What diamond ring will make the cut?
March 9, 2012 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I am buying a diamond ring for my wife and need input--size versus quantity and quality? Cut of diamond? Etc. Budget is about $25,000 and the goal is to knock my wife off her feet with something impressive, not too understated.

My wife doesn't know this is coming, it's for a special occasion. I have a shirt-tail relation that is a jeweler who is helping, and has gotten me a good price on less expensive jewelry in the past, but I have no experience in buying jewelry of this price before.

Initially my relation had suggested a "Past, Present, Future" ring. With my budget he suggested a 2ct center stone and a 1ct stone on each side. I liked the idea of that, but then he had me deal with a salesman who says that for my budget I can do 1.5ct center and then two .75ct side stones.

I'm wondering what is better here... would it be "nicer" to have 3 smaller stones that represent past, present, and future, or one larger stone?

We are picking moderate quality diamonds, with about medium color and clarity.

My wife's engagement ring was princess cut so I was looking at princess cut as well. I know it's the cut she likes.

Curious what others have done.

If more details are needed I have the throwaway e-mail diamonddave446@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Shopping (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There is so, so much good information on the forums at Pricescope. There are people there who have researched diamonds for years, people like you who are looking for information, people who sell diamonds (and the crappy sellers are drummed out of there). It's an excellent resource for anyone looking for sparklies. There are also many vendors recommended on there who will not rip you off and where you will get so much more bang for your buck than you will believe. Hint: buy a really well-cut diamond. It will sparkle immensely. You want lots of sparkle! Clarity is not very important unless there's schmutz you can see with the naked eye. Color may or may not be important depending on whether you think she can detect an off color, but honestly people can tolerate up to an I color usually without problem. But: CUT CUT CUT, that's so important!
posted by Addlepated at 7:13 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I liked Princess cuts too but my partner - a jeweller's son - bought me a beautiful 1.5ct Brilliant cut diamond in a 4 clawed setting which gives a Princess-y 'squareness' to a much more classic (imho) diamond shape. I prefer solitaire to cluster, so I'd vote for the biggest, clearest diamond you can afford over 3 smaller ones. The 'you're the one for me, for life' idea is as lovely as 'past, present, future' of three stones.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:16 PM on March 9, 2012

Wow! How marvelous! Do you envision this gift replacing her engagement ring? If so, then consider how her wedding ring will align with the new one. If she's sentimental about that stone then you might also want to have a plan for how to use it.

Re the size, oval stones look bigger than their same weight round counterparts, IMHO; they seem to carry their weight on the top surface. Ovals look nice with other ovals or trillions . For oval or round stones, four prongs will make a the eye inscribe a rectangle inside the stone that make it look smaller to my eye. Six prongs, on the other hand draw the eye out to the edges of the stone and make it look bigger.

If you're still thinking about other options besides diamonds for the side stones, darker jewels (sapphires?) will make the center diamond look brighter and whiter.

Re: the recommendation that you drop down to 1.5 carets, my diamond is about 1.75 carets and its noticibly larger than my friend's 1.5 caret stone.

Re: size, if she's right handed and you think she'll be wearing this on her left hand, don't assume you can use a ring she normally wears on her right hand to size this one. People's dominant hands usually have bigger fingers.
posted by carmicha at 7:35 PM on March 9, 2012

I honestly think the "past/present/future" ring design is something that is Of Its Time and Its Time is not right now. To me, a big central stone with baguettes looks fresher.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:39 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whatever you get, you want to get, like, a 1.92 ct. center stone and .95 ct. side stones -- dramatic discount if you get just a titch under the round number, and the difference is invisible to the naked eye.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:04 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I honestly think the "past/present/future" ring design is something that is Of Its Time and Its Time is not right now.

Yeah, the three-stone thing was big back when I was still selling jewelry, which was about a decade ago. On the other hand, a basic three-stone setting is a pretty long-standing and timeless style, "past-present-future" marketing aside.

