How to buy a perfect diamond ring
Like with any big purchase, it is imperative to do research before buying a diamond ring. Whether you are buying jewelry for yourself or helping your man to find a perfect ring, below is your diamond buying guide in a nutshell.
Determine your budget
Budget is the most important factor that your search will be based on. You can stay within your budget by adjusting each of the 4C’s of diamond.
Certified or not?
If paying more than a $1,000 for a ring, ask if the diamond is certified. The certificate will give you major information about the 4 C’s, dimensions of the diamond, and any imperfections. Certified diamonds are higher quality, and a certificate provides an extra piece of mind to a big purchase. Look for certification from organizations such as GIA or AGS. If carat weight matters to you more than the 4 C’s in the diamond ring, you can get a beautiful diamond not certified.
Selecting the diamond ring
Most diamonds in engagement rings sold are round brilliant cut. Non-round, or “fancy-shaped”, diamonds such as princess, asscher or emerald-cut, offer exceptional value to the buyers.
A setting of the diamond ring is extremely important. Not only it reflects your taste and personality, it also surrounds your diamond allowing it to shine to its best. You can go for a solitaire setting with your diamond in the center without anything distracting attention away from it, or select one with the side stones. A small diamond can be made look bigger by surrounding it with smaller diamonds.
Engagement diamond rings set in white metal, such as white gold or platinum are so popular, because white is the background that allows the clear diamond shine to its best ability. Besides, gold jewelry does not look good on some women with very pale skin tone. Do not stay away from classic yellow gold if you have an olive or darker skin tone – it will look beautiful on you, and you can get away with lower color grade diamond with that setting.
There are a few other things to consider when deciding on the metal of the diamond ring:
- White gold is made by combing yellow gold with alloys to make it look white, but it does not come out completely white. To cover the remaining yellow undertone, it is plated with rhodium. As rhodium wears out, yellowish color may start showing, which is easily re-plated by a jeweler to restore the white look.
- Platinum is a very strong metal, however, it can scratch and develop patina (matte color). If you prefer a shiny look, you can take it to the jeweler to have it polished.
- While trying to stay within budget, many buyers select the cheaper metal for the diamond ring setting and spend extra money on a better diamond. Remember that you can always upgrade to a different setting down the road.
If unsure about the setting, a man can ask the jeweler to set the diamond in the most basic setting on condition that it can be later upgraded. After getting proposed with a diamond a girl can have a lot of fun designing her own diamond ring or chose the setting she loves and have the jeweler re-set it.
Know your 4 C’s
A diamond’s grade and price is based on the 4 C’s: Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weigh. When working within a budget, decide what is the most important factor for you. You can stay within your price range, by increasing one C and decreasing another. For example, if carat weight is important, you can get a bigger diamond with a lower color or clarity grade or poorer cut.
Diamonds are graded on a scale from D (colorless, very rare, the highest grade) to Z (visibly yellow color). Color grades J, I, or H are considered almost colorless and offer a great value, as the differences in color are nearly impossible for an untrained eye to detect, especially in a round brilliant-cut diamond. If choosing a yellow gold ring setting, you can even go as low as K or M color grade, as anything higher than that will absorb the yellow tone of the setting and will look yellowish anyways.
Many jewelers will tell you that this is the most important factor in choosing a diamond. If a big, perfect clarity or colorless diamond is not cut right, it will not shine and will look dull. Choose good, very good, or excellent (also called ideal) cut grades.
Diamonds are product of nature, and they have imperfections, or inclusions. While flawless diamonds are rare, diamonds graded VS1 and VS2 (Very Slightly Included) offer an excellent value, as the inclusions are not typically visible to the unaided eye. Another factor to consider is the location of the inclusion: a flaw on the side is not as important or visible as one in the middle of the diamond.
Carat weight refers to weight, not size, therefore a heavier diamond may not necessarily appear bigger when viewed from the top. Because of the way the light enters the diamond and shines, an ideal cut diamond may appear bigger than a poorly cut diamond. It takes about 20% increase in weight to notice the difference in size for an untrained eye. You should also remember that a diamond will look bigger on a small finger. If carat weight is important to you, consider compromising on Color, Clarity, and Cut to stay within your budget.
Diamond prices increase significantly at full and half carat weights. Part of the reason is because the jewelry stores stock up on the popular weight diamonds. Therefore, instead of choosing a 1 carat diamond, consider 0.9 carat – the difference will not be noticeable for an untrained eye for less money (and you can still tell your girlfriends that you got a one-carat diamond ring!). You can also consider different settings to enhance the size of your diamond. The price of a diamond also varies by weight depending on the shape, the most expensive being the round diamonds.
Choose a retailer
With so many online stores, such as Blue Nile or JamesAllen offering exceptional service and value, it is difficult to decide whether to buy a diamond ring from a jeweler, online, or even a mass producer, such as Wal-Mart or Costco.
The main advantage of buying a diamond ring from a brick and mortar store is that you can try it on and see the diamond. A jeweler will offer personalized service, perhaps a money back or exchange guarantee, repair, plating and polishing, sometimes financing, and even might be able to provide an upgrade down the road. A reputable jeweler should be able to show you the diamond under the microscope and explain the imperfections and inclusions. Because of the high costs of carrying diamond inventory, a jewelry store may only be able to offer a choice of two or three diamonds in your price range.
One of the advantages of buying a diamond ring on the Internet is the extensive inventory offered by the online retailers. Online stores offer exceptional customer service, excellent research tools, and great value.
Even mass merchandisers, such as Wal-Mart, may be considered by shoppers on a budget: although you will not find the highest quality certified diamonds there, because of the mass producing, they can keep the prices of the diamond rings really low.
Research online and in person
There is plenty of information on the online fine jewelry websites. A reputable jeweler will be able to provide you with basic diamond education and answer any questions. No matter where you decide to purchase your diamond from, ensure that after educating yourself, you go out to the stores and try on different rings to find the one you like, because no matter how much you like the ring you selected online, you may just fall in love with the one you see in person!