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Bottom Line Recommendation: Choosing the best engagement ring comes down to selecting a brilliant diamond along with a setting that matches your personal style. We suggest seeking a high-quality cut for your diamond, as this characteristic impacts a diamond’s beauty more than anything else. With the right cut, both a .9 Carat Round Brilliant in a solitaire white gold setting and a 1.5 Carat Round Brilliant in a white gold micropavé setting make for a stunning engagement ring. Your diamond’s shape, setting metal, style and other features can be selected using tips from our all-inclusive guide below.
Designing and deciding on the perfect engagement ring is an exciting, yet sometimes daunting process. From the diamond’s shape to its carat weight to the setting you choose, there are many aspects to consider.
To help in choosing the best engagement ring for the one you love, we’ve put together this all-inclusive guide. Our over 20 years of experience in the industry have taught us what to look for and what to avoid.
Bookmark this page and keep it handy during your search process. You can revert back to it for all of the basics you need to know.
The style of your engagement ring largely depends on the type of setting you select.
Here are the top 10 engagement ring settings to help with your decision.
Solitaire settings are ring designs with a singular diamond or stone in the center. The solitaire is a classic engagement ring that’s been around for years. It complements wearers who have a more simple or crisp personal style.
Solitaire Engagement Ring Example: A 0.9 Carat Round in a solitaire setting made of 14K white gold.
This popular engagement ring setting offers a modern look without sacrificing on function. In a bezel setting, the diamond is held securely with metal that encircles the center stone—rather than it being held by prongs.
Bezel Engagement Ring Example: The bezel setting here showcases how this setting works well for an active lifestyle.
A channel set is similar to a pavé setting but uses thicker metal to secure the smaller diamonds along the ring’s band. Because there are no prongs holding the stones, this setting is a solid snag-free design. Channel settings may or may not have center stones.
Channel Set Engagement Ring Example: See this channel set ring that holds a center diamond.
Indicated by its name, three diamonds or gemstones are set closely together in this type of setting. The stones may be the same size or the center stone may be the largest one. Popular Diamond Shapes for the three-stone setting include the Princess Cut and the Round Brilliant Cut.
The tension setting uses pressure from the metal band to secure the diamond. The diamond appears suspended between the two ends of the ring.
Tension Engagement Ring Example: This 14K white gold setting holds the diamond firmly in place while offering a modern, stylish look.
A range of vintage settings mirror the styles of the Edwardian, Victorian and Art Deco time periods. These settings tend to feature detailed work and are quite intricate in nature.
Vintage Engagement Ring Example: Here is a beautiful ring with a white gold vintage setting.
In a concentric circle or square shape, smaller diamonds surround the center stone in a halo setting. The center stone can appear larger in these settings, offering a way to save on diamond budget.
Halo Engagement Ring Example: This Round Cut engagement ring displays how a halo setting can enhance the center stone.
Settings with several small diamonds embedded around the band are considered pavé. Some pavé settings consist of only small diamonds, while others have larger center stones as well.
Pavé Engagement Ring Example: Here is a 14K yellow gold pavé setting with a center diamond.
In a cluster setting, smaller diamonds are placed tightly together to appear as a larger diamond. Clusters may contain a large center stone or only smaller stones.
Cluster Engagement Ring Example: This cluster ring gives the impression of a larger center stone.
An elegant setting, a cathedral design is meant to resemble the arches of a cathedral. The diamond is mounted with arches above the shank.
Cathedral Engagement Ring Example: This cathedral setting accentuates and highlights the center diamond.
When choosing an engagement ring for your partner, you’ll certainly encounter the 4 C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. Each of these elements plays a role in a diamond’s overall beauty.
The C’s are each graded on their respective scale, helping to evaluate their quality level. Standard terminology and grading are used in the industry, though it does vary from entity to entity. The most reliable labs are the GIA and AGS. We recommend gaining a certificate from either lab for every diamond you consider purchasing.
Understanding the basics of the 4 C’s and their grades is helpful when purchasing a diamond. The most important aspect, though, is how the diamond appears overall to you.
While many people mistake Cut for meaning the shape of the diamond, Cut actually refers to the quality of the diamond’s proportions, angles, facets, fire, brilliance and finishing details. Diamond Cut, more than any other aspect, impacts a diamond’s beauty and sparkle.
Diamond Cut is graded by the GIA on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. Depending on the diamond’s shape, an Ideal or Excellent Cut will offer maximum brilliance and fire. A top grade doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an outstanding diamond, though, as nearly 55% of all diamonds sold online are graded as Excellent. Some of them are stunning, like this 1.5 Carat Round Brilliant from James Allen, while others can be less impressive.
So rather than only paying attention to the grade designation, it’s essential to look at the diamond closely or ask for the help of an expert.
