For most couples, their engagement ring is often the first significant diamond either has purchased. Increasingly, it’s a process the couple will undertake together, as guys recognise the importance of selecting a ring their bride-to-be will cherish forever. And beneath the glimmering lights of the jewellery store, with row upon row of stones, it’s often an overwhelming process. What size, what style, what colour, what price? These are all questions to consider before purchasing your ring. To help you wade through the process with ease, we’ve compiled the beginners’ guide to diamonds. Ladies, here’s a guide to leave strategically lying around the house.
First and foremost, you need to establish a budget. Although it’s hardly romantic, talking about what you can reasonably afford will determine the highest quality diamond you can buy. Men in particular should have a very clear notion about what they can afford to spend. Once that has been established, you work backwards from there in terms of maximising the quality of diamond you can afford. For couples on a tight budget, this might mean compromising on colour or opting for a lower carat with a better cut. Some prefer to go all out for the highest possible quality in a smaller size while others like to go bug and never mind the colour and inclusions. In a diamond, you’re getting what you pay for.
The style set
After setting a budget, talk about what style of ring you’re after, including the cut of the diamond and the colour of the band. Choosing an engagement ring is one of the biggest and most sentimental purchases you will make. Take the time to research and educate yourself about the 4Cs (cut, colour, carat, clarity).’’
Cutting the grade
The cut directly affects the diamond’s beauty. When cutting a diamond, each facet’s proportion is carefully sculpted to ensure that every surface and angle is perfect. The diamond’s cut affects its sparkle, professionally termed scintillation and dispersion. This refers to the way light interacts and scatters over the surface. A small but well-cut diamond can be worth more than a larger rock with a poorer cut. The purity and fire of a diamond is reflected in the cut. If you get a well-cut diamond, its brilliance is assured.
Carat refers to a diamond’s weight (one carat is equivalent to 0.200 grams). While we all love the idea of a huge rock, the weight of a diamond doesn’t necessarily impact upon a diamond’s overall worth, however. Instead, it may be important to consider cut and other aspects to ensure you get a top-quality rock.
Clarity is generally considered the least noticeable factor of the 4Cs, and is one area where couples on a budget may be willing to compromise. Clarity refers to the number of imperfections within a stone. The most valuable diamonds are those with the least imperfections. Jewellers use the term ‘included’ to describe imperfections. Diamonds are graded from flawless (FL) to imperfect with visible inclusions (I3). Most inclusions are not visible, and completely flawless diamonds are exceedingly rare. A very, very slightly included diamond will still look perfect to the naked eye.
It is actually the lack of colour that characterises a quality diamond. In a diamond, colour is the result of internal flaws. Therefore, a near-perfect diamond will be completely clear, while a diamond with a great number of flaws will have a faint yellow tinge. Most colours and flaws are imperceptible, but can greatly affect a diamond’s value. Colours range from D (colourless) to Z (light colour). D, E, and F are considered colourless, G to J near colourless. A diamond will not be any less brilliant due to its colour.
The symmetry of a diamond is determined by how precisely a stone has been cut so that all the facets align. Symmetry also affects brilliance. Symmetry gradients range from excellent (flawlessly cut and finished) to very poor. Factors that can negatively affect symmetry include and off-centre culet or table (the top centre surface), misshapen facets, a misaligned crown and pavilion (the top and bottom halves), and a wavy girdle (the line where the crown and pavilion meet). You should see noticeable defects only in fair or poorly graded diamonds, so it’s not necessary to dish out on a stone above very good.
Polish is the degree of smoothness on each facet of a diamond. The desired look is a mirrored finish. Well-polished diamonds possess fewer defects than poorly polished ones. Depending on the severity of the defects, polish can affect the way light interacts on the surface of the stone. If a diamond has a polish grading of poor it means that you can see the direction the stone was cut on the faceting machine. This is something you definitely want to avoid. So with all this to consider, what is the one pearl of wisdom to remember? An aspect that often gets ignored is the impact of the cut and proportions of a diamond and the effect this can have on the brilliance.