Our Grays Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring
Grays is world renowned for its selection of fine engagement rings - from 18th century rose cut diamonds, to splendid Victorian clusters, stylish Edwardian, elegant Art Deco and contemporary classics.
The betrothal ring, the precursor of the modern engagement ring, was invested with symbolism that is still relevant. The single diamond set in a band of gold was esteemed by Medieval Italians as a ‘pieta della reconciliazione’, a stone of reconciliation, for its supposed power to maintain harmony between man and wife.
Its successor, the solitaire diamond ring, remains a favourite with today’s engaged couples. Around 70% of women choose a diamond engagement ring, for diamonds are the symbol of everlasting love and universally recognised as the most beautiful precious stones in the world. They are also known as the hardest mineral, a factor which gives them their unalterable beauty.
What do you choose?
The style of jewellery your partner usually wears is a good indication of their taste. For example, if their jewellery box is full of paired down simple pieces, they are unlikely to be thrilled with a very exotic theatrical piece.
If you are really unsure, call their best friend. Short of asking outright, this is the next best thing.
Timeless settings are the most sensible and suited to the wearer’s lifestyle. For example, Art Deco rings from the 1920s are usually flat and less vulnerable than raised settings for the more active ring wearer.
The traditional etiquette dictates that you should spend at least one month’s salary, although some buyers are tempted to spend two months'. The best advice is to set a limit and then be prepared to bend it a little.
Silver – the cheapest metal and the least suited to holding large stones as it tends to lose shape over time. It also tarnishes and makes diamonds appear darker.
Gold – still the most popular choice. It is a soft metal, so often alloyed with silver and copper. White gold has a higher silver content.
Platinum – The most precious, whitest and expensive. Retains its shape and offers the best protection for diamonds.
When choosing a diamond engagement ring, you should first acquaint yourselves with “the four Cs” – Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight, which combine to give each diamond its uniqueness.
While nature determines a diamond's colour, clarity, and carat weight, the cut of a diamond reveals its fire and radiance by enhancing its capacity to reflect and refract light.
The cut gives each diamond its unique sparkle and brilliance. When it is finely cut and polished to give it specific angles and ideal proportions – its roundness, its depth and width and uniformity all determine a diamond’s brilliance.
Many gemologists consider cut the most important diamond characteristic because even if a diamond has perfect colour and clarity, a diamond with a poor cut will have dulled brilliance. The width and depth have the greatest effect on how light travels within the diamond, and how it exits in the form of brilliance. For a perfect cut, the diamond must be proportioned so that the rays of light penetrating the stone are reflected by the centre, called the table, from facet to facet. A diamond cut with an excessively wide or poorly proportioned tables loses much of its radiance.
Too Shallow: Light is lost out of the bottom causing the diamond to lose brilliance.
Too Deep: Light escapes out of the sides causing the diamond to appear dark and dull.
The ‘Cut’ of a diamond also refers simply to the stone’s shape. The most familiar cut is the round, brilliant-cut diamond that if often found in solitaire diamond engagement rings. Others include the Princess, Emerald, Marquise, Pear and Oval cut.
Antique cut diamonds include the cushion cut diamond, which is a cross between an old mine cut dating from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century and a modern oval cut. This cut is not as fiery or brilliant as many of the newer cuts, but it has a wonderfully romantic and classic look which definitely stands out from the crowd. Similarly, no old mine cut is exactly the same, thus are extremely unique and a wonderful contrast to the meticulously uniformed machine cut diamonds on offer today.
Colour is a decisive aspect in judging the beauty of a diamond: the whiter and more colourless it is, the more beautiful it is. For example, while many diamonds appear colourless, or white, they may actually have subtle yellow or brown tones that can be detected when comparing diamonds side by side. The colour grading scale of diamonds defined by the GIA varies from exceptional white (D) to tinted white or tinted colours.
In addition to white diamonds, coloured diamonds exist in varying intensities of yellow (the rarest being ‘canary’ yellow), blue, pink, green and even red. The desirability of coloured diamonds is dependent on several factors: the particular hue, or spectral colour of the diamond (the rarer the color, the greater the cost); the richness or saturation of the colour (ranging from very light to light to intense to vivid); and the purity of the colour (i.e. whether the colour is bright and clear, or 'muddied' by the presence of other colour-causing trace elements).
The clarity of a diamond is based on the number of inclusions that affect its transparency.
In the process of a diamond’s natural formation, other materials or crystals might be present, which can disrupt the refraction of light through the stone. In extreme cases, a diamond can appear dull or mottled. At the other end of the spectrum is a perfectly clear, or ‘flawless’ diamond – most valuable because of its extreme rarity.
Under international standards for stones, there are specific classifications of clarity.
Putting on weight is highly desirable when it comes to diamonds, and carats are the measure of weight – and not of size – as is often supposed. The word "carat" is taken from the carob seeds that people once used in ancient times to balance scales. Today, one carat is equal to 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams. In the trade, a carat is also divided into 100 units called points or hundredths.
Generally speaking, the larger a diamond, the rarer it is. For example, a 4-carat diamond is worth considerably more than twice a 2-carat diamond of the same quality. But do bear in mind that two diamonds of the same weight will have different values if they are not of the same colour, clarity or cut.
Whatever the carat weight of the diamond you choose, Grays is proud of its 30 year tradition and reputation for assured quality and unsurpassable range to suit all tastes and budgets – from a Georgian rose cut diamond cluster ring to a fabulous 1940s diamond cocktail ring – Grays is your oyster.