The most common of engagement traditions is the groom presenting the bride to be with an engagement ring. Most commonly, the engagement ring is a diamond ring. While diamonds are the preferred precious stones, diamonds are not the only gems used in engagement rings.
The most important reason diamond rings are so popular is because they are the most expensive of gems; therefore, considered the most precious. The diamond jewelry retail market is a $30 billion market with over $5 billion of it spent on engagement rings in America.
To the untrained eye, most diamonds look equally beautiful. Most people evaluate diamonds based on its size, shape, and price. A lower price typically means lower gem quality, not necessarily a bargain.
Estimating diamond quality requires skill and experience. It requires grading a ring based on a combination of characteristics such as cut, clarity, color and carat weight. Such characteristics are called the “4 Cs”. A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. One carat is one fifth of a gram. Generally diamonds range from 0.25 up to several carats. The largest cut diamond in the world is 530.20 carats. Sorry, it is not fore sale. It is called the Cullinan and kept in the Tower of London. The Cullinan is set in the sceptre of King Edward VII.
In addition to considering weight when valuing a diamond, color is an important factor. Colorless diamonds are rarest and they are the most expensive. Diamonds with a hint of yellow are considered less pure, and they are less expensive. Diamond colors are coded from D to Z. A through D grade diamonds are the most expensive and Z are the least expensive. Diamonds graded D-F are considered colorless and they are the most expensive. Reputable jewelry stores, usually, do not sell K thru Z grade diamonds.
The most valuable color grades:
A – D: Absolutely colorless. The highest color grade, which is extremely extraordinary.
E: Colorless. An expert, still considered a rare diamond, can detect only minute traces of color.
F: Colorless. Slight color detected by an expert gemologist, but still considered a “colorless” grade and a high-quality diamond.
Another important factor determining the price of a diamond is its cut. As any of the other characteristics cut is equally difficult to judge for the untrained eye. The grading certificate that normally comes with the diamond will provide you a good idea. Independent testing institutions, such as the GIA, provide certificates with a diamond’s grading from excellent to poor. Naturally, a certified diamond means a larger price tag.
In simple terms, the clarity of a diamond refers to its purity. Most diamonds have minuscule imperfections called “inclusions”. A flawless (no inclusions) diamond is extremely rare and valuable. At the same time, diamonds riddled with inclusions are less expensive. Clarity is graded from “flawless” (FL) to “imperfect” (I1 to I2). Most diamonds fall between those with very, very small inclusions (VVS1) to rocks with slightly larger inclusions (S1). If you can compromise on clarity, you are going to be able to save. To verify a diamond’s clarity, examine the laboratory certificate.
If money is tight but you must have a diamond ring, stay away from the big name jewelry stores. Brand name more often than not comes with a larger price tag. Buying wholesale may be a viable option. As a rule, the wholesaler’s core business is selling diamonds to retailers, but they also sell to the public. Because they do not advertise in the same venues as retail jewelry stores, you have to seek them out. It is easier to find wholesalers than you think since many of them are listed as diamond merchants in the phone book.