We suggest that you start with the basics. Ask your partner what she would like. Oh no, does that take the romance out of it?! No going down on bended knee and offering a carefully chosen solitaire diamond engagement ring in a velvet box? Not at all. There are lots of ways to make sure the occasion is both romantic as heck, AND you choose the right engagement ring!
What style jewellery does she like to wear? What metal colour does she wear most often? What’s her fashion style – super on trend, or vintage elegance?
Ask her mother, or a trusted friend, what she’s said about engagement rings. Stick to the basics – yellow or white gold or platinum? A solitaire, a cluster or a coloured stone?
If you’re really not sure and don’t want to risk her politely sticking with the ring you chose, but secretly wishing you’d checked first, then buy a single sparkling stone and present that, with a promise that now she can design her own ring – making it as unique as your love.
Once you’ve decided on the main stone for the ring, then you need to get a little technical. Here’s what you should consider when wondering how you choose the right engagement ring,
1. Understand the 4Cs
The four C’s, when it comes to diamonds, refer to the way that precious gems are graded and valued on an internationally recognised scale. The 4Cs combine to generate a market value for the stone that will be essentially the same anywhere in the world.
C – Colour. In a ‘white’ diamond, the ‘colour’ refers in fact to a lack of colour. The most sough-after white diamonds are those with no degree of colour at all. When you’re considering coloured stones, each has its own most prized shade, which affects it value.
C – Cut. The way a stone is cut depends on the skill of the diamond cutter, who will assess a raw gemstone and devise the best way to maximise its value by choosing a cut that unleashes its sparkle to the best effect.
C – Clarity. How clear is the stone? Flaws, blemishes and inclusions all affect the value of a stone.
C – Carat weight. This is the weight of the stone, which of course determines its apparent size.
Once you understand how these all work together, you can choose which C is most important to you and use this in your decision making. A huge diamond with poor clarity isn’t worth as much as a smaller stone with great clarity. An emerald however will have lots of inclusions, but as they’re so rare, these have a lesser effect on their value than a poor colour will have. You can find a fabulous diamond of good size and a sparkling cut, but a tinge of yellow knocks the value back. Iffor you big is beautiful, this is a great way to get some serious bang for your buck!
While diamonds are the preferred choice for most brides, there are an increasing number of ladies opting for something a little more unusual. Coloured stones such as the big four – blue sapphire, green emerald, red ruby and pink or yellow diamond – or even more unusual gemstones such as Padparadscha sapphires, blue or jacinth zircons, pink or violet sapphires, peachy morganite or green gold peridot are finding their way onto engagement rings from LA to London, and even here in Cheshire (well, we are seriously stylish, are we not?) It’s a trend we wrote about last month, here.
3. Understand that Cut and Shape are not the same thing.
Diamonds come in a variety of shapes – round, square, rectangle, heart, pear and marquise – which is identified when you look at the stone from the top. However, the ‘cut’ refers to how the diamond’s facets are arranged to maximise its sparkle. For example, you will discover that most round diamonds are cut in the ‘brilliant’ style, which is a specific arrangement of 57 or 58 facets. However, you can also have square or rectangle diamonds cut in this style, which is then known as radiant cut. It’s confusing, we know! To further complicate, you can have a square or rectabgle diamond cut in the ‘emerald’ style too, which has four longer facets to the sides and bevelled corners. Huh?! Don’t worry, we can show you examples and let you choose which you love best!
The type of metal you choose for your ring’s band will, of course, affect the overall look of the piece. In recent years, white gold and platinum have proven popular, for a contemporary look. They are also a good choice for those diamonds of the best colour – or colourless – quality. Yellow gold is great for very clear diamonds, but if you’ve chosen a stone that is a little yellow (but otherwise ticks every box) the risk is that the yellow of the gold will make the diamond more visibly yellow.
Of course, you can choose a yellow gold band and have the setting made in white gold. We recently set a fabulous golden amber zircon into rose gold prongs to highlight its warm tones, while mounting the whole on a white gold band. Gorgeous!
5. Choose the setting.
Your jeweller should recommend a setting when he’s creating the design for you, as it will have a major impact on the finished piece, but here’s a quick overview.
Prongs: four to six metal supports that hold the stone in place. The most traditional setting for a solitaire.
Brushed over (or bezel): when a thin metal strip is pushed over around the edge of the gemstone to hold it in place. This offers excellent protection for the stone and looks tremendous on big and bold beauties.
Halo: a ring of tiny diamonds encircling the centre stone. A halo can add more sparkle to the engagement ring (reducing the need for a large centre stone) and in fact makes the centre stone look bigger.
Side stones can be a dazzling way to finish off an engagement ring. Diamond baguettes (long, narrow stones) set into the shoulders of the ring can look incredibly sophisticated and if you choose a coloured gemstone, such as a pink sapphire or red ruby, really help throw the light around.
7. Set your budget
You might think we should have put this first, but actually, once you’ve had a good chat with your chosen jeweller and established what design you want, then you can set the budget for him to work to and let him go off and do his research, sourcing stones and finalising a 3D design for you to look at. This means you both know there won’t be any unexpected surprises coming when he does present the designs and you won’t feel pushed into a corner on price.
A good jeweller will take you through each of these steps whether you are buying a ring ready-made, or choosing to have one made especially for you. If you find a jeweller that seems a bit vague, or not really keen on taking you through all the influencing factors in this way – walk away. It’s your ring, a symbol of a commitment to a lifetime of togetherness and nothing, and nobody, should lessen the experience of finding that absolutely perfect one for you.