Choosing your engagement rings is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It is a symbol of your love and commitment to your future wife. It is a symbol of the strong bond that exists between you. And it will be a family heirloom that will be treasured for generations to come.

This is one decision that requires a lot of care.

Why Choose Princess Cut

To put it simply, princess cut diamonds are 30% cheaper than traditional round cut diamonds - and actually weighs more than a similar sized round cut. So you are buying more diamond for a lot less. And these diamonds are briliant and gorgeous.

It looks like an inverted square pyramid with beveled sides and usually has 76 facets. The large number of facets ensure the stone sparkles brilliantly - a lot more than other diamonds. And also typically has no dead spots.

What's Her Ring Size?

Your best option would be to visit your local jeweler - or the nearest Walmart - and get them to use a jeweler's sizing tool and find out what her ring size is.

But in most cases, you do not know her ring size - and you definitely cannot take her to a jeweler and find out.

The best you can do would be to buy a size 7 ring. And if it's too big - it most likely will be too big, get it resized later. You could also get some spacers so that she will be able to use the ring for a while before it is resized.

But before we go further, there's one very critical distinction you will want to read about ...

Fine Jewelry vs Costume / Fashion Jewelry

Many folks have a hard time choosing jewelry because they do not know what separates fine jewelry from costume jewelry.

Fine jewelry is made of high quality materials by highly talented artisans. Materials like gold ( at least 10 carats or higher), sterling silver and platinum , natural diamonds, pearls and high quality gemstones. Fine jewelry is considered an asset that appreciates in value with time.

Fashion jewelry is made of a wide variety of materials. Wood, plastic, glass, copper, beads and more. In most cases, fashion jewelry does not appreciate in value. In reality, it may actually be worthless to anyone else but you.

Craftsmanship: Elegant, timeless, sophisticated are some one the words you would associate with fine jewelry. Highly skilled artisans are typically involved in designing fine jewelry.

That said, many popular designers also design fashion jewelry and their designs sell at a premium. But no matter who designs a piece of jewlery, if it is not made completely from precious metals and hiugh quality natural gemstones, it cannot be fine jewlery.

  • Items made from lab created diamonds, cubic zirconia, glass, moissanite, quartz, briolite, rhinestone are costume jewelry.
  • Plated jewlery is costume jewelry.
  • If the ring has natural stones but plated settings, it is costume jewlery.
  • If ring has one genuine, high quality main stone surrounded by lab created stones, it is costume jewlery.
  • If the surrounding stones are genuine but the main stone is las created, then it is costume jewlery.

Why care about all of this? Because your engagement ring has to be a piece of fine jewlery. It is a heirloom that will stay with your family for generations. This is what you would want to remember when you are shopping for your engagement ring.

If you are planning to buy loose diamonds, you would also want to learn about the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) for diamonds. The KPCS ensures confict diamonds are not traded. Ask your jeweler for proof about the country the diamonmd was mined in, where it was cut and polished. Do your bit to ensure conflict diamonds are not traded.

Also, ask your jeweler for a GIA report. That's your insurance against buying a low grade or fake stone.

Here's a table that details the differences between fine and costume jewlery ...

Fine Jewelry Costume / Fashion Jewelry
Has precious metals like gold (10carat or higher), natural diamonds, sterling silver, authentic natural gemstones or pearls. Y N
Can last for generations. Y N
Could be a great investment. Y N
High quality craftsmanship Y N
Constructed with plated metal N Y
Has at least one manufactured / lab created stone N Y
Here's what you should not buy ...

White gold: White gold sure looks pretty and shiny. But it isn't good for you. The shine is due to the rhodium coating which may actually be toxic. And the shine can wear out pretty fast, leaving you with a ring that looks corroded with lots of ugly spots. Definitely not what you would expect a family heirloom to look like.

Many are allergic to rhodium plated jewelry. Some actually say rhodium is not just highly toxic but also carcinogenic. But clinical studies are yet to confirm their suspicions.

Rhodium coating wears off pretty fast, and is also very prone to scratches. While recoating is a possibility, this would mean you will have to spend money every couple of years or so. And that does nothing about the toxicity.

