What You Need to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring

Searching for the perfect diamond is as easy as A, B, C-C-C-C.

What You Need to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring

Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis, Shanti DuPrez, Vue Photography, Jared Platt, KT Merry

Selecting the perfect engagement ring setting is exciting. And when you find the perfect diamond for it… well, that can be as delightful as the first kiss the two of you shared (almost). But for many, finding the right diamond is a bit mystifying. With a little knowledge about how to find the perfect diamond, selecting the right stone can be just as thrilling.

Most people are familiar with the 4Cs (carat, color, clarity, and cut), but do you really understand what they mean, or know which feature is most important? Some believe it is size, others think it is color.

With our quick guide to understanding each feature, you’ll be able to choose the right stone for you – and when you find it, confidently declare, “That’s my diamond!”

Tolkowsky Wedding Ring Bridal Set
Tolkowsky® bridal set, available at Kay.com

Let’s start with carat, more commonly know as size – our first C. Diamonds are measured in terms of carats (not to be confused with karat, as in gold); there are 100 points in 1.00 carat. When you see a diamond listed as .75, that is a stone that is three quarters of a carat. A 1.25-carat diamond is a one and one-quarter carat stone. You get the idea. The more carats or points listed with a stone, the bigger the diamond. But before you decide to select a diamond based solely on size, keep in mind that bigger is not always better when it comes to diamonds. Nor is the value of a stone based only on size – that is why a smaller diamond can be more expensive than a larger one. Remember to take into account the other features of a diamond, so you get the quality and look you want.

… the second C. Diamonds come in all colors – from white to blue and everything in between. Although many colors such as yellow and brown are becoming trendy, the most popular diamond color is still white. That will never go out of style. The classic white diamond is graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light color). The closer the diamond grade is to D, the more expensive the stone. Colorless grades range from D to F and are exquisite. The next tier of color, G to J, are in the near-colorless range. In fact, once set in a ring, these diamonds can look just as gorgeous as their colorless counterparts – and for less cost.
Engagement Ring Diamond Color Guide

Clarity, the third C, refers to the visual appearance of the stone. Clarity grades range from IF (internally flawless) to I3 and refer to the degree in which these imperfections are present in the stone. Imperfections found within the diamond are called inclusions; those located on the surface are called blemishes. The more inclusions there are in the stone, the less brilliance the stone will have. Similar to color grade scales, the closer to a clarity grade of IF (the top of the scale), the higher the quality (and price) of the diamond. Grades in the VS to SI1 grades have more inclusions than IF or VVS, but they are usually hidden to the naked eye and a 10X powered microscope is needed to see them. Meaning, if you select a stone in the VS to SI1 range, you can buy an amazing stone for a better value.
Engagement Ring Diamond Clarity Guide

Ah, the final C. Although the last characteristic listed for diamond quality, cut is definitely one of the most important. Cut is the reason for a diamond’s sparkle – and why people can’t take their eyes off of your ring. The cut of the diamond should not be confused with shape – these are two different things. A stone’s shape – such as round, oval, or emerald – is indeed necessary to consider when choosing a diamond, but this important C has to do with the proportion, polish, and symmetry of the diamond. According to Jean Paul Tolkowsky, a seventh-generation master stone cutter from the family that invented the brilliant-cut diamond, he believes only through an ideal cut will a diamond reveal its true beauty through very high light return. This means that the light that reflects from a well-cut diamond is what gives a ring that fire and brilliance every time you move your hand.

Now that you know a little more about diamonds and the features of a diamond, the most essential piece of advice is to talk to your jeweler about which characteristics are most important to you. There is a lot to consider and learn about diamonds, it’s true. But there is also a little magic in the search, too. With this information and a little guidance, you will not only have a diamond that you will cherish forever, but a cherished memory to go along with it.