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Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring

Ready to put a ring on it?
Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring
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Ready to put a ring on it?

Your road to forever starts with the right engagement ring. Diamonds have long been associated with marriage for a good reason, and it's because they symbolize eternal love. The word diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, which means invincible or indestructible. 

Diamonds are believed to have been first mined in India 4000 years ago. "They were found in the alluvial deposits of the stone along the rivers of Krishna, Penner, and Godavari." And since then, the Hindus attributed so much power to them, turning them into decor and "as a talisman to ward off evil or to provide protection in battle."

The practice of giving an engagement ring can be traced back to the 14th Century when Mary of Burgundy received a diamond engagement ring from Archduke Maximilian of Austria. "The ring was set with a point cut diamond and thin flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an M." 

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Want to know more? Below, we dissect everything you need to know as Happy Marnique and Ynna Asistio of Radiant Lux Jewelry help us understand more about how to choose the perfect engagement ring.

How to Tell If It's Real

1. Breathe on it.

Diamonds conduct heat well—they have a high melting point of 6420 degrees Fahrenheit—so "the fog from your breath should clear quickly. However, a cubic zirconia will hold the heat—and the moisture—longer."

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2. Dunk it on water.

Try putting your rock in a glass of water; if it floats, then you're probably getting duped.

3. It glows.

While it's not a conclusive way of determining if a diamond is real, you can put it under a black light. If it reveals blue fluorescence, it's most likely real. 

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Budget

Happy says that the budget is more important than the rock itself. It is the buyer who dictates the budget, and then it's up to the ring specialists to do their best to find the best quality diamond according to the said budget. However, if you need a starting estimate, Happy and Ynna share that a P30,000 diamond ring is usually made with around .20-.30 carats. You could also calculate the cost using this simple formula: Diamond Cost = Carat Weight x Diamond Price Per Carat.

If you're basing the price on the cut, round brilliant diamonds take the cake amongst other cuts. This type sparkles the most as it is supposed to feature up to 58 facets that draw the light in and reflect them out to produce the sparkle.

Stone

Diamonds are the most preferred stone on engagement rings, but you can also explore other options:

Alternatives: Semi-Precious Stones

Here are a few advantages when opting for gemstones over diamonds:

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1. They come in many colors, which can be an added customization for you.

2. While not as sturdy as diamonds, semi-precious stones like sapphires and rubies are extremely durable and ideal and practical to be worn every day.

3. They cost less per carat so you'll get a much bigger stone for the ring.

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Alternatives: Artificial Diamonds

If you're looking for a more affordable type of diamond, you shouldn't be limited to naturally-mined ones. Artificial ones are still "made from carbon and have the same refractive index, density, hardness, dispersion, and crystalline structure," but they're cultivated in the laboratory. The most popular type is the Carbon Vapor Deposition (CVD), which are diamonds made by having "carbon-based gases heated to extremely high temperatures inside the CVD machine until the molecules break apart, releasing the carbon atoms. These atoms rain down onto a diamond substrate at the bottom of the machine, building up on one another like snowflakes to form the layers of the diamond."

Alternatives: Enhanced Diamonds

Enhanced diamonds are different from artificially-made ones. Enhanced diamonds are diamonds "that have been treated and altered from their natural condition to artificially improve their appearance." When someone sells you enhanced diamonds, you should question what kind of enhancements and treatments that the stones had undergone because such can lead to discoloration and cracks over time.

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These treatments may include a simple laser drilling to remove minor impurities in the stone to enhance its clarity grade. There's also fracture filling that injects resin-like material in the diamond to close some cracks inside. There's also HPHT (high-pressure high-temperature) that permanently changes the color of a diamond.

Buying enhanced diamonds can affect the stone in the long run. For example, when having the ring cleaned, cleaning chemicals and heat cleaners can seep into the cracks and cause the fillers to leak out, thus risking the expansion of the crack. What's more, treatments can cause discoloration on the stone and it can damage the integrity of the diamond, too. Enhanced diamonds also depreciate in value overtime as the fillers can erode and change the color of the stone.

Parts of a Diamond

Before we delve into the ideal characteristics of a diamond engagement ring, it is important to know the jargon that jewelers use when you're selecting the rock you like. These components greatly affect the shape and radiance of the diamond.

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1. Table (and Table Percentage) - This is the largest facet of the stone, which you can find at the top of the diamond. The table refracts rays of light as they pass and directs the light to the other facets, essentially making the diamond sparkly. Jewelers measure the diamond's value with the table's percentage by dividing the width of the table by the overall width of the diamond and the ideal measurement varies on the cut of the diamond. Round cut diamonds should have a table that measures between 54-60 percent.

2. Crown - This extends from the table down to the widest point of the diamond. It consists of step cut or brilliant cut facets.

