Anyone can easily agree with weddings as an ideal gesture of lasting companionship. No other object popularly gives meaning to this long-term relationship than wedding and engagement rings. The symbolism of eternity associated with the jewelry’s namesake shape has been around since the classical period.
In fact, Ancient Egyptian couples exchange rings fashioned from reeds during their ceremony. It was in Ancient Rome when grooms begin imparting betrothal rings to secure their woman’s hand in marriage. But it would take another thousand years for mankind to come up with the technology and tradition of fixing shaped diamonds on metal bands.
Today, almost every man in the United States spends two month’s worth of his salary to cover the average engagement ring cost – around $6,351 as of 2017. This does not yet include a wedding band (not to be confused with music entertainers) that costs an average of $455.
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands
Although it may come as a shock for a lot of people, not everyone understands the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. It is even more so due to the fact that most jewelry stores package both items in a single unit (e.g. the wedding ring set). Technically, the engagement ring and a wedding ring are different from each other.
Engagement rings are proposal gifts that are given to the potential spouse (which could be rejected depending on the stability of the relationship). Just like the earliest stages of the courting process (dating stage), one should put the best foot forward when deciding to progress to the next level of the relationship. For this reason, engagement rings tend to be very ornate because it represents the best intentions – as symbolized by an exquisite craftsmanship.
Wedding bands, on the other hand, are rings exchanged by the bride and the groom during the ceremony. Unless couples prefer to purchase expensive ones, the standard type does not always have an etched center stone since it is always bought in pairs.
Traditionally, the entire wedding ring budget is comprised of an opulent engagement ring and a pair of matching wedding rings – a two for the bride and one for the groom. But some couples modify the stereotypical practice with a more cost-efficient alternative. Such practice is characterized by the bride simply dressing the groom with her own symbolic wedding band while exchanging vows – hence, one ring for each couple.
The Four C’s of Choosing Engagement Rings
Considering the introductory part of this article, it is plainly obvious that engagement rings tend to entail the higher portion of the spending. If you’re fastidious about your spending, buying engagement rings require a greater deal of attention.
Simply buying two rings can save you a lot of money at the expense of breaking popular tradition. But if you wish to stick with the familiar setup, you can also make the most out of your budget by looking at its value according to the basic standards of diamond quality by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA):
The easiest quality feature that dictates your spending is the stone’s size and weight. A single carat is equal to 200 milligrams, but it is the heaviest and costliest variety sold in jewelry stores. Speaking of varieties, here is an example of standard carats and their corresponding exact prices according to a Washington-based seller called Taylor & Hart:
- 30 ct: $1,095
- 50 ct: $1,920
- 75 ct: $3,345
- 00 ct: $5,895
One aspect that defines the value of the diamond’s various shapes is the gem cutter’s level of craftsmanship. The cut is the most technically complex and painstaking factor to analyze when it comes to knowing how much to spend on an engagement ring. The GIA grades the diamond cut according to the following features:
- Brightness: the degree reflecting of inner and outer lights
- Fire: the degree of multiple color dispersal for white light
- Scintillation: the sparkling effect due to white and dark light contrast
If you prefer the popular round diamond, you can save exact cost by choosing smaller carat varieties. It is the most expensive profile because the gem cutter thoroughly polishes 58 or more facets. But if you prefer a cheaper 1 carat stone, choose the princess or the cushion shapes.
While the gem cutter’s skill generally affects the diamond’s quality, another aspect that is beyond anyone’s control is its natural formation. Diamonds are carbons undergoing intense head and pressure for at least 1 billion years. As with every naturally occurring material, purity is relative to the standards of the examiner. Here is a six-level clarity scale according to a Missouri-based seller called Lumera:
- FL: Flawless, with only 1 out of 5,000 achieves this clarity.
- IF: Internally flawless, with less than 3% jewelry quality diamonds rated as IF.
- VVS1 or VVS2: Contains the scarcest degree of blemishes visible only by 10x magnification.
- VS1 or VS2: Contains very little blemishes visible by 10x magnification.
- S1 or S2: Contains very blemishes only slightly visible to the naked eye.
- I1, I2 or I3: Contains blemishes almost immediately visible to the naked eye.
If you are aiming for excellent material integrity, watch out for the number of blemishes that appraisers may find in the shaped gemstone. Technically known as inclusions, the six most easily definable types are bearding, cavity, cleavage, cloud, feather and knot. Let an appraiser enumerate the occurrence of these specific flaws during the selection.
The last defining factor that affects your decision to buy a diamond is its natural color. Like clarity, this aspect is naturally-occurring to a stone. But unlike clarity, color does not necessarily imply poorer aesthetic quality. The GIA classifies color scale into 23 alphabetical letters:
- Colorless: D E F
- Near colorless: G H I J
- Faint color: K L M
- Very light color: N O P Q R
- Light color: S T U V W X Y Z
In order to guarantee that you’re shopping from a GIA-certified jewelry store, avoid sellers that only grade diamonds based on color scale. Color is the easiest and least precise factor to estimate quality. Consider sellers that include clarity scale in their option list.
Choose a diamond that is classified between the D and M scale. If you have to choose a center stone under the lowest classification in this prescribed range, consider choosing a round-shaped diamond etched on golden ring band.