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EngagementWhat are engagement or wedding rings all about anyway? Who started this and why is it such a tradition? Since when did the ring become a symbol of love, romance, and marriage? Why is it the fourth finger on the left hand that is considered the lucky one to wear the ring? Here is some history of the engagement and wedding ring.

Starting all the way back in Egyptian times they were the first to use the circle shape as a symbol of eternity. The Egyptians also believed that the fourth finger on the left hand was connected to the vein of love and ran directly back to the heart. Although wearing a ring as a public pledge to honour marriage didn’t come about until the Roman times.  Some of the first rings were made from iron, but by medieval days gold rings set with gems were fashionable.  Popular gems were symbolic such as a blue sapphire to reflect the heavens or a red ruby as the colour of the heart, but the most powerful of all gems was the diamond.

Up until the 15th century only kings wore diamonds as a symbol of courage, strength, and invincibility. Over centuries the diamond has become a unique status of the ultimate gift for love. The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamas” which means “the unconquerable” suggesting the eternity of love. Ancient Greeks believed diamonds to be delicate splinters of fallen stars and adorned them for the powers of protection they believed it offered the wearer. India is where diamonds were first discovered and they were thought to be a shield from forces of evil like theft, snakes, and poison.  They have been associated to promote lasting love, ward off nightmares, symbol of innocence, power and protection. You can see why it has become such a precious gift of choice for couples.

RingsHow did an engagement ring come about? This first trend started way back in 1477 by Archduke Maxamilian of Austria who present his beloved Mary of Burgundy with a ring of engagement. The dual ring ceremonies were introduced by the Greek Orthodox Church in the 1300’s.  It wasn’t until the 1940’s in US when both men and woman would wear a band. Due to World War 2 the custom caught on because soldiers had to leave their beloveds behind and in the separation and loneliness they wanted to wear a band to remind them of their loved one far away. In the height of the war 85% of marriages had a dual ring ceremony, and it continues today.

The tradition is still long lasting and both men and woman are more attached to their bling today than ever before!

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Earrings

Jewellery is a very personal accessory which can make it hard to choose the right piece when shopping for someone else. The very fact that earrings are worn so close to the face make them even more personal.

Some women wear the same jewellery daily regardless of the occasion, others don’t wear jewellery at all – for these women, it might be best to pick a different gift. Anyone else, though, you can have a good shot at it if you know what to look for.

Colour:

Does she wear only silver and white gold? Only yellow gold? Or both? What colour clothes does she tend to go for? Many women like to wear neutral colours and may be seen with a coloured stone ring, but would not wear the colour more prominently in earrings, for example. If she’s not often seen in colour, stick to neutral coloured stones and detailing for example black onyx, smokey quartz, diamond, pearl. When looking at colours, consider her hair, skin and eyes – different pigmentation suits different colour groups so even if you are attracted to the yellow citrine, your pale skinned brunette girlfriend may not agree.

Size/Shape:

This is especially important for earrings. Consider hair length and style. If she often wears her hair tucked behind her ears or up in a hair piece then studs may look stunning, but if she has a cut that frames her face more then those beautiful diamonds will never be seen! Long faces can benefit from a wider shaped earring whereas wider faces prefer more slender earrings. Long necks look exotic with longer earrings while these are just not going to work on a shorter neck.

Metal and findings (the bit that goes in the ear):

Apart from colour, metal is also important to consider for allergies. Many women have sensitivities to metals used in jewellery findings. It is most common to be allergic to nickel. Therefore look for higher quality findings or when shopping for costume jewellery ask the retailer if any are hypoallergenic. Consider the style of finding too – older women often have stiffness and less dexterity in their fingers so when buying Grandma some new pearl drop earrings, check that there are no complex mechanisms that she might struggle with. A simple sheppard hook would be best for her. If your girlfriend wears scarfs often, however, look for something with a locking mechanism like a closed hoop or screw stud.

Once you have these things figured out, and you have taken note of what she wears most often, then you are ready to go to your local jeweler and check out what they have that fits your criteria. One more thing to consider is matching sets. Many earring designs will have a matching pendant or necklace. Many women like to wear matching sets, and the beauty of these is that they don`t have to be worn together but look amazing when they are. So if you have nailed the style and present her with the full set then its like a 3 in 1! Necklace, earrings and set – how could you go wrong?

Look for a jeweler that you can talk to easily and will help you know what you are looking at. They sell jewellery every day and have a good idea of what different people look for, and if you have already done your homework then together you should find something she will love – maybe even show them a picture of her on your phone? – and always ask for the return policy to cover your back if you are unsure.

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3: STONE:

Here we will only consider diamonds. If you are considering other stones, speak to a gemmologist to find out your options and get their recommendations. Remember: knowledge is power, know as much as you can about what you are spending your money on.

Diamonds are rocks that form naturally in the earth, so there is no ‘one size fits all’. It is like choosing between apples – size, sweetness, crispness, juiciness are categories you want to balance when picking an apple. It is similar for diamonds but with different criteria.

