Put a ring on it

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

When a man pops the question, it’s usually accompanied by that classic token of eternal love: the diamond ring. While couples these days often choose the ring together (eliminating guesswork for the groom), there is more to choosing a diamond than its outward appearance – or a salesperson’s pitch.

When choosing the ring of a lifetime, there is a lot to learn. A place to start is with the four C’s: color, clarity, cut and carat.


Brides-to-be sometimes break with tradition by choosing colored diamonds (pink, lemon and blue-tinted diamonds have been in vogue for a few years), but for most brides, the colorless diamond is still the first choice, with a white gold or platinum band.

Some brides opt for other gems. Princess Diana wore a 16-carat deep blue sapphire, which was then passed down to Kate Middleton, who married Prince William last year. Diana’s successor, Camilla Parker-Bowles, accepted an emerald from Bonnie Prince Charlie.


Clarity is determined by the size and number of a diamond’s inclusions, which interfere with the transmission of light and diminish a stone’s beauty and value.

Here’s where your homework comes in. Because different grading agencies can offer different assessments on the condition and value of a precious stone, wise consumers should take their time, learn as much as they can before shopping, deal only with a reputable jeweler, and be wary of online bargains. Remember, just because it’s a diamond doesn’t mean it’s a gem.


As the name suggests, the brilliant-cut round diamond has the most brilliance and fire; no wonder it is the most popular diamond shape. Following in popularity are the princess, radiant and cushion cuts (in the square/rectangular family) and ovals. These so-called “fancy” cuts maximize carat weight; for example, a rough diamond that might yield only a half carat in a brilliant cut might yield an extra 50 percent if cut into a pear or marquise shape. Pear and marquise-cut diamonds are enjoying a slight resurgence after peaking in popularity during the 1990s.


Carat refers to the measurement of a diamond’s weight, not its size. The most popular sizes for engagement are in the range of a quarter-carat to one carat in weight, so a stone doesn’t have to be large. Unless you spend a small fortune, a large stone could have numerous flaws, a lack of sparkle and other devaluing characteristics. As always, choose carefully and consult a respected jeweler.


And how about the fifth C – cost? The standard rule often cited by jewelers is that a man should spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring. The two-months rule originated with an ad campaign by DeBeers, which created the first contemporary diamond engagement rings.

There’s no need to sell the family farm to buy a ring. To which grooms everywhere will reply, “Whew!”


Settings used to be more important

The diamond engagement ring may have originated in the Middle Ages, but the stone itself was secondary to the ornate settings, which were rich with ornamentation and romantic symbols.

In the 17th century, the gemstone itself became the focus of attention, and the 18th century ushered in the great age of the diamond. At that time, newly discovered deposits in Brazil and improved cutting techniques created gems with exceptional fire and sparkle.

The Romanticism of the early 19th century was inspired by the young Queen Victoria, whose passion for her beloved Prince Albert was the love story of the era. Before their marriage, Albert gave her an enamel band set with a single diamond, and trend watchers soon followed suit.

According to DeBeers, popular betrothal rings included symbols like hearts, joined hands and love knots. As 19th-century prosperity grew, the diamond became even more of a focal point, and modern traditions were born: the half-hoop of diamonds, the three-stone diamond ring, and the “gypsy” setting, in which the diamonds are set into the band.

The next great age of the diamond came with the discovery of new and rich mineral deposits in South Africa.

The diamond engagement ring became an important status symbol, most often with a single large stone in a classic open-pronged setting, which shows off the stone in all its dazzle and brilliance.


blog comments powered by Disqus