10 Things to Know

10 Things To Know Before Buying An Engagement Ring

Blame it on all the family gatherings, the mistletoe, or even the champagne, but it’s no secret that the holiday season is prime time for popping the question.

If you’re one of the thousands planning (or hoping for) a proposal in the near future, don’t head to the jeweler shopping without reading these top 10 engagement ring buying tips.

1. Skip the smaller stones

Yes – you can get a Pave ring with the same carat weight as a single stone ring (2 carats of diamonds accumulated by 50 diamonds instead of one single diamond solitaire at 2 carats), but that’s just not what an engagement ring is about.  A simply solitaire ring is the keystone of the engagement ring process.

2. Compare settings

The way a diamond is framed can have a major impact on how big it looks. For example, a bezel — a thin band of metal that wraps around a gem — gives the illusion of a larger stone.

3. Request certification

A diamond of a carat or more should come with a gem report — a gemologist’s evaluation of the stone’s color by letter grade (good stones are ranked no lower than I) and clarity, ranging from “flawless” (FL) to “very slight inclusions” (either VS1 or VS2) for an acceptable diamond. The cut, carat weight and measurements are also listed.

The Gemological Institute of America issues most gem reports, but a few fine jewelry firms offer their own guaranteed certificates. The Tiffany & Co. Diamond Certificate lists a diamond’s distinguishing characteristics and its linear measurements, accurate to within .02 millimeters.

4. Know your metals

Platinum and gold are the top choices for engagement rings. The former will cost you — a simple platinum band can cost nearly $600 more than a comparable one in gold — but many brides feel the price is worth it. Platinum is a far more durable metal. It will show fewer nicks and scratches, and platinum prongs will hold a stone more securely.

As for color, some people believe that yellow gold casts an unflattering light on the diamond, while others prefer the hue’s warmth and traditional look.

5. Invest in insurance

The cost of protecting yourself against loss or theft depends on several factors — including the value of your ring, of course, as well as where you live (major city dwellers will pay more). According to Donna Syverson, a spokeswoman for the national insurance firm Jewelers Mutual, your annual premium will be about 1 to 2.7 percent of the jewelry’s appraised value, even for rings that cost six figures.

6. Have your ring numbered

Your diamond’s certificate number (or jeweler’s designation) can be laser-inscribed on the side of the stone, allowing it to be positively identified in case of theft or after cleaning or repair.

Such inscriptions, which are visible under magnification (shown at right for the ring below) don’t affect the gem’s value. They cost from $40 to $200 and offer more than mere peace of mind: Some insurance carriers will give policy discounts on inscribed diamonds.

7. Go for a larger stone

Most couples look for stones that are of the highest possible quality not realizing that many times you can get a much larger stone at a lower quality for the same price.  When someone hears “lower quality” they think that the diamond is severely flawed, which is not correct.  Because diamond grading is so precise, and finding a ‘perfect’ diamond is extremely difficult, many times the difference between a few colors and/or a few grades is not even perceptible by the human eye.

8. Buy with an eye to trading up

For a big anniversary, couples often replace their engagement ring with a grander model. When shopping now, ask jewelers if they’ll accept this purchase as partial payment on a later ring. Both Tiffany & Co. and Jeff Cooper will apply the full retail purchase price toward another ring (that’s at least double the value) for as long as you own your original one.

9. Dream up a custom piece

Believe it or not, many reputable jewelers offer one-of-a-kind rings without charging exorbitant fees. Some companies require a minimum purchase or bill clients a small amount for preliminary work, such as drawings.

10. Stay local

The center stone constitutes the most expensive part of a classic solitaire ring, accounting for as much as 85 percent of its price. One way to be sure that you are getting your diamond from a trusted source is to use a local professional jeweler.  You can’t trust a purchase of this magnitude with an online vendor.

The majority of this article can be found on CNN.com.  We have edited sections for proper consumer education.