Cubic Zirconia: It is very tempting to buy Cubic Zirconia. It looks far better than some of the best diamonds. It is cheap. But don't ever make the mistake of buying cubic zirconia. Sure, it sparkles, glitters and appears optically flawless. But the resemblance doesn't go much beyond that.

Truth is, cubic zirconia is a relatively very fragile. Chances are, drop a CZ ring and you might break the stone.

But that's not all. There's a far more important reason why you would not want to buy a CZ ring. You see, if your fiancee's mind is set upon a diamond ring, you definitely would not want to buy a cubic zirconia ring. There's no way you will be appreciated for that.

Sterling Silver: You will also want to stay away from sterling silver. Not because it's fake - but because there are far too many people selling low grade silver, passing it for .925 grade silver. And chances are, unless you are buying from a highly reputed and honest jeweler, you will end up getting cheated.

There are many sellers online - and offlline - selling "genuine" 925 grade silver rings for $2.00 or less. There's simply no way a honest jeweler can sell genuine .925 grade silver rings for such a ridiculously low price and survive in business.

What many sellers sell as .925 grade silver jewelry is in reality just chrome coated lead. That's right. Chrome coated lead. There is no silver in that stuff.

Many pieces of supposedly "silver" jewelry selling at prices that seem too good to be true are actually rhodium plated. Rhodium gives a shiny, bright white look which is enough to impress many.

There are several reports online about fake gold and silver bullion being sold on the market.

  • Fake Silver Coins In Canada: The Hamilton Police have seized around 500 very high quality fake US silver eagle dollar coins. These are brass filled silver and nickel plated coins that are so good that it would be impossible to judge with the naked eye.
  • Avoiding Fake Silver: Has some nnice tips on how to avoid buying fake silver coins.
  • Tungsten Silver: Talks about the appearance of Molybdenum filled fake American Silver Eagle coins.
  • Destructive Testing of Fake Silver: The video at the end of the page is a must watch. See for yourself what the insides of a supposedly Canadian Maple Leaf coin and a miint bar really looks like. If there's anything that can convince you that there's really lots of fake .925 grade silver on the market, this will be it.

Don't dismiss these reports because they are about coins and not about silver jewelry. If these guys are good enough to make these, would it be hard for them to produce fake silver rings as well?

There's another problem with sterling silver rings. Even if you do manage to buy a genuine .925 grade sterling silver ring, it will not last long because it gets worn so much. It will not last for a lifetime.

If you really are planning to buy silver anyway, make sure you buy from a very reputed jeweler who buys bullions directly from a national mint. If you don't, chances are you will end up with a piece of fake silver jewelry.

Sliver/Gold plated rings: Silver or gold plated jewelry would be good for costume jewelry. But you cannot call it fine jewelry by any stretch of imagination. It isn't fine jewelry. And your engagement ring has to be fine jewelry.

The main disadvantage of plated jewelry is that the plating wears off pretty quickly, leaving unsightly grey or brown patches on the ring.

For that matter, filled or rolled silver or gold rings are not a good choice either. Not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with them. It just isn't fine jewlery - no matter what certain manufaturers have to say about this. These are basically good only for costume jewelry.

Gold or silver rolled jewelry has a coating that's a lot thicker than plated jewelry. In that sense, it's better than plated jewelry. So if cost is the biggest factor in your decision, you will be better off buying rolled jewlery instead.

Stainless steel: The only plausible reason for choosing a stainless steel ring should be if your fiancee is allergic to metals. Otherwise you shouldn't ever think of buying stainless steel. This isn't anywhere close to being fine jewelry. Not by a long shot.

But for those with metal allergies, this would be the safest option. Even someone who is very, very allergic to metals like nickel will most likely not be affected by stainless steel.

How to Evaluate a Diamond

If you are going to be buying fine jewlery, chances are it will have at least one diamond. So you will want to know how to know the quality of a diamond.

Here's a very informative video you will want to watch ...

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has created a universally accepted International Diamond Grading System for diamonds. The GIA established standards for evaluating diamonds that are followed the world over today.

