Complete Guide to Engagement Rings: v2.0

1 in every 10 proposals happens on Valentine’s Day. This is a really good time for the soon-to-be-hitched gentleman to brush up on his engagement ring knowledge. Remember, she’s the one who’s supposed to have butterflies over the ring… not you. Become an educated buyer and your job suddenly gets a whole lot easier.

Be sure to read the important buyer note at the end

Getting technical

What’s the most important part of the engagement ring? Arguably, it’s the diamond. There are several important steps to choosing the right diamond, but we’ll stick with the essentials, known as the 4 C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight. Each of these measures an aspect of a diamond’s quality and characteristics.

What do you consider most important about the diamond you will buy? Rank them in priority and that will help to narrow your choices and get you the best for your money.

GIA 4 C's Brochure - CUT

  1. Cut

    Some experts say that a diamond’s cut is the most critical part of its quality. Diamond cutters – good ones – have to complete many years of apprenticeship, and their skill affects how the stone reflects light and color. Even a diamond of incredible value will not look great if it’s cut poorly.

    When you’ve chosen the shape of your diamond – whether round, princess, or fancy cut – remember that the precision of the cut makes it more or less valuable. If cut is very important to you, ask to see those with the best cutting grades. You’ll be looking for those with the most exact symmetry and best proportions.

  2. Color

    GIA 4 C's Brochure - COLORA completely flawless diamond is composed of pure carbon and completely colorless. But because truly flawless diamonds are astronomically rare, those considered to be gem-quality are graded on a color spectrum.

    A “D” in school may be next to a failing grade – but for diamonds, it represents perfection. Every letter after that, and the amount of visible color increases. This chart shows the groups ranging from “Colorless” to “Near Colorless” and so on. The further into the alphabet, the more likely you’ll notice the diamond’s natural yellow/brownish tinge with the naked eye.

    It’s typical to see fine jewelry made with diamonds graded in the G – I range of color. If excellent color is high on your list, eliminate diamonds graded lower than this – but be aware, that this will significantly increase your diamond’s value. Many buyers find themselves choosing Color at the expense of the next C:

  3. Clarity
    GIA 4 C's Brochure - CLARITY

    Clarity measures the internal & external perfection of a gemstone. In combination with its cut, this is the factor that most affects a diamond’s brilliance. Simply put, a clearer diamond is a brighter diamond.

    Since completely flawless gems are so very rare, most diamonds on the market contain small impurities or unique characteristics that develop during its formation. These can take the form of tiny marks (called inclusions) visible from one or more angles, cloudiness, rippling or blurriness. These are acceptable – as long as they do not distract from the diamond’s natural beauty.

    The chart on the right shows the grades of Clarity, ranging from “Flawless” to “Included.” A typical grade for a gem-quality engagement diamond is between SI (“Slightly Included”) and VS (Very Slightly Included). For buyers most particular about the rare brilliance and purity of the diamond, then a VVS (“Very Very Slightly Included”) represents the closest to a flawless diamond available on the open market.

    Every diamond is a unique individual, an artwork formed by nature. By examining and comparing several diamonds, you can choose the one-of-a-kind brilliance that most appeals to you.

  4. GIA 4 C's Brochure - CARAT

  5. Carat weight

    This is probably the easiest of the 4 C’s to figure out. How big of a diamond do you want?

    Once you have determined the quality & characteristics of the diamond you want, you will find that the price point varies most significantly across the size spectrum. That’s because a diamond’s value increases exponentially according to its size.

    Remember, a one-carat diamond isn’t 10 times rarer than a .10 carat just because it’s 10 times bigger; in fact it’s many thousands of times rarer. An estimated 250 tons of diamond-containing earth has to be mined to obtain a 1 carat gem-quality diamond. It’s this rarity that makes the diamond such a powerful symbol of timeless love.

    There’s no hard fast rule about the average size of an engagement diamond. Presently, 1 – 2 carats is the most desirable size. You can weigh your choices along with the setting style of the ring. A ring with a smaller center diamond surrounded by accent diamonds can have a larger total carat weight; if it’s a solitaire, you may opt for a single larger stone.

Important Note:

According to whom?

The most important thing is that you’re pleased with the way the diamond looks. If you love it, and she loves it, that’s the ultimate success.

However, if you’re depending heavily on the technical specs & numbers as your guide, you need to consider this:

There are a number of professional organizations that issue diamond grading reports. That means there are different standards for judging diamond quality. One company’s “VS1” may be another’s “SI1,” and a report may give a higher grade for a color that might not get a passing grade from another company. So, these grades will vary in the actual market.

For the most reliable standard, we recommend choosing a diamond graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). They’re widely recognized as the world’s highest and strictest standard for diamond grading. An “E” color diamond will be the whitest “E” around, and a VS1 will have the best clarity compared to other diamonds in the VS1 ranking. GIA grades are the nearest to an absolute standard in diamonds, so you can feel sure that you’ll be getting the absolute best for the criteria you choose.

So good luck – happy hunting & best wishes from the staff of Faye’s!

See also: Engagement Jewelry Guide – For Guys

GIA’s official “4 C’s” diamond grading chart. Click the image for full-size view.
GIA 4 C's Brochure