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Platinum Radiant Diamond Engagement Ring, 2.97 carats
Platinum Radiant Diamond Engagement Ring

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

Amy Wu

The diamond or "rock" is the heart and soul of the engagement ring. The engagement ring's style has expanded from the traditional round-cut diamond and the basic gold band to a wide variety of shapes and styles. Before your man makes the purchase, it helps a girl to know what she wants and what she is looking for. After all, the ring is for a lifetime.

The Basics

Step 1Band: Bands are available in a variety of metals. The most common metals used in bands are yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum and silver.
Step 2Diamond: The basics of the diamond are the four Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat weight. These factors combine to determine the cost and quality of the ring.
Step 3Shape: The round diamond is the classic shape for an engagement ring. However, there are a variety of shapes to choose from including the "princess" (square), the "pear shaped" diamond, the "oval shaped" diamond and "the heart."
Step 4Setting: This is how the diamond is placed on the ring. Some popular settings include the "Tiffany" setting, which is the most common; the "eternity band" where the diamonds go all around the ring; the "bezel" setting that encircles the diamond and extends slightly above it; the "channel" setting where the diamonds are placed in a metal channel; and the "pave" (pronounced paVAY) setting where many diamonds are placed together. Platinum prongs are tougher than gold. Prongs made from a white metal such as platinum or white gold are preferable because yellow gold may give the diamond a yellow cast.
Step 5Insurance: A ring holds much financial and emotional value so it is best to have it insured. Check out your homeowner's or renter's insurance, which typically covers jewelry.

The Lingo

14K Gold: This means the band is about 58.5-percent gold.
18K Gold: This means the band is 75-percent gold.
Karat: A measure of gold purity.
Carat: A measure of weight.
Facet: Small cuts/edges on a diamond to refract light.
Point: .01ct is one point or "a one pointer." A .25ct would be a "25 pointer." There are 100 points to a full carat.
Diamond Certification: Loose diamonds (not pre-set in a ring or other setting) have been certified by the Gemological Institute of America or American Gem Society. Certificates serve as proof of the diamond's value.

The Experts

The Knot says "Buying just shy of the next carat (1.8 instead of 2) can equal a savings of nearly 20 percent... And when it comes to clarity, buying shy gives you the most wiggle room without affecting sparkle (often defects are not visible to the naked eye)."

The Brands

Tiffany & Co. High-end jeweler known for the little blue box that many girls dream of receiving.
Blue Nile The largest online retailer of high-quality certified diamonds.

The Price

$: High-quality stones between .30 and .57 carats, or mid- to high-quality stones up to .75 can be had for $1,000 to $2,000. Macy's offers a selection of engagement rings in this price range.
$$: Diamonds from .4 to 1 carat in 14 or 18 karat gold run $2,000 to $3,500. (The 1 carat stones may have imperfections.) Try Blue Nile if you're looking for something that costs less than $3,500.
$$$: Rheims Jewelry and others offer quality 1 carat stones in 18 K or platinum settings that typically sell for $3,500 and up.