How to choose a diamond ring

February 8, 2018

Wedding Bells reports that 20% of engagements take place in December, but Valentine’s Day is also a popular time to pop the question. Historically people have used other types of jewelry and gems to propose, but in 2013,  the Jewelry Industry Research Institute reported that 75% of brides wear a diamond ring.

If you propose with a diamond ring, it is largely as a result of a hugely successful advertising campaign from De Beers, one of the largest diamond companies in the world. In 1947 De Beers launched its promotion for diamond engagement rings with the slogan “a diamond is forever.”

Between 1939 and 1979, the company’s marketing budget soared from $200,000 to $10 million per year, according to The Atlantic. Over the same period, its wholesale diamond sales in the United States grew from $23 million to $2.1 billion. Also over the 40 year interval, De Beers went from recommending spending one month’s salary on an engagement ring to two month’s pay.

I was not able to find Canadian data, but according to the Knot’s 2015 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $5,871 on engagement rings, up from $5,855 in 2014. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.

Each individual must decide how much to budget for an engagement ring, but regardless of the amount you plan to spend, you need to understand what to look for when you are shopping for rings. First of all, the price and value of diamond jewelry is influence by the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.

It is of primary importance when you select stone(s) and a setting that you are dealing with a reputable jeweller. It may also be advisable before you finalize the transaction to have an independent gemologist appraise the stone(s) to ensure you are getting good value.

In addition you should receive a certificate from your jeweler (sometimes called a grading report). This is a complete evaluation of your diamond that has been performed by a qualified professional with the help of special gemological instruments. Each stone bears its own recognizable, individual characteristics, which is listed on the certificate.

Here are some other important things to consider when selecting stones and a setting for an engagement ring.

  1. Understand your partner’s taste in jewelry
    White or yellow gold? Old fashioned or modern? Chunky or delicate? Diamonds only or embellishment with coloured stones?
  2. Ring size
    Borrow a ring he/she already owns and trace the size. You can always have the ring re-sized after you propose but there may be additional cost. Also, who wants to take the ring off and part with it for days or weeks while adjustments are made?
  3. Favourite shape and cut
    Diamonds come in a myriad of cuts ranging from square, round and oval to pear shaped. A diamond’s cutting style refers to its facet arrangement, rather than its shape. The fewer the facets, the more visible any inclusions will be, so a cutting style such as a step cut (a.k.a. emerald cut), for example, requires higher clarity in the diamond.
  4. Setting
    The setting can vary from a solitaire or single stone, to a large stone with small stones on each side to three stones of the same side. A halo stone is where a center stone is surrounded by tiny gemstones  (usually diamonds), to add sparkle and give the appearance of a larger center stone. The setting you select will depend on a combination of preferred style and your budget.

No matter how much you pay for your ring, speak to your home insurance company and decide whether you should have it specifically listed on your policy so it is insured in case of loss or theft.

I lost the pear shaped diamond from my ring at the gym several years ago. In spite of the fact that paying a premium to insure the ring was no fun, I was quite relieved when my policy reimbursed me for the considerable value of the lost stone.


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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.
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