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Circle of Love

Choosing The Perfect Diamond Engagement Ring

Evaluate each potential diamond using the four C's - carat weight, clarity, color and cut. These are the universal criteria used to determine quality and value.

Carat weight refers to metric carats, which are each about the same as the weight of a small paper clip.

Clarity refers to the number of blemishes in a diamond. The fewer the blemishes, the rarer the diamond and the more valuable. Clarity grades are assigned ranging from the perfect flawless stone to those with more prominent imperfections.

Color or lack thereof is next. Colorless diamonds are very rare and very valuable. Most diamonds are nearly colorless with yellow or brown tints. The grading scale begins at D for colorless and ends at Z for light yellow or brown. Your jeweler can demonstrate the subtle differences.

Cut does not refer to the shape of the diamond (round brilliant, heart, pear, or marquise) but instead refers to proportion and how well the diamond was cut to reflect the most possible light. The best diamonds are cut to use light to create brilliance, sparkle and flash. The cut is really dependent on the skill of the jeweler and how well he or she cuts the diamond to release the gem's brilliance thorough the proportion of the many facets or angled planes which allow light to reflected through the stone.

Besides the quality of the diamond, you should consider the shape of diamond. This is simply a matter of personal preference. Most brides will simply try on a variety of shapes until they find one that they think looks best on their finger. There are many from which to choose: round or brilliant, pear, emerald, marquise, princess, oval or heart.

Once you have chosen your diamond, you will need to make some decisions about the ring metal and setting. Brides can choose from tiffany settings, which place the diamond high up off of the ring shank, basket settings, which put the diamond lower on the shank, and bezel setting where the diamond is encased in the shank for the most protection. Because all settings are done in a way to maximize brilliance and sparkle, all will show your diamond to its advantage. As you choose, keep in mind your activity level. For example, if you whitewater kayak or rock climb every weekend, a tiffany setting might not be best because you will be regularly exposing your ring to damage. Instead, you might consider choosing a more compact setting for protection.

No matter what setting you choose, you should have your ring checked by a jeweler on a regular basis. Most jewelers recommend that you have your ring cleaned and the setting checked every three months to be sure that nothing is coming loose.

Buying With Confidence

Often, engagement and wedding rings are your first big jewelry purchase as a couple. While you want to be romantic, you also want to get it right. After all, this is something you will have the rest of your lives together. So, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to find just the right ones. Shop where you are comfortable asking questions, where you'll get good customer service and where you know the reputation of the store.

Some other tips to help you get through the ring buying process:

A little knowledge will go a long way. Take the time to ask for an education at several stores before you actually make a purchase.

Decide on a budget. Before you get carried away or faint away from sticker shock, determine what you can spend. Spend only what you can afford and go for quality over flash.

Focus on the stone not the setting. The stone is the largest part of the ring's expense. Shop for the stone you want and then put it in the setting of your choice. Don't pick the setting and then just happen to take the stone that comes with it.

If you're the potential groom shopping alone for an engagement ring, take a closer look at what your girlfriend is wearing. Is her jewelry primarily yellow gold? White gold? Platinum? Diamonds, or emeralds? Fancy or plain? What has she mentioned in the past?

Remember that once an engagement ring has been ordered, it may take several weeks for it to be ready for the big moment, so plan

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