Engagement 101: Everything You Need to Know about Engagement Rings

Kunbi O / Monday July 15, 2013
Christal + Martin

Hello my lovelies, it’s your fairy-wedding-godmother here again for another edition of Engagement 101. Today, we will be sharing everything you need to know about engagement rings from “3 months’ salary” to ad campaigns that insist “diamonds are forever,” there are a lot of “rules” floating around out there about what an engagement ring should and shouldn’t be. Most are myths made up by jewelry companies with clear ulterior motives.But if both the groom and bride-to-be are going to be happy with their investment, there are many important things to consider. We teamed up with Britt Klontz to come up with a detailed guide to all things bling. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important factors below, so you can find the ring of your dreams. Brace yourselves ladies and gentlemen, this is a long (but super informative post)

The 4Cs

While you’ve probably heard people refer to the “4 Cs” repeatedly since you’ve gotten engaged, you may not know what they stand for:

Carat: Carat is the weight of a diamond, with each carat equivalent to .2 grams. The greater the number of carats, the bigger the diamond. However, don’t confuse size with quality; it’s much more common to find high quality small diamonds than big ones, so if you’re set on a big, high quality bauble, you’ll have to pay a high price. You should note that a same diamond could look bigger or smaller on different finger sizes. For example, a .5 ct diamond may look like a 1 ct on a size 4 finger while looking like a ‘.3ct’ on a size 7 finger.
Color: Barring a few rare, naturally colored diamonds, the finest (and most expensive) diamonds are colorless. A diamond’s color is ranked on a scale of D to Z with D being completely colorless and Z being yellow or even brown to the eye. Diamonds between D and J are colorless or nearly colorless to the naked eye so you can compromise a bit on color to get a more favorable price.

Clarity: As you might expect from the term, clarity refers to the extent of a diamond’s flaws, both on the outside of the stone (blemishes) and internally (inclusions). These might include air bubbles, cracks, extra minerals, scratches, pits and chips. Many of these inclusions aren’t visible to the naked eye so you can compromise a whole lot on clarity to go better in some of the other categories. Clarity ranges from F (flawless) to I1, I2 and I3 (see the above chart for visual examples)
Diamond Shapes
Cut: I [originally] made the mistake of thinking a diamond’s cut referred to its shape, however, in reality it refers to its symmetry, proportioning and polish. Cut really determines a diamond’s perceived quality, as it determines how light will pass through the diamond, and therefore how sparkly it will be. Cut is ranked on a range from Ideal to Poor . You obviously want to stay away from poorly cut diamonds because hey- whats the point if your bling doesn’t bling?A diamond’s shape is probably the first thing many bride’s think of when selecting their ring. The classic and most popular shape is the Round brilliant cut since it reflects the most light hence sparkling the most. Next up is the Princess cut which is a perfectly sharp square- my personal favorite. The Emerald cut is also a bride favorite due to its long lean rectangular cut which highlights the clarity of the stone. (check out these simple infographics here and here)
A ring’s setting refers to, well, the way it’s set (placed) in the wedding band. The setting can really change a ring’s look, so try a few different styles before settling on one. The prong setting (named for the elevated projection of the stone through ‘prongs”) is among the most popular, while the Eternity (diamonds wrap around the whole setting basically never ending) and Channel settings (diamonds are set next to each other in a groove in the ring) pack many more diamonds into one ring. The bezel setting encircles the diamond and reaches out a bit above it for a tight and secure fit- it’s perfect for people with active lifestyles. If you’ll be using an antique or heirloom ring, updating the setting can be a good way to achieve a more modern look.


A ring’s style of setting is another thing to consider. The solitaire style is the most popular and features one single center stone on a band. For those who love this style but want something with a bit more bling, a solitaire with side-accents is for you.
Halo: The most popular engagement ring trend right now is to have your diamond set in a halo of smaller diamonds. A halo setting helps accentuate the center stone making it seem larger and more prominent. You can ‘halo’ any diamond shape so knock yourselves out!
Halo Engagement Rings


Ring Metal
The ring metal can be made from a diversity of materials these days, and the “right one” depends largely on personal taste.


  • Platinum is a very durable, white metal, which will protect and complement a diamond’s color. Like all metals, it will scratch, but will last for years. Platinum maintains its look over years while gold may go dull after a while.
  • Gold ( Yellow or White) is about 70 to 75% pure, and is mixed with other metals like copper, silver, nickel and rhodium to make it strong. 18K gold consists of 75% actual gold and is recommended by jewelers for a longer lasting finish. 14K gold is made up 58% gold and is the lowest jewelers recommend going to maintain the color and shine of the ring over years. For most brides, both yellow and white gold are a good affordable option that will complement the stone. Alternatively, Rose gold is tinted with copper and is highly durable and makes for a gorgeous statement ring.
  • Palladium, a silver-white metal, is an increasingly popular option, as it’s durable, hypoallergenic and far less expensive than platinum.



Stone Types- Alternatives to Consider

Just because diamonds are the “traditional” option (that was, ahem, invented by DeBeers, ahem), doesn’t mean there aren’t a range of other excellent options, particularly when it comes to antique rings. Rubies, sapphires, moissanite and morganite are all excellent options, available in blue, yellow, purple—you name it! Thinking outside of the ‘diamond’ can give you a much more distinctive and personal look.
I love that more and more brides are opting for diamond alternatives.
Lab created (Synthetic) diamonds: For the ecologically conscious, synthetic diamonds are the thing. These lab-created stones made through a high pressure technique, shine just as bright as a naturally mined diamond and are [significantly] easier on the pocket and mother nature.


source: Diamond Price Gurus
Prices of diamonds fluctuate with the market; if you’re really price-conscious, you can track changes using industry reports. Your best bet is to set a budget first, and then to compromise on a few of the factors we detailed above until you’ve found a ring that fits the bill. You might, for instance, go for a lower clarity if the diamond has a fantastic cut, which largely determines the look of the diamond. You’ll also do better if you let go of the idea that a good diamond must be of a certain carat. Diamonds are priced by quarter, half and full-marks, meaning a diamond that’s .96 carats will be almost as good as 1 carat diamond, for a much lower price. You can also go for an appealing shape or band to highlight all of the diamond’s best qualities.
Where to buy: Most brides and jewelers recommend visiting an actual store so you are able to inspect the ring and figure out what size works best for your finger. There are however a ton of engagement ring stores to consider online (feel free to email us for referrals).

The Takeaway

Finding the perfect engagement ring can feel intimidating at first, but it’s definitely a science you can master. Figure out what matters to you at the top and compromise where necessary. Want a big rock? then give a little on clarity- who cares? Want a brilliantly bright diamond .. then give a little on the cut or size ..The ring is going to shine bright like a ******* (haha) anyway, so why not?
Lets have some fun …Find out whether you’re a Ring Rookie or an expert with this handy engagement ring quiz!

This post was prepared in collaboration with Britt Klontz who shared this quiz with us on behalf of BlueNile.com Follow Britt on Twitter @Britt_Klontz