Just like other aspects of life, love and matters of the heart, there are no hard and fast rules you must follow when considering an engagement ring. However, whether you're a couple shopping together or a groom alone planning a surprise, whether you're living in a penthouse or paycheck to paycheck, there are several styles, trends and options to consider before you take the first step (and financial investment) on the road to wedded bliss.
Area jewelers advise that one major factor to keep in mind is that your choice in an engagement ring is just that -- your choice. So personal preference, whether you're placing faith in your ability to know your love's taste in jewelry or working in concert to find that perfect stone, should shape your approach. It's also vital to keep in mind four facts about the ring.
First, the ring needs to be practical and easy to wear. The higher the setting of the diamond or gemstone, the more often it will catch or snag on things that could damage it. If a person who sits behind a desk in an office all day wears the ring, the higher setting might not be a problem. But what if they teach kindergarten? Well, then the high setting could be an issue.
Second, the engagement ring must withstand everyday wear. Again, what sort of wear the ring endures depends on lifestyle and work and home environments. If you are in places that will wear on a ring, consider a heavier style that will last longer (and cause less stress). This could mean opting for a strong shank/band, or choosing platinum for your band, as that precious metal will outwear gold many times over.
Third, the ring must be designed to hold the gemstone securely. General guidelines point to the fact that six claws are more secure than four; a bezel (rub over) style is more secure than a claw setting; a heavier and lower setting provides more security as well.
Lastly, the ring must look good and be a thing of beauty -- just like the love you share. This one is up to you.
Considering that her family's stores alone produce hundreds of engagement ring styles to choose from, Tiffany Adler begins her advice for potential engagement ring buyers with one caveat: "Go to a jeweler you trust," she says.
Adler is one of the fourth-generation family members who now own and operate Adler's Jewelers, which first opened on Royal Street in 1898 and now has three locations across metro New Orleans, with a fourth about to open in Baton Rouge. Clearly, the family business has seen styles and trends, those that come and go and those that stand the test of time.
She contends that, though the bride's personal preference trumps everything, diamonds are the gemstone to be used for an engagement ring. Colored gemstones, however, often are used for second marriages. In regard to the increased use of platinum for the band, Adler says the trend, which has increased over the past eight years, has more to do with marketing efforts by the trade guild for platinum than anything else.
When it comes to evaluating diamonds, the first factor to consider is a diamond's carat number. Unlike gold, when karat refers to how much gold versus alloy there is, carat for diamonds refers to the stone's weight. Then there's the cut of the stone. An emerald cut presents an eight-sided stone with concentric square facets. A round cut is a round, brilliant stone. A princess cut is a combination of round and emerald cuts, with a square-stone top and a round-stone bottom. Beyond the cut of the stone, Adler cites other determining factors as measurements of its imperfections and color. Degrees of imperfection range from flawless all the way down to highly imperfect. There's plenty of variance in color, as well, with diamonds rated from fine white to fancy yellow.
Even with all these factors to consider, Adler advises personal preference as the main thing to consider.
"Trust your own judgment," she says. "[The bride's] going to want to have something that he picked out, something that he had input on. It's a sentimental thing. And if she gives her input as well, to give her exactly the ring she wants, then that's a happy combination."
"Too often, the only question somebody will ask when considering an engagement ring is, 'How big of a diamond can I buy for the amount of money I have?'" says Richard Mathis, one of three partners behind Symmetry Jewelry in the Riverbend. "If that's the way you're thinking, then you just get the biggest diamond you can buy, set it in a Tiffany prong and it will look like hundreds of thousands of others that are just like it."
Mathis explains that because Symmetry custom-creates its jewelry, which is made by its own artists, including his brother and business partner Thomas Mathis, customers have creative input into the process. "Our clients are people who want something out of the ordinary, people not looking for a commercial ring that other people can have," Richard Mathis says.
In business since 1975, more and more couples are coming in to Symmetry to shop for the ring together than in years past, he says. Another new trend he notes is the use of technology. Using a computer software program, the store can produce an image prototype that shows a customer what a ring will look like before they commit to buying it.
Yet, Mathis says that Symmetry's traditional engraving work is still the shop's bread and butter. "I thought about two years ago that this trend would taper off, but it hasn't -- it's as strong as ever," he says of customers wanting engraving work.
The store will cater to a customer's taste to create exactly what they want, whether it's a contemporary style or a traditional engagement ring, Mathis says. And, don't worry about how much money you have and how big the diamond will be. "We can fit all budgets," he says. "So if the guy only has a limited amount to spend, we can provide him a lovely handmade ring to fit what he wants and what he can afford. And later on down the road, he can upgrade."
- Symmetry Jewelry
- Jewelry designer Tom Mathis custom designs and engraves engagement rings and wedding sets to match the desires of individual couples, including these new designs, which can be individualized with a choice of stone and metal, starting at $600.
- Adler's Jewelers
- Diamonds come in many colors and cuts, like the pink, white and yellow diamonds shown here, all available at Adler's Jewelers.