How to buy an engagement ring: Everything a guy needs to know to get it right

How to buy an engagement ring: Everything a guy needs to know to get it right

Ring-shopping can be a daunting task, especially if you’re clueless about diamonds and jewellery. Here are really helpful tips so you can impress the love of your life.

Illustration of a couple with a ring
(Illustration: Chern Ling)

So, you’ve met the girl of your dreams and are ready to settle down with her and live a life of bliss. But first, you need to acquire the ring – a purchase that likely boggles you much more than securing your marital HDB property. 

An engagement ring is a big purchase, which explains why most men try to get a few hints from their brides-to-be, or straight out involve them in the decision-making process so as to ensure that the ring is to their liking.

But what if you’re the kind of guy who prefers a little romance and mystery – and would like to surprise and impress your special someone with your savvy choice of a ring when you pop the question? It certainly helps to arm yourself with essential knowledge that go beyond the basic 4Cs. CNA Lifestyle tells you what you should know to find the best ring within your budget.

FIGURING OUT THE 4CS

An engagement ring from Tiffany & Co
An engagement ring from Tiffany & Co. (Photo: Tiffany & Co)

If you’ve been shopping around for a diamond ring, you must have already read about the 4Cs (cut, colour, clarity and carat weight). In a nutshell, they determine the size and quality grading of a diamond and therefore how much it costs. It’s easy to find information about the 4Cs, so let’s talk about finding a good balance between these factors, as well as an acceptable range among the spectrum of grades instead.

The most common mistake that people make is to assume that size is everything in diamond selection. It may be true that carat weight will largely influence the price of a diamond, but the other Cs will also determine its value. For example, a 0.8-carat diamond that is slightly tinged could cost the same as, say, a 0.7-carat of a whiter quality. Which is the better choice in this case? It’s really down to your personal preference and what, to you, is a reasonable compromise between size and colour.

If you can tell that a diamond is yellow just by looking at it by itself, definitely put it down and go for a better one.

While an exceptionally colourless D may be harder to afford for your preferred diamond size, we’d say try not to go beyond an H. Truth be told, most people won’t be able to tell if a diamond is very slightly yellow unless it is placed next to a whiter diamond and compared side by side. If you can tell that a diamond is yellow just by looking at it by itself, definitely put it down and go for a better one.

Clarity refers to the naturally occurring inclusions found within a diamond. Most inclusions are not visible to the naked eye – in fact, no good jeweller would carry a diamond with inclusions that you can see without the aid of a magnifying loupe. But even so, they do affect the quality and value of a diamond on the whole, which is why most jewellers would recommend their customers to go for a grading between VVS1 to VS1.

READ: In the business of love, spontaneous marriage proposals are a regular affair 

A FEW NOTES ABOUT CUT

Engagement rings from Tiffany & Co
Engagement rings from Tiffany & Co. (Photo: Tiffany & Co)

Cut, while included in the 4Cs, is a whole other game that requires a little more study. Diamonds, as you should already know, are cut into a multitude of shapes – round, rectangular (emerald cut), square (princess cut), pear-shaped and even heart-shaped. You’d probably have an inkling about what your future bride prefers in terms of that – if not, we’d recommend the classic round brilliant, which is the safest and most popular choice for engagement rings.

Generally speaking and without factoring in the other Cs, a round-cut diamond will cost more than a fancy-cut diamond of the same carat weight.

Generally speaking and without factoring in the other Cs, a round-cut diamond will cost more than a fancy-cut diamond of the same carat weight. That is due to the fact that a round diamond is more complex to cut and also tends to involve more rough diamond loss in the cutting process, which equates to a higher production cost. But there’s a payoff here – you’ll get a lot more sparkle from a round brilliant because it has more facets.

And so, as you can see, cut doesn’t solely refer to a diamond’s shape, it also encompasses how it is faceted. Faceting is how a diamond gets that dazzling fire – without it, a diamond in the rough would simply look like a lustreless, transparent lump of stone. This is where many jewellers get creative, coming up with their own unique way to facet diamonds (particularly round-shaped diamonds) on top of the standard cuts common to the industry at large.

There’s a lot of marketing speak used to sell these trademarked cuts and, honestly, no real way to prove that one is indeed better than another or typical diamonds in the market. The best way to find out? Go out to the boutiques and see them for yourself – a diamond’s sparkle can only be judged and compared via experience.

