What an exciting time! You have made the big life decision, and now it is time to make it official. Engagement ring shopping is exciting and undoubtedly a significant expense, so it is worth a bit of research to get the best value for your engagement ring budget.
1. Choose the Type of Gemstone You Want
A diamond is the traditional engagement and wedding ring gemstone, and likely you are shopping for a diamond engagement ring. A large portion of this guide dedicates itself to the diamond search, but sometimes a white diamond is just not the preferred gemstone. If you are seeking an alternative, there are unlimited options not only in fancy colored diamonds (pink, blue, yellow) but many other gems that will make a gorgeous engagement ring.
2. Choose the Shape You Want
Knowing what shape of diamond (or gemstone) you prefer helps focus the engagement ring hunt immensely. Every shape of diamond is priced differently—and each has a different price per carat. Round brilliant cuts are the most popular cut of diamond searched online and happened to be the most expensive per carat, whereas pear and marquise are less so. If the size is an important aspect for you, you can get more carats at a better price when you choose an alternative shape to the classic round cut.
3. Considering Diamond Shapes Other Than Round
Cut does not refer to shape, but the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond. There are three "ideal cuts" commonly used as standards to compare a more or less symmetrical arrangement of facets, which together modify the shape and appearance of a diamond crystal to enhance its beauty best. The most popular of diamond cuts is the modern round brilliant.
A brilliant round cut is exceptionally good at reflecting white light, which is a factor when choosing a white diamond. Most fancy colored diamonds are not cut into brilliant round because the essential characteristic in a fancy colored diamond is its color, not its ability to reflect white light.
Cuts derived from the brilliant round, referred to as fancy cuts, come in a variety of shapes. Most fancy cuts fall into four categories, which include marquise, heart, triangular trillion (also trillian or trilliant), oval, and the pear. Step cuts are the rectangular cuts like emerald or Asscher, and mixed cuts are the princess cut diamonds.
Rose Cut Diamond
One of my favorite cuts is rose cut. The basic rose cut has a flat base, which means it lacks a pavilion or point on the bottom. It has a crown composed of triangular facets, usually 12 or 24, rising on the top in an arrangement with six-fold rotational symmetry reminiscent of rose petals, thus the name. The rose cut diamond has been in use since the mid-16th century. The classic rose cut is round, but other shape variations are available.
A diamond's cut is evaluated by trained graders, with higher grades given to stones whose symmetry and proportions most closely match the particular "ideal" used as a benchmark. In determining the quality of the cut, a diamond grader is evaluating the craftsman's skill. During the diamond cutting process, the diamond cutter wants to get the heaviest diamond out of a rough stone because diamonds are valued in part by weight. Sometimes the desire for carat weight and the desire for an ideal cut can be at odds, lowering cut grade rather than sacrificing carat weight.
Diamond Grading System for Cut
The GIA Cut Grading System applies to the most popular cutting style – the modern round brilliant – and all clarities across the D-to-Z color range. There are five cut grades: Excellent (EX), Very Good (VG), Good (G), Fair (F), and Poor (P).
Consistently across the board, more than 60% – 70% of searches based on the diamond cut is for an excellent cut grade. Searches for Ideal Cut and VG cut diamonds are less than a third of the searches for excellent cut. These results may reﬂect the ongoing diamond industry education of shoppers but not the reality of actual purchases. Many factors impact diamond appearance and beauty but you should be aware that the diﬀerence between a VG and EX cut in diamond appearance is most often minimal. Yet, from the consumer perspective, the excellent cut grade far outweighs consideration of even the Ideal Cut. You may find fancy shape diamonds are a bit harder to access and compare.
Unlike round diamonds, the grading reports for fancy shape diamonds do not contain a cut grade, which indicates its light performance.
4. Choose a Metal for the Engagement Ring Setting
Traditionally, engagement rings and wedding bands are made from white gold, yellow gold, or platinum, but recently, rose gold has become popular as a fresh, modern alternative. While platinum may look quite similar to white gold, platinum is stronger and more durable, but softer than gold. It is also a bit more expensive. Platinum will get scratched a little easier than 14k gold would. However, 18K gold is softer and will scratch easier than 14k gold will. As Platinum scratches, it will develop a patina-like appearance but does not lose the metal. But when gold is scratched, the gold is lost, and it looks like a scratch. Since some metals scratch easier than others, so be sure to consider lifestyle, as well as budget, before deciding how important the metal choice is in the final decision. More about colored gold.
You will also want to determine if you wish to stones set in the band(s), as well!
About White Metal Settings
White metals such as white gold provide an excellent backdrop for diamonds. By popularity, 14k white gold makes up 40% of online ring searches and 18 k white gold, which makes up over 11% of the wedding and engagement ring searches. Platinum searches make up 10% of all searches which makes white metals over 60% of wedding ring searches online.
Our most popular choice for wedding and engagement rings due to its hardness, rarity and naturally white sheen that will never fade or change color. Platinum rings are 95% pure, which means they are heavy, strong and naturally hypo-allergenic. The best choice if you have the budget for a prestigious ring that will last you a lifetime.
