Your Ultimate Guide to Selecting an Engagement Ring

Engagement Ring

Whether you’re selecting an engagement ring together or purchasing the diamond ring as a surprise, you are about to embark on one of life’s most memorable experiences! An engagement ring symbolizes the beginning of your life together and should represent your bond. We know better than anyone how easy it is to get swept up in the excitement and overwhelm of searching through diamond shapes and ring styles. Before you begin your search, our diamond ring experts would love to share their wealth of knowledge to help guide you through the process of selecting the diamond ring of her dreams. We’ll provide you with everything you need to know to ensure you invest in a high-quality diamond that suits all your wants and needs. You’ll leave the store feeling confident about your special purchase.

  • What Are the 4C's of a Diamond?
  • Understanding Symmetry Grading
  • Diamond Type
  • How are Diamond Types Classified?
  • Diamond Cut vs. Diamond Shape
  • Popular Diamond Shape Options
  • Selecting the Perfect Ring Style
  • Determining the Right Engagement Ring Metal
  • Determining the Right Engagement Ring Setting
  • Custom Engagement Rings
  • Engagement Rings vs. Wedding Ring
  • When Should You Purchase Wedding Rings?
  • What to Consider When Purchasing Wedding Rings
  • Wedding Band Durability
  • Popular Wedding Ring Styles
  • Questions to Ask When Purchasing Your Engagement Ring
  • Caring for Your Diamond Ring
  • Our 5th C of Diamonds

What Are the 4Cs of a Diamond?

The center stone of your diamond ring is always the showstopper. While ring styles and diamond shapes are always significant considerations, your stone's 4C's determine its overall quality and value. 

You may have heard talk of the 4C’s of a diamond, but we’d like to walk you through this worldwide grading standard set in place to ensure you know what you are purchasing. The 4Cs provide diamond grading consistency and reliability throughout the diamond industry. It's a reliable way to evaluate and grade diamond quality. Each stone is put through rigorous evaluation and graded according to strict standards set in place to evaluate

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  1. Carat weight
  2. Color
  3. Clarity
  4. Cut

What is Carat Weight

What many don’t realize is a diamond’s carat weight does not refer to its size. It’s a common misconception and one worth understanding before you venture out to select your diamond ring.

The appearance of a stone’s size is more closely related to its cut, while carat weight is how much the stone weighs. One metric carat is defined as 200 milligrams. Each carat can then be subdivided into 100 points, allowing jewelers to precisely measure each diamond down to the hundredth decimal. Larger stones are rarer and more sought after. Typically, as the carat size of a stone increases, so does its price. Naturally, the remaining 3C’s help determine the diamond’s overall value.

What is Diamond Color?

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When we discuss a diamond’s color, we’re actually referring to its lack of color.  Even the slightest color variations between two stones may significantly impact a diamond’s quality and price. To the naked eye, slight color variations generally go unnoticed. That’s why we highly recommend asking the jeweler to allow you to view the stones of each diamond ring you are considering.

While it’s not uncommon to view and try on women’s engagement rings, loose stones are the most ideal for examining. Color can sometimes be skewed by reflections of the engagement ring setting or the stone's position in the diamond ring.

If you’re able to view the stones you’re considering, here are some helpful tips and factors that may affect the diamond’s color:

  • Examine all stones under the same lighting for the most accurate comparisons.
  • Use the same background color when you are assessing the stones.
  • Cut and clarity may also play a factor in the diamond’s color when viewed with the naked eye.

What is Diamond Clarity?

Virtually all diamonds have inclusions or tiny imperfections. Some stones even have subtle blemishes or imperfections on the stone’s surface. The intense heat and pressure a diamond sustain during formation may cause these inclusions.

The GIA Clarity Scale was designed to grade and categorize diamonds according to their imperfections.  Grading a stone’s clarity factors in the size, locations, and number of imperfections seen while examined under 10x magnification.

The Clarity Scale creates a precise method for assigning each stone to one of six clarity categories

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  1. Flawless
  2. Internally flawless
  3. Very very slightly included
  4. Very slightly included
  5. Slightly included
  6. Included

Clarity: Identifying Imperfections

Clarity is determinized by specific identifying marks, which may include:

  • Knots: crystal inclusion found on the stone’s surface and viewable with the naked eye
  • Large feathers: breaks or cracks in a stone which may appear whitish to translucent when viewed by the naked eye
  • Dark inclusions: small, black specks within the diamond, which are carbon spots that did not crystalize appropriately
  • Reflectors: mirrored images of the stone’s inclusions created during the stone’s polishing process

What is Diamond Cut?

