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Quality v. Quantity: How Much Does Size Matter for Diamond Engagement Rings?

Posted by Kevin Ulrich on 15 January 2016

Engagement Ring

With an estimated 67% percent of brides researching rings before getting engaged, brides-to-be have a clear vision for their engagement rings, according to Knot.com. And fiancés are not just popping into a jewelry store and buying the first ring that catches their eye. Men report visiting at least five retailers and looking at an average of 25 rings before purchasing "the one." So just how important is size when it comes to finding that perfect ring? It all comes down to the bride-to-be.

Ladies Know What They Want: Size Matters, But Style Counts, Too

Ring selection is a highly personal decision, and women like to be actively involved in the process. Consider this: 70 percent of Pinterest users begin making Pinterest boards before they’re even engaged, and dreaming about the perfect ring is no exception. Women may initially have a singular vision in mind, but as they start exploring other styles, including semiprecious gemstone settings, a single large solitaire is no longer the default choice. In fact, only one in five brides receive a clear diamond solitaire. Nearly two out of three brides have a diamond center stone flanked by side stones or accents. The halo setting has tripled in popularity, going from 7% in 2011 to 22% in 2015.

Customization is crucial: whether men are redesigning family heirlooms or resetting vintage pieces, nearly half of all men choose to make custom changes to an existing design. And while the size of the ring is important, it’s not the be-all-end-all, according to Knot.com’s research. More than half of all brides prefer quality over quantity, and 85% of men would rather buy a smaller, better quality diamond. That’s good news for men’s wallets, as the cost of diamonds increases exponentially with their size. For example, you could get an entire carat’s worth of diamonds in 10 tiny diamonds around a ring’s band for a fraction of what you’ll pay for a single solitaire.

Engagement Ring Spending Hits All Time High

Engagement ring spending hit an all time high in 2015, with men spending an average of $5,978 for a ring. However, many couples are moving away from the traditional rule of thumb that a groom should plan to spend anywhere from one to three month’s salary on the engagement ring. Despite the huge size of celebrity sparklers (Angelina Jolie’s is an estimated 10 carat diamond), brides-to-be recognize that such large rings simply are not practical or comfortable for daily wear. And with other financial priorities in play – like affording a wedding (the average cost is now $31,123 according to Huffington Post) – there are a number of other considerations.

Engagement Ring Trends in 2016

In 2016, expect to see men continue to invest in quality diamond rings for their brides, but opt for more practical or unique settings rather than a single large solitaire. Size does matter, but customization matters even more.

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Is your love in the air – or is it set in stone?

A diamond is a forever investment. Understanding the four C’s – carat, color, clarity and cut – will ensure that you make a smart selection. While some of these differences are not visible to the naked eye, they do directly impact a diamond’s overall quality and price. When selecting your perfect diamond, keep the following in mind:

Cut

A diamond’s “cut” grading measures whether a stone has maximum brilliance and sparkle– it’s what brings fire to the ice and catches your eye. Cut is different from the shape of the diamond (e.g., princess cut, emerald cut, etc.). The cut evaluation rates the diamond’s angles and brilliance, evaluating the diamond’s proportion, facet arrangement and overall workmanship quality. Diamond cut grades range from “excellent” to “poor” with the excellent rating resembling the ideal cut illustrated below.

Diamond Cuts

Clarity

Virtually all diamonds for sale today include minor irregularities or imperfections, although these imperfections are rarely visible to the naked eye. The minor imperfections in a diamond are caused by the liquid volcanic rock in which a diamond is created. While diamonds are primarily pure carbon, during the crystallization process, other nearby minerals may become trapped within the cooling mass, which in turn affects the diamond’s clarity.

Clarity is measured on a scale with grades running from “flawless” (virtually no imperfections) to “included” (imperfections heavily included). “Pure” diamonds are flawless or internally flawless; these diamonds are exceedingly rare and expensive. VVS-1 and VVS-2 grade diamonds have very, very small inclusions; VS-1 and VS-2 diamond have very small inclusions; SI-1 and SI-2 diamonds have small inclusions; and I-1, I-2 and I-3 diamonds are heavily included. Diamonds are graded under a 10X magnifying glass in good lighting by an experienced grader. The final grade is determined by how easily the grader can see the inclusions and blemishes.

Color

The “color” rating actually refers to the absence of color in a diamond. Like a drop of pure spring water, when it comes to diamonds, the less color, the better. The jewelry industry recognizes the highest quality gemstones by purity of hue. In order to demine the absence or presence of different hues, an experienced diamond grader will compare the diamond to “master stones” using artificial or natural northern daylight. Colorless diamonds are graded either D, E or F. Near colorless diamonds are graded G, H, I or J. Slightly tinted diamonds receive a K, L, M or N rating. Very light yellow diamonds are graded O, P, or Q; light yellow diamonds are graded R, S, or T; yellow diamonds receive a U, V or W grading and light fancy diamonds are graded X, Y or Z.

Diamond Color

Carat

The most well-known of the four C’s, “carat” is the unit of measurement for ta diamond’s weight. A carat is subdivided into 100 “points”; for example, a 50-point diamond is “half a carat” or “0.5 ct”. Today, many individuals also equate carat with size. Generally speaking, the higher the carat weight, the larger (and more expensive) the stone. However, color, clarity and cut also affect a diamond’s price; two diamonds of equal carat weight may have very different prices due to these three ratings.