weight
Tips on getting the diamond you really want, within your budget
If you have an unlimited budget, you may feel it’s important to have a large stone of the finest quality available; a “D” flawless with an ideal make. But for most of us who must work within a limited budget, selecting the correct ring is a matter of learning how to juggle, and discovering what factors will best meet our needs, emotional as well as financial.
– In diamonds, go for color and sparkle first
If you have a limited budget, you have to compromise on something; either the size, color, clarity (flaw grade), or liveliness. Of these four factors, one can see size, color, and liveliness. In terms of what most people notice on the finger, the clarity is the least important in our opinion. Personally, on a limited budget we would choose a stone with the best possible color and liveliness personality.
What most people don’t understand is that even in SI2 diamonds, flaws are not really noticeable when the diamond is being worn and, in most cases, can’t be seen at all without using a magnifier. In fact, if you take a well cut one carat D-color and FL (Flawless)-clarity diamond and hold it nest to a well cut one carat D/SI2 diamond, you will not see any difference with the naked eye. Contrary to what many think, it is not the clarity grade that determines how lively an brilliant a diamond will be, But its cut and proportioning. And you may feel much more sparkling yourself if you can spend $7,500 for a diamond, D/SI2, that could look like a $36,000, D/IF, diamond to anyone without a magnifier!
The diamond brilliance and liveliness is as important as its color. After all, that’s what sets the gem apart from glass and cheap imitations. A well cut diamond has more sparkle; more brilliance and “fire,” than any other gem. But the key to the sparkle is in its being well cut. We have seen diamonds that were so badly cut that they had no life at all. In fact, one might just as well be looking at a piece of glass.
For this reason, we prefer diamonds with very fine makes. Diamonds that are cut to look a little larger than they actually are can also be pretty, but when they are cut too spread, they will be lifeless. In our opinion, we’d rather buy a diamond that’s cut exceptionally well; a diamond that really dances before the eye, even though it costs more. Because it does cost more, we would consider lowering the color grade a little in exchange for the best possible “make,” or coming down in size a little. As you shop around, be sure to pay attention to the way a diamond is cut. Ask to see diamonds with “ideal” makes. You’ll soon be able to spot differences in brilliance and liveliness. Then your eye will help you find the right balance for your own budget.
– A small difference in points can make a big difference in dollars.
The cost of a diamond increases significantly when it reaches the full, 1 carat weight. However, try to find a diamond that weight 90 points (or 9/10 of a carat). When set, few can see the difference between a 90 points diamond and one that is a full one carat diamond. The difference, however, is very noticeable in dollars. Where a fine one carat diamond (G/VS1 quality) might sell for $9,800, the same quality diamond weighting 90 points might cost only $8,500. The money you save could pay for a beautiful diamond studded wedding band!
A word of caution: Be careful that you aren’t sold a diamond that is too “spread” (a term used to describe a diamond that is cut to look larger than its real weight). We’ve seen diamonds weighing 90 points that are actually LARGER in dimension than 1 carat diamond that is cut well. These diamonds usually lack the brilliance and sparkle of a well made diamond. You may be pleased with with their size, but make sure you are pleased with the sparkle. After all, if you are paying for a diamond, you deserve a stone that show its full beauty.
– What to consider when selecting the color grade.
D-color is the rarest and most expensive color in white diamonds. There are very few diamonds that receive this very high grade. Diamonds graded from D through H on the GIA scale are graded in the “white” by other grading systems and, when mounted, will appear white. I and J colors are colored “slightly tinted” by other systems and you may see some yellowish or brownish tint in the stone body color. K and L may also be called “tinted white,” and you can more easily see the tint. M through Z may also be called “tinted color” or “off white” and appear yellowish or brownish white.
The difference in cost between D and E color, however; even though both considered “white” diamonds, can be significant.
It is important to remember that when a diamond is set, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between D, E, and F colors without comparing them immediately nest to each other. For those on a budget, selecting a diamond with E, F, or G color rather than D might enable you to bets meet all your expectations; a “white'” diamond with lots of sparkle in a pleasing size.
– The color of your setting can make your diamond appear more white.