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Many factors go into grading the cut of a diamond – symmetry, dimensions, and light reflection. As specific standards were created for evaluating a diamond's cut, ideal proportions were developed to help classify stones into five categories. Through state-of-the-art technology, including computer modeling and observation, grading systems underwent many revisions to ensure proper evaluation. This universal diamond cut grading system includes five grades: 

  1. Excellent
  2. Very good
  3. Good
  4. Fair
  5. Poor

Diamond cut is crucial, as it determines how each stone performs. The cut influences its:

  • fire: colorful flash or scattering formation of light
  • brightness: the reflection of white light both internally and externally
  • scintillation:the pattern produced by the stone’s sparkle made by its internal reflections

To properly evaluate whether a diamond performs well, three essential factors are evaluated:

  1. proportions: specific measurements within a stone, including angles and facet lengths
  2. symmetry: how well facets of the stone are aligned, as it dramatically affects interaction with light
  3. polish: the finished, glass-like look of the stone after it has been cut
The Studio Collection Round Diamond Halo Pavé Shank Engagement Ring

The cut of a diamond is truly a remarkable work of art. It requires years of skill and experience to ensure each stone is capable of optimal performance.  When a diamond's cut is evaluated, it’s vital to look for symmetry and a radiant sparkle as it dances in the light. A well-cut stone will capture and reflect light brilliantly, unlike poorly cut stones that appear dull.

Understanding Symmetry Grading

The symmetry of a diamond plays such a vital role in its brilliance. The GIA measures symmetry grades as 

  • Excellent
  • Very good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

The assigned symmetry grade is based on the presence and visibility of deviations at 10x magnification. Factors influencing grading include missing facets, extra facets, an off-center table, and misalignment. 

Excellent: Stones have very few, if any, deviations, no missing or extra facets, and tables are centered.

Very Good: Diamonds tend to have one or two slight deviations, including slight misalignments or misshapen facet.

Good: Diamonds may have a few deviations that affect the stone’s brilliance, including a missing facet or variations in pavilion angles.

FairFair diamonds contain several deviations, resulting in a decrease in brilliance due to variations, misshapen features, and misalignments.

Poor: Poor symmetry is given when several apparent deviations are found. This stone grade is given to a stone that may be dull, has variations and misshapen facets, or has an off-center table or missing facets.

Diamond Type

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When referring to diamond type, there tend to be several interpretations, namely shape, synthetic vs. natural, and color. Diamond type is the technical term referring to the scientific method used by gemologists to classify stones according to their chemical impurities' type and level. Every stone begins forming from a carbon base. As it continues to grow, atoms from various elements join this carbon base. The additional atoms, most notably nitrogen, gather in clusters. These clusters may affect the overall color, appearance, and quality of the diamond.

How are Diamond Types Classified?

Infrared spectrometers are used to measure the chemical impurities of each stone to classify their diamond type. Understanding this classification system will enable you to select a high-quality diamond engagement ring. The four diamond types classifications include:

  1. Type Ia
  2. Type IIa
  3. Type IIb
  4. Type IIb
  1. Type Ia Diamonds

Type Ia stones are the most commonly found. This classification of stone contains larger clusters of nitrogen within its crystal lattice. They tend to emit a yellowish tone and are known for their fluorescence. Ia diamond types account for roughly 98% of natural diamonds.         

  1. Type IIa Diamonds

Type IIa diamonds lack nitrogen, so they do not have visible light absorption to emit yellow or brown tones. Type IIa stones tend to be vibrantly colored diamonds.

  1. Type Ib Diamonds

Type Ib diamonds contain single nitrogen atoms scattered throughout the crystal lattice. These stones will absorb large amounts of blue light and emit a vibrant yellow color.

  1. Type IIb Diamonds

Type IIb diamonds contain boron, emitting a blue or blue-grey color.  Type IIb stones are rare and extremely valuable, making up only 0.1% of all-natural diamonds. Their quality is exceptional and sought-after.   

