What should a couple know before choosing an engagement ring?

Melanie from Weddingfavours.ca (WF) had the opportunity to meet with Gord Lesser of Lesser Brothers Jewellers (LB) in Ingersoll to ask this question and many more…

~WF: How much should I spend on an engagement ring?
~LB: The industry says three months gross salary. I say you should spend the dollar amount that you are comfortable with. When deciding on a price point- remember that your engagement rings and wedding bands are likely the only jewellery you will wear every day for the rest of your lives. When someone else looks at the rings- what do you want them to say about you as a couple? You do not have to spend thousands upon thousands to have special rings. They have to suit you as a couple and your jeweller can help you to make the right choice so that your rings will have a unique flare that suits your lifestyle and budget.

~WF: Do you recommend that the gentleman select the ring or should the couple choose the ring together?
~LB: Today, most couples come in together to browse before a purchase is made. This allows the woman to express what she prefers and narrow the field. Then the gentleman can come in alone and work with the jeweller to make a selection that will suit her preferences. We are all children at heart and it is nice for the actual ring selection to be a surprise but it is wise to have her input before making the purchase.

~WF: How can I know that I am getting a good quality item?
~LB: I tell my customers to ask about the guarantee. In Canada, any quality supplier gives a jewellery piece a two-year guarantee covering most anything short of actually losing the ring. Second- be sure to ask about making changes including sizing the ring. Be wary of any jewellery supplier who is not willing to resize a ring- there is usually a reason why. If a ring is well-built, the diamond shape, size or quality can be changed to customize it to your taste. A seller will not be willing to modify a poorly built ring. I want you to have something that is unique to wear and also durable. This is where experience and trust come in on both sides. Let’s be honest- if I know that a piece is not well made, I will not be willing to offer a two year guarantee.

~WF: What is Karat Gold?
~LB: In North America, gold traditionally comes in four different grades. These grades are: 10, 14, 18 and 24 Karat. These numbers represent the percentage of gold in the ring. 24 karat gold is pure gold. 10 Karat means that 10 out of every 24 parts is gold and the rest of the mix is a combination of alloys- normally silver, nickel and copper. These are added to give strength and colour to the gold. The higher the gold content, the more malleable (bendable) the ring will be. This is why you rarely see a 24 Karat ring because the gold is too soft to hold the diamond.

~WF: What is the difference between white and yellow gold?
~LB: Simply put- the only difference is colour. The alloys that are added are done so to give strength and colour. 14 Karat yellow gold and 14 Karat white gold contain the exact amount of gold. A quality supplier will not add a surcharge for the same ring in another colour of gold.

~WF: How can I compare Diamonds?
~LB: Very easily- use the four C’s. Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat Weight. The Four C’s are the standard by which all diamonds are sold within the industry. When you are told that a store has a different system and it is comparable- this is untrue. At some point each diamond was graded using the 4 C’s and this is the scale that is used by professional gemologists. Be very cautious about purchasing a diamond when the seller will not tell you the grade using this scale. When using the Four C’s, remember that all the points work together to enhance the beauty of the stone. I always tell my customers that if a jeweller is willing to give you the Four C’s on a diamond he is confident in his suppliers and what he sells. The actual grading system is quite complicated but a reputable jeweller will be willing and able to explain it to you in person and show you a variety of stones that will help illustrate the differences.

Basic Explanation of the Four Cs
~CUT- Many people confuse cut with the shape of the diamond. Cut refers to the mathematical formula that has been developed calling for most diamonds to have 58 facets, placed at precise angles to each other. When a diamond is well cut, it allows the maximum amount of light to be reflected through the stone giving it more scintillation and sparkle.
~COLOUR- Customers are usually looking for a totally colourless diamond but these are extremely rare. Diamonds act a prism and will reflect the colours of the rainbow. As a colour becomes more noticeable it affects the value. If the colour is washed out this normally drops the value of the diamond. If the colour is very intense then is becomes a Fancy Colour Diamond, increasing its value.
~CLARITY- This refers to any interior or exterior blemishes/flaws. A flaw in a diamond will affect light travelling through a diamond diffusing the light and reducing its brilliance. Some flaws are very small and require 10 power magnification to see. These minute inclusions neither mar the beauty nor endanger the diamond’s durability. If you can visibly see the inclusion- be careful because if it is near the surface the diamond is more susceptible to cracking.
~CARAT WEIGHT- This is the method used to describe the size of a diamond. A One Carat Diamond has a weight of 200 milligrams. In addition to a weight calculation for carat- a diamond is described in points and using this scale there are 100 points to a carat.
The Four Cs-When using the Four Cs remember that all the elements of the scale work together to enhance the beauty of the stone. I always tell my customers that if a jeweller is willing to give you the Four Cs on a diamond then he is confident in his suppliers and the products he sells.

