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What to know before buying a diamond ring

The Savage Truth

Perhaps it’s the afterglow of the royal wedding, or maybe because June is the season for brides. But our attention has turned to diamonds.

If you’re about to pop the question and present a diamond, there’s much more to consider these days in making your choice — and multiple ways to make that purchase.

Let’s start with the four traditional measures of comparison for diamonds, on which purchasing and pricing decisions are made. They are:

Color: The highest-value diamonds are pure white without any noticeable coloration. The purest color earns a grade of D. The color scale goes all the way down to Z.

Carat: A carat is the measure of weight or size of the diamond.

Clarity: Almost every diamond has some internal flaws or inclusions, which take away from the value of the stone. Some are visible to the naked eye, while others are seen only under a jeweler’s microscope or loupe. The highest-quality stones are graded flawless.

Cut: Even novice diamond buyers likely know there are various standard shapes into which raw diamonds are cut: marquise, pear, round, emerald and others. That’s just a matter of personal appeal and fashion. But the concern with cut is how well the diamond cutter created the angles and proportions in that particular stone.

The Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization, is the largest and most prestigious grader of diamonds, with offices around the world. A GIA certificate (matched to the diamond itself by specific variations in cut and inclusions) is the buyer’s guarantee of the four Cs graded for that stone.

But there’s more to choosing a diamond. Newly mined stones purchased through reputable jewelers now come with a sort of pedigree certifying they are ethically sourced from places not marred by the use of diamonds to finance wars, or mined with child labor, or in a way that’s destructive to the environment.

Once you’ve been educated, it’s time to buy, either online or at a retail jeweler.

Technology has changed the diamond market, and online retailers have invaded the space traditionally claimed by retail stores. They claim better prices because they don’t have the overhead of retail stores.

But retail jewelers are fighting back. They point out that online merchants will only ship one stone at a time, depriving you of the opportunity to use the fifth C in diamond grading: comparison.

David Lampert of Lester Lampert Jewelers in Chicago is a certified gemologist and diamond specialist. He says: “The true beauty of the diamond is really not something that can be measured in numbers in a written report or in an online photo. You need to see the stones in person and compare them.”

Only a jeweler can show you similar GIA grade stones side by side for a true comparison.

Don’t be blinded by love, or by price alone, when you make this choice. Do your homework, get professional advice, make comparisons — and look before you leap. It’s a good recipe for marital success as well as diamond purchases. That’s the Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including “The Savage Truth on Money.” She responds to questions on her blog at

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