Diamond Cut vs. Diamond Shape

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The shape of your diamond ring’s center stone is often the most enjoyable part of shopping for women’s engagement rings.  Some ladies have been dreaming of a princess diamond shape for years, while others have just begun comparing the look of various diamond shapes on their fingers. One thing is for sure: while diamond shape and cut are often used interchangeably, it's undoubtedly worth educating yourself on the real differences between the cut and shape of a diamond.

Diamond shape refers to the outline of your stone. For many, choosing the diamond shape is the beginning of the engagement ring adventure. Once the stone’s shape is decided upon, you can apply your knowledge of the 4C’s to select the best quality diamond within your price range.

Popular Diamond Shape Options

If you don’t already have your eye on the diamond shape of your dreams or know what stone shape your fiancé-to-be has her heart set on, no worries. Our diamond ring experts have put together a list of the most popular diamond shape options to guide you through your search:

Round Brilliant Cut 

Round Diamond Engagement Ring

Undoubtedly the most beloved of all diamond shapes, the brilliant round cut is a true classic. More than two-thirds of diamond ring center stones purchased are the round brilliant shape. A round shape stone projects the ultimate light reflection. Its cut plays an essential role in performance.

Princess Cut

Princess Diamond Engagement Ring

The modern square-shaped diamond cut is another cherished diamond shape. Princess-shaped stones make a stunning center for any engagement ring setting and offer stunning brilliance.

Oval Cut

Oval Diamond Engagement Ring

Oval-shaped diamonds are perfect for the woman on the go, as their lack of pointed edges makes them a more durable center stone. The oval-shaped stone performs well in light while often offering a more affordable price point for its size.

Pear-Shaped Diamond

Pear Diamond with Diamond Halo and Diamond Shank

Pear-shaped diamonds offer a unique look to your diamond engagement ring. A well-cut pear-shaped- stone is harder to come by, as their ability to hide inclusions surpasses many other diamond shapes.

Selecting the Perfect Ring Style

Determining your ideal ring style may include an array of factors. From the metal of your engagement ring to the diamond-accented setting, your ring style may say more than you realize. Here are some helpful tips for selecting the right diamond ring metal and setting.

Determining the Right Engagement Ring Metal

Your engagement ring will grace your finger for many years to come. While selecting the right metal is only one factor in your ring style, it’s usually a matter of preference. Ask yourself or your fiancé-to-be a few simple questions to spark additional thought on the subject. This conversation may help determine if she prefers:

  • yellow gold
  • white gold
  • rose gold
  • platinum

When you envision the perfect ring style on your finger, do you prefer it to match the jewelry you currently wear? For many ladies, matching metals is a preference.  Perhaps you are drawn to the look of a particular metal, or your skin tone favors one over another.  

Determining the Right Engagement Ring Setting

There are numerous engagement ring styles to choose from, and it can be quite overwhelming. While we truly believe “the one” will touch your heart and light up your eyes the moment you see it, we do know it helps to know what your options are. We’ve put together a few of our favorite ring styles to help you narrow down the perfect setting for your diamond ring:

Solitaire Ring Style 

Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring

Solitaires are a timeless ring style and are magnificent on any ring finger. The solitaire setting displays a single center stone upon a band for maximum exposure. It’s a classic ring style with room for endless wedding ring pairing possibilities. 

Halo Ring Style

Halo Diamond Engagement Ring

The halo ring style is known for its accent diamonds surrounding your center stone, creating a halo effect. An extremely popular ring style, women gravitate towards it for its ability to make their diamond appear larger and incredibly brilliant.

Infinity Ring Style

Princess Cut Diamond Ring Set Engagement Fink's

Infinity settings offer a symbolic statement in a contemporary ring style.  The intertwined design of the metal symbolizes the joining of your lives as one. This ring style offers a band representing strength and commitment and offers the ideal look for a sentimental fiancé-to-be.

Three-Stone Ring Style

Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring

Another meaningful engagement ring setting is the three-stone ring style. Also known as the trinity ring, the three diamonds represent your past, present, and future as a couple. It’s a gorgeous ring style that allows the center stone to be placed slightly higher than each side stone for more appeal.

Custom Engagement Rings

Heated ring being pressed and shaped on stone block

One option you may want to consider is having your  engagement ring custom-made. This option allows you the freedom to create a unique, sentimental ring style for your diamond ring. Whether you have a vision of your ideal engagement ring or have not found the ring style that speaks to you, designing your own diamond ring is always an option!