White gold jewelry uses pure gold alloyed with other white metals such as palladium and silver, to produce a beautiful polish and shine. As a standard, white gold rings are plated with rhodium to give its brilliant white luster. Rhodium plating is hypo-allergenic and helps to protect the white gold. Although strong, rhodium wears away over time. Re-plating is a simple process that can be done to restore whiteness at any time.
Yellow gold is the traditional choice for wedding rings, we offer 14K or 18K rings. A mixture of pure gold, copper and silver gives yellow gold jewelry its signature warmth. Depending on what carat you choose, the color and hardness of the ring will differ. Currently, 14 karat yellow gold is 15% of the wedding and engagement ring metal searches.
Also known as pink gold or red gold, rose gold adds a touch of romance to your jewelry. If you are looking for a ring that is traditional, yet distinguished, then rose gold could be the metal for you. Rose gold is often used in bi-colored rings to offset the more traditional white or yellow gold. Like yellow gold, depending on what carat you choose, the color and hardness of the ring will differ. About 5 percent of engagement ring searches are for 14-karat rose gold
6. Consider How Your Engagement Ring Will Look with Your Wedding Band
While it is easy to get caught up shopping for the perfect diamond, the engagement ring is only one half of the equation. Your wedding band—you know, the actual symbol of your marriage—is the oft-overlooked other half.
Definitely think about what style of wedding band would go with your ring. Some engagement rings don't allow a band to fit flush against them, so it's important to consider the full package of prong versus pavé and channel-set stones before committing to an engagement ring style.
7. Have a Diamond Carat Weight in Mind
Carat is a measure of physical weight in metric carats and is the most objective grade of a diamond. One carat equals 1/5 gram and is divided into 100 units, called points. For example, a half-carat gemstone would weigh .50 ct. or 50 points. Carat is not a measure of size. Diamonds are priced per carat, which is the price of the diamond divided by its weight.
The age-old question of quality versus quantity also applies to engagement rings; some people prefer a larger stone to a whiter stone, while others want the absolute clearest possible diamond, despite the carat count. People say size isn't important, but it makes a great starting point for diamond shopping. Color and clarity can always be tweaked to find something within your budget.
Understanding diamond weight is one of the biggest and easiest ways to reduce costs when buying diamond jewelry. The price per carat increases as the weight goes up and diamond prices increase significantly when they weigh the most desired weights. Online diamond size searches represent a clear and easy to understand picture of consumer preferences. 1 ct. to 1.25 ct. represent 20% of all searches and is one of the most popular sizes for engagement rings. Diamond click searches for above 1.25 ct. represent 40% of diamond searches. However, in real time purchases the larger diamond click searches appear to be more aspirational than actual real time purchases of diamonds.
8. Understand Color
The color of gem-quality diamonds occurs in many hues. Colorless diamonds are the rarest. Most natural diamonds fall in a normal color range between white and pale yellow or brown. The grading scale for diamonds in the normal color range used by internationally recognized laboratories is from D, which is colorless to Z, which is a pale yellow or brown color.
Traditionally, diamonds that possess a pale yellow or brown hue, are the least desirable for jewelry but that has changed. Diamonds in brown shades are stylish and called champagne, cognac, and chocolate diamonds. Diamonds of more intense color (usually yellow but in some cases red, green, or blue) are called fancy color diamonds.
On the Gemological Institute of America's scale are valued according to their clarity and color. Grades "D" or "E" are considered colorless and is much more valuable than an "R" or "Y" rated diamond, which is light yellow or brown. Supply and demand establish the value. High color diamonds are rarer, and consumers more desire bright white appearance.
When buying a diamond, near-colorless grade diamond ("G" or "H" rated) is more cost-effective than purchasing a colorless grade diamond ("D" rated). If compared, they are nearly indistinguishable to the naked untrained eye, especially when mounted on a ring setting. Other natural colors (blue, red, pink, for example) are known as "fancy," and their color grading is different from white colorless diamonds.
The G color maintains a slight lead in diamond clicks compared to the other grades. Of clickable searches, 70% are in the D – H color ranges, and 40% of searches surprisingly are in the D-E-F color ranges.
Amazingly, many consumers search for diamonds in the D – F color range, because to the naked eye, the perceived increase in color would not be noticeable, but the price increase is dramatic. However, 30% of searches are for G-H color diamonds, which also happen to be the most popular colors at retail stores. Value-oriented shoppers search in the I color range, which makes up 11 ½% of searches.
Let's bring into perspective the discussion of cut and color. The prices of diamonds increase with their scarcity, so the rarer the diamond, the more expensive it is. A high diamond color diamond costs more than a low color diamond not just because it is better color - but also because these are extremely hard to find. The same goes for large diamonds. It is by far harder to find a gem-quality diamond weighing 2 carats than a similar diamond weighing 1 carat.
9. Importance of Clarity
Diamond clarity is the quality that relates to the existence and visual appearance of internal characteristics of a diamond called inclusions, and surface defects, called blemishes. Diamonds without inclusions or blemishes are rare; however, requiring magnification to see.
