IT’S not just the cost that can make buying an engagement ring a daunting process. Once you’ve passed the man-mountain of a security guard and entered the museum-like atmosphere of a shop overflowing with rare, sparkling objects, it’s hardly the easiest environment in which to speak up and admit that, actually, you haven’t a clue what you’re looking for.
“It can be a very pressurised atmosphere, and you can feel quite hindered about asking questions,” says Adrian Demondez, studio manager at Star Jewellers in Hatton Garden (www.starjewellers.com), which holds relaxed evenings to introduce chaps to the ring-buying process, under the name “Project Rock”.
From three-stone trilogy rings to classic solitaires (single diamonds), you’ve got a lot of options to consider. Demondez advises doing a bit of research to work out what sort of ring your beloved would prefer. Does she tend to go for vintage styles, or is she into new, modern design? Has she commented on friends’ rings? Which ones does she hover over in magazines? “You need to take note of all these little things to give you pointers.”
Decide on the budget you’re prepared to run to, and stick to it resolutely. If the price you’ve set and the type of ring you’re after don’t match up, the jeweller will be able to suggest alternatives to fit into your price-range, and Demondez says diamonds that are nominally inferior when inspected under magnification will often still look beautiful when viewed by the naked eye. Don’t be afraid to ask the jeweller for guidance.
“You can get huge differences between stones that, aesthetically, seem very similar, so do you really need to get the pricier one?” says Demondez. “A good jeweller should give you enough information to make a proper, informed decision, but not so much that you’ll be overwhelmed and glaze over.”
The famous “four C’s” that categorize a diamond – cut, carat (meaning size), colour and clarity – are the variables that define the look of a diamond. Colour is classed on an alphabetic scale that starts with D for the most flawless white. At H a tint of yellow will come in as the price drops, before rising again as colour becomes intense – coloured diamonds are extremely rare. A one carat (about 6.5mm across) G diamond on a white gold band could cost around £5,500 whereas a flawless D stone the same size could be worth £15,000. To the naked eye, however, Demondez says the difference will be negligible.
“Generally, I’d only advise to go below H if you want a large diamond but a lower budget. You can still get a beautiful stone, but it will be less clear and contain a few marks when inspected closely.”
Since they’re the most popular, round-cut diamonds are the most expensive. You can save a bit of money by going for a more obscure shape but bear in mind that if you choose something quirky like a heart shape you’ll need to get a wedding band shaped to fit around it. You also need to get the wedding band in a matching metal to that of the engagement ring, so keep that in mind if you intend to splash out on platinum.