The Engagement Ring
The "rule," so-to-speak, might say your fianc "should" spend the equivalent amount of 2 months of his salary on your ring, but think about it. How important is the ring to you? It doesn't make you more engaged. Hey, if you want a ring and he wants to buy you a ring, then by all means, get the ring you want. Just remember, he probably isn't going to be paying cash. He'll probably charge it. What may be "his" money (and debts) before you're married become "your" money (and debts) after your married. And it's tough to save for that new house or new furniture when you're still trying to pay off your big ol' ring. Just something to keep in mind.
Some couples decide to budget the engagement ring money other ways. I've even heard of an "Engagement Grandfather Clock!" Some couples even decide to wait until they can more easily afford the ring they dream of. My immigrant parents could hardly afford dishes and my mother waited 16 years for her "engagement" ring. It was worth the wait - a 2 carat, heart shaped, F color, VVS2 diamond.
The Wedding Rings
The "rule" here is that you each spend three weeks' salary, or 6% of your annual income, on the ring you buy for your betrothed. The most popular metals are Platinum, Yellow Gold and White Gold. Your wedding rings may be identical or not. My husband's and my ring are similar but not identical. He wanted 18K gold; I wanted 14K. I wanted a very wide band; he wanted a medium band. We both got what we wanted.
Some engagement rings feature a coordinating, often shaped wedding band. If you did not get an engagement ring, you may want to consider an Eternity band. An Eternity band consists of gemstones, often diamonds, sapphires or rubies, wrapping around the entire band. Narrower bands and simpler rings suit small hands well. Wider bands and more elaborate settings look best on larger hands or on longer fingers. Keep in mind the width of the band of your engagement ring.
After you are married, the wedding band is worn closest to the base of the finger. The engagement ring is worn on the outside of the wedding band. The reasoning here is that you will never take off your wedding band and you will take off your engagement ring to bathe, garden, have it cleaned, etc.
There are many reasons we've ended up with the ring as the symbol of marriage. Rings or loops of tied grass were used throughout pre-history on arms and ankles to keep evil spirits at bay. When man began to use metal, metal rings were given by grooms to the fathers to purchase brides. My favorite is the Ancient Egyptian custom in which the wife's gold ring meant her husband trusted her with his money.
The Four C's
Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. These actually relate in some form to all gemstones, but for our purposes we're going to deal with diamonds. The Four C's form the basis for the cost of the stone. A stone with high scores in each category will be more expensive than one with low scores in any one or all categories.
Basically, this is the shape of the stone. Cut is of major importance. A well-cut average quality stone can look more expensive than a poor-cut, high quality stone. A raw diamond is pretty ugly. But when in the hands of a master cutter, magic happens. Their careful cutting of series of flat surfaces (facets) into the stone cause light to stream into the stone and bounce between the facets causing a brilliant sparkle.
Some shapes are prone to more sparkle than others are. A round-cut is also called a brilliant-cut because it is so sparkly. Round-cuts are the most popular and are typically more expensive than other shapes. The princess-brilliant-cut is a new square cut that also sparkles well. Emerald-cuts, rectangle shaped, and heart-shaped are usually less brilliant (sparkly) than other cuts.
Diamonds can come in Fancy Colors like pink, pale blue, yellow and others. But usually folks want white diamonds. Most white diamonds have some coloring to them. There are colorless white diamonds but they are quite expensive.
Diamonds are graded on a color scale with D being the best, no color all the way down to Z. Most diamonds in jewelry are graded at I or J and are usually at least an M or better.
The color is graded when the stone is loose. This is because the color of the setting can influence the perceived color of the stone. This is also a good reason to have the mount for your stone made of white gold or platinum.
Clarity is truly how perfect the stone is. Can you see clearly through it? Do you notice any flecks? Do you see a small line in the stone? Do you see these natural flaws with your naked eye or with a jeweler's loupe (which magnifies things 10 times)? Flaws are usually called inclusions by jewelers.
A stone without flaws, even under magnification, is called you guessed it, flawless and is the most expensive. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has a scale to grade clarity that ranges from FL (flawless) through I3 (Imperfect). A good clarity diamond, for most purposes, is anything from VS2 on up to FL.
Carat is actually the weight of the stone. To give you an idea, it takes 142 carats to equal one ounce! A carat may also be referred to as 100 points. So 150 points is 1 carats.
Don't confuse the carat weight with the visual size of the stone. A 1 carat stone may be cut tall (deep) or wide (shallow). A shallow cut 1 carat stone may look wider or bigger than a deeper cut 1 carat stone.
That's all good and well you say, but how big is a carat? Alright if you promise not to hold us to it, here's a guideline chart to what size stone is at about what carat weight.
The Other C's
Aside from Cost, also think about Care, Comfort and Certification. Even though diamonds are one of the hardest things on earth, your ring will need to be taken care of. Buy a jewelry cleaning kit and clean your ring often to keep it its brilliant best. Soap and general grime can quickly dull its luster. Whenever you clean your ring, inspect it. Make sure the setting is still firm and there are no missing prongs. At least once a year, have your ring professionally cleaned and inspected by a professional GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) certified jeweler. They will be better able to tell you if you need to replace a prong or if your setting is in need of repair. It's a very, very small price to pay to ensure you don't lose your stone!
You'll be wearing your ring a lot, so it should be comfortable. Not too tight, not too loose. Also, be careful that it doesn't cut into your finger. Wider bands have a tendency to do this. A recent solution has been the Comfort Band, which is slightly rolled over.
Get your diamond certified by the IGI (International Gemological Institute). This certification will include a full description of your stone, its 4 C's and a little sketch. This ensures your stone is in fact a diamond and can help with insurance and replacement as well as protect you against the unscrupulous jeweler-con man who could switch your diamond with a fake!
Set It Up
The way the stone is attached to the ring band is called the setting. Even on a yellow gold band, it is common for a diamond to be set in platinum or white gold. I like this method because the silver metal disappears into the stone.
Prongs actually hold the stone to the band. Prongs should be sturdy. Given a choice, go with the setting that has more prongs rather than less. Think of it this way, if you start with 6 prongs and lose one, well, you've still got 5 prongs. But, if you start with 4 prongs and lose one
Another consideration is your activity level. If your idea of a fun day includes mountain climbing or sailing, stay away from a raised setting. With a raised setting, the whole stone actually sits above the band. This means more brilliance because light hits the stone from every angle, but it does make the stone susceptible to damage. For more active people, a shallower stone or a stone partially or fully set into the band may be a better way to go.
The two most popular settings are the Tiffany and the Illusion. The Tiffany, named after the famous store, features a single, round cut diamond in a high, raised setting. The Illusion features one center stone surrounded by a group of smaller stones, like a flower.
Other settings may feature baguettes (long, narrow rectangle stones) or trillions on either side of a larger stone. Pav settings feature many small stones set flush with the band and very close together.
Some brides opt for a colored stone in their engagement ring. Princess Diana was given a sapphire in recognition of her blue eyes, while Duchess Sarah Ferguson received a ruby because of her red hair. Birthstones are also popular alternatives.
Garnet or Zircon
Aquamarine or Bloodstone
Sardonyx or Carnelian
Opal or Moonstone
Lapis Lazuli or Turquoise
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