If you are on a limited budget, keep in mind that if you feel you can’t afford a diamond as white as you would like and still have the size and sparkle that’s important, setting the stone in a white gold or platinum may make the diamond appear more white than it really is. Less white diamonds (L through M colors) can actually look more white in a white gold or platinum setting; the whiteness of the metal is reflected into the diamond and masks the yellow, making the diamond appear more white. Yellowish tinted diamond ( M – Z Colors) usually look more white in a yellow gold setting, where the contrast with with the bright yellow of the setting masks the yellowish tint of the diamond and often makes it appear more white.
– Flaws may mar the beauty of your diamond ring less than you think.
On a budget, they may add beauty! As discussed previously, flaws cannot normally be seen in a mounted diamond with the naked eye until the classification I1 clarity! And even in diamonds classified as “I'” flaws are not immediately visible when the diamond is set, especially when worn. So, while it’s important to know what the flaw grade is to be sure you are paying the correct price, this is the factor you can stretch the farthest without affecting the beauty of the diamond you select. It’s one area in which juggling can dramatically affect the budget while not affecting the sparkle. Therefore, we normally recommend trying to meet your personal preferences regarding the other three factors first. The price difference between Flawless and Internally Flawless, and each successive grade, can be dramatic. Looking at the diamonds without using a loupe, the D/SI@ would look like the D/IF!
– Consider shapes other than round.
While the round brilliant cut diamond is considered by most to be the cut that best reveals the diamond’s maximum beauty, it normally looks smaller than diamonds cut in other shapes. Today women are showing an increased interest in other shapes. In comparison to the round, pear shaped diamonds and marquise shaped diamonds look larger.
– Consider a design that uses several small stones than one large diamond.
As we discussed in greater depth in previous articles, may beautiful designs use several small diamonds rather than one large diamond. These designs offer a beautiful way to keep the budget down. The smaller the diamond, the lower the price per carat. For example, a one carat round brilliant cut diamond set in a solitaire ring more than a ring containing three diamonds having a total weight of one carat (each diamond weighing 1/3 carat). A solitaire, while it is the most popular ring style among new brides-to-be, is also the most expensive.
Look for the innovative designs available in multi gemstone rings. These offer an alternative that can create a very important and individual look.
– Illusion settings.
Certain settings create an illusion that diamond is larger than it is.
– Bold designs in gold and platinum add importance and distinctiveness to smaller diamonds.
New designs reflecting today’s more independent woman have had a major impact on the engagement ring and wedding band market. Using wider, innovative designs in metal can create a very impressive look, using a smaller diamond (less that one carat) as well as larger diamonds.
– Listen to your heart as well as your head.
The most important consideration in the selection of your engagement ring is how you feel about it. You want to feel a thrill; you want to feel excited; you want it to be your choice. If you really prefer yellow gold, don’t let someone talk you into platinum; if you really prefer the pear shape diamond, don’t let someone talk you into round shape diamond.
One of our clients was torn between two diamonds; one had the finest possible color D and she knew it was the “better” diamond.
The other was a little larger and it was not quite as white, F color, but it had a magnificent make and the sparkle was really dazzling. She decided on the slightly larger diamond, even though it was F color, because she was honest with herself and her fiancee; she really preferred a diamond that was a little larger, she was constantly drawn back to that diamond because of its “personality.” The other diamond was a “rarer” stone, color-wise, which made it more expensive on the per carat basis, but it was not the one she really felt excited about. She made the right choice in going with her heart and not her head!
Diamond Grading report (certificate)
Today, few fine diamonds over one carat are sold without a diamond grading report (or certificate, as they are also called) from a respected laboratory. Reports issued by the GIA, Gem Trade laboratory, are the most widely used in the United States and in many countries around the world.
A grading report does more than certify the diamond’s genuineness; it fully describes the stone and evaluates each of the critical factors affecting quality, beauty, and value. The information they contain can provide verification of the facts as represented by the seller and enable one to make a safer decision when purchasing a diamond. Another important function of the reports is to verify the identity of the specific diamond at some some future time. Also for insurance purposes, the the information provided on the report will ensure replacement of the lost or stolen diamond with one that is truly compatible quality.