Now that you've found your soulmate, here comes the start of serious wedding business: buying an engagement ring. Choosing the right symbol of your love can often be a baffling process for both bride and groom, but armed with the right information, shopping for that perfect rock can be painless and even enjoyable. From the style, the size and the shape, we break down all you need to know about picking a swoon-worthy diamond ring.
THE FOUR Cs
Before you start ring shopping, familiarising yourself with the four Cs (clarity, cut, carat, colour) of a diamond ring is crucial – it’s what jewellers all over the world refer to when determining a diamond’s quality. Consider these equally when picking out a diamond.
The most important of the four Cs is the cut, as it determines how much the diamond will sparkle. Cut refers to the reflective quality of the diamond, and not its shape. If it's cut properly, it’ll reflect light up through the centre of the stone and have an amazing sparkle. The most common shape (with the most sparkle) is the round cut. Others include the emerald, the pear, the oval, the heart and the marquise.
When you’re out ring shopping, you’ll likely be looking through the jeweller’s loupe (a magnifying eyeglass). You’ll probably notice tiny natural marks called inclusions, also known as blemishes. These, along with their size and location, affect a diamond’s clarity grade – the fewer the inclusions, the more valuable the diamond. Personally, we wouldn’t worry too much about them as many can’t be seen with the naked eye. The clarity grade scale ranges from I1 to 13 (the worst) where there are inclusions visible to the eye, to the better (and common) ones of the VS series, and the best: flawless diamonds, with absolutely no blemishes.
Simply put, the carat denotes the weight of the diamond and not the actual “size”. 1 carat weighs about 0.2 gram. Each carat can be divided into 100 points; a diamond below one carat may be described by its points – for example, a diamond of 0.25 carats may also be known as a twenty-five pointer. The average size of a diamond ring is usually half a carat or one carat.
The most important thing to remember about this is that the closer a diamond is to being colourless, the more valuable it is. The colour scale ranges from D (the most colourless) to Z (light yellow) – the further down the alphabet the diamond falls under, the more yellow tinge it has.
Now that you’ve got the stone sorted, pair it with the right setting to best enhance your diamond. The setting in your ring will not only influence your ring's design but also its security.
This is the most common type of setting, and has three to six 'claws' to hold the stone firmly in a metal 'head' or 'basket'. It makes for the most light exposure from all angles, allows easy cleaning of the stone and holds fragile gems securely. Its drawback is that it can snag on clothing and other materials; a lower prong setting will thus be more practical for women with active lifestyles.
Named after the tension of the metal band that secures the diamond in place, the effect of the setting is a seemingly floating stone. This allows a lot of light into the diamond, but also makes it difficult to resize.
Instead of holding the diamond with prongs, this setting surrounds the perimeter of the stone with a thin custom-made metal rim to secure it into place. It’s a great choice for active wearers, and the metal can be moulded to fit any stone shape snugly.
If you love the look of smaller diamonds on the perimeter of your ring, consider a channel setting – it sandwiches a row of stones into the band of the ring. As there are no prongs, this is a great option for a secure design.
This setting fits three or more rows of several small stones into holes that are level with the surface of the ring. The surrounding metal is raised to form beads to secure them. This gives the illusion of more and bigger diamonds (plus it makes the center stone pop!) but is not recommended for fragile gems.
The "halo" setting refers to the placement of diamonds or other gemstones in a circle or square around a center stone. If you're not splashing major cash on the engagement ring, it's a great way to save money on a smaller-carat center diamond, as this will make it appear larger and more sparkly.
Similar to channel settings, a bar setting leaves the diamond exposed on two sides (instead of all). Thin vertical bars of metal hold the stones in place. While this protects the sides of the stone’s girdle, the uneven edges of some designs may cause some discomfort to the wearer.
Also known as the gypsy, this setting features the stone set into a drilled hole in the ring, so it doesn't protrude from the band. The metal around the stone is then hammered around the stone’s perimeter so it doesn't fall out. This setting is best for wedding bands, as this firmly secures a stone and protects its girdle from chipping.