3. Girdle - The girdle forms the outer edge of the diamond, exactly where the crown and pavilion meet. This is also the widest part of the diamond. Jewelers measure the girdle to take the perimeter of the diamond and does not really affect the quality or appearance of the stone.

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4. Pavilion - This is the bottom part of the diamond. The pavilion bridges the girdle and the culet to form the diamond's pointy end. This part is important to the stone's light-reflecting properties. This means that a nicely cut pavilion will allow the most amount of light to reflect from the surface of the stone. Mind that an intensely deep or too shallow diamond can cause light to escape out of the pavilion, rendering the diamond to be less sparkly.

5. Culet - This is where the facets of the pavilion meet. Ideal diamonds should have no culet which renders the stone's pointy end. If you buy a loose diamond stone with a pointed culet, you should enforce the setting of the stone as this kind is prone to chipping.

4Cs

The 4 Cs are considered to be the most telling features of a diamond's value. Here's what you need to know.

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Cut

1. Shape

Oval

The first ever oval cut diamond ring was created in 1957 by Russian diamond cutter Lazare Kaplan. The elongated shape makes the fingers look longer and appear more slender. "The oval is symbolic of a relationship built on trust and stability, and its lengthened shape makes this diamond look larger than other shapes of the same carat weight."

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Princess

This cut is designed by Ygal Perlman, Betzalel Ambar, and Israel Itzkowitz back in 1979. On paper, it is called as the "Square Modified Brilliant." This cut is a perfect choice when you're looking for a shiny rock that doesn't cost as much as a round cut because princess cut diamonds pick up light and shine brightly with less diamond weight lost during the cutting process (round cuts are shaved off the edges.)

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Asscher

The Asscher cut was created by Joseph Isaac’s grandson, also named Joseph, back in 1902. Asscher cuts are characterized by the following: larger step facets, a higher crown, smaller table, and cropped corners. The family patented the cut which made them the only company—Royal Asscher Diamond Company—to produce the cut up until the World War II. Many favor this cut for its vintage look that echoes the Art Deco era.

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Round 

Round cuts are the most popular and also the most expensive cut in the market today. Buyers like this type of cut for its "brightness and brilliance, excellence in reflecting light and dispelling color," which means they "maintain the same aesthetic appeal even with lower clarity and color ratings."

Its expensive tag can be owed to the fact that it undergoes shaping that renders "a greater loss of original diamond carat weight during cutting and processing than other diamond cuts." The round cut boasts of 58 facets that was invented in 1919, "when Marcel Tolkowsky published his thesis Diamond Design: A Study of the Reflection and Refraction of Light in Diamond.

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Cushion (also known as Pillow) 

Cushion cuts can be identified with the following characteristics: "cut into a deep square or rectangular shape with rounded corners and sides, an open bottom, and large facets." It is also known of the name Candlelight cut as it is tailored to look a certain way under the soft amber light. Thus, the stone is prized not for its brilliance or fire but for the stone's soft luster. It was originally referred to as the Old Mine cut, which was "named after the Brazilian diamond mines, which became known as the 'old mines' after diamonds were discovered in South Africa."

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Emerald

The emerald cut is one of the first diamond cuts ever created that traces its history back in the 1500s. The cut became widely popular as the shape "reduced the pressure during the cutting process and therefore prevented chips in the gems." However, it was only in the 1920s that the name caught on during "the rise of art deco, where clean lines and symmetry were admired." Baguette cut falls under the emerald cut. Baguettes are just slightly more elongated and less expensive than emerald cuts.

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Radiant 

This shape is considered to be a hybrid of the emerald and round cuts "because of its near-square appearance and cropped corners." Henry Grossbard of the Radiant Cut Diamond Company created the radiant cut in 1977 in a pursuit of creating a "a step-cut diamond with a brilliance that could rival even the most incredible oval, round, or pear-shaped diamonds." Thus, the cut is known to be the first "to use a brilliant facet pattern on both the crown and pavilion, which gives it even more sparkle."

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Pear (also known as Teardrop)

The pear cut traces "its origins trace back to 1458, created by Flemish polisher named Lodewyk van Berquem." He is the same diamond cutter who introduced the concept of diamond "symmetry and placement of facets in popular diamond cuts" to maximize the stone's sparkle.

Heart 

The cut's origin can be rooted back in 1463 in a "conversation between the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and Nicodemo when the Duke described mythical quests of the wealthy Cosimo de Medici of the political dynasty in Florence as being similar to a heart-shaped diamond." The cut is known for its "fiery with brilliance, girlish in its charm, which were often exchanged between royal families as a sign of amity and goodwill.” Mary Queen of Scots famously gifted her cousin Queen Elizabeth a heart-shaped ring. When shopping for a heart-shaped ring, pay attention to its clarity as it reveals its internal flaws more easily as well as the symmetry. 

