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Engagement Rings buying guide

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Engagement Rings guide - Introduction

Engagement rings have long been the symbol of commitment between two individuals who wish to unite in matrimonial bliss in Western cultures. When proposing, the engagement wedding ring will be placed on the ring finger of the left hand. Traditionally, the asking party will select and purchase the engagement ring in private for the mate. In recent history, traditions have evolved to include both parties in the engagement ring selection process.

Fiancés select diamonds to express their feelings for their betrothed. However, gemstone engagement rings, such as pearl engagement rings, ruby engagement rings, and emerald engagement rings are also selected.

Identifying a Quality Diamond

To select a proper diamond, the purchaser should pay attention to the four Cs: Clarity, Carat, Cut, and Colour. The value increases with higher clarity and carat.

  • Clarity

    Diamonds with clarity ratings near flawless are appraised at higher values than those with lower clarity ratings. The system ranges from Flawless (FL) to Included (I3). High clarity diamonds have little to no inclusions. Inclusion is a determining factor in the clarity grade of a stone and is based upon the diamond’s appearance when magnified 10x. Inclusions or internal characteristics of a diamond can refer to a number of flaws, such as clouds, feathers, crystals, knots, cavities, cleavage, bearding, or graining. Blemishes are external flaws, which may include grain boundaries, polish lines, naturals, nicks, scratches, pits, and chips.

    Clarity grading is determined by the number, colour, size, and location of the inclusion. Orientation and visibility of the inclusion may also factor into the grading process. Inclusions can affect the diamond’s ability to refract light and thus decrease its luster or sparkle. Often diamonds are identifiable by small inclusions, based upon their placement and size. For instance, a small inclusion the size of a pin tip may not affect the overall luster and thus may only be considered an identifying factor.
  • Cut

    The cut of a stone is often mistakenly characterized as the physical shape of the stone itself. However, it refers to the symmetry, polish, and proportioning of the diamond. As the eye follows from bottom to top, the anatomy is comprised of the following: the pavilion depth, girdle, crown height, and a table.

    The cut determines brilliance or luminosity. Brilliance and the stone’s ability to disperse light are the two most important factors achieved by cut. Internal brilliance is measured by the stone’s refractive index or ability to reflect light to viewer. The higher the refractive index the higher the value and sparkle will be. Pavilion angles determine the refractive index. External brilliance is determined by the stone’s ability to reflect light from its surface and is known as its lustre factor.

    Scintillation brilliance refers to the light dispersing factor. This will be evident to the viewer by the diamond’s ability to disperse white light with its internal facets into varying colors of the spectrum. Diamonds with high scintillation brilliance will display the colours of the spectrum similar to a prism when moved. The display of spectral colours is referred to as fire and is measured on a scale of B to G. Fire is determined by the height and angle of the cut of the crown of the diamond. The table size should be properly balanced to achieve maximum brilliance and fire.

    A poorly cut stone will lack the desired sparkle. Diamonds in their natural state do not possess the brilliance that the consumer desires. Facets are flat surfaces that are developed through the process of polishing and cutting. Many standard cuts are available to the consumer to achieve the sparkle that is desired by the purchaser.

    The cut is most often determined by the location of inclusions in the raw stone and the consumer's preferences. The round brilliant cut is popular because of its high resale value, it is easy to insure, and because of its luminescent qualities. The princess engagement ring cut is popular because it maintains carat weight, while preserving most of the raw stone.
  • Colour

    A diamond in its purest form is completely transparent and contains no colour. The ratings of color range from D to Z, where D represents a colourless diamond and Z represents a yellow diamond. Though colourless diamonds hold significantly higher value, blue, pink, and red diamonds are rare and hold a significant value because of their rarity.
  • Carat

    Carat refers to the weight of the stone. Rare stones have a greater carat weight and higher value than smaller carat stones. For instance, a 7 carat diamond would be considered more rare and valued higher than a 3 carat diamond.