A diamond’s color grade tells us how colorless or white a diamond is. GIA grading ranges from D to Z. D is the most colorless and Z contains a noticeable yellow or brown tint.
With most diamonds, the naked eye cannot tell the difference between diamonds of two adjacent color grades, although the price can differ significantly.
When it comes to judging color for purposes of buying an engagement ring, it’s important to determine if the diamond looks white to the naked eye (i.e. there are no noticeable tints) and that the diamond appears colorless in relation to its setting. As an example, this Oval diamond is graded a J (which can sometimes have a slight tint), but looks white in relation to its 14K yellow gold setting.
Looking closely at the diamond and placing it next to its setting, or a similar setting, will give you a good indication of color. You don’t want to pay for an E graded diamond, for example, if an I or J Color Diamond looks white to the naked eye.
If you don’t feel confident on judging a diamond’s Color, ask for expert assistance to ensure you’re not paying for a quality that will go unnoticed.
Buyer’s note: Some colored diamonds are regarded as valuable, like a fancy green or pink diamond. Color grading for these diamonds are distinct from grading used for “white” diamonds.
Clarity grade indicates how clean the diamond is from blemishes and inclusions. Blemishes refer to imperfections on the diamond’s surface, while inclusions are internal imperfections.
The GIA grades clarity on the following scale:
Only the most severe imperfections will interfere with the light that passes through the diamond. A Diamond’s brilliance and beauty can be hindered in a Diamond with inclusions, though this is unlikely.
Above all, we recommend that your diamond is eye clean. Review it carefully and ask for confirmation from an expert. Unfortunately, a certificate alone won’t explain how imperfections impact or don’t impact the Diamond’s brilliance and beauty.
Some diamond buyers confuse the term Carat with size. A Diamond’s Carat refers to the actual weight of the diamond, not how large it is. A 1 Carat Diamond is equal to 0.2 grams, or 200 milligrams. A 1 Carat Diamond weighs roughly the same as a quarter of a raisin. Depending on Diamond Shape and quality of Cut, two 1 Carat Diamonds may be distinct in size.
While Carat weight is important to some buyers, the overall beauty and brilliance of a diamond should be emphasized. A stunning 1 Carat Diamond will outshine a mediocre 1.5 Carat diamond, despite it’s difference in weight.
With the 4 C’s in mind, consider each diamond as a whole. If you’re unsure you found a high-quality diamond at an excellent price, ask us for assistance.
Different than Diamond Cut, Diamond Shape refers to the outline or form of the diamond. Diamond Shapes include the Oval, Princess Cut, Emerald Cut and Round Brilliant.
Review our Shape guide to determine which one matches you or your partner’s style and personality. Select one they’ll be comfortable and excited to wear for life.
The metal you choose for your setting should depend mostly on appearance, but also on longevity and cost. The four main types of metal used for engagement ring settings are white gold, yellow gold, platinum and rose gold.
White gold is a mixture of pure gold and white metals like silver, palladium and nickel. It’s usually coated with rhodium. White gold is more affordable than platinum and complements white diamonds well. White gold designated as 18K contains more gold than 14K white gold.
A mix of pure gold and alloy metals like zinc and copper, yellow gold is the purest colors of all the golds. It’s a popular and classic color that can be easily matched with diamonds of a lower color grade, such as K or J. 18 Karat yellow gold is 75% pure and 14 Karat gold is 58.3% pure.
Platinum is a naturally white metal and is generally used in a nearly pure form for jewelry, ranging from 95-98%. Nearly identical to white gold, platinum will preserve its look over the years, as long as it is well-maintained.
Platinum is hypoallergenic and is often regarded as a symbol of prestige. While it’s more durable than white gold, it is significantly more expensive.
Red, pink and rose gold shades are included in the rose gold family. To form these shades, pure gold is mixed with copper to produce a pinkish-red color. Rose gold tends to be more economical yet remains quite durable. It’s not as hypoallergenic and may be more difficult to find than other setting metals.
To learn more about the differences between platinum and the three types of gold, read our detailed guide here.
Purchasing an engagement ring is a special and exciting time. Choosing a reliable and reputable dealer will make the process smoother and less stressful—plus, you’ll probably end up with a higher quality ring at a better price point.
We recommend James Allen and Blue Nile when purchasing diamonds and engagement rings.
James Allen delivers exceptional customer service and high caliber jewelry. They’re an industry leader and have excellent technology for reviewing diamonds up-close. Hundreds of our readers purchase from James Allen every month and we hear rave reviews back from them.
Blue Nile built the market for online diamond shopping and have maintained the largest selection of diamonds and settings. They’ve implemented video technology and have refined their business processes for fast delivery and quality assurance.
Our readers continue to have excellent experiences with Blue Nile for their engagement rings and other fine jewelry.
If you’d like assistance in selecting the perfect engagement ring or diamond for the one you love, contact us today.
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