Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How To Buy a Diamond Ring (Part 2)

Have you, after much thought and deliberation, worked out that your girlfriend was the person that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?  Have you then realised that you need to buy a ring and know nothing about it?  Well then this guide is for you.

If you're just starting out check out Part 1 of my How To Buy a Diamond Ring guide.  It covered knowing your girlfriend as well as setting your budget and sticking to it.  In Part 2 I will be covering the nitty gritty of diamonds and the research you should do before going to visit any jewellers.

Step 3: Understanding diamonds...what does it all mean?

If you start looking for diamonds you will be confronted with a whole lot of terminology which is a little bit confusing.  The most important thing to remember are the 4-C's.  These are the four most important parts of a diamond and determines the cost of the diamond.  They are Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat.  They are not all created equal so make sure you understand them before you go out ring hunting.

Here is a very brief overview of the 4-C's.

A. Cut

The cut of the diamond is the most important characteristic of the diamond as it determines how brilliant the diamond is (i.e. how much it sparkles).  

Note that it can get confusing because the word 'cut' is used in two different contexts.  It is used to both describe the shape of the diamond (i.e. round, princess, pear etc) as well as the quality of how the diamond is actually cut.  While the shape of the diamond does matter (round diamonds cost far more than the others...because they sparkle more) it is the quality and grading of the cut that is most important.

I could get into details on the cut of the diamond but there are other sites which will provide you far more information on the specifics.  Basically, a diamond with a better and higher quality cut will reflect light significantly better and there will be less leakage of light.  Once again this comes back to how brilliant the diamond looks when you look at it.

The reason that the cut is the most important factor is that it really does affect how much the diamond sparkles.  If you are tossing up between different diamonds and are trying to weigh up what is important you should always go for a better cut because a smaller diamond with a better cut will often look bigger than a larger diamond.

If you can ask for '3 ex' (which stands for excellent-excellent-excellent) when you buy the ring.  Try it - compare a '3 ex' cut to another cut and see whether you can tell the difference.  I certainly could when I started looking at actual diamonds.

B. Colour

Diamonds come in different colours.  The clear ones you are used to seeing on girls hands and on television are actually colourless diamonds.  However there are a range of colours from D (colourless) all the way down to Z.  

Diamonds in the D - F range are called colourless and are the most highly sought after diamonds.  Technically diamonds classed as G not colourless however you would never be able to tell the difference.  After G though the difference is quite noticeable so I would avoid anything rated less than G.

So what should you get?  Ask a
jeweller to show you diamonds of different colours (from D to G) and see if you can tell the difference.  I asked and honestly I couldn't tell the difference at all...but the price difference was huge.  The best value for money in the colour category appear to be in the F - G range.  These diamonds look as good as their higher graded counterparts and you are paying far less.

C. Clarity

Most diamonds contain some flaws in them.  They are either on the surface (called blemishes) or on the inside of the diamond (called inclusions).  A perfectly formed diamond both inside and out will set you back tens of thousands of dollars....and most of us don't have this kind of money to spend.  Understanding flaws is therefore important.

  • Diamonds rated F (Flawless) or IF (Internally Flawless) are expensive.  If you choose to go down this path and still pay a reasonable price you are going to be compromising on some of the other characteristics above.
  • Diamonds rated VVS1 and VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included 1 and 2) have inclusions that are hard for a trained geologist to find under 10x magnification.  They are still expensive but are much more affordable than F and IF diamonds.
  • Diamonds rated VS1 and VS2 (Very Slightly Included 1 and 2) have inclusions that can only be seen under 10x magnification and are much more affordable.
  • Diamonds rated SI1 and SI2  (Slightly Included 1 and 2) have inclusions that are visible under 10x magnification (to you and I) and may have inclusions which are visible to the naked eye.
  • Anything rated below SI2 has inclusions that are visible to the naked eye and should be avoided.

So which category should you go for?  This is one where you can spend all day moving between categories and wondering how 'perfect' you want the diamond to be.  The best way to work it out is to go to a jewellers and work out whether you can actually see any of the inclusions they talk about.

The next step is the realise that your girlfriend is never going to look at the diamond under magnification so you want the diamond to be eye clean.  That is you want it not to have any flaws when you look at it with the naked eye.  You don't need to go up to one of the higher categories to get this.  In fact diamonds rated SI1 and SI2 are often fine and you will not be able to tell the difference.

D. Carat

Ahhh carat....possibly the only part of a diamond that a guy has actually heard off.  The carat is actually the weight of the diamond with 1 carat = 0.2 grams.  But what size of diamond should you actually buy?  This is actually completely up to you and your budget (after taking into account the other 3 characteristics above) will generally determine the size of stone you buy.

Here are some things to think about:
  • Is your girlfriend fixated or very keen on getting a ring that is greater than 1 carat?
  • If not think about this: the price difference between 1.01 carat diamond and a 0.91 carat diamond is often thousands of dollars ($3,000 at the last jeweller I went to)
  • A few smaller diamonds together is going to be much cheaper than one larger stone of the same weight
  • Remember what I said above about cut.  A smaller diamond with a better cut will often look better than a larger diamond.

Step 4. Research you should do before going to the jeweller

Before actually going in to seriously look at spending your hard earned cash there is some research that you should do.  Some of this is pretty basic but so many guys can't be bothered doing it.  These include
  1. Finding out everything you can about diamonds.  Everything I learned about diamonds I wrote down in a little notebook (it's actually what I used to write the section above).  When I went in to actually look for rings this knowledge was invaluable.
  2. Get a rough estimate of prices online.  Some people don't mind buying diamonds online.  I confess that I'm a little gun shy about spending a lot of money online and prefer to see the ring before I buy it.  However at the minimum you should look online to see what prices for diamonds are.  I recommend Blue Nile for your research.  Their site is easy to use and you'll get an idea very quickly about the price / quality trade off
  3. Go to an expensive jeweller and actually look at rings. There are some jewellers that are incredibly expensive but allow you to ask a million questions and actually understand what you are actually buying.  Go in there to see the difference between clarity and colour and whether you can actually tell the difference between a 0.91 and a 1.01 carat ring.
After this you are ready to actually go shopping for your ring.  I will be covering that in Part 3 of my guide on How to Buy a Diamond Ring so keep an eye out for that.

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How to Buy a Diamond Ring (Part 3)...to come


  1. Sounding like an expert there 90M, congratulations though and sure that she'll say yes :)

    Still have to catch up sometime, plenty to discuss

    1. Happy to chat sometime - shoot me an email when you're back from your holiday.

      Haha I feel like a mini expert on diamonds now. I did SO much research before this post and once I bought the ring it was useless information to me so I decided to share.