Perfect Circle

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The evolution of the engagement ring

By Ryan Bowman

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It’s been said that true love stories never have endings. They do, however, have beginnings.

And in many cases, they begin with a ring.

For as long as brides have been saying “I do,” grooms have been sweeping them off their feet with dazzling diamonds. Just as every proposal is an opportunity for one partner to show off their romantic side, the ring itself should reflect the personality and style of the person they love.

The pressure to pick that perfect ring can seem overwhelming, but nothing worth having ever comes easy. And although it can be stressful – for grooms and brides alike – it can also be rewarding and, yes, even fun.

Choosing the ring: A perfect circle

Given its malleability, durability and characteristic glitter, gold has long been the go-to metal for engagement rings. While white and yellow have traditionally been the most popular, Christina Lysenko of Appelt’s Diamonds says rose gold and platinum are currently trending.

“The difference in price between gold and platinum is the lowest it’s been in years,” Lysenko says. “It’s durable, it requires zero maintenance and it’s naturally white, so a lot of people are going with platinum.”

Steve Tam, whose family owns Gold Brick Jewellers in Garden City Shopping Centre, says two-tone bands – a strip of white gold braided with a strip of rose gold, for instance – are also hot.

“When you combine two colours, it makes the ring really stand out,” Tam says. “Having two tones also gives you the option of wearing different things with it.”

Colour, however, isn’t the only thing to consider in a band.

When it comes to style, Lysenko and Tam say thinner bands are making a comeback. They say the halo design is also in high demand.

“It’s a centre stone surrounded by a circle of smaller diamonds,” Tam explains. “Visually, it pops. It’s also good value-wise, because the centre stone looks bigger than it actually is.”

Choosing the bling: The Four Cs

Brilliant and beautiful as most diamonds look on a finger, they are not created equal.

First off, there are about a dozen standard shapes, the most common being round, oval, princess, pear, asscher (square), cushion (square with rounded corners), and emerald (rectangular).

Then there are the standard determinates of a diamond’s value, known universally as the four Cs.

The first C stands for carat, the metric unit used to weigh diamonds. Carat grades are based on a point system; just as 100 pennies equal one dollar, 100 points equal one carat.

While a one-carat diamond is the most coveted size, its rarity makes it far from the most common. An average size, Lysenko says, is somewhere between 75 and 90 points.

“Customers are usually most concerned about the size,” says Tam, “but we always tell them to focus more on quality and design.”

The second C, colour, refers to the lack of colour in a diamond; the whiter the stone, the higher grade it receives on the Gemological Institute of America’s standardized colour chart, which ranges from D (highest) to Z (lowest).

“The farther you go down the scale, the more warmth you’ll see in the body tone,” says Lysenko, recommending something in the G-H-I range. “Anything lower than that, you’ll start seeing hints of brown or yellow.”

The third C is clarity. “Clarity is based on the inclusions, or what I call the freckles, on a diamond,” explains Lysenko.

The scale used to determine clarity starts at Flawless/Internally Flawless and moves down to Very Very Slightly Included to Very Slightly Included to Slightly Included and, finally, to Imperfect. Inclusions in stones ranked Very Slightly Included or higher are visible only with a microscope.

The fourth C, and the only one determined by man, is cut.

Not to be confused with shape, cut refers to the reflective qualities of a diamond and is determined by the depth and angle of its facets, or “walls.” The scale used to determine cut ranges from Excellent to Poor, with three levels in between.

“I always say cut is probably the most important of the four Cs,” Tam says. “No matter how big or how clear the diamond is, the cut has to be right to give it that sparkle women want.”

Putting it all together:  Uniquely you

So you’ve selected a beautiful band and a stunning stone. But as Jennifer Bottomley of David Rice Jewelry points out, that’s not necessarily a recipe for the perfect ring.

“Certain diamonds only suit certain ring designs, and certain ring designs only suit certain stones,” Bottomley says. “And people want something that not only looks good, but also sets them apart.”

That, she adds, is part of why custom engagement rings are on the rise.

Tam estimates a third of his customers order a completely custom ring, while more than 75 per cent modify an existing style from the showcase.

“The demand for something unique is definitely growing,” he says. “The beauty of customizing is that you’re the only one out there who has that exact ring.”

Lysenko says part of the growing desire to be different comes from the emergence of social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

“Women are really proud of showing off that one-of-a-kind ring,” she says. “The worst feeling in the world is falling in love with a ring and then seeing it on someone else’s hand.

“So many girls out there know exactly what they want, but they haven’t been able to find it,” she adds. “So why not make it for them?”