Choosing Your Wedding and Engagement Rings

Chances are that if you’re ready to start shopping for your first wedding rings, it could be your first encounter with fine jewelry. In this article, we’ll attempt to clue you in to a few simple steps to follow to help you ensure that you’ll choose a symbol of your love forever that you’ll love forever and will last forever.

When you begin your quest for jewelry to represent your love and commitment, it is probably best to shop together. The romantic notion of a “down on bended knee” proposal with an engagement ring at the ready, hidden in a jacket pocket, is exciting but may not always be your best bet. Nowadays, the long-term commitment of marriage and the complex arrangements for a wedding are usually discussed for months or even years before setting the date. Shopping together, therefore, makes sense and will ensure that your rings will not only suit both of your tastes in jewelry, but that costs can be discussed in advance and budgeted into your long-term financial planning. What would be the point in buying a ring your fiancé doesn’t like and that you can’t afford if you’ll still be paying for it after the wedding?

As for those romantic “on bended knee” proposals – if you really want to go for it, the operative phrase would be “window shop”! Make sure you’re in general agreement as to style, price and the betrothal itself before you make a purchase. Consult with your fiancé’s friends, mother, sisters, etc. to double-check your conclusions.

Photo Courtesy Dual Edge Photography

WHERE TO BUY

Far and away, your best choice is to engage the services of a local jeweler or precious metals/gemstone dealer who has been in business for a long time who will provide references and a history. This specialist is ready to answer even your most difficult questions and provide years or even decades of experience and anecdotal information concerning engagement and wedding rings. Discount houses and the fine jewelry departments of department stores are also an option, especially if financial considerations are a factor. You can save money, get good value, and save time by buying “off the rack”, however, you’ll be giving up personalized service and extensive experience in many instances. No matter where you wind up buying, all licensed dealers will be able to provide you with documentation concerning the origin, quality and value of your purchases. As long as this information is provided, you’ll be on solid ground.

ENGAGEMENT RINGS

They still say that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, and although many couples are choosing other stones for betrothal symbols, the diamond is still far and away the most popular gem and your best investment. The simple rule to follow when shopping for a diamond is to consider the “Four C’s”: Cut Clarity, Color and Carat.

CUT

Cut refers to the shape into which the stone has been fashioned. Although many shapes are available, such as emerald (square/oblong), oval, teardrop and marquise, the most popular cut is the simple round shape or “brilliant” cut. This allows for the most surface or “crown” to highlight the brilliance of your stone.

CLARITY

Clarity refers to flaws on or within the stone such as scratches, bubbles or cracks. The flawless diamond is one which has no visible flaws and indicates a higher quality of stone and cut.

COLOR

Color refers to the deepness of the stone’s basic coloring: the reddest of rubies, the deep green of fine emeralds, the bluest aquas. The diamond, however, is judged by the ABSENCE of color; the clearer the stone, the greater the value (cloudiness or hints of color detract from the beauty – and value – of the stone).

CARAT

Lastly, carat is probably the major consideration. Carat refers to the size of the stone. However, bigger is not always necessarily better. For example: A huge 2 CARAT diamond formed into an unpopular shape or CUT, with many bubbles or poor CLARITY and a bluish tint or COLOR, is not a good buy. A simple 1/2 Carat stone with flawless clarity, no color and the popular round cut is a much more desirable and attractive gem.

Remember, however, that any stone is perfectly acceptable as an engagement token and your personal tastes always take precedence over current or traditional style. All of the birthstones and other gems are commonly used for engagement rings, especially rubies and emeralds, and even the pearl (the traditional token in Eastern cultures like Japan) is making inroads into the U.S. market as the engagement ring of choice.
Gold is still the precious metal of choice for engagement ring bands and settings, but other metals are in common use, especially Platinum and Silver. Again, a personal choice. For the ring itself, follow the simple guidelines below in the wedding band section while shopping. Shop together – at least at the beginning – and stay within your budget. Choose carefully with quality first in mind. Because, after all, there’s one old saying that absolutely no one can deny is still the truth: Diamonds Are Forever!

Photo Courtesy Dual Edge Photography

WEDDING BANDS

Your wedding bands are the most personal choice you’ll have to make when selecting your marriage tokens. It is certainly the norm for couples to select matching wedding rings, but it is by no means out of the question to select separate bands, each reflecting the personal tastes of the wearer, but still symbolizing your togetherness.

Silver and platinum have both made significant inroads into the wedding ring market in recent years, but gold is still far and away the norm as the precious metal of choice for wedding bands. But there are a couple of other trends, one is colored gold such as “white” and “pink” gold (gold which has trace amounts of other minerals which tint or even “dye” the basic gold color without affecting its luster or other “gold” characteristics. The other is the two-tone ring (intertwined gold of different colors or even two different colored metals). And finally, “gem-intensive” wedding bands are beginning to come into favor. With more relaxed attitudes toward such considerations as mixing stones (say, an emerald engagement ring and a diamond encrusted wedding band), men wearing jewels, the possibility of non-matching bands (jewels for the bride, metal only for the groom, and the possibility of skipping the purchase of an engagement ring (for financial or other considerations) makes saving your gem purchase (or purchases) for and extra-special wedding ring (or rings) a very real option today.

When shopping for your rings, you will be considering a different type of “Carrot” – KARAT, with a “K”. Karat refers to the percentage of precious metal contained in an alloyed or combined metal. But, this certainly does not mean that the less gold or silver contained in your rings is reflection of their quality or value. On the contrary! Precious metals, particularly gold, are very soft and could wear out and/or break almost immediately. The addition of other metals into your ring will ensure that the band will retain its shape and will be easy to re-size or repair, and will shine on forever!

A good medium – price wise and for durability – is fourteen karat gold (14K). This is a ring for a lifetime; one you can wear for fifty years or more. Why do you think they call it a “Golden Anniversary”?

Photo Courtesy Dual Edge Photography