How to choose solitaire rings for proposal?

I think it is the commonest question for all boys who are planning to raise a proposal.

There are universally agreed rules on buying diamonds. Follow them and you should avoid the pitfalls.

First, a geology lesson: diamonds are 99.95% pure crystallised carbon and can be extremely old - one to three billion years old, in fact. They are the hardest naturally occurring substance known and are formed beneath the Earth's surface when crystals of diamond occur in volcano feed-pipes. When volcanoes erode down, they release diamonds from their feed-pipes into layers of gravel which are later mined. However, due to the relative rarity of this natural process, diamond mines are found in just a handful of sites around the world. In rough form, diamonds are shipped to the world's cutting centres to be shaped and polished before being set as jewellery. It is the hardness, brilliance and sparkle that emerges during this process that transforms them into a girl's best friend.

The Five Cs

So now that you know why you are buying an engagement ring made with a diamond, you can familiarise yourself with the "Four Cs" - cut, colour, clarity and carat. All must be considered equally when comparing diamonds, but more than any other factor, according to Tiffany and Co, it is how the diamond is cut that will determine its defining characteristic.

Cut: As the only characteristic of a diamond not influenced by nature, the cut is open to mistakes and bad practices. Cut a diamond incorrectly and the defining sparkle will be compromised. It is how the 57 or 58 facets (the tiny planes cut on the diamond's surface) are angled and sized that dictate how light reflects and exits the diamond, an effect known as its "fire". Make the cuts too deep or too shallow and the diamond will be less brilliant.

The cut will also determine the shape of the diamond. The most common shape is the round cut, but others include the emerald, the pear, the marquise, the princess, the oval and the heart shape. Ask to see all of these shapes, if only in a picture, to make sure you have covered all your options.

Colour: The most valuable and rare colour is white, that is to say, colourless. Jewellers grade absolutely colourless diamonds with a "D". The scale moves up to "Z" (don't ask what happened to A, B and C) and, between these two extremes, diamonds will display subtle coloured tones. Diamonds with a very strong and distinct colour are extremely rare and are called fancies.

Clarity: Many people get unnecessarily hung up over the clarity of a diamond. Look into most diamonds with a jeweller's loupe (magnifying eyeglass) and you will see small "inclusions", also known as "nature's fingerprints". They look like small clouds or feathers but are usually invisible to the naked eye. Inclusions can affect the diamond's fire, but they also make your diamond unique and shouldn't always be seen as a fault. Why worry too much about something you can't see, anyway? As long as the stone is graded SI1 (Slightly Included 1) or better (best and most expensive is IF, or Internally Flawless; worst is I3, or Imperfect 3), you should be all right.

Carat: The weight, and thus the size, of a diamond is measured by carat. A carat is equal to 0.2gm, or 200mgm. A carat is divided into 100 smaller units called points. For example, three-quarters of a carat is 75 points. The average size of most engagement-ring diamonds is somewhere between one carat and half a carat. Do not confuse carats with karats, the unit of purity for gold.

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