How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring? (Part II)

We are continuing our conversation about engagement rings and how much you should spend on one. In Part I of the article we covered a very brief history of a diamond engagement ring, how to work out your budget and the options available to you these days. In Part II we will dive deeper into the topic of diamond and what you should do before you approach a jeweller to make your diamond engagement ring.

Speaking of diamonds, you're probably aware that they are not made equal. To compare and rank precious stones, the jewellers worldwide have adopted this mystique 4C's framework. Only there is no mystique about it. Here is a quick refresher on it. 

 Diamonds

The 4C's of Diamonds

 The 4C's stand for carat, cut, clarity and colour.  

Carat

Carat is a unit of mass used to measure and compare gemstones. It is equal to 200mg (1/5th of a gram or 0.00705oz). 

Cut

A style (design) used during the shaping process. It does not refer to shape as such, but rather the symmetry, proportions and polish. The cut affects the diamond's brilliance (how much it sparkles in light), meaning that poorly cut diamond is less luminous.

When it comes to a cut, there are several well-known options available:

  • Princess, 
  • Cushion, 
  • Heart, 
  • Pear, 
  • Marquise, 
  • Radiant, 
  • Emerald, 
  • Oval, etc. 

The cut you choose will affect the price of the diamond and, ultimately, will dictate the overall design of the ring.

Clarity

Clarity is the quality of the diamonds that relates to the visual appearance of inclusions (internal characteristics) and blemishes (surface defects). For certification purposes, every diamond is assessed by a trained expert, who assigns a clarity grade ranging from internally flawless (FL, IF) to included (I1, I2, I3). There are 11 grades on the clarity scale.

Colour

A perfect diamond is fully transparent; it has no hue (colour) to it. In reality, almost no diamonds or gems, for that matter, are 100% perfect. When establishing how rare a particular diamond is, an assessor will consider the colour of the stone because the presence of a colour in a diamond is a strong indicator of chemical impurities or even structural defects. 

The GIA colour scale ranks diamonds on an alphabetical scale from D (colourless) to Z (light yellow).

So if you decide to source your engagement ring online, consider the 4C's framework and remember not all diamonds were created equal. There is a good reason why some online options appear to be bargains.

So before you click the 'Buy' button on a website, don't forget to enquire about the official GIA certificate, confirming the carat weight, cut, clarity, and colour.

To avoid the risk of getting a low-grade stone from an unknown source, consider commissioning your ring directly through your jeweller. It's in their best interest to make sure you're getting a high quality stone within your budget because it is their reputation that is on the line.

Florescence

Florescence and how it effects the physical quality of a diamond

Apart from the 4C's, there is another critical characteristic that significantly affects the price of the stone. It is florescence - a physical phenomenon that occurs when the diamond emits light upon placement under ultraviolet (UV) light. There is a considerable debate within the industry whether one should pay attention to florescence, but remember that florescent diamonds are less pure and therefore less valuable by definition.

How to Commission an Engagement Ring

Once you figured out your budget and decided to commission an engagement ring, it's a good idea to do a little bit of homework before you approach a jeweller. By doing so, you will save yourself and the jeweller a lot of time (and money). So here are a few tips on how to brief your jeweller.

 

  1. Find out her ring size. You can do it indirectly by tracing and measuring the internal circumference of a ring she already has. Don't worry if that is not 100% exact. Later on, your jeweller should be able to adjust the size. 
  2. Think about your lady and what kind of lifestyle she has. Does she spend her work hours in front of a computer in a glass office or outdoors? Does she deal with a lot of people at work or is she usually surrounded by machines and equipment? What about her hobbies? This kind of insight into her everyday life will help your jeweller with a design direction because it's not a good idea to wear a ring with an intricate design featuring multiple claws if you're doing a lot of manual type of work for instance. 
  3. The next area to explore is her design and style preferences. Not every bloke is an expert in the latest fashion trends, but you might notice specific patterns if you pay a little bit of attention to her wardrobe. Does she wear classic dressers or comfortable with just jeans and T-shirts? Does she gravitate towards specific colours or prefers floral patterns? All these little clues will help your jeweller suggest a more appropriate cut for the stone and work out the right design for the ring band. 

Remember that design is a process of elimination. If you are unsure what she might like, it would be very worthwhile to approach this problem from the other end and tell your jeweller what she does not like first. This would make their job easier. 

When it comes to designing jewellery, apart from the obvious decisions about the materials and the stone, the jeweller has to make many other choices:

  • How to set the stone: claws or bezels, tension setting, a half-bezel, quarter-bezel, flush set, etc.
  • Style of ring, Halo, Solitaire, Bold, Traditional, Modern, Refined, Classy, Artsy, etc

Don't worry if these terms don't mean much to you at the moment. When you sit down with your jeweller for the first time, they will be able to show you examples of each approach from their portfolio. (And that's how you'll know that your jeweller is on the ball, so to speak.)

During your first consultation, don't be afraid to ask questions at this stage. It's a perfect opportunity to clarify things and evaluate different ideas before committing to sourcing a particular stone and settling on a design. For example, during the initial consultation at Red Cloud Jewels, our head jeweller explains the whole design process and asks clients leading questions to fill out the design brief. He then finds three alternative options for the stone and the right materials to fit the client's budget before moving on to the next stage.

Remember that the better your brief is, the easier and more enjoyable the whole experience will be for you and your fiancé. 

However, if you are not 100% sure you have enough information for your jeweller, it is not the end of the world. Just approach this exercise with an open mind and let your jeweller work out the best solution within your budget. At the end of the day, they have a lot more experience in that area.

What to Expect Timewise

Before COVID, when the supply chain was more or less predictable, it was pretty easy to work out a timeframe of how long it would take to source the raw materials. Four to five weeks was considered a typical turnaround time from your deposit payment to the day when you collect your bespoke engagement ring.

At the moment, we ask our clients to add another two to three weeks to this timeframe to be on the safe side. This extended timeframe of six to eight weeks is quite common now across the whole industry.

What About the Warranty?

Warranty is another essential point to consider, whether you're buying a

ring online or in a shopping centre or commissioning it through a local jeweller. Remember to enquire about the warranty and find out what it covers and for how long. This factor may affect your decision, too. For example, at Red Cloud Jewels, we offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturing, but this may not be the case elsewhere, especially if you're purchasing your ring online. 

Insurance

This is the last but not the least point to consider. We are not in the position to give you comprehensive advice about insurance on an engagement ring purchased elsewhere, but it is worthwhile to mention that for our clients, we offer insurance backed up by a highly regarded jewellery insurance provider called Q Report. They provide several options, including loss coverage, theft coverage, damage coverage, etc. The best bit is that we can organise it on your behalf well before your masterpiece leaves our atelier in Agnes Water.

Conclusion

  1. When it comes to finding a perfect engagement ring, there are multiple options available: online, retail, jeweller, etc.
  2. Work out your budget first and consider your time frame and other factors (import duties), etc. If you choose to commission your ring, prepare your brief.
  3. Remember the 4C's framework and be realistic about what you can afford.
  4. Don't ignore warranty and insurance. Remember, quality is always reflected in the price, so if you're getting a bargain, there is a good reason for it.
  5. If you don't know where to start, contact our head jeweller, Wayne Doyle, for an obligation-free consultation.