According to many wedding planning services, December is the most popular month to get engaged, and Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve the most popular days. If you’re late to the game and still shopping for the ring, there’s still time to find the perfect diamond to represent the enduring quality of your love without spending ‘three months’ pay’. Here’s how.
Pay attention to the 4 C’s
When it comes to an engagement ring, skimping on quality can reflect poorly on how much you value the relationship. At the same time, the 4 C’s of diamonds — carat, cut, clarity, and color — affect both appearance and price very differently, so there are ways to save without compromising quality. If you’ve never been ring shopping before, all these measurements can be a bit confusing, so here’s what’s most important, and where you can save.
Carat: carat measurements directly correlate to price, but have little bearing on appearance. Rather than steadily increasing, the price of most diamonds jumps at both half and full carat sizes. You’ll find that choosing slightly shy of a full carat size (.45 instead of .5 or .95 instead of 1) could save literally thousands of dollars, with no visible difference. If bragging rights to a certain carat size don’t matter to you or your (hopefully) future spouse, save yourself some money here.
Cut: Unlike carat, cut tremendously impacts the appearance of a diamond, so this is where you should cough up the most money. A high-quality cut is what gives a diamond brilliance and sparkle and makes it appear larger than it really is. There are many different ways to cut a diamond, but all of them are represented in the GIA (Gemalogical Institute of America) grading report. Jewelers may use any number of descriptions to designate the cut quality of their diamonds (‘excellent’, ‘very good’, or’ good,’), but those that follow GIA standards are most reliable.
Clarity: Clarity rates the ‘perfection’ of a diamond, and indicates the presence of any inclusions (flaws). Although it’s natural to want a diamond that’s flawless, tiny imperfections become invisible to the human eye at a certain point. Choosing a middle-range VS1 or VS2 (very slightly included) diamond will still be ‘eye-clean’ and save you money. Besides, slight flaws are what make us all unique, so why not apply this logic to diamonds?
Color: A diamond’s color rating ranges from D to Z — D representing completely clear and Z slightly colored. As the GIA says, these ratings are based on nearly imperceptible differences that, nonetheless, have a tremendous impact on a diamond’s price. Experts recommend choosing a G or H (near colorless) rating for the best value to price ratio.
Stick to Your Budget
A common guideline is to spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. First of all, this information comes directly from diamond marketers. Secondly, keep in mind that if she says yes, there will be many more wedding expenses in the coming months. Spending your life’s savings on a ring or going into debt isn’t a good way to start a marriage. Lastly, an Emory University survey of 3,000 participants indicated the more spent on a ring or wedding, the shorter the resulting marriage. Staying within your budget for a ring is a good sign of fiscal responsibility as well as a lack of relationship insecurity.
Comp Shop at the Jeweler
Don’t be afraid to pull out your smartphone and comparison shop while you’re at the jewelers. Not only will you be able to tell if you’re getting a fair deal, you’ll create more incentive for the sales rep. to give you one.
Other Choices That Affect Price
Many people prefer rose, white, or yellow gold bands versus platinum, which can save you even more money. Also, if you see a unique style offered by a pricey brand, see if another jeweler can customize something similar. Customization may be pricier than a ready-made design, but still cheaper than paying for a brand name. Lastly, shopping online can be cheaper, but you might not get the personal care and maintenance provided at a local jeweler.
The most important thing to remember when choosing a diamond is that it’s meant to last a lifetime. Don’t skimp on quality, but don’t waste money, either. Use these tips to help you choose the perfect diamond as you ‘ring in’ the New Year this year or in the years to come.