  • Carat: In gold this word refers to the purity, with diamonds it is the weight/size. Bear in mind that diamonds are priced per carat digitally. In other words 0.5-0.99 is one price bracket, and 1.00-1.49 is another. Therefore it is possible to buy a 0.98 for the price of a 0.5 and it will look like a 1 carat. The other factors are also critical, however, so bear in mind that a 1 carat diamond can vary in price dramatically depending on the other variables.
  • Clarity: Being an organic material, most diamonds have impurities known as inclusions. Inclusions are usually white or black and some can be seen with the naked eye. A stone without inclusions is called ‘flawless’ and carries a high price tag. Clarity is graded using letter-number combinations. For most rings the range to look for is either VS1 and VS2 which are very clear, then S1 and S2 have inclusions that can easily be seen with 10x magnification, but not so easily with the naked eye. Diamonds also possess blemishes such as tiny cracks which can make the diamond cloudy (see warnings below).
  • Colour: diamonds vary in colour from colourless to brown and even black. Unless you are after a diamond that is noticeably coloured, you want to aim for as white as possible. Colour is graded using letters. D is colourless, through to zyx (noticeably tinted). Aim for D-G range for a quality diamond.
  • Cut: this determines the overall shape of the stone (round, square, rectangle, oval, pear shaped etc) and sparkly (fire). The more facets the more the light is bounced around in the stone and is reflected back to you as sparkle. Round brilliant cut is the most popular and gives a lot of sparkle. Also more facets can hide impurities, for example, if you are in the market for a flawless diamond, this will be well seen in an emerald (rectangle) cut.

Speak to a jeweler who knows their stones. If your priority is high purity, then maybe you can go down on the carat size or colour etc.

WARNINGS:

Not enough emphasis can be made on the importance of buying from a reputable retailer. It is really important that you trust who you are buying from as not all jewelry is what it seems.

  • Castings of the ring mounts when machine made can be porous (tiny bubbles in the metal); the claws that set the stones can be loose, and these rings will not last.
  • There are imitation diamonds on the market, so be sure to get a certification so that you know you are not buying a cubic zirconia or moissanite when you want a diamond.
  • Especially when buying jewelry unseen, such as on the internet, be aware that even if the dealer is obliged to state colour, clarity and carat value, it is not obliged to state cloudiness or treatments that have been made to artificially enhance the stone. These include laser drilling where tiny pin holes are made into the inclusion to bleach it white or dissolve it. These can look like natural flaws and don’t necessarily impair the appearance or structure of the stone. Fillers, however are not considered permanent and the substance used (usually glass) has different properties to diamonds and can appear as colour flashes unusual to diamond. Also, heat and sunlight can effect this substance over time darkening or eroding it. Even though diamond is the hardest substance, cracks (especially unfilled) are weaknesses and make the stone vulnerable to cracking. There is nothing wrong with buying a treated stone (it can make a lesser quality stone appear better), but make sure that this is disclosed when you purchase so that you know you are paying the right price.

You are now armed and ready to browse those jewelry stores and know what you are looking at! This is all very technical information, as you browse you will find that some diamonds “speak” to you more than others. Don’t be held down by the numbers – find a stone you love and a setting that compliments the stone and your personality. And shop around for the jeweler you trust.

Happy shopping!

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A StoreShopping for engagement rings can be a highly emotional and daunting task. Jewelry stores can be intimidating. Don’t be put off by the seemingly endless styles and confusing prices. Let’s make it easier and break it down. Once you have an idea of what is important to you, find a reputable jeweler that you trust, preferably with gemmological qualifications, who can source stones and who works with a good goldsmith so that you can guarantee good product and service. It is well worth spending the time to find the right retailer as this ring is for life, not just for the proposal, and just as any other long wearing item, it will need upkeep – claws that hold the stone in place will need tightening, white gold will need rhodium plating, polishing, cleaning, resizing, insurance validations are all things you may need to follow up with.

So what variables do you need to consider to make your shopping experience easier? Take a note of your priority in each category and bring the list with you when browsing:

The fundamentals are Style and Material. Here we will focus on diamond engagement rings only.

1: STYLE:

  • 1 stone is called a solitaire, it is very popular – it says “you are the one and only”.
  • 3 stone rings stand for “I Love You” or “Then, Now, Always”.
  • Other designs are less conventional but always beautiful: the halo design is a single stone surrounded by a ring of smaller stones. This can look stunning if they are all diamonds as it makes the overall effect of a larger diamond, also if the centre stone is coloured, the halo frames that stone and makes it really stand out.
  • When diamonds are set in a line either part or all the way around the ring in a band, then this is called an eternity ring. This is popular when the knuckles are larger than the base of the finger and your rings tend to spin around, it is a more popular choice as the wedding band.

2: METAL:

Depending on skin tone and preference there are silver and golden coloured metals.

  • Silver is very soft and not very appropriate for setting precious stones.Ring Styles
  • White gold is a good alternative. The higher the carat value, the more gold content, and the higher the price. More gold usually means softer, except for 19K which has a different alloy and is extremely hard, and does not need rhodium plating as often. Gold will always want to revert to its original yellow, so over time a 14K gold ring will tarnish and need plating every 2 years or so to bring it back to the bright white, and of course when you do this the ring will look brand new again! Rhodium plating typically costs $60, so keep this in mind when purchasing.
  • Platinum is the hardest and whitest of the white metals. It does not scratch as easily as gold and will never need plating. However, over time, with constant wear, the ring will eventually collect scratches. As the metal is harder, normal jewelry polishing wheels at retail shops may not be able to polish off all marks.
  • Yellow and rose gold will have more colour with higher carat value, but will be softer.

 

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