There's nothing like buying an engagement ring. It's a one off, and it's probably the single most expensive purchase you'll ever make that has nothing to do with you. Knowing the market is a pre-requisite (there are jewellers all over Hong Kong waiting for the next carcass to come through the door) so listen up.
First and foremost, think carefully about how much money you want to spend
The rule of thumb is "two months salary" but this is just a guideline. Your first consideration should be what you can comfortably afford. You don't want to begin your new life resenting your wife because of your slim wallet. Don't listen to the diamond industry or a jeweller's thoughts either - your opinion is the only one that counts and it's critical you decide your limit before you start shopping.
If you understand the Four C’s you'll have no problem understanding gemstones
Carat - weight of the diamond
Cut - shape and quality of the cut
Clarity - imperfections or flecks in the stone
Colour - self explanatory
Gems are weighed in metric carats, and a carat is divided into 100 points - just like cents in a dollar. Don’t get confused by thinking a 2-carat stone will be twice as expensive as 1-carat rock either because it's not a linear relationship. Rarity is the biggest factor and big diamonds are few and far between.
The cut of a diamond (and its shape) are paramount to its value and appeal. The better the cut, the more brilliant the shine and sparkle. Below is a quick guide which includes the three most popular cuts: Round, Cushion and Emerald.
The proportions of the stone tell you a great deal about the quality of the cut:
Colour is probably the second most important factor for women because nobody wants a dirty looking diamond. As you can see below, the colour scale is categorized from D (the best) to Z (fugly), with most in-store diamonds occupying the H - M range. The price of a D stone will normally require a call to your bank manager to clear the transaction.
Clarity relates to the stone's imperfections which are affected by temperature change, carbon contamination and other anomalies during growth. The bigger the stone, the more visible the inclusions (imperfections). N.B., VS1 and VS2 are the standard.
This is a catch 22. If you buy a big diamond you also need to ensure its quality is high because you don't have to be Gustav Graves to see the colour and imperfections in a huge stone. Sam, a Blue Nile salesman of over 30 years, explained that the problem is further exacerbated by an Emerald cut because it doesn't disguise the stone's flaw. When you get the Emerald cut right, however, he said it can be the most expensive.
In sum, deciding on carat size is really about hitting the right balance between colour and quality. For instance, if she prefers larger jewellery items but you're on a budget, you can still find a healthy sized, quality diamond by selecting a stone which is graded slightly lower in colour and clarity.
What's more, the slenderness of her fingers will play a part in the size of the diamond so let’s hope she doesn't have sausage digits. If she has small fingers a 1-carat diamond will look disproportionately large while a larger carat might even look fake so it's worth taking into account her dimensions.
To get the setting and style right you have to know your significant other extremely well, which for the sake of your marriage, shouldn't be a stretch too far. According to Tiffany & Co., 90% percent of women choose the solitaire setting for their engagement but it's still worth doing some recon, especially for the colour of the setting. Have a snoop around her jewellery to see what she likes.
We suggest buying the stone from a diamond dealer such as Diamond Rock Investors and then building the ring from the bottom up. It's much more cost effective than using the likes of De Beers whose prices are inflated by their brand names. For instance if you buy a US$100,000 ring from a big marque, the value of the stone is typically only around US$25,000. If your lady wants a brand then a brand you should get, but if not, build it yourself at a far better price.
It goes without saying you should only buy certified stones, so find a jeweler you trust who also understands what you're looking for. And if all else fails, the benchmark is a 1-carat, G colour, VS1. You can't go wrong with that.