There are 4 parameters that determine a diamonds quality :

1. Color

Colorless diamonds are the most valued. But the vast majority of diamonds are colored. The stones are found in nature in a very wide range of colors. yellow, grey, red, orange, pink, green, black, purple, brown - and more. Colors are due to imputrities or structural defects.

fancy colored diamonds

Fancy Colored Diamonds (FCDs):

Stones that are of very intense yellow, pink, blue - or any other color for that matter - are very, very rare. These are called fancy colored diamonds. It is estimated that only 1 in 10,000 diamonds are fancy colored. These are highly sought after and are graded differently. The depth of color of these diamomds exceedes Z of the grading chart.

People interested in fancy colored diamonds like them solely for their color. They are not very particular about cut or clarity. The more intense and deep the color is, the better.

FCDs look best in settings that enhance the color. For instance, intense yellow diamonds look best when set in yellow gold, pink diamonds in rose gold.

2. Clarity

Most diamonds have inclusions and surface blemishes that reduce their ability to scatter and transmit light. The degree to which these defects are present in a diamond is reflected in the clarity score.

GIA clarity grading scale GIA clarity
3. Cut

When it comes to cut assessment, you would want to know that GIA does not provide a cut grade when it comes to princess cut diamonds. Strange as it may seem, it's true. GIA assesses only round brilliants for cut. There are no GIA standards for grading princess cut.

The American Gem Society (AGS) has come out with a cut grade on princess cut. They are possibly the only institution ever to create a cut grade on fancy cuts.

In the past, princess cut was designed to have the maximum diamond weight for a given crystal. Factors like fire and brilliance - the ones that are so important for beauty - were pushed to the sidelines. The quality of cut was not given much importance. So no matter how good - or bad - the cut was, it had hardly any impact on pricing.

But all that's possibly set to change now.

The AGS evaluates princess cut stones on a scale of 0 to 10. AGS 0 stones are possibly the best you can ever find. But only 3% or fewer of the currently available diamonds would make the grade. And AGS 0 stones are also bound to be pretty expensive.

GIA diamond cut rating

Now that there is a system to evaluate cut, the way diamonds are cut will also change. So you can expect to see more AGS 0 stones in the market.

4. Carat weight

Carat (ct) and karat (K or Kt) are not the same. Carat is a measure of the weight in milligrams of a dioamond, while karat is a measure of purity of gold. The two are very different.

The diamond carat is 200 milligrams. The carat is further divided into 100 points. Thus, a 1.50 carat diamond will weigh 300 milligrams and a 5 carat diamond will weigh 1000 milligrams or 1 gram.

princess carat size

In general, more the diamonds carat weight, higher will be its price. Since there are 3 other factors - clarity, color and cut, two diamond with the same carat weight can have prices that are very different from each other.

Caution!! Get An Independent Gemological Appraisal

There are several methods used to enhance the color and clarity of diamomds. And if you are planning to buy a diamond, you need to know about these methods.

Clarity Enhacement

No matter how much you read about evaluating diamonds, it is impossible for the untrained eye to estimate a diamond's quality and worth. And there are several "trade secrets" that make it impossible for you to know what a diamond should be priced at.

Diamond retreading - or fracture filling or clarity enhancing - is a process that's used to make disfigured diamonds appear whole. Fractures and blemishes on the surface of the diamond are filled using a glass like paste. The optical properties of the paste are the same as that of the diamond - so you will not know the diamond has been "treated". Laser drilling and acid etching and two other commonly used clarity enhancement processes.

These processes are legitimate and there is nothing illegal about this. It's just that treated diamonds should be selling for a lot less than untreated ones.

Many a time, jewelers will may not disclose the fact that a given gemstone has been treated or not. Which is why you should insist on independent gemological appraisal before you buy a diamond. It is better to buy GIA certified diamonds that come with grading reports. That way, at least you will know what you are buying.

GIA does not issue grading reports to fracture filled diamonds.

If a diamond doesn't come with a GIA grading report, you may want to think twice before buying it. There are just too many ways you can go wrong while buying a diamond. If the risk is not worth taking, then don't take it.

Color Enhancement : HPHT Diamonds

HPHT - or high pressure high temperature - is a treatment process used on near flawless diamonds. With this treatment, you can change a diamond's color. This is usually used to change yellowish diamonds to fancy colored stones. It's also used to change brown diamonds into colorless diamonds.