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Marquise 

"The marquise cut’s origin dates back to the 18th century when King Louis XV of France (1710-1774) commissioned a jeweler to design a cut shape that resembled the lips of his mistress, Jean Antoinette Poisson, the Marchioness Madame de Pompadour." The name takes after the rank below a duke but above a count and was worn mainly to show off their rank. The cut is also known as the Navette, which means little boat in French as its shape resembles one. When buying this kind of cut, be wary of the symmetry because a slight imperfection can disturb the balance of the ring. Additionally, because of its pointed ends, this kind of cut is prone to chipping so choose your setting wisely—many opt for the V-prong or bezel settings—to protect the rock.

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Euro

Euro cut diamonds are gaining back its popularity for its less flashy look than modern cut diamonds. Euro cut diamonds are characterized by the following traits: It has a flat culet, has less than or equal to 53 percent for its table size, has a crown angle that is more than or equal to 40 degrees, and its lower half length has less than or equal to 60 percent. Because of these features, euro cuts are "known for their fire or the flashes of different colors when moved under low light."

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Rose

The cut is named after roses and features many facets that resembles the petals of the flower. It only has 24 facets and often has a flat culet and are suited more for fancy-colored diamonds with lower color ratings to get that vintage look.

2. Facet

Step cut - This produces elongated cuts positioned in rows that look like staircases.

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Brilliant cut - You'll notice triangle shapes that face out from the center of the diamond.

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3. Light performance

Shallow cut - Light escapes from its sides instead of reflecting back to the top.

Ideal cut - This cut is quite rare as it means of perfecting the angles, proportions and placements of facets to bounce and reflect the light off the table of the diamond.

Deep cut - Less light traverses back to the diamond's table which makes it more dense and smaller than the carat weight. This jacks up the price of the diamond.

4. Sparkle

In gemological terms, cut speaks of the diamond's "sparkle." While real diamonds really don't shine, a well-cut diamond can reflect light well which in turn can make the stone appear much brighter and can even hide small inclusions. If you're looking for a specific type of diamond brilliance, mind these terms:

Fire -This is the result of the light dispersion that appears as rainbow colors. It usually has a warm glow when seen in dark environments.

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Brilliance - This is the white light reflected in and out of the diamond that make the stone seem brighter.

Scintillation – This is the juxtaposition of light and dark patterns when you move the diamond around. You see this in regular well-lighted places and is opposite where fire can be seen.

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Clarity

In a nutshell, clarity is the absence of imperfections categorized into inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes (external imperfections). Happy shares that the Gemological Institure of America (GIA) follows The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale in evaluating the clarity of the diamond. The scale "has six categories, some of which are divided, for a total of 11 specific grades."

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  • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance

You can refer to the chart below for a visual render of the list above:

Color

When jewelers talk about color, they are actually pertaining to its whiteness. Natural diamonds usually have a yellow tint in them; the fainter the yellow tint, the more high quality the stone is. The GIA also has a color scale to determine the color grade of a diamond.

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  • Colorless – (D, E, F) - It is very hard for anyone, even gemologists, to tell the difference among D, E, and F colored diamonds.
  • Near Colorless – (G, H, I, J) - These diamonds also are considered to have an excellent color and are a very slim notch down from colorless.
  • Faint Color – (K, L, M) - Unlike colorless and near colorless diamonds, faint color diamonds have a yellowish color that is visible to the naked eye. You don’t want a diamond below an M.
  • Very Light Color – (N-R) - Diamonds with this grade have an obvious yellow or brownish tint.
  • Light Color – (S-Z) - These diamonds are typically too yellow for customers looking to buy white diamonds

Fancy-colored diamonds

You can opt for fancy-colored diamonds if you're looking to further customize your ring. The naturally occuring colored diamonds are:

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  • Blue - Has traces of Boron with low amounts of Nitrogen
  • Orange - Formed with prescence of Nitrogen
  • Red - Most rare of the colored diamonds; they get this fiery hue due to a suspection of changes in its electron structure while it travels to the earth's surface
  • Green, Olive - Has traces of Nickel mixed into its carbon formation
  • Pink - Thought to get its color due to electron changes while it travels to the surface of the earth
  • Purple - Second rarest diamond color; real ones have pale colors with obvious concentration along the deformation layer while treated diamonds are saturated all through out.
  • Brown - Has Nitrogen presence in the rock coupled with structural defects in the diamond lattice
  • Gray - Traces of Boron in its structure or a saturated black diamond.
  • Black - Has small inclusions of graphite and iron clusters create the ebony color; some black diamonds are hue-enriched by undergoing HPHT treatments to get rid of the light parts.