Finding a skilled jeweler and design team that will help your ideas come to life is essential. Talk with your jeweler to find out what their custom process entails. Will they work with you from scratch? Do they have images of previous pieces they have custom-made so you may see various ring styles? Are they willing to incorporate a diamond heirloom you already have? Get a feel for what your jeweler can offer you, from selecting a high-quality diamond to guiding you through the entire process.

Engagement Rings vs. Wedding Rings

Traditionally, an engagement ring is presented as part of the proposal to signify the beginning of your engagement period. Often, it involves a more lavish ring style than your typical wedding ring style. A wedding ring is the band exchanged during the ceremony as you recite your vows.

The Studio Collection Matching Wedding Band

Wedding rings tend to be significantly less in price and may be a simple metal band or a pave ring style with diamond accent stones covering half to all of the wedding band. You may also find engagement and wedding ring sets that are made specifically to complement each other and may interlock for that perfect fit.

A modern spin on wedding rings calls for more fun and flare. Wedding rings are often stacked or set on each side of the engagement ring for extra brilliance. You may also fall in love with wedding ring styles that incorporate colored stones for additional appeal.

When Should You Purchase Wedding Rings?

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If you opt to purchase an engagement ring that is not part of a wedding set, your options are limitless. Many couples prefer to shop together for matching wedding bands. Some brides-to-be simply need time to search for the perfect wedding ring to pair with her engagement ring.

Your length of engagement is another factor to consider. There may not be a rush to purchase wedding rings following your proposal. However, we do recommend giving yourself a two-to-three-month window before your big day. We highly recommend couples pick out wedding bands at least two months before the wedding. This timeframe helps if obstacles arise, including:

  • difficulty finding your desired wedding ring style
  • last-minute decision to have custom bands made
  • re-sizing of your wedding bands
  • time for engravement

What to Consider When Purchasing Wedding Rings

As you spend time shopping for your ideal wedding rings, keep a few of these helpful tips in mind:

  • You’ll wear your wedding ring every day and should select a band with a comfortable and practical fit and design.
  • Try on each band with your diamond ring to test how they fit together. Make sure they don’t cause pinching or restrict free movement.
  • Do you love the look of your engagement ring and wedding ring paired together? Does the center stone sit high enough above the wedding band to avoid unnecessary wear and tear? There’s nothing worse than buyer’s remorse.

Wedding Band Durability

Consider your daily activities when purchasing your wedding band. If you live a busy or active lifestyle that may introduce your rings to unforeseen bumps and wear, this may deter you from individual wedding ring styles. Pave diamond bands can lose stones or chip, while a classic solid wedding band may suit your needs better because it is more durable.

Popular Wedding Ring Styles

If you have not yet given thought to wedding ring styles, we’re more than happy to share a few of our favorites. Whether your taste is classic or ornate, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Eternity Wedding Band

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The diamond eternity ring style offers several breathtaking choices. You’ll find styles with diamonds covering half the band while others adorn the full band. Some women love the look of accent gemstones or a specific diamond shape along with the band, while others choose between settings, including

  • pave
  • channel
  • prong

Classic Metal Wedding Ring Style

You will never go wrong with the elegance and simplicity of the solid metal wedding ring style. There is no engagement ring this timeless look won’t pair well with. You may also want to consider matching his and her solid bands. 

Multi-Stone Wedding Ring Style

The multi-stone ring style adds a dazzling touch while offering special meaning. The number of stones may represent your years together. A three-stone band may be symbolic of your past, present, and future. It's also a fantastic way to add accent diamonds or gemstones to your set.

Questions to Ask When Purchasing Your Engagement Ring

Forevermark Setting 18K White Gold Solitaire Engagement Ring

It's helpful to have a list of questions prepared before your exciting day of diamond ring shopping. Besides setting a budget for your investment, questions help you stay focused on finding the right diamond ring for the best value. Here are the most commonly asked questions and tips you should keep in mind:

Do you offer repair services?

Finding your dream ring doesn’t end when you walk out the door. A reputable, high-quality jeweler will offer you peace of mind for your diamond purchase.  Putting your trust in an experienced, knowledgeable jeweler is critical.  As you shop for the perfect diamond ring, ask about their diamond repair services:

  • Do you offer in-house ring repairs?
  • Are your jewelers and technicians highly qualified and knowledgeable in diamond ring repairs?
  • What is your turnaround time for most ring repairs, either in-house or off-site?

