Buying a diamond engagement ring

Since the early part of the 20th Century it has become common practice to give a ring as a mark of betrothal and the diamond has become the most popular gemstone on the ring. Diamonds, of course, are expensive so you need to be sure that you are getting good value for your money. What follows might prove helpful if you are about to buy a diamond engagement ring, especially if you don’t have a fortune to spend.

Diamonds are priced according to their grade and their grade is based on the FOUR Cs – cut, clarity, color and carat:

CUT refers to the symmetry, proportion and polish of the stone. The better the cut, the more brilliant the diamond. The most popular cut is the “round brilliant” in which the facet arrangement and proportion has been perfected not only mathematically but also by long practice. The highest graded diamonds have symmetry and proportions most closely matching a benchmark ideal. Cut, of course, is a matter of personal aesthetic taste

CLARITY is a reference to the natural imperfections in the diamond. Internal imperfections are known as “inclusions”, while surface defect are known as “blemishes”. These imperfections do not affect the integrity of the diamond but do influence its price. Clarity is graded according to the following scheme:

  • FL is flawless. Exceedingly rare, diamonds graded FL are highly valued.
  • IF means Internally Flawless with insignificant surface blemishes.
  • VVS1 - VVS2 refers to stones with Very Very Small Inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye).
  • VS1 - VS2 means the diamond has Very Small inclusions that would normally only be spotted with the naked eye by an expert.
  • SI1 - SI2 is a reference to diamonds that are Slightly Included.
  • I1 - I3 grade diamonds have inclusions that visible to the naked eye.

If you choose a stone within the range VS2 to SI1, then you will have a stone that appears flawless to all but an expert and yet will be reasonably priced.

COLOR refers to how colorless the diamond is. All natural diamonds have some color hue. Strongly colored stones (particularly red diamonds) can be extremely expensive. Most of us will be looking at stones with a yellowish hue. The most favored grade is D, which denotes colorless. The least favored is Z, which has a light yellow hue. Grades G through J are classified as “near colorless” and are perfectly acceptable for a diamond engagement ring. (The yellow hue only becomes noticeable below grade J.)

CARAT is how diamonds are weighed. By international convention adopted in 1907, one carat equals 200 mg. Obviously, the more carats, the more expensive the diamond. All other factors being equal, a single one-carat diamond will cost more than two half-carat diamonds. Also, often, a diamond with an odd weight (say 1.03 carats) will be cheaper on a per carat basis than a diamond of one carat.

Armed with this information, you should be able to buy a good diamond at a reasonable price. Bear in mind, however, that it is probably best to discuss your needs with a reputable jeweler to get the best deal and to avoid being deceived. Also, don’t go for a diamond substitute like cubic zirconia if your girlfriend wants the real thing – it will be cheaper but she will spot the difference. And, finally, don’t buy a diamond engagement ring that you cannot afford. Financial woes will cause you stress and could put a serious strain on your relationship with your loved one. Looking upon the ring as an investment for the future is also a mistake since, ideally, you will never sell it if your relationship lasts.

Properly looked after, your diamond engagement ring should last forever. Hopefully, your love will too.