Wedding season is finally upon us, providing wedding guests with the perfect opportunity to splash the cash on a new outfit, an Airbnb, and a round of pricey drinks at the reception bar.
And while some may groan at the thought of spending yet another bank holiday celebrating a friend’s nuptials half way across the country, or eye roll at hearing Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the best thing” as the couple’s first song as newlyweds, others may feel inspired to pop the question to their significant other.
But if the thought of planning the perfect proposal setting has your palms sweating, choosing an engagement ring will undoubtedly add another layer of perspiration.
Considering all the factors involved in shopping for a ring, such as understanding the four Cs to knowing how to shop for an engagement ring sustainably, it’s not hard to see why Poundland sold 20,000 of its dummy engagement rings within a week of releasing the product in the run-up to Valentine’s Day earlier this year.
As a result, we spoke to jewellery expert Max Ullmann of family-run antique jewellery shop A.R. Ullmann in London to find out everything you need to know before buying “the bling”.
Where should you go to buy a ring?
If you’re in need of a ring (or any jewellery for that matter), look no further for expert service than jewellery district Hatton Garden.
Since the 19th century, the area has become London’s go-to jewellery quarter.
With over 55 shops selling everything from second-hand pieces to one-of-a-kind bespoke designs, Hatton Garden is your go-to place for all things engagement rings.
“Hatton Garden is the historical centre of the jewellery trade in London, but there are many other jewellery shops located in Bond Street,” says Ullmann.
However, it’s worth noting that if you’re not near the capital, the jewellery quarters in Birmingham and Brighton also have top offerings.
Furthermore, contrary to many other retail sectors, the jewellery business enjoys a booming trade on the British high street in towns around the country, offering customers the chance to build personal relationships and trust with local jewellery sellers for generations.
What are the four Cs?
When it comes to buying an engagement ring, many people focus on the carat weight of the diamond.
And when you have celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, who was recently proposed to with a sparkly emerald cut of between 11 and 15 carats, it’s not hard to see why.
However, according to Ullmann, it’s important to know more than carats when it comes to choosing an engagement ring.
“The four Cs stand for colour, clarity, cut and carat,” he says.
“These characteristics give a broad outline as to the most significant elements to be aware of when buying a diamond.”
Here’s what you need to know:
It’s widely known that diamonds come several colours but in a white diamond, a yellow tint will lower its price. The less of this tint, or body colour as it’s referred to in jewellery cirlces, the more expensive it is. When it comes to colour, diamonds are graded on a scale from D (colourless) to Z, with more yellow tints being present the further you go through the alphabet.
Simply put, the clarity refers to the degree to which the diamond’s imperfections (be them inside or on its surface) are present.
A diamond’s cut refers to a diamond’s proportions, symmetry and polish, not a diamond’s shape (e.g. round, oval, pear), as is commonly misunderstood.
Diamonds are sold by the carat (shown as ct.), which is a unit of weight, rather than anything to do with size as is commonly believed.
What are the most popular cuts and stones you need to know?
People might say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but that’s not to say they should be the only stone to consider when it comes to popping the question.
“The most popular stone and cut would be a round brilliant diamond,” says Ullmann.
“Sapphires and rubies usually follow, and then emeralds.”
In 2010, the Duke of Cambridge proposed to his now wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, with a sapphire ring that previously belonged to the late Princess Diana.