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Engagement Ring Shopping 101: 5 Tips for Success

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Engagement Ring Shopping 101: 5 Tips for Success

Now that you have found the perfect partner in life, it is time to find the ideal engagement ring. You’ve decided that this is the moment, but you don’t know where to begin or maybe even what you are looking for. Do you go with a traditional ring? Do you create a custom engagement ring? What do you need to know before you go engagement ring shopping? The following tips provide direction and clarity in your journey to procuring the perfect ring.

Where to begin? It is best to start with the center stone. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) created a universal method for establishing diamond quality. This system is referenced as the 4 Cs - cut, clarity, color, and carat. These four characteristics determine a diamond’s quality.

The 4 Cs: 

  • Cut 

    People often think of the cut of a diamond as its shape – round, emerald, etc. – but the cut of a diamond refers to its reflective quality of a diamond. The cut is what gives it brightness and brilliance. Diamond cut is graded on a scale of five levels: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. 

    • The clarity scale below, courtesy of the GIA, includes 11 different clarity characteristics:
    • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
    • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
    • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
    • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
    • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
    • Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance
    • Most diamonds falling into the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories.
  • Clarity

Diamonds are naturally formed in the earth, so there may be some inclusions in or blemishes on the stone. Most diamonds have tiny imperfections. Diamond clarity refers to the absence of these inclusions and blemishes. 
  • Color

A crucial part of a diamond’s value is based on the absence of color. (Note: colored diamonds are graded differently than colorless diamonds.) The setting you pick for your diamond could change the perception of your diamond color. Colorless diamonds, which get the highest grades of D, E, and F (Z is the lowest grade on the scale), allow the greatest reflection of light, which creates a dramatic sparkle.

  • Carat

 carat is how the weight of a diamond is measured. Because small diamonds are more readily available, larger stones are more expensive. While many things factor into the price of a diamond, carat size does set the bar. 

Ring Setting 

  • Once you have picked your stone, choosing a setting is the next step. There are countless settings to choose from, or you can custom design your ring. Many people custom design their engagement ring and custom design other pieces of jewelry as well. The setting is considered the foundation of your ring. The setting you select can be based on the wearer’s personal style and lifestyle. There are many different types of settings. Some of these include solitaire, vintage, two/three stone, bezel, flush, tension, pave, cluster, eternity band, channel, halo and many more. For a little guidance, below are some descriptions of the most popular settings.

  • Solitaire – The solitaire is a classic and common setting. It is a prong setting where the prongs hold the diamond in place.

  • Vintage - A vintage setting gives the appearance of a certain period, like Art Deco or Victorian. These settings often have very intricate detail work, like filigree or millgrain. 

  • Two or three stone – A two of three-stone setting has the two or three stones set close together, and they can be all the same size or different sizes. This type of ring can also be a customized ring with varying stones on the side such as a stone with meaning like a birthstone.

  • Bezel - A bezel setting lends to a more modern look, where the stone is kept in place by a metal surround instead of prongs.

  • Tension – In a tension setting, the diamond appears to be suspended between the two sides of the band. 

  • Pavé – A pavé setting sets small diamonds tightly together, creating continuous sparkle.

  • Cluster – A cluster setting has stones clustered together, to give the illusion of one large diamond. 

  • Eternity – An eternity band is where diamonds are inlaid into the entire length of the ring band. This is also a trendy style for a wedding band.

  • Channel – A channel enables a set of smaller stones to be set securely in a row into the band of the ring. This style may also be used a wedding band like the eternity setting.

  • Halo – In this setting, a metal halo set with small diamonds, surrounds the center stone. This type of setting makes the center stone look more substantial, and increases the sparkle of the ring.

  • When choosing the metal for your engagement ring setting, there are several things to consider, including price, longevity, and aesthetics. While the metal you choose for your diamond ring is primarily based on personal preference and style, it is helpful to consider the main differences in composition and price. Several different types of metals are used to create stunning engagement rings.

Stone Shape

  • There ten different diamond shapes: round, princess, radiant, cushion, emerald, marquise, oval, pear, heart, and Asscher. Each shape has its beauty. It comes down to which style represents your personality.

