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Diamond Ring Magnified[Flickr |theappraiserlady]

After figuring out what I wanted in my engagement ring, I did a lot of homework on diamonds. Rather than telling you the whole long and boring story about that process, here are my notes. So if any of you are in the market for a diamond, you should start your search here:

  • The Diamond Buying Guide – An excellent starting point, this site provides a very comprehensive overview on the four C’s (e.g., cut, clarity, color and carat) and teaches you how to buy a quality diamond based on the shape (e.g., cushion, round, princess, etc.) and your budget.
  • Pricescope – Hands down, this is a great online forum for diamond shoppers.  Even if you don’t ask/answer any questions, there are already a lot of great conversations between noobs and experts that you’re sure to find the information that you’re looking for.
  • LoveToKnow – While this site isn’t diamond specific (seems similar to About.com), there are some great articles on how to buy an engagement ring – covering everything including how much to spend, where to buy and how to take care of it, etc.
  • Blue Nile – This online retailers have super easy-to-use diamond search engines that let’s you see how diamonds are priced based on the four C’s and other characteristics. It’s a great way to figure out what you can get for your budget.

In my opinion, it’s fairly easy to get a good grasp on the basics – i.e., the four C’s – because there is a wealth of information (although it can be quite overwhelming in the beginning) available on the Internet. It’s everything else that needs to be considered (yes, these things are equally as important) that’s really tricky to figure out. Fortunately for you, I’m feeling generous with my new found knowledge:

  • Buying Order – If you don’t plan on buying an OTC ring that’s already set, then make sure you go in order with your purchases. Buy a loose diamond first, then get the setting. Why? Well, if you buy the setting first then you run the risk of having an awkwardly set stone. Imagine a tiny center stone that looks even tinier because of the giant gap between it and the setting’s other side diamonds or halo…yea, you know what I’m talking about. Or, in another worst case scenario, you can’t buy the princess (e.g., square) diamond that you fell in love with because your setting can only hold a round diamond. This rule is especially important if you’re buying a fancy shaped diamond (basically anything that isn’t a traditional brilliant round). Given the varying shapes and sizes of these types of diamonds, it’s better to make the setting a custom fit.
  • Certification – When purchasing a loose diamond, don’t ever just take the sales rep’s word for it. If for some reason, you aren’t presented with a certificate from GIA (Gemological Institute of American) or AGS (American Gem Society) to verify the diamond’s quality, ask for it. If the diamond has not been certified by one of these two third-party organizations or is “certified” by an unrecognizable group, then proceed with caution. Without this certification, it’s almost impossible for the average consumer to tell if a diamond is the real deal or a dud. On another note, a certificate is not the same thing as an appraisal. A certificate explains the quality of your diamond whereas an appraisal determines your diamond’s value.

(Photo Credit: www.buyingaloosediamond.com)

  • Girdle – For some reason, I have a feeling most people glaze over the fact that a diamond’s carat size actually refers to its weight. As a result, they assume carat means size (e.g., length to width ratio). This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look at Blue Nile and compare the l:w ratios (look at the advance search criteria) for several 1 carat diamonds of the same shape. You’ll immediately notice that they are all different, some significantly smaller and some significantly larger. Why is this? The thickness of a diamond’s girdle (see diagram above to see what part of the diamond this is) can make it heavier or lighter.  Ideally, this should be just right. If it’s too thick, the diamond’s size will be a bit smaller. Conversely, if it’s too thin, the diamond has a higher risk of being damaged because the girdle isn’t as strong.
  • Table % and Depth % – The width of a diamond’s table and the depth of its pavilion has a huge impact on a stone’s sparkle – i.e., it’s ability to refract incoming light. The ideal percentages are easy to find for brilliant round diamonds because they’re cut to maximize light in a way that’s down to a science. On the other hand, it was almost impossible to find the ideal percentages for cushions because the length and width of these shapes vary so much. That being said, the Diamond Buying Guide listed above actually has some good general guidelines to help people figure out what’s good and what’s bad based on a diamond’s shape.
  • Culet – This is the point at the bottom of a diamond’s pavilion. Ideally, this should be as small as possible – in fact, it’d be great if this was non-existent. Why? If it’s too big, your diamond is going to have what looks like a giant hole in it when you look down at the table.
  • Florescence – This refers to the colored glow that a diamond has when it is under UV light. There are varying thoughts on whether it has a strong impact on a stone’s color, but the theory goes as follows: If you’re buying a colorless (D, E, F) or near colorless (G, H, I) diamond, make sure it doesn’t have a strong or medium blue florescence to it. If it does, it will make your stone look duller. However, if you’re buying a diamond with a lower color grade  (anything from J-Z), a strong or medium blue florescence will actually make your stone look whiter.

Disclaimer: I am no gemologist. I’ve only shopped for one diamond in my life, so take my advice with a grain of salt, ’cause I’m not an expert in any way shape or form.