Inclusions are solids, liquids, or gases that were trapped in a mineral as it formed. They may be crystals of a foreign material or even another diamond crystal or may have produced structural imperfections, such as tiny cracks that make a diamond appear whitish or cloudy. The appearance of the stone is affected by the number of inclusions, their size, location, and how visible they are. Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not modify the diamonds' performance or structural integrity and are not visible to the naked eyes.
Clarity is rated from IF/ FL (Internally Flawless / Flawless) to I1 (Included – 1st Degree) with varying degrees in between. Keep in mind that the inclusion size is in relation to the size of the diamond. When buying a 4 carat diamond, a VS2 is more likely to be visible than in a 1 carat diamond. The following will help you compare clarity ratings.
- The tiny pinpoints can only be seen under a powerful microscope.
- Generally, you need a gemological microscope to identify a VVS2 inclusion since, often, the inclusion pattern is not one large speck, but a few separate VVS1 sized spots that collectively equal a VVS2 clarity grade.
- Unlike VVS2 clarity inclusions, a microscope is never needed to locate a VS1. A VS1 clarity inclusion is still quite small and will never be visible to the naked eye.
- VS2 Clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.
Slightly Included – 1st Degree- Usually, there are several smaller spots and clouds of tiny inclusions that make up the clarity grade. In these cases, since each inclusion is exceedingly small, the diamond looks clean to the naked eye.
- With step cuts like Emerald and Asscher cuts, an SI2 clarity inclusion will most likely be visible to the naked eye. With other brilliant shapes, an SI2 clarity inclusion will usually be clean to the naked eye. A common trait is a "spready" SI2. With these inclusions, since the SI2 is spread out all over the stone, and not concentrated in any one area, the diamond is usually eye-clean.
-These clarity inclusions are so obviously visible on step cuts (Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts) that you rarely see them produced. Most clarity grades are comprised of several to many smaller inclusions spread out over the area of the diamond, so the I1 clarity inclusion will be much less noticeable to the naked eye, if at all. It is possible to find a perfectly eye-clean beautiful I1 clarity diamond.
Diamond clarity is one of the critical value factors for shoppers in diamond searches. Almost 40% of all diamond searches are for VS 1 and VS 2. For the consumer who understands the deﬁnition of SI 1 as slightly included, the apparent preference is for a VS stone. However, 30% of all searches are for SI 1 and SI 2. For all consumers, the eye clean diamond is extremely important, and the majority of purchases based on diamond clicks will be SI and above. Understanding diamond clarity grades help clarify these choices in diamond beauty because they are very straightforward and easier to understand compared to cut grades and D-F diamond colors.
The key element when evaluating diamond clarity and how it affects your budget is how it appears to the naked eye. The difference in price between an SI1 or SI2 clarity diamond and a flawless diamond is significant.
10. Certified Confirms What You are Buying
Simply put, certified diamonds are diamonds that have been evaluated by an independent certifying agency, and a unique identification number and certificate accompany them. Some certified diamonds are laser inscribed with the ID number for your peace of mind.
On the other hand, non-certified diamonds have not been evaluated by an independent certifying agency, and a retailer can only speculate as to the diamond's quality. If a retailer tells you the clarity, color, carat weight, or cut of a non-certified stone, the retailer is only.
- The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is probably the laboratory with the highest standards. Sometimes these diamonds also include a laser inscribed serial number or bar code on the girdle of the stone.
- The AGL (American Gemological Lab) is more known for grading colored stones but does grade diamonds usually per the GIA standards.
- The EGL (European Gemological Lab) is a lab with locations in the US and many locations internationally. Their standards have come under scrutiny in recent years, and I typically look at these diamonds with a much more critical eye.
11. Set a Comfortable Budget
Establishing a realistic budget is an integral part of how you will prioritize and evaluate all of the decisions you will make during your engagement ring shopping.
The current national average cost of an engagement ring is just over $6,000 for a 1.2 carat center stone diamond with an additional ring setting with 0.6 carats of diamonds. Of course, engagement rings are purchased in all price points, and you don't need to pay for your engagement ring all at once.
Whether shopping for engagement rings at Lisa Robin Jewelry online or in our studio, financing options from Affirm, Afterpay, and Sezzle are available, some interest-free, to allow you to buy now, pay later.
12. Consider the Jeweler
Another option when shopping for an engagement ring is to work with non-traditional diamond retailers, like myself, to avoid unnecessary markups. Moreover, because I don't have the overhead that traditional retailers do, I will be cost-effective while helping you select the best engagement ring to suit your budget. And we can create something custom together!
Furthermore, what fiancé wouldn't melt over a ring that was designed just for them? As a private retailer, I can work with you on a one-on-one basis, whether in person or online, to create a ring specifically for you. The great news is it's super easy to do and doesn't have to cost a fortune.
Being able to browse for engagement rings and compare prices will help you compare real prices and determine how to find the best value for your perfect engagement ring.