Eyebrows McGee has given you a big tip above. Diamonds are priced according to weight group, and the biggest bumps are around the whole-carat (and, to a lesser extent, half-carat) mark. A .98 carat diamond is going to be noticeably less expensive than a 1.00 carat stone, which means you can take a step up in quality.

The thing about priorities when it comes to factors (size, the "three c's", etc) is that they're both subjective and interdependent, and anyone who says NEVER ACCEPT A COLOR GRADE BELOW (random grade) is doing you wrong. The appearance of a diamond is a combination of many factors, and the ultimate test is this: Is the diamond beautiful to you?

That said, here are my standards: In my opinion, the one factor that has the biggest effect on how dramatic a stone looks is how well it's cut (we're leaving aside emerald cuts and baguettes on this one). An extremely well-cut stone will be unusually brilliant, and will refract light to a degree that will cover up a multitude of color and clarity sins.

As an example, my father (who is a jeweler) once sold a 2-carat diamond to a customer who approached him from the other side of a dimly-lit restaurant to ask where the hell he'd gotten such a brilliant stone. I don't remember the exact color grade, but it was pretty low, somewhere around K or L. Good brilliance adds drama.

Beyond that, for me, if there are no obvious inclusions in the stone and the thing isn't colored like weak tea, then I don't have a set standard minimum grade, beyond something obvious like an I2 clarity. I want to see the stone itself to judge it. I've seen I1 diamonds that would knock your socks off. I've seen VS2 diamonds that were okay (though these are rarer -- generally the better quality the rough, the more care taken with cutting).

For me, I'd usually sacrifice size for quality, though again, there are limits here too. One of the things I used to tell my customers is "the diamond chooses you", which is a really douchey way of saying that you'll know the stone when you see it. If the jeweler you're dealing with does their own custom work in house (and they should, or else you need to go somewhere else), then they can show you an assortment of loose stones to choose from. If you hold up a similarly-priced 1.98 carat diamond to a 1.75 and don't see a major difference, then go big. If the smaller one punches you in the eye, then to hell with size. You want a diamond that works the room, especially at your price range. Bigger means squat if it's duller.

A good jeweler should show you an assortment of stones to choose from to build your custom ring. They should be educating you while you stand there at the showcase, explaining why this one costs more than that, even though that one's bigger. If they don't, find someone who will.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2012 [16 favorites]

For such a huge investment in a single piece, you're taking a risk that it might be something your wife doesn't love. Could you not surprise her with the news she's getting a ring and then let her choose what she wants?
posted by essexjan at 1:48 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your wife choosing the ring is not an option, I agree with others who've said that the trilogy ring is somewhat old-fashioned. A better bet is a single stone with tapered baguettes. My choice would be the classic octagonal Emerald Cut or the stunning Asscher Cut.
posted by essexjan at 1:52 AM on March 10, 2012

I often chime in on jewellery questions, but in this case, middleclasstool is bang-on. And, as essexjan said - Why not let your wife choose? As a former-jeweller, there was no better experience than when a couple went casually shopping and the lady tried on something and fell in love with it, and the gent simply said "We'll take it."
posted by peagood at 6:39 AM on March 10, 2012

My husband knows my taste very well, and if I were in this situation, I would not want to pick it out - I'd want him to pick it out, but I am very certain he'd pick the right thing.

I'd also take the quality over size, and agree with the above that the cut/sparkle is what's most important. I still look down at my (much smaller) ring when it's sparkling in the sun or the light and love it, and I've worn it every day since 2003!
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:43 AM on March 10, 2012

My husband bought me such a ring, I am thrilled to be the recipient of such a gift but at times I wish he would have included me in choosing the style (it was 3 stone, and I'm not a 3 stone girl).

Perhaps a ring box and a note followed by a trip to the jeweler?
posted by ibakecake at 1:49 PM on March 15, 2012

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