Choosing An Engagement Ring: The Ultimate Guide

A must-read explanation about the ins and outs of buying the gift of a lifetime.

The moment of the proposal (photo credit: BIGSTOCK)
The moment of the proposal
(photo credit: BIGSTOCK)
According toJewish tradition, a wedding ring should be worth at least a dime. Today, some engagement rings are worth thousands of dimes.
So, you're about to spent a lot of money, you're not sure what white gold is, gemology sounds like something out of Harry Potter and the only place you have actually seen a diamond is on a deck of playing cards?
Relax; we've sorted it all out for you. Welcome to the complete guide to picking the perfect engagement ring. In this manual, you'll learn all you need to know before buying an engagement ring.
Selecting an engagement ring isn’t a simple task. You're about to buy a piece of jewelry that will symbolize your love to a special woman. If she agrees to your proposal, that ring will stay with both of you for many years to come.
That's why it's so important to pay close attention to the many details involved and be prepared before going to the diamond exchange and becoming completely confused.
With today’s enormous variety of available options and gem qualities, it’s worth taking some time to learn about the differences between various merchandise, as well as sellers, in order to ensure:
- Quality purchase of a luxurious ring
- Monetary savings on a worthy purchase
- Legitimate guarantee
- Peace of mind  
- A successful and appropriate choice
We asked Ariel Samuel, a Professional jeweler and the owner of Aribar Jewelry to help us set this highly comprehensive manual, including all the important points pertaining to selecting an engagement ring -- from personal customization to preferred styles and tastes, as well as quality of the gold and diamond, the seller's credibility, insurance and more.

The million-dollar question: What kind of ring does she want?

What type of ring would your fiancée-to-be like?
It's important to keep in mind that this ring is for her; it's going to be the most special and beautiful thing she owns and it will be with her every single day.
That's why it's important to know about her taste in rings. Does she prefer yellow gold or white gold? Does she like wide, conspicuous rings or thin, delicate rings? Does she long for a single, larger diamond or for a ring that is set with many smaller stones? A round diamond or a square diamond? A diamond with more depth or a flatter diamond?
So, how are you supposed to know what she’s wishing for?
First of all, take a look at her hands and at the jewelry she already wears. You may notice a common style, that can make your choice of a ring much easier. For example, have you observed that all her jewelry is made with yellow gold? Does she seem to choose single, larger stones over many, smaller gems?
Another option is to listen to her when she talks about rings or any other jewelry. Does she mention certain designers or admire a particular style as you pass by display windows? It's possible that she has very unique taste. In this case, all your efforts won't help, making it necessary to seek help from a close friend or relative.
Asking a friend about her taste in jewelry is the easiest solution, but also the most dangerous one if you intend to keep the wedding proposal a secret. If you're still not sure what she would like, some might say the your best option is simply to ask her, but that will essentially ruin the element of surprise in your proposal.

Avoiding a faux pas: What is her ring size?

Choosing an engagement ring involves option-weighing and decisions, as well as significant monetary outlay.
Let’s say the chosen ring becomes a huge success and is excitedly accepted, but then… it doesn’t fit her finger. That would be disappointing, a huge embarrassment, and even worse…  it isn’t always possible to resize the ring after the gems are set.
The best way to know her ring size is to take a ring that she normally wears on the intended finger and bring that with you to the store when you order. It is also possible to gain the assistance of one of her close friends, who can borrow a ring. If possible, it would be even better to take more than one ring.
There are tools in the store to precisely measure the rings and create another in the identical size. It's better to buy a ring that's slightly larger than the finger, as fingers tend to slightly swell over the different seasons of the year and over the course of many years.

