While diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, choosing the right engagement ring is not nearly as simple as putting a sparkly stone on a wedding band.
There are many things to consider when choosing what will probably be the most expensive piece of jewelry a person will wear on a daily basis.
Karl Shaefer, the store manager of Becker’s Jewelers in Mt. Pleasant, said sales associates often help people who come into the store learn the basics of what to look for when picking out a ring.
As a general guide, Shaefer said it’s important to keep the four c’s in mind when looking at diamonds: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.
“Color is sort of a misnomer in this case. It’s the lack of color because it starts at D, that is totally colorless, and goes all the way down to a Z, which is very yellow. But it’s more of a darker yellow and not a bright, fancy yellow,” Shaefer said.
The more color a diamond has, the less expensive it will be.
Cut is also an important factor because it can often determine exactly how sparkly a diamond is.
“When you cut a diamond you try to have the light go through the top and reflect back at you. That’s what causes a diamond to sparkle,” he explained.
How a rough diamond is cut will not only determine its size but also how much light it will reflect. Shaefer explained that in some cases, even though a stone may be larger than others, it may seem “lifeless” because the cut does not maximize the reflection of light.
Shaefer added that diamonds, like snowflakes, are each unique and different from one another, which may include blemishes or anomalies in the stone. Clarity accounts for any imperfections a stone may have. Carat weight is simply how large or heavy the stone is.
Even though diamonds may be the most expensive part of the ring, Shaefer said people are usually most concerned with the actual ring and wedding band.
“This is the hard part, picking out the style that they will like. The diamond part, I can get that always,” he said.
As for styles that are currently big in the market, Shaefer immediately pointed to vintage rings.
“Vintage still is extremely popular,” Shaefer said.
Vintage rings, which have been back in vogue in the last seven to ten years, usually include stylistic flourishes like filigree (fine metal designs on the side of the ring) and milgrain (a beaded border). More recent popular ring trends include halo sets (a central stone encircled by smaller diamonds) and two-toned rings with rose and white.
“Rose still is hugely trending right now,” he said.
The store manager also noted one of the newer trends includes sideways diamonds, which is setting a diamond into a ring horizontally rather than the traditional up-and-down.
Many of the trends tend to be industry driven, Shaefer said.
“It starts on the coast and works its way in and it’s a lot of the jewelry companies saying ‘oh this is going to be popular this year.’ And in some ways, they can make it popular,” Shaefer said.
The store manager said there’s a multitude of styles of rings a person can choose from — twisted shanks to marquise — but what matters most is understanding what the recipient of the ring will like.
“Usually it’s men coming in and I’d say about 75% of the time they know what their girlfriend likes because normally they’ve asked friends and with Pinterest, they can get a hint,” he said.
Many stores also usually have a 30-day return policy that will allow people to come in after a proposal to pick out a different ring if the original one doesn’t quite work out.
Wedding bands for men also follow their own trends. Currently, alternate metals — steel derivatives — are more popular as compared to traditional gold rings, Shaefer said. Laser inscriptions have been popular for men.
For those who work outside or with their hands, Shaefer said the store gives silicone rings free when some purchases a wedding band.
“They just kind of popped up out of nowhere in the last five years,” he said of the silicone rings.
In terms of maintenance, Shaefer said it all depends on how much a ring is worn. But as a general rule of thumb, he says a ring would be “the first thing off when you get home, the last thing on before you leave.”
Men may find themselves bringing in their wedding bands to jewelry stores for refurbishment every couple of years, depending on how often their ring is worn. Shaefer said a shop will polish and take out scratches to “make the ring look brand-new.”
However, for women, Shaefer suggests doing a checkup every six months to check on prongs. Because prongs are usually made out of gold, a softer, malleable metal, they can be worn off. Getting period checks on the ring will allow women to know when it is time to get replacements.
“Normally, with regular wear, you’ll need to replace the prongs every seven to ten years,” Shaefer said.
Though rings may be costly and styles may be difficult to navigate, Shaefer said putting the effort to find the right one is most probably a worthwhile investment of time.
“Other than a house, this is probably the most important purchase you will ever buy for her. It’s something she’ll wear every single day, all day,” he said.