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Groom 101

How to Select the Perfect Ring: Knowing the 4 C’s

Chris Easter

You can thank the diamond industry for creating one of the most effective marketing campaigns in history (aimed at grooms, of course). Thanks to massive global advertising efforts, diamonds are now considered the ultimate symbol of love and commitment, and therefore, an ideal choice for engagement and wedding rings.

The first step is to do some research to understand how the quality of a diamond is measure and how it affects pricing. Truth-be-told, the hardest aspect of buying an engagement ring is knowing what your bride-to-be prefers. If you have an idea about what she likes, you can narrow it down by what’s known in the diamond business as the four C’s — clarity, color, cut, and carat.

The four C’s

When you go ring shopping, take notes and compare the differences of the four C’s. This will help you understand the different qualities of diamonds and how they’ll affect your budget.

1. Clarity – the clearness or purity of a diamond

Technically speaking: Traditionally, a diamond’s quality meant clarity, but in today’s world this is the second most important quality that affects pricing. Clarity is determined by the number, size, nature, and location of any internal inclusions and external blemishes (the number of crystals or clouds that can be seen using 10x magnification).

In regular guy terms:
Let’s be honest, before you stress about being able to afford a flawless diamond, remember that 99.9% of the time you and your fiancé will be looking at the ring with your naked eyes. Unless you’re viewing the diamond with 10x magnification, there really isn’t a noticeable difference. A medium clarity diamond is just as striking as a flawless one.

2. Color – the amount of color the diamond contains

Technically speaking: The majority of diamonds have a hint of yellow or brown, but a perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue. All diamonds are graded by their comparison to perfect diamonds. So the closer the grade is to D, the closer the diamond is to being perfect.

In regular guy terms: Before you break into a sweat and call off the engagement altogether, remember that the vast majority of diamonds are not perfect. It’s more typical for people to purchase a diamond that’s Grade G or below, but depending on your budget and priorities, Grades D, E, and F are slightly more beautiful diamonds.

3. Cut – the proportions, finish, symmetry, and polish of the diamond

Technically speaking: A diamond’s cut doesn’t actually refer to its shape, but its reflective qualities. A diamond’s angles and finish are what determine its ability to handle light, which creates the sparkling effect that girls love.

When a diamond’s well cut, light enters it and travels to a point where it reflects from one side to the other. It then reflects back out of the diamond and into the observer’s eye, once again, creating the sparkling effect.

Diamond cuts are separated into four categories: ideal cut, very good cut, good cut, and fair-to-poor cut. Because ideal cut diamonds reflect the most amount of light that enters the diamond, they typically sell at a premium, while poorly cut diamonds usually sell at discounted prices.

In regular guy terms: Diamonds with a cut grade of good or very good are the best value with high-quality appeal. Just find out what works best for you and your budget.

4. Carat – the unit of weight of the diamond

Technically speaking: The value per carat increases exponentially with carat size because larger, rough diamonds occur less frequently than smaller ones. In other words, 2 half-carat diamonds taken together won’t cost as much as 1 one-carat diamond because the one-carat diamond is rarer.

In regular guy terms: Does size really matter? That’s a personal question for each bride. If you’re like most grooms-to-be, your budget makes a difference. Your bride might prefer to have a lower- quality diamond for a larger look, or she might prefer quality over a larger size. It’s up to you to determine her preference.

TMR Recommendation: Diamond engagement and wedding rings are personal to each bride. It’s best to follow this general approach:

  1. Establish the budget you can afford. The rule of thumb is to go with the two month’s salary approach. For example, if you make $10,000 per year, you should spend approximately $1,667 on the engagement ring.
  2. Be sneaky and determine her preferences on size, quality, and shape on the sly. Or be direct and ask for her opinion; she’ll thank you later.
  3. Narrow down the four C’s of a diamond based on:
    1. Her preferences
    2. What your budget will allow
  4. Make sure to shop around. The average markup for a diamond ring from a brick and mortar store is 200% to 400%. It pays to do your research!
  5. When you’ve narrowed down your selection of diamonds, make sure to ask the jeweler to let you review the independent Diamond Grading Reports, also called certificates. These reports will verify the classification of the four C’s and will help you compare apples to apples.


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