No less important than the diamond: Choosing the ring

Rings make up a whole world of different shapes, materials, colors, styles and sizes.
The most important thing about gold rings is the type of gold and its purity level. Next comes the style. Engagement rings have three classic styles and an abundance of different designs.  
Ring design
Engagement rings have millions of different shapes and designs. The classic models are solitaire, twist and aura. These can be found in every serious jewelry shop. Available styles include a variety of interesting additions and combinations. The model where the diamond sits inside a crown, above the ring's hoop, is called solitaire. In recent years the twist has become the most popular model. In this model, the diamond usually sits as part of the ring's twist. In an aura ring, the diamond or other gem is usually surrounded by an aura of smaller diamonds, creating the impression that the central diamond is bigger than it really is. In today’s market, one can also find other unique designs, getting increasingly luxurious with an abundance of miniature ornaments.
Every option is exquisite. What ultimately counts the most is her personal taste.
Types of gold
There are three types of gold in the world -- yellow gold, white gold and pink gold, also called red gold – with none more prestigious than the other types. They all have different advantages and uses, mostly depending on the fiancée’s taste.
Pink gold is used mostly with gems of different colors and for designer pieces, but is uncommon to see in engagement rings. White gold is beautiful and royal, and even 100% white gold is not gold in color, but rather a metallic platinum.
White gold's biggest advantage is that provides a background that makes the diamond look far whiter, much cleaner and with more depth. Overall, it really flatters the diamond. Yellow gold is the classic color, with many women preferring an engagement ring made of yellow gold.
Yellow gold makes it much easier to identify high quality in a ring. It has a unique color unlike any other metal. Additionally, diamond quality is seen very clearly when the diamond is white, clean and shiny, even though it's surrounded with yellow gold.
Pure gold
Gold’s purity is measured by the amount of real gold in the metal used to make the ring. 100% gold is called 24 karat.
Why? For issues of mathematical convenience, the system was devised thousands of years ago by those in the field of precious metals and gems, and it has remained the agreed-upon measurement ever since.
Pure gold is too soft to forge into rings, so in most cases you'll find rings made of 14-18 karat gold, meaning that the pure gold inside the ring is quantitatively proportional. For example, 18 karat gold contains 75% pure gold that has been combined with other metals.
Here’s one place wherein lies an option to lower the ring's price. The difference between 18 karat and 14 karat gold isn’t easily noticeable, and a 14 karat gold ring is  quite respectable, durable and beautiful. You can also find gold-plated rings, which are covered in a layer of gold but are not made of gold.  

