Meridian Star

February 3, 2013

Know 'The 4 C's' when shopping for engagement ring

By Ida Brown / ibrown@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     It's a familiar sight around this time of year: a guy leaning over a glass counter, looking at endless rows of engagement rings for that special one.

    Although "engagement season" is between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day (according to the gurus at the popular wedding guide The Knot, 39 percent of marriage proposals occur during that time), every day someone is asked, "Will you marry me?"

    While some couples shop for rings together, the potential bridegroom will often make the final decision.

    "We have more men who do it own their own," said Trish LaBiche of LaBiche Jewelers in downtown Meridian. "They may browse as a couple, but 75 percent of our male customers shop alone for the engagement ring – they like for it to be a surprise."

    Shopping for engagement rings can seem daunting, even overwhelming for some. However, being somewhat fluent in engagement ring vocabulary – especially diamonds – can assure the perfect fit. All you have to remember are "The 4 C's."

    "That's cut, color, clarity and carat," LaBiche said.

    • Cut refers to the angles of the facets in the stone, which determines the diamond's brilliance and shape. In addition to the cut, engagement rings come in a variety of shapes, including round, princess, emerald and pear.

    • Color refers to the stone's hue. Diamonds can run the gamut of colors from colorless to light yellow or brown.

    • Clarity depends on how free of imperfections the engagement ring stone is.

    • Carat refers to the diamond's size.

    Another important factor in shopping for engagement rings is metal. Engagement bands come in a variety of metals, including platinum, gold, titanium, palladium and even recycled metals. Once the stone's style is determined, it's time to determine the ring's setting. LaBiche explained some popular settings:

    • Halo – The "ethereal" style ring features a border of diamonds encircling the center stone – a "halo" – to emphasize the stone's sparkle and make it appear larger.

    • Six-prong Tiffany Solitaire – A classic, the stone is usually set high, which allows the diamond maximum exposure to light, enhancing the brilliance.

    • Cathedral – The center diamond is firmly nested between bands extending from each side, drawing the eye to the stone.

    While diamonds are the traditional gem for an engagement ring, sapphires and rubies are also used. Emerald is the Color of the Year, according to color authority, Pantone.

    "I would anticipate some people wanting emerald accents, which adds dimension to the ring," LaBiche said.

    Once "The 4 C's" have been determined, there is one more "C" you should know: Cost. The traditional rule of thumb was the the bridegroom should plan to spend at least three months salary on the engagement. But just as times have changed, that rule has fallen out of favor.

    "Our main thing is be comfortable with whatever you're spending," LaBiche said.

    There's just one more important rule when buying an engagement ring: If you don't know diamonds ....

    "Know your jeweler," LaBiche advises. "We like to educate people on what they are getting. We want them to be happy with what they buy today 25, 50 years down the road."