Carat

Carat refers to the weight and not the size of the diamond. It is not to be confused with karat, which refers to the purity of gold. 1 Carat = 200 Milligrams. Remember that when buying a ring, the carat is the last thing to consider. The weight doesn't necessarily reflect the stone's quality.

Setting

"When jewelers ask for the ring setting, it's basically the style of the engagement band or wedding band," Happy says. Here are all the types of settings to choose from; delve into their pros and cons here.

Polish

This refers to the shine that is given to a diamond after it is cut. Polishing the diamond allows light to reflect off the diamond, giving the rock its natural shine. It also plays a role in the rock's clarity and cut but can change over time, depending on the wearer's lifestyle. Diamonds can be re-polished but it will affect the diamond's cut and carat weight.

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Symmetry

Symmetry also plays a huge part in your diamond's overall aesthetic, integrity, and value. Here's a helpful chart that will summarize everything you need to check with regards to your diamond's symmetry.

Metal

Platinum

"Platinum is an extremely durable metal and is a good choice for diamond rings because it is tarnish resistant." But it is also a rare metal, making it a more expensive choice. 

Palladium

"Palladium is a relatively new metal on the jewelry market and looks a lot like platinum. The difference is that palladium is typically cheaper and lighter than platinum." It is also hypoallergenic and has color-retaining properties.

White Gold

"White gold can require a little more regular maintenance and upkeep than yellow gold. This is because white gold isn’t a naturally occurring substance and therefore shows wear a little quicker than yellow gold." To maintain a white gold band, all you need is to have it redipped every once in a while.

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Yellow Gold

As with your choice of stone, the metal or ring band is highly based on your preference. Standard rings call for white gold because they look "classy and elegant," Happy says. But if you're looking for a gold band, "it is best to get a 14k gold over the 18k one." The latter has more gold (75%) in it than alloy (25%), which makes it a bit more malleable or soft, thus having less resistance and strength. Meanwhile, 14k gold bands have 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals in it. As a buyer, you can differentiate the bands by its color, too. 18k gold bands are more yellow, 14k ones look slightly paler as it has more white in it while a 14k rose gold is more pink than 18K.

Happy also advises to consider the lifestyle that you have. 14k bands is mostly ideal for everyday wear. But if the wearer is allergic to alloy or acidic, it is best to opt for the 18-karat gold band.

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Customization

Ready-made rings are widely available and since no diamonds are cut the same way twice, the chances of having the same ring as someone else is quite slim. Of course, there's also merit in building your own ring for your significant other. Not only does it add a "personal touch" and give the ring "more meaning," customized rings will be your best bet if they have a specific taste or vision of their preferred ring.

Additionally, with more specifications that you give, the more lead time you should allot when buying a ring. Happy says that it's safe to give your jewelers at least two weeks allowance to finish your order.

Ring Size

Ynna says that "usually the partners know the ring size of their future fiancé... but most of the time they ask help from family and friends. My partner, Happy, just needs to see a picture of the girls hand for estimate ring size. It takes practice! We also have a ring sizer as an instrument in finding out their ring size." Additionally, you can also bring a ring that your partner always wears to get the size. Remember that you can always resize a ring that's too big but such is not the case for rings that are too small.

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Authentications and Certifications

Always ask for a GIA certificate for safety and security, Happy advises.

"Once you have a GIA graded diamond there will be a specific serial number. It's protection for both parties for scenarios where let's say you need to have your engagement ring resized and you leave your diamond to the shop, when you get it back it you can ask the jeweler to show you the serial number on the diamond to know that it is still your diamond," she adds.

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"Things listed in the certificate or diamond report are its carat weight, color grade, clarity grade, and cut grade. Most diamond reports would have their diamonds plotted too. It's like a drawing of the diamond just to see where its inclusions are so buyers know how they're diamonds look like and serves as a guide for diamond graders or jewelers to indentify the diamond."

Insurance

It is up to the couple whether they want to get insurance for the ring or not. To evaluate the need for one, consider: "the ring’s cost, the couple’s monthly budget bottom line, and perhaps even sentimental value of the piece (some settings are family heirlooms)."

Do you need a ring specialist?

"It is very important," Happy says. "Hiring an engagment ring specialist with a GIA background allows you to be guided in selecting rings and can save you a ton of money! Ynna and I believe that the more we get to guide clients, giving them all information they need, they can make the best decision and they can trust us because we are GIA trained professionals. We adhere to its standards and always disclose price transparency and diamond details," she adds.

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Where to buy

1. Charriol

2. Tiffany & Co.

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3. Royal Gem

4. Jul B. Dizon

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5. Paul Syjuco

6. Cartier

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7. Bulgari

8. Nicole Whisenhunt

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9. Radiant Lux Jewelry

10. Little White Pouch

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