 

Things to consider when looking for an engagement ring

To select a diamond for your loved one, consider the following:

  • Determine a Budget
    Traditionally, experts recommend that two month’s salary be budgeted for the engagement ring. Some individuals will choose to spend more or less depending upon their financial situation and other circumstances.
  • Determine an Approximate Carat Size for the Budget
    Once the budget is established, research the market to determine the range of diamonds that can be purchased. Begin at the high end of the market with a Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS) and near colorless diamond. Determine the carat weight that can be purchased given the budget in various shapes. Work your way down the chart to Very Slightly Included stones (VS) and with little colour. Determine the carat weight that can be purchased given the budget, in various shapes. Continue working your way down the chart until you have a range of combinations that are within the working budget.
  • Select the Shape
    Once a range of carat sizes have been determined, select a shape based upon the following parameters:
  • Recipient’s Preference and Personality
    When selecting a diamond, keep in mind the recipient’s personality. If the recipient is traditional, sophisticated and classy, the round brilliant will be the safest choice.

    Perhaps, if the recipient values distinction and uniqueness, then one of the fancy cuts may be suitable. A heart, oval, pear shape, princess cut, or Ascher cut may capture their essence of whimsy.

    If you know the recipient’s preference, the selection process will be simplified immensely. However, if not, choose something that best matches the lifestyle they currently have or hope to achieve.
  • Recipient’s Finger Shape
    Some ring shapes are more flattering to certain hand types. For instance, short, stubby fingers may be complemented by a pear shaped diamond, as it will elongate the finger. Princess cut may be flattering to longer fingers.
  • Brilliance and Fire
    Certain shapes are more apt to promote the brilliance and fire of the cut. Round brilliant cuts are the most popular because the 58 facets, if cut properly, will provide the viewer with the brilliance and fire desired. The round brilliant cut will most consistently achieve the “wow” factor desired by the soon-to-be fiancé.
    Other shapes are also capable of achieving this factor. The pear shape and the radiant shape both have the fire and brilliance of the round brilliant. However the pear shape is prone to the bow-tie effect. The bow-tie effect is the appearance of a dark spot in the middle of the diamond that is visible from certain angles. The dark spot may detract from the overall appearance.
  • Select the Diamond
    Select a diamond that minimizes the number of inclusions. Additionally, select a shape that is congruent with the recipient’s personality, while maximizing carat weight. Select the best stone based upon the following criteria, given the pre-determined budget.

    o Clarity
    o Cut: Brilliance and Fire
    o Carat
    o Colour
    o Shape
    o Budget

  • Select a Setting
    Settings are what make the ring unique. There are some basic requirements for selecting settings.
  • Determine the Metal
    Engagement ring settings may include yellow, white, platinum, and silver engagement rings.
  • Gold
    If a gold engagement ring is selected, 24 karat gold is 100 percent pure gold, 18 karat gold is 75 percent gold, and 14 karat gold is 58 percent gold. The higher the karat weight, the greater the value will be.
  • Platinum
    Fairer skin tones are complemented by platinum engagement ring settings. Platinum is twice as heavy as 14 karat gold and typically has a higher value than gold.
  • Silver
    Silver is considered the least expensive or cheap alternative to platinum. Sterling emerald engagement rings are 92.5 percent pure. The metal must often be alloyed with copper to increase its strength, because it is a soft metal.
  • Determine the Style
    Style will be determined by the personality of the recipient, the shape of the stone, and the type of metal.
    A person who is conservative and desires a classy look may want a traditional setting. However, a person who is artistic, stylish, or values uniqueness may want a custom design. A jeweler can instruct an individual with settings depending upon the diamond chosen.
  • Select the Number of Prongs
    The jeweler will select the number of prongs based upon the shape and size. Each ring shape has a minimum number of prongs that is recommended to hold the stone in place. For example, a round brilliant requires a minimum of a four pronged setting, while a pear shape requires six prongs.

Popular Engagement Ring Styles

Round Brilliant Cut
Round Brilliant’s shape is apparent by its name, round. The diamond requires at the minimum a four pronged setting. This is the most popular style and is often presented as a solitaire engagement ring.

Experts recommend purchasing a round brilliant diamond with at least the following qualifications:

Good Cut
G
– Colour Rating
SI2 - Clarity
57-65 percent - Depth Percentage
51-64 percent - Table

Pear Cut
The pear cut engagement ring resembles a pear or a teardrop. The pear shape requires a six prong setting with a special prong to protect the point. The pear shape is known for its incredible brilliance and sparkle. The diamond cut is sophisticated and classy. It is can also create an elongated appearance of the finger if the point is facing the nail.

