Thinking about buying a diamond?
If you are thinking about owning a diamond, be it a solitaire or a piece of jewellery set with diamonds, you are entering an enchanted world of romance, intrigue, legend and history that was once reserved for kings and emperors.
Until a century ago, only the wealthy could afford the luxury of diamonds. Fortunately, since the discovery of large deposits in Africa and throughout the world, diamonds are now available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and affordable price ranges.
Why a diamond?
The reasons for buying diamonds are as different as the people who desire them. Through the years, diamonds have provided fulfilment for emotional and practical needs. They are sought after as gifts, status symbols, tokens of romance and even as long-term investments.
Diamonds are beautiful.
Their exquisite beauty and mystique provides us with an outward expression of love for "that special one." They create an aura of success and inspire feelings of pride.
Diamonds are durable.
A diamond is the hardest substance known to man. Because of this fact, it is resistant to deterioration or deformity and its beauty will be enjoyed for many generations.
Diamonds are rare.
Although there have been new discoveries of gem diamond resources, the supply is still limited. It is a fact that larger diamonds are increasingly harder to come by; when 250 tons of ore are blasted, crushed and processed, chances are there will only be one carat of rough diamonds recovered. And, only 20 percent of all rough diamonds are suitable for cutting into gem diamonds.
Diamonds retain value.
While diamond prices may fluctuate with economic conditions, even after years of being worn and enjoyed, a diamond retains value.
What determines the value of a diamond?
The "Four C's" - Carat weight, colour, clarity and cut - explain why diamonds range in value.
This is the unit of weight used for diamonds, a word derived from carob seeds used to balance scales in ancient times. A carat is equal to 200 milligrams and there are 142 carats to an ounce. Carats are further subdivided into points. There are 100 points to a carat. For example, a 45-point diamond weighs a little less than half a carat. Because larger diamonds are quite rare, they have a greater value per carat.
Although a diamond may be any colour of the spectrum, grading a cut stone for colour means deciding the amount by which it deviates from the whitest possible (truly colourless). Completely colourless, icy-white diamonds are rare, and therefore, more valuable.
The best way to see the true colour of a diamond is looking at it against a white surface. Although most diamonds are a shade of white, they do come in all colours - pale yellow, canary, pink, red, green, blue and brown. These are called "fancies" and they are valued for their depth of colour, just as white diamonds are valued for their lack of colour. The famous Hope Diamond is blue, and the well-known Tiffany Diamond is canary.
A diamond's clarity is determined by taking into account the number, size, placement, colour and nature of any internal "inclusions" or external surface irregularities. Inclusions are Nature's birthmarks - imperfections such as spots, bubbles or lines - included in the stone when it was crystallised from carbon millions of years ago. These marks make each stone unique, for no two diamonds have the same inclusions in the same places. When inclusions do not interfere materially with the passage of light through the stone, they do not affect its beauty. However, the fewer the inclusions, the more valuable the diamond.
Diamonds are cut according to an exact mathematical formula. A finished diamond has 58 "facets," which are the small, flat polished planes cut into a diamond, so that the maximum amount of light is reflected back to the viewer's eye. This reflection is called "brilliance," and is extremely important in evaluating the quality of a diamond.
The widest circumference of a diamond is the "girdle." Above the girdle are 32 facets plus the "table," the largest and topmost facet. Below the girdle there are 24 facets plus the "culet," or point. Cut also deals with the shape of the diamond. Traditional shapes are round, emerald, marquise, pear, oval and heart.
What should you spend on a diamond engagement ring?
Your diamond engagement ring marks the beginning of your life together. And, it will remain a symbol of your love and commitment to marry.
Your first decision, even before you look at any rings, is how much you will be spending. A good rule of thumb when buying a diamond engagement ring is to set aside two months' salary. Remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that will last. Think of the many purchases you make for your home and yourself which don't last, which depreciate as they are used, and which you will have to re-purchase several times. Your diamond engagement ring, on the other hand, has lasting value and will always be the enduring symbol of your love.
It will also become an heirloom for your children. It's important for both of you to understand that this two months spending guideline will get you the biggest and best diamond that you can afford without breaking your budget. And your diamond engagement ring is something you'll both be proud of. Forever.
Mini-Glossary of diamond terms
Baguette: A rectangular-shaped small diamond often used to enhance the setting of a larger stone.
Channel Setting: Type of setting often used in mounting a number of smaller stones of uniform size in a row. Stones are not held by individual prongs but rather continuous strips of metal forming a channel into which are fitted the outer edges of the row of stones.
Fancy Cut: A diamond cut other than round - such as baguette, emerald, triangle, pear, star.
Pave (pronounced Pa-vay): A type of setting in which a number of small stones are set as closely together as possible to appear as an all-diamond surface without any metal showing.
Solitaire: The mounting of a single gemstone.
Tiffany Setting: A four or six-prong setting generally round in shape and flaring out from the base to the top, having long slender prongs that hold the stone.
How to care for your diamond
Do not use these methods for diamond watches. The best method for cleaning them is a jeweller's polishing cloth. Keep your precious jewellery pieces in a fabric-lined jewel case or a box with compartments or dividers. Don't jumble your diamond pieces in a drawer or jewellery case, because diamonds can scratch other jewellery - and even scratch each other. Diamonds get smudged and soiled and dusty. Lotions, powders, soaps, even the natural skin oils, put a film on diamonds and cut down their brilliance. Chemicals in the air can discolour the mountings of precious jewellery. So, clean your diamonds regularly.
Commercial jewellery cleaner, or a mix of ammonia and water, or mild detergent will do the job well. Dip the jewellery in the solution, scrub gently with a soft brush. (Be sure to brush between and underneath the prongs.) Rinse in clear water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Also, there are many ultrasonic cleaners on the market that will clean any piece of jewellery that can be dunked in a liquid in a matter of minutes. A high frequency turbulence creates the cleaning action.
How & where to buy a diamond
Because every diamond has its own characteristics, and no two stones are exactly alike, knowledge of the diamond industry and the nature of diamonds requires years of extensive study.
Consequently, it is absolutely vital that you purchase your diamond from a local jeweller whom you know and trust, one who is established in the community and has earned an excellent reputation for integrity, service and reliability. Know the firm you are dealing with. Ask questions: Can you return for service and advice in the future? A reputable jeweller can explain why diamonds that appear to be virtually identical may show a wide range of value. Let your jeweller become your counsellor - much as your doctor, lawyer or accountant.