(Published in The Observer on Sunday, 5 February, 2012)
Love is in the air and St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Research shows that Valentine’s Day is still the most popular day to propose on. But, while how you propose requires careful consideration, so too does the all important ring.
A diamond ring is likely to be one of the most expensive and hopefully long-lasting gifts you will ever buy. But how do you go about choosing one? With prices varying from anywhere from a thousand dollars to mind boggling blow the budget price tags, finding a rock to suit your sweetheart’s finger can be somewhat of a minefield.
Chris Kirkconnell, vice president of operations at Kirk Freeport, suggests giving yourself plenty of time to do your homework first.
“What I mean by homework is to know what she wants. It’s impossible to learn everything you need to know about diamonds if you don’t work with them every day, so find an expert retailer that can help take the guess work out of it,” he said.
“Everyone has their own preference, if you have an unlimited budget then you can have it all – best cut, best colour, best clarity and a big carat. Unfortunately we all have budgets and have to decide what is best and most important for each of us.
“You hear a lot that size doesn’t matter, of course that rarely pertains to diamonds, so most of the time we end up deciding on an ideal size range, and work backwards to find the best combination for a budget without completely sacrificing quality,” he said. “There’s no magic combination that gives the best value. The most important thing is to pick a retailer that you trust, with a good reputation and then to see the stone yourself.”
A basic understanding of what to look for in a diamond will give you a good basis to go shopping. So, sit up and pay attention. This is one thing you won’t want to get wrong.
If you’ve decided to pop the question and spend the rest of your life with your special lady, hopefully you have some idea as to her personal style. Take a cue from the jewellery she already owns. Does she favour yellow gold, or white gold? Is her style simple and elegant, fashionable or vintage? Does she sway to larger pieces or smaller, more discreet items? If you are not sure ask close female friends and family for their advice, so you have at least some idea of style in mind before you head out.
Next, know your budget. Obviously how much you spend is a personal matter, but the traditional rule of thumb is one to two month’s salary. However, in these tough economic times, this can be a stretch. Spend what you can afford, but consider this ring will be on show of your beloved’s finger for the rest of her life. So, don’t scrimp!
The quality of the cut of the diamond is one of the most important things. A badly cut diamond will compromise its sparkle. It is how the 57 or 58 facets – the tiny planes cut on the diamond’s surface – are angled and sized that dictate how light reflects and exits the diamond, an effect known as its “fire”. Make the cuts too deep or too shallow and the diamond will be less brilliant. One of the most popular types of diamonds for engagement rings is the round cut, followed closely by the princess. Other cuts include the emerald, pear, marquise, oval and heart shape.
The diamond’s colour actually means its transparency or lack of colour. The most valuable diamonds have the least amount of colour. A diamond’s colour rating begins with the highest grade of a letter “D,” which is a colourless diamond and continues to Z. Diamonds below a J rating will begin to show a hint of yellow. Most people start to see a colour difference in the I to J range. Keep in mind that colour will become more obvious as the carat size grows. The colour of the band can also enhance the colour. The cut of the diamond also will determine the colour grades you can opt for. A round cut diamond will allow a bit more flexibility in colour because the brilliance of this cut hides the colour.
The clarity refers to the number of inclusions, or flaws, on the diamond. Most are usually invisible to the naked eye. Buying either a “very, very slightly included” (VVSI) or “very slightly included” (VSI) diamond will cost less, and many of them look just as pretty. While inclusions can affect the diamond’s sparkle, they also make the diamond unique.
Now to the most important decision, the carat, or size of the diamond. A carat is equal to 0.2gm or 200mgm. Obviously you want to buy a suitably sized diamond to impress with, but don’t let this compromise the other C’s. A one carat diamond may be on budget, but it may be poorly cut or show a hint of yellow in its colour. Opt for a smaller carat diamond at the same price point and you will be rewarded with a better diamond that has a far more beautiful and impressive sparkle.