  • Round – The round cut is the most commonly chosen shape for an engagement ring. When cut, color and clarity are all equal in two diamonds the round diamond is usually more valuable.

  • Princess - A princess cut diamond is a square stone with 90-degree corners.

  • Radiant - A radiant diamond is a beautiful combination of a round cut and an emerald cut. 

  • Cushion – A cushion shape is a square or rectangle stone with rounded corners and sides. 

  • Emerald - An emerald cut diamonds are usually rectangular with beveled corners. 

  • Marquise - A marquise cut is an elongated stone with pointed ends. 

  • Oval – Due to its elongated shape, the oval cut can appear more substantial than a round diamond of equal carat size. 

  • Pear - A pear-shaped diamond, which resembles a teardrop, is a cross between a round and marquise cut. 

  • Heart - A heart-shaped diamond symbolizes love.

  • Asscher – An Asscher-shaped diamond looks similar to an emerald cut. It is typically square and has a visible “X” pattern when viewed from the top.


  • When choosing the metal for your engagement ring setting, there are several things to consider, including price, longevity, and aesthetics. While the metal you choose for your diamond ring is primarily based on personal preference and style, it is helpful to consider the main differences in composition and price. Several different types of metals are used to create stunning engagement rings.

  • Platinum – Platinum is a durable, white metal that is shiny and beautiful. Platinum is more rare than gold. It is also a very dense metal which will make the ring heavier on the hand than other metals. It will not fade or change color. It is also hypoallergenic. Because of its strength, it is a popular choice for engagement rings.

  • Gold – Gold is a very versatile metal with several different color variations, including yellow, white and rose. The gold purity used in creating rings is usually 18K or 14K. An 18K ring has a more vibrant yellow color, as it contains more gold than a 14K. You will not see engagement rings in 24K, as its far too soft to withstand daily wear and tear. 

  • Yellow Gold - Yellow gold is traditionally the most popular in the gold family. Pure gold is mixed with a little silver and copper to create a warm look.

  • White gold – White gold is a combination of pure gold with palladium and silver, and on occasion, with nickel, copper or zinc. White gold and platinum look identical to the naked eye. 

  • Rose Gold – Rose gold is a combination of pure gold and copper to create a beautiful rose color. 

  • Palladium - Palladium is included in the platinum family of metals. It is durable, and resilient to discoloration. The main difference between the two is that Palladium is very lightweight, and has a reflective sheen. 

  • Titanium – Titanium has recently increased in popularity for wedding ring metal. It is extremely lightweight and has a very modern look. It also comes in a variety of colors, including black, grey and silver. It is also hypoallergenic.


  • Before you begin shopping for an engagement ring, you must determine your budget. A common benchmark for spending for a diamond engagement ring is the equivalent of two-months’ salary, but you need to decide what works best for you. Once you have your budget in place, it is essential to find a qualified jeweler. A good jeweler will help you to pick out the perfect ring and help you work within your budget.

    Selecting a diamond that is slightly under the one-carat cutoff. Purchasing a 0.99 carat ring instead of a 1.0 carat stone will not look significantly different, but can save you money.

    According to the 4Cs guidelines for buying a diamond, the cut has the most impact on a diamond’s sparkle. Pick the highest cut grade you can afford. Go with a gold band. If you like the look of platinum, but it doesn’t work with your budget, consider white gold.

    Pick a setting that has more detail, such as a Halo. This enables you to select a smaller center stone, but the ring will still have significant sparkle. Consider a solitaire diamond with no side stones. Simple and elegant.

    Look at options other than diamonds. Customize your engagement ring with a colored stone instead of a diamond.

    Select an eternity band with diamonds around the setting, but no center stone. Be an educated consumer. Do your research.

Creating a memory

  • Getting engaged can be overwhelming. When the time comes, it is important to remember that deciding to get married is about much more than cut, color, and clarity.

    Whether you decide to shop for a ring together, have a surprise proposal or custom design your ring, choosing an engagement ring is the moment that will begin the rest of your life. At Bostonian Jewelers, creating engagement rings in Boston is our specialty. Visit us for more inspiration, or contact us to schedule a consultation.