Engagement Rings 101: Your Guide to Ring Bling


It’s that time of the year where everyone is either getting married or engaged, and no doubt you’re hearing terms like “princess cut” and “carat” being thrown around carelessly by various friends and acquaintances who simultaneously enjoy flashing their engagement rings in your face.

Unlike a majority of women that I know, I was never the type of girl who created Pinterest dream wedding boards and started subscribing to Modern Bride when I was sixteen, planning my future union to my Prince Charming. Sure, I see myself getting married some day and hopefully having a special night to remember for the many years of wedded bliss to come, but it isn’t something I center my entire life around at this point.

Although, I will admit, hearing my soon-to-be engaged roommate talk about going to various jewelers with her boyfriend and all of the different types of ring settings and diamond cuts that are available out there sort of caught my curiosity, so I decided to put together a list of the most common types of rings, settings, and the like to help me (and other clueless women out there) understand what all of this madness is about. I’m not gonna lie, it was actually pretty interesting (and informative too) and, one day when you do find yourself engaged, you’ll sound like a natural pro when you tell the jeweler at Tiffany’s exactly what you want, from style to cut to carat.

The  4 C’s

Clarity – This is the scale the Gemology Institute of America uses to grade the transparency of a diamond. There are 11 possible classifications and it all varies according to the surface blemishes, cracks, spots and nicks that the jeweler detects on the diamond. The grades go as follows: Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2), Very Slightly Included  (VS1 and VS2), Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) and Imperfect Included (I1, I2, and I3).

You may think that a barely noticeable nick on the edge of a diamond isn’t a big deal, but they have a big effect on cost and can make a big difference in the final price tag.

Cut – In addition to being the shape, the cut of a diamond also refers to how well it reflects lights and plays the biggest part in determining the overall look. A diamond that has been cut in just the right way will shine to its maximum, whereas a poorly cut diamond will look more lackluster.

Round-shaped diamonds, which represent around 80 percent of diamonds sold worldwide, are popular because they tend to sparkle the most. Ring experts also advise choosing a smaller stone of a higher cut over a larger stone that has been poorly cut. Meaning? Don’t fret if your fiancé can’t get you the biggest diamond in the story. It’s not always size that counts; it’s what you do with it.

Carat – This is a term we hear most often from women who are shopping for rings and it seems to play a big role in determining if an engagement ring is good enough. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond and not the size. Just because a stone looks large doesn’t necessarily mean it is high in carat. When buying a round diamond, most of the weight is hidden under the prong, whereas with princess-cut, there is more weight at the top. Experts advise choosing a diamond with a lower carat weight that has been cut to the maximum size, if you want to adhere to a budget but don’t want to compromise size.

Color – The Gemology Institute uses two scales to judge color, which is considered the second most important characteristic of a diamond, after cut. The first scale grades colorless diamonds (also known as white diamonds) on a D to Z scale. (And don’t worry, getting a “D” on this test isn’t a bad thing – quite the opposite, in fact!) A D-grade diamond is completely clear and super rare, while one in the Z range will have more of a noticeable tint to it.

Types of Settings

Onto the fun part: the ring setting. This is what gives each ring a unique signature look and can really determine the amount of oohs and aahs you’ll receive. (Some of these settings I’ve never even heard of!)

Bar Setting: Metal bars separate each stone.

Bezel Setting: A gemstone is surrounded by a thin, flat piece of metal.

Channel Setting: Comes with two long tracks of precious metal that hold a row of gemstones side-by-side.

Cluster Setting: Several small diamonds flank a larger one in the center.

Gypsy Setting: Stones are sunk into holes placing them at the same level as the rest of the ring’s surface.

Micro Pave Setting: Small, closely set stones.

Pave Setting: A central stone is surrounded by smaller gems that are set close together.

Prong Setting: Metal claws raise a stone to allow in the most light (this is Tiffany & Co.’s signature ring setting).

Shared Prong: Adjacent diamonds share prongs.

Types of Cuts

Last but not least, the cuts and shapes of each diamond are what truly set it apart from the rest.

Asscher Cut: Similar to an emerald cut but more square in shape, this looks octagonal.

Cushion Cut: Also known as an “antique cut”, the cushion cut is like a rounded square – a cross between a rectangle and an oval.

Emerald Cut: Originally developed for emeralds, this is rectangular in shape with cropped corners and long, stair-step facets.

Heart Cut: Just like its name, the heart cut contains a heart-shaped diamond.

Marquise Cut: A more unique style, the marquise is an oval diamond with pointed ends.

Pear Cut: It looks like a tear drop and can be worn in one of two ways. With the point facing away from your body, it gives the fingers a long and more slender appearance.

Princess Cut: One of the more popular cuts, the princess is a square stone.

Round Cut: My personal favorite (and depicted in Tiffany’s ads), this is also a classic diamond shape and has the most sparkle.

Now that you’re in the know, you won’t have any trouble picking out the perfect engagement ring (or dropping the right hints for your beau) when your time to jump the broom comes around.

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