Shopping for an engagement ring can be a daunting task, especially if you know absolutely nothing about diamonds. Before you even begin looking at the stones themselves, you need to decide a few key items. The first order of business is to decide on a budget. This is extremely important because it limits what you can or cannot purchase. Typically, the budget is about two months salary.
Second, you need to decide on the type of metal. There are many different types of metal; however, the two most common are now white gold and platinum. Many people ask “Which one is better?” I’m here to tell you that the correct answer is that there is no correct answer.
Both metals have positives and negatives and it is ultimately up to the customer to decipher what he or she values more. The most obvious differences between white gold and platinum are the weight and price. Platinum is a much heavier metal and typically costs about twice as much. In addition, it is hypo-allergenic and, because of its strength, can be made into smaller, durable structures, which is great for extremely thin bands. While platinum is strong, it is not hard. This means that it scratches very easily, which causes it to look dull over time. The reason platinum scratches more easily is because the platinum settings are usually comprised of 90-95% pure platinum. Pure platinum tends to be softer than 14k white gold that has bonded with other metals. Polishing is required to maintain its shine, which can cost from $50-75 per ring.
Unlike platinum, whose color never fades, white gold fades in color overtime to its natural yellowish color. In order to keep white gold looking the silver color that is loved by many, it requires rhodium plating every year or two. This typically costs about $50 per ring. White gold is often preferred not only because of its price but because of its stronger resistance to scratching. It does not scratch as easily as platinum; therefore, it keeps its shine for a prolonged period of time. This is because white gold is composed of an alloy of gold and white metal, which is usually silver, nickel, or palladium making it more durable. Rhodium plating white gold makes supplies a surface that resists scratching and tarnish as well as give a white appearance. (www.essortment.com/lifestyle/rhodiumplating_skvm.htm). Pure gold (24 karat) and platinum do not possess the same strength on their own. There is also a difference between 14k and 18k white gold. While 18k is more hypo-allergenic, it is slightly softer (because of more gold content) and more expensive than 14k.
If you do not have the budget for platinum, a nice alternative is palladium. The cost is only slightly higher than white gold, and its color does not fade. Unfortunately, it is uncommon for jewelers to keep palladium in stock; hence, customization is often required.
After deciding on a metal, the next step is the style of the ring setting. Most significantly, the style should reflect the personality and lifestyle of the receiver. This determines the number and size of diamonds, the thickness of band, as well as the simplicity or complexity of detail. In addition, make sure to consider the number of prongs. Four or six prong settings are both traditional, safe styles but have different effects on a diamond’s appearance. While a four prong setting can make a diamond look bigger, it tends to give a round diamond a more square appearance. With a six prong setting, it is slightly safer and enhances the round shape.
The most common setting is the solitaire (www.intagems.com/engagement_rings/solitaire_rings/ ). Proceeding the solitaire in popularity is the classic three-stone ring. In this ring, the three stones represent the past, present, and future (www.intagems.com/engagement_rings/classic/ ). Two styles with rising popularity are the vintage and modern style rings. It is common for vintage style rings to have pave set diamonds, filagrie, and engravings(www.intagems.com/engagement_rings/vintage/ ). Modern style settings often have bezel or channel set diamonds and a high polish (www.intagems.com/engagement_rings/modern/ ).
After you have made your decisions of budget, metal, and setting, the next and final step is choosing the diamond itself.