| June 6, 2012

Many people are only comfortable shopping for diamonds at high-end jewelry houses. However, while the recognizable brands provide peace of mind, they usually have a substantial mark-up.  Using a consultant or independent jeweler allows you to take part in the entire process from selecting the stone to collaborating on a design.  Not only will you create an extremely personalized, one-of-a-kind piece, but you will usually maximize the value of your ring.

Whether you take the traditional route or use a personal jeweler, there are a few steps you should take before you start the exciting, yet somewhat daunting process of shopping for a ring.

Decide on a budget. Many people use three months' salary as a guideline, but there are no hard-and-fast rules.  Diamonds have historically appreciated in value over time, but don’t feel pressured to spend more than with what you're comfortable.

Timing is very important. Allow yourself ample time to do your research and source your stone.  Diamonds are like snowflakes — each one is different.  So it may take a few weeks or even months to find the one that is perfect for you.

Know which shape you want.  Many people confuse “cut” with “shape.”  “Cut” refers to the symmetry and proportions of the stone.  The “shape” is the style or shape into which the stone is cut.  "Round Brilliant" is the most classic and popular shape for engagement rings.  Other sought-after shapes include "Cushion," "Asscher" and "Emerald."

Try to avoid a pre-set diamond. Once a diamond is set, it is quite difficult to examine the stone.  The most important and expensive part of the ring is the diamond.  You should buy that first and then choose the setting.

Communication, no matter how subtle, is key. Ideally, your future wife will wear the ring every day for the rest of her life.  You want to make sure that it is something she will absolutely love.  More and more couples are shopping for rings together.  If you prefer to surprise her, however, try to have a sense of what she would like.  Consult her best friend or mother, or do some window shopping together at your local jewelry store.  The more information you have, the better.

Know her ring size. Another necessary piece of information is your intended’s ring size.  Of course, the easiest way to obtain it is to ask, but that may ruin the surprise.  Another way is to bring the jeweler a ring she wears on her left ring finger and have him quickly measure it for you.

Buy a stone with a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certificate.  Read the report carefully.  Confirm that the carat weight, cut, color and clarity grades match the information you were given.  Note the report number and then verify the report at www.gia.edu.