The Four Great Variables: Choosing the diamond

"Complex things aren’t necessarily complicated."
There is no need earn an advanced degree in gemology in order to purchase a ring. One should, however, become familiar with the “Four C’s” universally-accepted method to determine a diamond's quality.
A diamond is a tiny, rare stone. Finding a 1 carat weight diamond requires digging 200 tons of rocks from the ground. This is what creates the diamond's allure. Diamonds can be found in different shapes, with the most common cut being the round shape. A Square shape, developed by an Israeli diamond dealer, is also available. This shape is called "Princess” and is also in high demand. Other gem shapes include the Heart, Oval and Marquise, among others.
Still, a diamond's price is determined only by the following four measures of quality: weight, color, cleanliness and cut.
To help remember these four factors, keep in mind that all of them start with the letter C: Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut. It is especially important to check the weight and color of the diamond. 
1. The diamond's weight (carat)
The diamonds weight is measured in diamond carats. One diamond carat symbolizes one diamond weighing 0.2 grams. 
The most common diamond weight for engagement rings is 0.5 carat, that is 0.1 grams. Four diamonds weighing a quarter carat each would together cost less than one diamond weighing one carat.
When dealing with larger diamonds, weighing in at two and three carats, it is especially recommended to check the other measures of quality and to have a thorough look at the diamond dealer's gemology certificate.
2. The diamond's color
Diamonds come in varying levels of clarity and in a diversity of colors. 
Colored diamonds are very rare and extremely expensive. One in 10,000 is a colored diamond. These are called Fancy Colors, and come in yellow, blue, pink and red.
Yellow is the most common of all colored diamonds, while the red diamond is the most rare and expensive colored diamond. Colored diamonds appear at a 1 to 1,000,000 ratio to plain diamonds.
Most diamonds are clear and very light yellow, with those of the highest quality being completely colorless. The labeling of a diamond’s color is marked by a lettering system.
- Colorless -- D-F -- These diamonds have no color at all and their quality is determined by their level of clarity.
- Almost colorless -- G-I – One can notice a light color in these diamonds, especially from a side view. When looking at the diamond from above, it's very difficult to notice the color.
- Diamonds with light color -- J-L – This grade of diamond shows a light yellow tint that can be noticed when looking at the diamond from any angle.
- Diamonds with strong color -- M-Z -- These diamonds have a strong color, and as such, are not considered of high enough quality to be used for engagement rings.
The classification of a diamond's color is quite different, depending on the diamond dealer’s gemology certificate or lack thereof, as the certificate is much stricter, ensuring that the diamond's quality is at least according to the marked classification.
When purchasing a diamond from a dealer with no gemology certificate, it is recommended to choose a diamond with higher color classification.
3. The diamond's clarity
It is widely known that diamond is the strongest stone in the world, but it is also understood that even the strongest things have internal flaws.
This quality measures the number of internal flaws and their type. Flaws can be fractures, distortions, bubbles, black stains, cracks and groups of dots. Rating is determined according to the magnification necessary in order to see the flaws.
Perfect diamonds, entirely free of internal flaws, are marked IF and are so rare that they're not traded in the global diamond market. As for the rest of the diamonds, varying levels of internal flaws are classified in the following manner:
- Very, very small internal flaws – VVS – These are diamonds with such small flaws that even via examination through a magnifier, it will be difficult to discover flaws. VVS flaws can be identified only through the use of specific types of microscopes. Diamonds in this group are divided into two subcategories: VVS1 and VVS2.
- Very small internal flaws – VS -- These flaws can be identified through 10x magnification. Typical flaws in this group are vesicles or internal dots. Dia-monds in this group are also grouped into two subcategories: VS1 and VS2.
- Small internal and external flaws – SL – Stones with this classification still look clean to the naked eye, but once magnified, internal flaws are seen, as well as external cracks and light scratches. This classification is also divided into two subcategories: SL1 and SL2.
- Large internal and external flaws -- I1-- these flaws can be easily spotted and include scratches, dots and fractures. 
Diamonds rated as VS and SL are quite popular in the world of jewelry. Stones classified as VS are regarded as having a very high level of clarity and are sought after for engagement rings.
Diamonds classified as VVS are considered extremely luxurious, and diamonds over 1 carat in this category are a rare find on the market.
When looking to set diamonds with low carat weight into an engagement ring, it's possible to find stones with a classification of VVS1, having a very high level of clarity.
Diamonds with classification of I1 are considered very plain, much cheaper than diamonds with other classifications, and can't be found in high quality stores. I1 stones are also priced significantly less than diamonds in other categories.
4. Diamond cut
Cut is of crucial significance to the diamond's quality, coming at the expense of the diamond's weight. A diamond cut at a sharp angle, for instance, is of higher quality, but it the diamond loses more weight to reach this cut than others.