~WF: Should I insist on seeing the diamond under magnification?
~LB: It is not a bad idea but chances are you will not know what you are looking at. I point out visible inclusions to some of my customers and they cannot see what I am talking about. You can always ask but unless you know what you are looking for- it will not be too helpful in determining the quality of a stone. If the jeweller is willing to show it to you- this can be a good sign but don’t rely too heavily on your own interpretation of what you see. It is also wise to view the diamond in natural light. The display cases in a jewellery store are lit specifically to increase sparkle and emphasize the beauty of the products. Try to view the ring in light from a window or in the centre of the store. This will give you a good idea of how the ring will look in “real life”.

~WF: How can I be sure that I am not buying a conflict diamond?
~LB: I usually tell my customers that the easiest way to be sure you are not purchasing a conflict diamond is to purchase a Canadian diamond. The diamonds are mined and cut in Canada so you can be confident that they have not been used to fund conflicts.

~WF: Are Canadian diamonds better than diamonds from other countries?
~LB: The answer is no. Remember that the Four C’s grading system is universal. The difference is that Canadian stones are tracked through the entire process from mining to cutting to wholesaling and eventually to the showcase. All Canadian stones are also individually certified and engraved with a serial number. When buying a Canadian diamond- make sure that the certificate accompanies the stone at time of purchase.

~WF: Should the wedding bands be purchased at the same time as the engagement ring?
~LB: This is an important question. When purchasing an engagement ring you should always ask about matching wedding bands and their future availability. A quality supplier will likely have access to a matching band for years to come. A custom design is also an option. The more intricate and sculpted the engagement ring, the more difficult and costly it will be to match it.

~WF: I heard that you can clean a diamond ring with toothpaste- is this a good idea?
~LB: NO- this is a bad idea. It will not damage the diamond or the actual gold but it can damage the alloys and the setting. You should not use any homemade concoctions. A good quality cleaner only costs a few dollars and it will last you for years and won’t build up on your jewellery.

~WF: How should I care for a diamond ring?
~LB: Most reputable jewellers will clean and check your ring for you free of charge. Have the claws, setting, underhead and shank inspected every six months. Claws will normally last about 10-15 years with daily wear and tear. A minor repair job costs a fraction of the value of the ring and can prevent a lost diamond. Also if your weight has changed drastically- you should have the ring examined and resized. A changing finger size can cause the claws to loosen or flex. Good maintenance is always a good investment.

~WF: What should I know if I want to use an heirloom ring?
~LB: You should discuss your plans with your jeweller. Take the ring to the store and ask how you can best use the ring. The quality of the stones and the condition of the ring determine whether it can be rebuilt. Anything can be repaired if you are prepared to pay for it. Sometimes a repair involves too much work for it to be practical but only YOU can be the judge of that. It is not unlike a car that has been in an accident. Almost anything can be repaired but it may not be worth it and the finished product will not look like it did when it was new. A jeweller can give you the “dollars and cents” assessment but it is up to you to decide whether the sentimental value of the heirloom piece makes the cost worthwhile. Sometimes it makes more sense to start from scratch or to use the gold and stones in a newly designed ring.

~WF: What questions should I ask a Jeweller before choosing to do business with him or her?
~LB: Ask any or all of the above questions to your jeweller and see what sort of a response you receive. When I am dealing with a client I will do my best to fully answer your questions and give you some advice as to what to look for. If the jeweller is not overly forthcoming then it is like buying anything they probably do not really know their product. Remember – more than just selling you a ring I am trying to give you trust and confidence in your purchase. So ask me all the questions you want when you come in if you stump me and I do not know the answer I can surely find it for you.

~WF: Any final advice?
~LB: Have fun with this purchase. This is usually the first big Jewellery purchase for most men and it can seem scary at first. Ask a lot of questions and through talking we can find something that will fit the budget and will be a choice that the couple will always cherish and enjoy.

Thanks you so much for all this valuable information. I am definitely going to stop using toothpaste on my diamond! Clearly it is a good idea to deal with a knowledgeable and trustworthy jeweller.

Gord Lesser is a registered jeweller with 35 years of experience. He is available to help you make wise jewellery purchases. Visit his store, Lesser Brothers Jewellers – 146 Thames St S. in downtown Ingersoll Ontario- or call him at (519) 485-2190, email info@lesserbrothersjewellers.com