Recently, I asked a groom-to-be about how he felt about the diamond and engagement ring hunt. His intial response was two words: "A headache." After a bout of laughter and shaking his head, he continued to talk with candor, giving advice to the fellas, "But if you are gonna search, understand women don't really know what they want, and in actuality they really don't care about some of the details. They care about the fact that you are taking that step."
That was a great note on which to start our segment today. Women care that you desire to take that next step with them! Still, how do we help alleviate some of the "headache" that accompanies the ring-finding expedition for so many? Here's our what, how, and where of the treasure hunt with focus on value + affordability. Make sure to catch the end to know where to start your search - it's not the mall!
Credit: Gemological Institute of America
Here the quick-and-dirty on something you may have heard about - the 4Cs of diamonds. The world's foremost authority on diamond ed - the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) - coined the phrase "the 4Cs," which represent Carats, Color, Clarity, and the ever-critical Cut. A combination of these facets (along with the metal chosen) will determine the price of the ring.
1) Carats are the standard for measuring the weight of a diamond - bigger the diamond, typically the higher the price tag. Don't get caught up too much in the stone size, a diamond that may be just under a carat can look bigger pending on the cut and the quality of the stone itself is enhanced beyond size when other indicators of stone quality are in play...
2) Color. Unless you are clearing purchasing a canary yellow or a rose diamond - or some other color-identifiable stone, the term "color" means the absence of color. The less yellow, the higher the quality of the stone. Good news! The slight color variance is not generally visible to the naked eye, especially when buying stones from jewelers focused on delivering quality for price.
3) Clarity tells you have clear a diamond is with the emphasis on the amount of imperfections, commonly known as "inclusions" and (outer) "blemishes." A well-cut stone will be smooth outside, but many diamonds are "included." The less inclusions, the higher the value and cost to you.
Credit: Isbell Jewelers
4) We've come to the final C: Cut. Most people mistakenly think the cut refers to the shape into which the diamond is "cut," but it really refers to the overall layout and proportion. The great indicator of a stellar cut is how much light enters the diamond. A great cut delivers that "bling" effect and brilliance that really makes eyes widen. Don't overlook the least understood of the 4Cs: it's the workmanship that makes the ring sing.
Credit: Isbell Jewelers
Where to Go Treasure Hunting & Buy Below Retail
Advice from my hubby? "Never pay retail!" Try these online spots for great gems at pricing that won't cause you to miss your mortgage payment: Apples of Gold (40% off retail, the site features a satisfaction guarantee) and Amazon. Make sure to read up on guarantees as these sites have customer return policies. Also, look into your city's best pawn shops - for real! Many times, these places have antique rings (vintage is all the rage right now) and tremendous finds on some really great sets! You typically can get bigger stone size and value at these spots for a substantially lower price since it's the goal to move inventory ASAP.
TIP: If you can't bring along one with a trained eye for diamonds, grab a professional eye loupe to take with you to the non-run-of-the-mill diamond storefront or to use on the diamond you order. Eye loupes are scopes for checking diamond quality, and they're literally a couple of bucks. These are helpful for seeing the inclusions and testing absence of color.
Image: Eye Loupe
TIP #2: Protect that Bling!
Too often, our valuable possessions become lost or stolen. Check with your home/renter's insurance agency to find out how loss of your purchase may be covered within your policy. Consider other proactive measures, such as appraisal and diamond laser inscription.
Feel free to deliver any other 411 you feel will be helpful for those on the diamond hunt out there. Remember: It's not about finding the most expensive ring; it's about the two of you being the best for each other as you resolve to "take that next step."
Until next time... happy hunting + planning!
P.S. For inquiring minds, here are the most common diamond shapes...
Credit: Deliver Me Diamonds