Buying a piece of forever
Buying a great diamond needn't be a difficult
process. All you need to do is learn a few facts and follow a few simple tips.
The tradition of buying a diamond engagement ring is not
new--it dates back more than 500 years. In 1477, Austria's Archduke Maximilian began the
trend by presenting a simple diamond ring to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy. He was
instructed by his advisors to give her a gold ring set with a diamond to be worn on the
third finger of her left hand--the finger believed by the ancient Egyptians to contain a
"love vein" that coursed directly to her heart. It must have worked: Mary of
Burgundy became his wife and thus began the most romantic tradition the world has ever
For couples maintaining that tradition today, the road is
decidedly smoother than it was five centuries ago. There are many more diamonds available
on the market, and due to technological advances, they are more expertly cut than ever
before. Finally, today's selection of diamonds and diamond rings is broad enough to
satisfy every taste level and budget. There are, however, some guidelines to purchasing a
diamond that can help first-time buyers.
First, say the experts, determine your budget and how much you want to spend. Express the
number in a range rather than a fixed numeral. Of course, how much to spend on any gift is
a personal matter, most often determined by the purchaser's income. According to De Beers,
the world's largest source of rough and polished diamonds, two months' salary is an
appropriate amount to spend on a diamond engagement ring. Surveys indicate men agree this
is a good guideline, but remember, it is a suggestion only, the final decision rests with
Next, have a basic idea of what she'd like. If you are shopping together, it will be easy,
but if the diamond is intended as a surprise, it may take a bit of research. Has she
admired a particular shape of diamond or style of ring from one of her friends? What is
her personal style? Does she opt for classic clothing designs in traditional cuts? Maybe
she would prefer a classical design, such as a round brilliant diamond in a prong setting.
Does she wear designer clothing or trendy styles? She may like a ring with a fancy-cut
stone or a design where the center stone is embellished with smaller side stones. Ask a
trusted friend or relative for advice and pay close attention to her reaction to other
women's engagement rings.
Know the Cs
When you're ready to shop, review the "Four Cs."
Briefly, these refer to the diamond's cut (the number and placement of facets, their
polish and symmetry); the diamond's clarity (the number of inclusions, or natural
markings, that may or may not affect its beauty); its color (in the case of white
diamonds, the absence of color that allows the stone to reflect and refract light); and
finally the stone's weight, expressed in carats. All of these characteristics are
important for gauging the quality of a diamond, but it may be helpful to decide which
factor is most important and which is least important to help guide your buying process.
Who's the Man?
Always buy diamonds and diamond jewelry from a reputable source. You wouldn't buy a car
from a guy on the street without knowing something about the car and the person selling
it. How can you buy a diamond that way? Shop around and don't be afraid to ask questions
about qualities, prices, return policies and guarantees. Furthermore, don't be afraid to
ask for a certificate with your purchase. Diamond certificates are issued by the
Gemological Institute of America as well as a number of qualified laboratories around the
world. They evaluate your diamond on the basis of size, clarity, color and finish and
illustrate all the identifying characteristics of your stone.
Just the Facts
Become familiar with basic diamond shapes and settings, including the following:
Bezel setting--A diamond is completely surrounded by precious metal, which is formed into
a picture frame around the stone.
Channel setting--A setting technique that uses two strips of metal to hold the stones at
the sides. Most channel settings resemble a railroad track with the diamonds in the
Fancy cut--A diamond in any shape other than round,
including pear, oval, emerald, triangle, princess and marquise.
Prong setting--Any type of setting where the diamond is
held in place using long, slender prongs of metal, the number and placement of the prongs
determined by the stone's shape. Most popular for round brilliant diamonds are four-prong
or six-prong settings, the latter also known as a "Tiffany" setting.
Solitaire--The mounting of a single gemstone.
Finally, when buying a diamond or diamond jewelry, a good rule of thumb is to go for the
best quality you can afford at your price level. With proper care, this diamond will last
forever; therefore its quality should be your highest concern.