Professional diamond cutters will cut the diamond with optimal quality, taking into account the stone’s diameter, weight and sizes of the different surfaces. The cut is classified into four quality ratings:
- Excellent -- Perfect cut with maximum diameter
- Very good -- Nearly perfect cut without maximum diameter
- Fair -- Cut of minimal diameter in relation to the size of the stone
- Poor -- Cut with a diameter that is under the size the diamond requires
Prices go down as the level of quality falls. A diamond weighing one carat, for example, but with a diameter of under 6 mm is considered a low-quality, cheap diamond.
Synthetic diamonds
Most diamonds are natural, however increasing numbers of synthetic diamonds are being manufactured in laboratories and entering the market. These synthetic diamonds are significantly cheaper than natural diamonds.
In the 1950's, the first man-made diamond was successfully manufactured by heating graphite, under pressure, to a temperature that simulated the conditions under which natural diamonds form, deep underground.
The first synthetic diamonds were tiny, of very low quality and were used for industrial purposes. Today, quality synthetic diamonds are manufactured in various sizes. It is difficult to distinguish the difference between synthetic and natural diamonds, thus requiring advanced gemological tools.
Treated diamonds
Another common artificial process in the diamond market is the treating of diamonds. Treated diamonds are those that have been through certain improvements that are designed to fix internal or external flaws.
The different treatments include filling cracks, laser drilling to clean internal black stains, fracture filling and even enhancement to improve the color intensity of colored diamonds. This method can to turn yellowish diamonds into colored diamonds. The cost of these treatments is relatively low and they can give the stone the appearance of a higher quality and more luxurious diamond. However, there are some disadvantages to the different treatments, and it's important to receive a diamond certificate in order ascertain that the diamond hasn't undergone such treatments.
There are a number of drawbacks to these treatments. One example is that a diamond that received a silicon filling doesn’t sparkle the same as an untreated diamond. The most significant disadvantage of the treatments is that they do not hold up over time. After a while, the treatment starts to wear down and the diamond takes on a faded look and its real quality is revealed.
Ensuring the diamond's quality: Diamond certification
A diamond certificate describes the different aspects of the diamond, and as such, ensures that a certified professional inspected the diamond and approved that the description is accurate, just as the diamond's dealer has declared.
The diamond certificate is a kind of reliable identification document that enables determination of the diamond's worth, both at the time of purchase and in the future. Indeed, one is not required to buy diamonds only if they have a certificate, but the certificate ensures that the diamond you own does indeed possess the guaranteed qualities.
If you do business with a store that has a reliable reputation, it's possible that instead of a gemological certificate, you can take a store certification and be satisfied with that.
A gemological certificate describes these measures:
A.    Type of gem: Is this a natural diamond, a treated diamond or other gem?
B.    Shape: The diamond's shape – Is it round, square, heart-shaped or som ething else?
C.    Quality measures: The diamond’s weight in carats, clarity, color, level of cut and proportion (for round diamonds)
D.    Polish grade: The level of polish on the different surfaces of the stone
E.    Symmetry: The level of the cut’s symmetry
F.    Depth percentage: The diamond's depth as a percentage of the diameter
G.    Table percentage: Defining the upper surface as a percentage of the di-ameter
H.    Girdle thickness: Defines the breadth of the strip that is the widest part of the diamond
I.    Culet size: Defining the diamond's point and the degree to which it is symmetrically centered
J.    Fluorescence: The stone’s level of fluorescence
K.    Level of cut: Specifications describing the cut angle and the quality of shine it creates   
Gemology is the science of gemstones. The name originates from the English word "gem", meaning gemstone. The gemologist is the professional whose job it is to sort and classify gems, identify the different gemstones, register and document the gem's features by shape, crystal structure, cut and internal and external flaws. In addition, the gemologist is the professional expert who performs the delicate work of splitting and cutting raw gemstones in the most optimal manner. Most gemology work is done in gemology labs, and these labs produce the diamonds’ gemological certificates.
Types of certificates
There are different types of gemological certificates, all ensuring a diamond's quality. All serve as trustworthy, professional documentation that the diamond has been examined by a qualified gemologist and that these indeed are the actual parameters of the gemstone.
In Israel it's possible to find state of the art gemology labs such as GCI, IDI and DGI, which provide their own gemological certificates.
One seeking to purchase diamonds with a quality cut but low color rating can utilize the labs of IGI and HRD, which specialize in this specific domain, primarily in the Far East and India. European labs such as E.G.L and IGL are highly respected, issuing quality certificates that don’t raise a diamond's price. Because of this, they are preferred by most stores of the diamond exchange district in Ramat Gan.
