How To Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring—Part I

Information About Diamond Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight

Diamond engagement ring

So, you are ready to buy a diamond engagement ring. Seems like a fairly straight forward deal. Here's the plan: Withdraw all your cash from the ATM, bring your checkbook, or your brand new or heavily abused credit card; get into a form of transportation; enter jewelry store; pick out what you like; pay and leave. It can literally be that easy! 

In any case, buying a ring is a piece of cake; buying a good one is a little trickier.

Let's define good: a GOOD diamond is one that will hold its value (what you paid) or increase in value over time. For 2005, only one out of every 50 sold to an end user (that's you) will hold its value or will increase in value. The other 49 (98 percent of the lot) will have an average secondary market value of only 19.7 percent of the original price paid. That means if you don't know how to pick a good one, your diamond will depreciate over 80 percent! A poorly selected $5,000 diamond will be worth $985 the second the 30-day return policy expires! Obviously we don't want that to happen. We want you to have your new sparkly keep you happy and increase in value for years to come.

Do your homework before you look at your first diamond engagement rings and follow my simple B.E.S.T. start strategy.

  1. Budget. Set a reasonable amount you would like to spend before you go. The two month rule is crazy and was set up because research studies showed that Americans would spend two months gross salary on an engagement ring. Rather than going broke or into debt, follow the one month rule. If you do your homework, you should easily be able to get the diamond of your dreams at half the price you would have otherwise.
  2. Expectation. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and find out what shape and size diamond your woman would like and what type of setting as well. This information can usually be obtained through her mother or best friend. You can even go browsing through a mall with her, pop into a jewelry store and nonchalantly say "Hey Honey, if you could have anything, what would you pick?" If the engagement isn't a secret, just the when she'll get it is, then you can browse together to find out what her tastes are. Also, while you're in the jewelry store get her ring size.
  3. Savvy. When you go into the jewelry store it's important to be able to talk their lingo and know what a fair price is. This is where the 4c's and 5th c - "cost" come in. Here's a short tutorial. The 4c's stand for carat weight, diamond clarity, color and cut.

    • Carat Weight: This is the physical weight of the diamond. It can be described in fractions ¼ ct, ½ ct, 1ct, etc. or points .37, .45, .98. When I say points, it means percentage points (1ct = 100 points) or 100 percent of the whole. A .48ct means the diamond is 48 percent of 1ct. A 1.25ct would mean it's a whole carat diamond and 25 percent of another carat. If the quality is good, the larger the diamond the more it costs. The average size diamond given in the United States for engagement is .38ct.
    • Clarity: Here, we are describing how clean the diamond is or free from blemishes and inclusions. Blemishes can be nicks, scratches or chips outside the diamond - Inclusions are imperfections that are "included" within. The clarity grading scale starts with "flawless" and runs through "imperfect". Here's the whole scale:

      -VS1 - SI1
      are really good grades to get if the diamond is to be worn.
      -IF - VVS2
      are best for investment.
      -I1 - I3
      are very poor quality but available for very tight budgets.
    • Color: Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow but usually the whiter the better. The alphabet minus A, B&C are used to denote how white the diamond color is: D, E, F are colorless; G, H, I near colorless; J, K, L slightly yellow and K through Z are light yellow and of low value.
    • Cut: The proportions of a diamond are critical to the amount of brilliance and dispersion (beauty) you will see. This is why the diamond cut is so important. Diamonds come in four classes of cut. Class I&Class II are well proportioned and provide 88-93 percent light return. Class III&Class IV are poorly proportioned and will average only 33-38 percent light return.
    • Cost: Instead of putting up a price sheet that won't stay current, I'm listing a good resource for the best possible price you can get for any carat weight, clarity, color, and cut. The National Diamond Helpline phone number is 1.800.275.4047.

  4. Timetable. While a poor quality diamond can be bought as quickly as it takes to go to the 7-11, some good quality ones can take months to find. Your best bet is to start your serious looking as much as six months in advance. If this sounds extreme, think how long it took to find your woman! If you are down to just a couple of months, couple of weeks or days, say your prayers! Just kidding.

So to recap, before you buy a diamond engagement ring, you have to have the B.E.S.T. strategy! This includes determining your budget, hers and yours; expectations; having an understanding of the 5c's and being savvy and giving yourself enough time to pull it all off! Good luck and congratulations on finding the love of your life!


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wow, very informative article.. and thanks gabe for the additional info.. i want a pink diamond! heehee

By Anonymous