Diamonds: Only Game in Town or One of Many Options?

by Ed Dryer

Perhaps there is an impending engagement on the horizon and you and your spouse decide that you want to go with a less conventional engagement ring.  This could be because of many different factors, such as cost, moral objections to the diamond industry or you just have a desire to have something a little more unique.  Like the best relationships, the perfect engagement ring can’t be explained, it just works and feels ‘right’.  Sometimes it cannot be explained to outsiders, and it shouldn’t have to be.  But in case you don’t know where to start, here are some places to begin your journey.

In the first article of the series, I told the story of my wife’s engagement ring.  It is a family heirloom which belonged to her great, great grandmother.  It is an absolutely stunning stone set in platinum ring.  More importantly, to both me and my wife, it represents the love and family that traveled over the Atlantic to find a new life in the United States.  Left to my wife’s grandmother and then passed onto my wife when she announced her engagement, it was given with a single stipulation:  It stays in the family to be passed onto another generation.  One hundred years from now, a descendant on our family tree will wear this ring and it will represent seven generations of love and family.  Not everyone can be so lucky to be able to receive a hundred year old piece of family history, as there is usually only one or two grandparents and a significantly larger number of grandchildren.  But your engagement ring doesn’t necessarily need to be the engagement ring of your predecessor.  My mother has a ruby ring that was given to her by my father when they were my age.  It’s always been something I’ve had an attachment to, and if it weren’t already promised to my older brother’s wife, that would have been my engagement ring of choice.  I’m certain that every family has heirlooms of significant emotional attachment that can suit the purpose.  The key is making sure you have solid familial bonds so you can be liked enough to receive them.

When family heirlooms may be in short supply or don’t suit your tastes, estate jewelry may meet your need.  I can hear the cries of ‘I don’t want something second hand’ or ‘I won’t wear anything old’ already.  I want to start off by stating that history is cool, whatever you may think.  You also need to keep in mind that diamonds, by their nature alone, are already millions of years old.  A few decades of them being owned by someone else doesn’t even make a dent in their age.  It is very common for jewelers to pull the stones out of slightly unfashionable settings and reset them in new and beautiful ways on new rings.  I have a family friend who can always identify a diamond that has is more than 25 years old, regardless of the age of the ring.  She has always said that diamonds shaped more than a generation ago have a glint and shine that simply can’t be duplicated by modern techniques with recently mined stones.  One of the most attractive draws of estate jewelry is the price.  In a previous article, I wrote about the resale value of diamonds being significantly lower than price of new stones.  You can take advantage of some of that price differential by looking outside of the standard jewelry store supply chain.  Before you buy, however, obtain a grading report from the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA.  A GIA certification will give you a full report about the diamond in question, listing the official carat weight, clarity grade, color and quality of the cut.  This report is not only useful for giving you peace of mind about an off-market diamond purchase, but will also be necessary for your insurance provider to underwrite a rider for the ring.

Another option is to forgo the diamond altogether.  Although marketing and media has done a great deal of effort to convince the world that diamonds are the only option for engagement rings, there are literally hundreds of other gemstones that can could take their place.  Emeralds, rubies and sapphires are some beautiful alternatives to consider.  These types of stones are significantly less expensive per carat and in many ways can be more beautiful than diamonds.  If you consider lab-grown stones, not only does the cost become lower, the purity of the stone is actually higher and you can obtain stones significantly larger than might be available from mines.  Unless viewed underneath a high-powered microscope by a geologist, such stones are indistinguishable from naturally formed gems and in most people’s opinions, look far more brilliant to the naked eye.

Variety is the spice of life.  You’ve spent your entire lifetime figuring out who you are and now have found the perfect mate.  Regardless of what makes your relationship work or why you two get along so well, it does work and what you have is unique.  As this token of your love is going to be on someone’s hand for a lifetime, why not take the opportunity to explore all of the available options and find something that speaks perfectly to your love, commitment and the quirks that make your relationship the wonder that it is?

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