Are your jewelers and technicians Bench Certified?

It can be a bit unnerving handing over your treasured diamond rings for repairs. National standards have been set in place to help customers feel confident and secure in their fine jewelry repairs and who you entrust with your diamonds. Bench Professional Certification Programs nationally recognize skilled, trustworthy jewelers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Do you offer diamond upgrades and a lifetime warranty?

It’s always wise to look ahead and protect your investment. Asking the right questions is imperative to feeling good about your fine jewelry investment for years to come

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  • Inquire about your jeweler’s diamond upgrading program and policies.
  • Find out if they provide a return window, should you need to return or exchange your purchase.
  • Does your diamond purchase come with a lifetime guarantee?
  • How are replacements handled should you need one?

Are your diamonds natural or lab-created?

There are misconceptions about the difference between natural and lab-created diamonds. Natural diamonds are mined from the earth, while lab-created stones, or human-made diamonds, are grown under specific conditions inside a laboratory. It's important to understand that a human-made diamond is not a synesthetic diamond. Lab-grown stones are high-quality, grown under the same conditions, and possess the same chemical makeup as natural stones.

Is this diamond enhanced or treated?

Feel free to ask if your diamond’s inclusions and blemishes have been treated. Treatments can help increase a diamond’s quality ratings, as it allows the clarity of the stone to be enhanced or corrected. This process is done through the professional use of advanced technology equipment.

Caring for Your Diamond Ring

Man cleaning ring with small pressurized water

Providing the proper care and routine maintenance for your engagement ring and wedding rings will help extend the life and condition of your prized possessions. By following these beneficial tips, you’ll help ensure it continues to provide brilliant sparkle and shine many years from now.

Clean Your Ring with Care

While you should keep your ring free from dirt and grime buildup, it's vital to refrain from using harsh chemicals to do so. These chemicals can cause harm to your stones and a dull finish to your metal. Invest in a jewelry cleaner specifically made for your diamond and precious metal. It’s also a great idea to take it into your jeweler for regular professional cleans and is likely a requirement of their Lifetime Guarantee Program.

Consider Engagement Ring Insurance

Your diamond ring is a significant investment, and you want to protect it. Regardless of if you’re wearing it out of the store, proposing in a few days, or not taking it from the box until months from now, life happens. Be prepared by talking with an insurance agent to protect your investment.

Diamond Durability

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Many of us have heard that diamonds are indestructible. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While it is undoubtedly tough, diamonds are still susceptible to chips, cracks, and fractures. Your engagement ring, in general, could get scratched or bent if proper care isn’t given. If you’re embarking on an adventure or project that may endanger your diamond, be cautious and remove it first.

Check Your Prongs and Accent Diamonds Periodically

While it’s advised to have your engagement ring inspected and cleaned by your jeweler regularly, you can still be proactive at home. Gently test the integrity of your center stone’s prongs periodically. Examine your accent stones on your diamond ring and wedding ring as well. When in doubt, make a quick trip to your jeweler for further inspection. If your engagement ring came with a lifetime warranty, review your mandatory maintenance schedule and adhere to it.

Handle Your Center Stone with Care

Get into the habit of removing your engagement ring by the band rather than grasping the band's center stone and bottom portion. Avoiding extra dirt and oils will keep your diamond brilliant and free from extra wear and tear.

Our 5th C of Diamonds

Loose diamonds bouncing on table

At Fink’s Jewelers, we have a special secret weapon known as our 5th C of diamonds. For more than two decades, each diamond that has graced our store has been hand-selected by Clif. While your typical jewelers purchase diamonds in groups within a specified grading range, Clif’s standards go above and beyond. Clif puts every stone under rigorous inspection, ensuring the highest quality. Diamonds that exceed his meticulous system offer optimal brilliance, light performance, and cut. Clif then takes it a step further by examining each stone’s durability. Only after exceeding his high standards will a stone be chosen as a Fink’s diamond, regardless of its excellent grading report. 

Each year, Clif rejects roughly 99% of the diamonds he inspects. While some may question this method, Clif firmly believes your forever diamond is more than what is noted in its grading report. As he scrutinizes each stone, he asks himself one vital question: "Would I put this on my wife's finger?"  If his answer is no, it does not become a Fink’s diamond.

We’re confident you are now well-prepared for this exciting and memorable purchase! Review this guide as often as you need, and don’t forget to ask questions.