Again, this is also a legitimate process. But it needs to be disclosed to the buyer. If you are buying a fancy colored diamond - or a colorless diamond, ask whether it is a HPHT diamond. These diamonds should cost significantly less than natural stones that are untreated.

The problem is that many companies selling HPHT stones just do not disclose the fact.

Coatings

In recent times, sophisticated coating techniques have been developed to make yellowish diamonds appear colorless. These coatings are so well applied that even experts may have a hard time detecting them. Only under high magnification will these coatings become apparent.

If a coating has been applied to a diamond, it should be disclosed.

The very least you can do if a diamond does not have a GIA grading report - and you really want to buy it, then get it appraised by an independent gemologist.

Also, if a diamond is selling for a price that seems too good to be true - and does not have a GIA grading report - then it might be a sign that it's a "treated" diamond. Ask the jeweler whether it has been treated.

Diamond Grading Reports: caveat

If a stone has no grading report, you would either want to get it inspected by the GIA - or buy a stone that comes with a certificate that's less than six months old. But even while buying a diamond that comes with certificates or reports, there are quite a few things you will want to be aware of :

  • The GIA does not issue a certificate. They inspect a stone and give you a grading report. It's not a certificate. The have the most exacting standards of all the grading laboratoiries.
  • Before you buy a ring that has at least one diamond, ask the seller for the carat rating of each diamond. And whether each of those has a GIA grading report. In some cases, the diamonds may have reports issued not by GIA but from other organizations like Hoge Raad voor Diamant (HRD) of Europe, Precision Gem Grading Laboratory (PGGL) of Philadelphia, International Gemological Institute (IGI) or American Gem Society (AGS). Regardless of which organization issued the report, ensure that the actual diamond was evaluated - and not a model.
  • Beware of diamond grading reports that are not from GIA : In most cases, you should insist on GIA graded diamonds. Evaluating diamonds is a hugely profitable, unregulated industry. And the price a diamond sells for depends mostly on the report issued by a laboratory like GIA. GIA is a non-profit, whereas other laboratories are for-profit. They get paid by jewelers who get their diamonds graded. And since jewelers stand to gain if a lab issues a glowing report, they tend to be a lot more liberal than the GIA. You'll want to read this article to see what I mean : .
  • If the report is a year or more old, have the seller get the stones re-certified by GIA. The GIA report details the stone's attributes at the time of grading. The diamond could have been altered later - which would render the report useless.
  • If you are a first time buyer, chances are you will not be able to correctly interpret and understand the report. In that case, have someone competent take a look at the report and explain what it means. Or you could read a few sample reports online. .
  • No grading report should quote a monetary value for a stone. A report that has a monetary value mentioned on it is most likely a appraisal and not a grading report. An appraisal is of little interest to you. What you are looking for is a grading report. Which is why you would want to see what a sample GIA grading report looks like before you visit a jeweler.
  • A GIA diamond grading report is not the same as a appraisal by a GIA gemologist. An appraisal is typically done by a GIA graduate gemologist. But a GIA grading report is issued by GIA Gem Trade Lab graders. A GIA graduate gemologist may work independently and have completed certification programs by the GIA. A GIA grading report carries a lot more authority than an appraisal.
Buying Online : Caveat

Buying jewelry online is sure very convenient. But you would want to excercise caution. Here is what you should know ...

  • Buying at eatsblished sites like amazon.com is more secure compared to less established sies. Amazon.com's A-to-Z guarantee makes buying a lot more secure and less stressful. If the items you buy are damaged or materially different from what was on the product page you purchased from, you might contact them and they should be able to help you. In contrast, less establised sites may not have the resources to help you in such conditions.
  • There are a variety of tools even some established sites use to increase their profits. While using these tools is not illegal, you still might end up spending more than you should have. This article discusses such practices.
  • Is the seller very new? Do they accept paypal? If the seller is new and does not accept paypal, you might better not buy from them.
  • Does the seller have lots of positive feedback? If the seller has no feedback, avoid buying from them.
  • If you are planning to make a very expensive purchase, you might instead buy from a regular brick and mortar jeweler instead. That way, you get to see the item yourself, ask questions, see certyificates and reports firsthand.
  • If the seller does have positive feedback, see from whom it came. Was it from other buyers who purchases similar items at similar prices? Or was it from buyers who purchased one penny items?
  • Remember the #1 rule when buying online : if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • After you buy a piece of jewelry online, you might want to get it appraised by a professional. Here are some tips on how to go about doing that. You should expect to pay before getting the appraisal. Never agree to pay a percentage of the value for getting an appraisal.
  • At the very least, get a quality assurance report from an independent appraiser for your ring. That's how you will get to know if it's really a 1 carat diamond set in 22K gold. Take a look at this to see what to expect from the report.
Questions To Ask a Jeweler