At the top of the list of certifying organizations is the certification of the American lab, GIA (Gemological Institute of America), a non-profit organization that undertook the task of examining the quality of the world's diamonds utilizing the most advanced scientific methods. This means that this is one of the world’s strictest labs, and diamonds that are backed up by its certificates are even more expensive.
An endless selection of designs: Choosing the right setting
Choosing the diamond is just the beginning. The next step is to integrate the diamond into a ring with a suitable design.
It's recommended to integrate a diamond with a low color rating into a white gold ring. A setting in a yellow gold ring is recommended to sit relatively high above the ring, highlighting the stone and its quality. In a solitaire setting, make sure the diamond is connected to the ring with six prongs, not four, to ensure that the diamond won't fall out at any future point in time.
Still, what counts the most is the individual taste of the special person who will wear the ring. It's important to ascertain her preferences. Would she rather wear one larger gem or a ring set with many smaller gems? Does she prefer that the stone be set high above the ring or just the opposite – that it not protrude too much? Is it important for her to have a clear, sparkling gem, or would she rather have an 18 carat blue sapphire, just like the one Kate Middleton received from Prince William?
The hottest trends in engagement ring designs
In recent years especially surprising trends have arisen, leaning toward exceedingly special rings.
The popularity of pink gold rises from year to year, and it turns out that the most common Google search in the field of engagement rings was for pink gold in 2015. Of course, the popularity of the classic solitaire design continues to hold its place at the top of sales records, using white gold and set with a 1 or 0.5 carat diamond, with or without small stones set along the ring itself. Likewise, topping the popularity charts are beautiful aura designs, featuring a central stone surrounded by smaller diamonds.
Next come the fascinating twist designs that place the diamond into the peak or heart of any of a number of twist shapes, turning the entire ring into an especially fascinating and stunning piece. Likewise, is the story of the of Princess-style rings, whose popularity had somewhat declined since the 2000's, and is currently begin-ning a market comeback.
The most popular rings are actually those with three or four small diamonds set into the crown of the ring. It seems that their low price tag, paired with the magical beauty of a few diamonds sparkling together captivates shoppers.
Price, reliability and sentiment combine: Where to shop?
One of the most important decisions in selecting an engagement ring is where to buy it. It's worth choosing a place that's provides personal attention, where one may consult the experts concerning any questions that arise along the process, and where you can count on having someone to talk to, even after your purchase, if necessary.
Of utmost importance in such a significant acquisition is the reliability of information provided about the ring and the reliability of the place of business attesting that there is no fraud involved, neither in the description of the quality of the ring nor in the conditions of purchase. That's why it's vital to choose a professional, reliable business with vast experience and a solid reputation. It's recommended to buy a ring from a company whose owners are members of Ramat Gan’s Diamond Exchange.
To avoid unnecessary expenses, it's best to buy in a store connected with a manufacturing and import factory, saving brokerage expenses that add to the price. This can happen when purchasing in a store that doesn’t manufacture and import its own rings. Moreover, it's always worthwhile to trust your gut feeling and to buy an engagement ring in a place where you feel good… where you feel comfortable asking questions and consulting with experts.
Beware of online sellers, of merchants whose prices appear abnormally low, of stores that don't provide diamond certificates.
A diamond is just begging to be stolen: Is it worthwhile to insure the ring?
Regular apartment content insurance only partially covers cases of jewelry loss or damage. The insurance covers all jewelry, up to 10 percent of the content insurance coverage, and no more than 2 percent of the content insurance for a single piece.
This coverage is only valid if the damage happens when the jewelry was in the house, and only when the cause of damage is one of a small number of specific causes listed, including fire, break-in and theft.
It's possible to buy insurance that covers damage from any possible cause. This is called "all risk". With these policies, the rate of compensation is also higher. Corresponding with the higher coverage, the premium is also higher. It's also possible to take out a policy specifically insuring the ring. This policy would detail information regarding its value and will cover any damage or loss, both in Israel and abroad.
Tips to recap
To avoid confusion and difficulty in choosing the ideal ring, it's suggested to arrive at the store with significant knowledge of diamonds and jewelry, as well as selected options of rings models.
Also, it's highly recommended to arrive with a close friend of the fiancée-to-be for assistance in making the final decision.
It's worth arriving at the store as prepared as possible. Set a budget and examine the models offered online, on the shops’ websites. Then, choose a limited number of options, get to the store to make your final selection and purchase.