CHOOSING THE SIZE AND SETTINGS

Chinese celeb Zhang Ziyi
Chinese celeb Zhang Ziyi wears an oversized diamond. (Photo: Chopard)

As much as a one-carat diamond ring is desirable, not everyone can afford to lay down the money for it (expect to pay around S$10,000 for one of a reasonably good quality, and upwards if the diamond rates higher on the quality factors mentioned above).

Expect to pay around S$10,000 for one of a reasonably good quality, and upwards, if the diamond rates higher on the quality factors mentioned above.

But even if your pockets aren’t deep enough for a one-carat diamond, and size really does matter to you and your partner, there are ways to make a smaller diamond look bigger than it really is. Consider putting the diamond in a halo setting, which frames the central stone with a ring of teeny-tiny diamonds and thus makes it appear larger. Ring proportions play an important role here too – a setting with slim prongs as well as a slim band will make the diamond look bigger by contrast.

WHERE TO SHOP FOR HER RING

To ensure quality and gem authenticity, it goes without saying that you should only go to established jewellers for your diamond. Many people head straight to a well-known local jeweller such as Goldheart or Lee Hwa Jewellery. You can definitely find good diamonds at these names (it’s possible to find a 0.5-carat diamond for around S$3,000 and a one-carat diamond for around S$8,000 here).

Of course, if you have a more creative or specific ring style in mind, you might want to explore smaller local jewellers that offer a bespoke design service, sometimes at an additional fee.

An engagement ring from Tiffany & Co
Personalised boxes from Tiffany & Co. (Photo: Tiffany & Co)

Those with a bigger budget may want to try an international brand-name jeweller such as Tiffany & Co or Cartier, but be prepared for prices that are almost triple those that you see at local jewellers.

Want to know exactly what you are paying the premium for? These brands typically have a special diamond sourcing and selection process and place a lot of importance on ensuring that their diamonds are ethically sourced. To find out more, it’s best to make an appointment for a personal consultation with these jewellers.

Although diamond-shopping is best conducted in person, some people choose to buy diamonds online because of the lower prices compared to those in stores.

But, whichever place you end up purchasing your diamond from, make sure that it comes with recognised certification – GIA and AGS are two of the most well-known diamond certification authorities in the world but do note that certain jewellers, such as Tiffany & Co, use their own certification, while some utilise those from other certifying organisations.

Although diamond-shopping is best conducted in person, some people choose to buy diamonds online because of the lower prices compared to those in stores. We won’t go further into that but if you should like to do so, do the necessary research and find a reliable vendor with a good return and exchange policy.

CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE COLOURED GEMSTONES

Rings with coloured center stones from Cartier
Rings with coloured center stones from Cartier. (Photo: Cartier)

One new trend in engagement rings is the use of coloured gemstones instead of diamonds, but, as most men will ask – what is their monetary worth compared to diamonds?

Precious coloured gems like sapphires, emeralds and rubies – if they’re of a good size, colour and quality – will typically be as pricey as diamonds, if not more so. They are considered by the jewellery industry, royalty and the world at large to be just as precious as diamonds, and are much more limited in supply (the high-quality ones, that is), which partly explains why they can sometimes cost a lot more.

Precious coloured gems like sapphires, emeralds and rubies – if of a good size, colour and quality – will typically be as pricey as diamonds, if not more so.

It’s difficult to compare their value to that of diamonds carat-for-carat as they are judged by slightly different standards – without delving into the complexities, it all depends on their quality, particularly colour. If you are after one of these stones, you’d have better luck going to a private or high-end jeweller.

Most semi-precious stones, on the other hand, are usually much more affordable. A semi-precious stone can be anywhere from a fifth to half the price of a diamond of the same size, but you should know that there are also the very rare few (such as a Paraiba tourmaline) that are considered precious and valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars because of their incredibly rare colour – of course, these are only available to very select high-end buyers.

Since they come in an amazingly vast range of colours and varieties, semi-precious stones offer a lot more design possibilities for jewellery. For the modern, unconventional bride, a pale-blue aquamarine, pink spinel or green peridot ring may be a unique way to channel her contemporary style and femininity. What’s more, you’ll be able to get more carat weight for your money, compared to an equivalent amount spent on a diamond – which makes a very compelling reason to opt for a semi-precious gemstone indeed.

READ: Jewellery investment: Advice on how to navigate the current volatile market​​​​​​​

Source: CNA/yy

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