Experts recommend purchasing a pear shaped diamond with at least the following qualifications:

Good Cut
G - Colour Rating
SI2 - Clarity
56-70 percent - Depth Percentage
53-62 percent - Table
1.70:1 - 1.45:1 - Length/Width Ratio

Princess Cut
Princess cut diamond is square shaped. A four pronged setting is the minimum requirement for the setting.
Experts recommend purchasing a princess cut engagement ring with at least the following qualifications:

Very Good Cut
G - Colour Rating
VS2 - Clarity
58 -77 percent - Depth Percentage
58 – 77 percent - Table

Emerald Cut
The Emerald Cut is rectangular in shape. The diamond requires at the minimum a four pronged setting. Flaws, poor cut, and colour choice are noticeable and evident in the emerald cut engagement ring. Therefore, it is important to select the highest quality emerald cut diamond that is within the budget.

Experts recommend the following minimum qualifications for an emerald cut diamond:

Good Cut
G – Colour Rating
VS2 - Clarity
58-69 percent - Depth Percentage
58-69 percent - Table

Radiant Cut
The radiant cut is designed to maximize the brilliance and approach the sparkle factor of the round brilliant. Other square or rectangular cuts do not compare to the brilliance factor of the radiant cut. The radiant cut requires a minimum of four pronged setting.

Experts recommend at least the minimum requirements to obtain a high quality radiant cut engagement ring.

Very Good Cut
G – Colour Rating
VS2 - Clarity
58-69 percent - Depth Percentage
58-69 percent – Table

Who makes diamonds?

  • Tacori Engagement Rings
    Tacori is a provider of polished and cut engagement rings. A tacori engagement ring is available in 1 carat and 2 carat engagement rings, as well as titanium engagement rings.
  • DeBeers
    The DeBeers Company held the title of the world’s largest mining company in the world until 1999. Forty percent of the world’s diamonds are produced by DeBeers.
  • Alrosa
    Alrosa is a popular Russian mining company.
  • BHP Billiton
    BHP Billiton is also a mining company that has a large presence in the world.

Major diamond cutting centres can be found in New York, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, and Tel Aviv.

Our Advice

Many of the engagement rings listed in this guide are for consumers who are on a limited budget or who would like to buy a ring cheaper in the UK. Because the rings are more economical, some may not meet the minimum requirements of quality as recommended by the experts.

For instance, a 1 carat engagement ring with a round cut diamond is listed. The stone possesses H colour, SI2 clarity, and a 18 carat white gold engagement ring setting. The recommended minimum for this type of stone is G color and SI2 clarity. While it meets the clarity requirements, the colour requirements are not met. The diamond may still be a quality diamond for the price, which is 3,395 pounds.

However, be certain to check the other requirements such as Depth percentage and Table width to estimate its brilliance and fire. Quality should not be sacrificed to meet a budget. In some instances, to achieve the desired response when opening the engagement ring box, it is recommended to spend more to obtain an engagement ring with a higher clarity rating.

Jargon Explained

BlemishBlemishes are external flaws. External flaws may include grain boundaries, polish lines, naturals, nicks, scratches, pits, and chips.
BrillianceInternal brilliance is measured by the stone’s refractive index or ability to reflect light to viewer. The higher the refractive index the higher the value and sparkle will be. External brilliance is determined by the diamond’s ability to reflect light from its surface is known as its lustre factor. Scintillation brilliance refers to the light dispersing factor will be evident to the viewer by the diamonds ability to disperse white light with its internal facets into varying colors of the spectrum.
CaratCarat refers to the weight of the stone.
ClarityClarity grading is determined by the number, colour, size, and location of the inclusion. The system ranges from Flawless (FL) to Included (I3). High clarity diamonds have little to no inclusions.
ColourA diamond in its purest form is completely transparent and contains no colour. The ratings of colour range from D to Z, where D represents a colourless diamond and Z represents a yellow diamond.
CutCut refers to the symmetry, polish, and proportioning of the diamond. The cut rating system includes the following descriptive words: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
FireThe display of spectral colours is referred to as fire and is measured on a scale of B to G. Fire is determined by the height and angle of the cut of the crown of the diamond.
InclusionInclusions or internal characteristics of a diamond can refer to a number of flaws within a diamond such as clouds, feathers, crystals, knots, cavities, cleavage, bearding, or graining. Inclusions can affect the diamond’s ability to refract light and thus decrease its lustre or sparkle. 

Buying Guide to Engagement Rings
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