Before you visit a jeweler, there are a couple of points you would want to read ...

  • Get informed. Research all you can about what you plan to purchase. See what similar items are selling for online and at other stores. The more informed you are, the better your buying decisions will tend to be. If you are not informed, you will easily get talked into spening a lot more than you should.
  • You should always aim to get good value for money when buying jewlery. That said, if you subscribe to the idea that jewlery is a good investment, throw it out of the window. Jewelry in general - and diamonds in particular - are definitely not good investments. Diamonds have really low resale values. You should not consider your engagement ring an investment - it's all for the sentiments. Value only the emotions that your ring represents. As a financial investment, it's really not the best. With those two issues handled, here is a list of questions you would want to ask a jeweler ...
  • For how long has the jeweler been in business? You want to do business with a very well established, reputed jeweler.
  • Are they affiliated with the BBB? Visit BBB.org and see what other people have to say about this particular business.
  • Does the jeweler belong to a trade organization or association? Such organizations typically have ongoing education requirements and ethical standards to abide by. And consumers benefit from this.
  • Ask for referrals: Ask your jeweler to give names and phone numbers of at least 3 of their customers they have done business with in the recent past. In case your request is refused, you would want to take your business elsewhere.
  • Does the jeweler carry an inventory of diamonds and other gemstones? If they are not, then they most likely are sourcing their inventory from a neighborhood store - and inflating prices.
  • Does the jeweler also manufacture jewelry? Many stores only sell. A few also design jewelry. Only a small number design, manufacture and sell. The price you pay at stores that do all the three functions could be a lot less relative to shops that only sell.
  • Ask what their policies are regarding returns, buy backs and upgrades.
  • While you are in the store, make a note of how you are treated. Do you feel comfortable buying from there?
Metal allergies: What you must do

Metall allergy - or allergic contact dermatitis - is a problem many women experience. This is mostly caused by contact with nickel. The very first sign that you are allergic to a metal is usually when a lesion or rash appears at the area of contact. You may also notice blisters, papules or vesicles or even just a read area. You may also experience itching, inflammation and localized swelling.

The one sure way to tell whether it is indeed an allergic reaction to a metal is if the rash occurs one or two days after exposure to a metal - and is confined to the area on your skin that had been in contact with the metal.

Nickel and Chromium are the most common allergens. But some are allergic to alloys in gold jewlery as well. But fact is, almost no one is allergic to gold in its pure form. That's another reason to buy very fine gold jewelry. When buying gold jewelry, it's best to buy 14K or finer gold. Gold that's less than 14K contains nickel.

Many who have metal allergies would need to keep away from these metals for life. There's little that can be done in this case.

The best treatment would be to avoid contact with the metal. If a rash has indeed appeared, it would be best not to do anything that can aggravate the condition. Just leave it alone for a couple of days and it will go away.

But in more serious cases, you would need to see a doctor right away.

If your fiancee happens to be allergic to nickel or to alloys in gold rings, the best choice for her would be a stainless steel ring. Other choices could be genuine sterling silver, Titanium and Platinum.

In case someone with a metal allergy for some reason has to wear a piece of jewlery containing an allergen, it would be best to coat it with nail polish. You may want to read this news report about what one woman who is highly sensitive to nickel does to reduce the symptoms.

You might also want to see ...

Must See Money Saving Tips: These tips can help you save many a pretty penny when you are shopping for the ring ...

Colored Diamond Jewelry: What you would want to know about colored diamond jewlery