Are you confused by diamond cut grades? How is a diamond graded for it's cut quality? What is an ideal cut diamond? Do you need some simple, clear, diamond buying advice?
Look no further. We are Little Bird - Diamond & Engagement Ring Consulting. It is our job to explain the basics of diamond grading in a way that makes sense to a non-gemologist.
Cut is one of the 4 C's of diamond grading, along with Clarity, Carat size, and Color. Cut evaluation is by no means everything you need to know about a diamond, but it will help you understand why some diamonds have more fire and brilliance than others. Here is a great article from GIA on how they grade a diamond's cut. (GIA stand for The Gemological Institute of America.)
GIA is the largest gem grading laboratory, operating facilities all over the world. They are certainly not the only lab, but their grading system is considered the standard in the in industry. In addition to grading diamonds, GIA also has an educational facility. Us Little Birds are very familiar with GIA's grading system. If you need help understanding a GIA diamond certificate or even help buying an uncertified diamond please get in touch, or leave us a question in the comments section. This is a lot of information to take in, and you are not expected to understand all the details immediately.
You're lying in bed, but you're still flying high off that pour over you thought was a good idea at 3pm. You have a long car ride ahead of you and you've already listened to all of the recent The Moth podcasts. You're hanging in the park just kicking back and acro-yoga just isn't your thing. The next time you have some alone time with your partner and want to pick their brain re: engagement rings, we've got you covered.
1. How do you feel about your friends who have gotten engaged? What’s the gossip? Do any of your friends secretly not like their rings?
Engagement Ring = Diamond + Ring Setting
In order to offer the best possible support for the engagement ring shoppers, Little Bird maintains a wide network of experts and insiders in all parts of the diamond industry. One of our FAVORITE experts is Marilyn Weiss, a national estate and antique ring specialist. Marilyn buys and sells vintage, estate and antique diamond engagement rings. Some samples of her current collection are shown here. At any time, she will have close to 100 completely unique pieces. She doesn’t generally sell them directly to retail customers, but she’s always happy to meet privately with Little Bird clients. Her clients include some of the finest retailers in the US known for antique fine jewelry. Let’s just say it’s good to have a friend like Marilyn.
Little Bird: So you’ve specialized in all sorts of jewelry over your many years in the industry, from semi-precious to precious. When did you get into antique and estate fine jewelry?
Marilyn Weiss: About 13 years ago I walked into a used bookstore,,,
Given that Jewelers Mutual is focused solely on jewelry we approached our coverage from the ground up- and view jewelry differently than a Homeowners policy ever would. We know a disaster can be as simple as leaving your engagement ring in that coffee shop bathroom, or your new watch sitting on the golf cart on Hole 6. That’s why every policyholder receives the same comprehensive worldwide coverage that includes protection against theft, accidental loss, and damage. Lastly, we realize you can’t always pinpoint how or where your jewelry disappeared, so we cover ‘mysterious disappearance’- a coverage often overlooked by other carriers. As cliché as it sounds, we cover real life.
2. So, in a nutshell what are the main coverage differences between adding an engagement ring to an existing renters or homeowner’s policy vs. taking out a jewelry specific policy with Jewelers Mutual?
You can use a Homeowners/Renters insurer to protect your jewelry, but understand your jewelry will only be protected against certain types of losses (like fire & burglary) and up to a specified dollar amount (standard “limits”- the money paid out to you- are typically around $1500-$2500). Additionally, a jewelry claim on your homeowners could affect your entire policy. So, because you lost great-grandma’s Eleanor’s necklace now means you could be paying more to insure your home. Even if you opt for a “rider” (an optional add-on) to your Homeowners coverage, the policy details are still not as comprehensive as Jewelers Mutual’s standard coverage.
Using a real world example- you file a claim because you lost your custom-made, five- year anniversary ring. Typically, a Homeowners insurer will either A. Send you a check and leave the repair/replacement of the piece up to you or B. Direct you to a jeweler of their choice to get the work done. If that same claim was filed with JM, we’d work directly with the jeweler of your choice to get the piece repaired or replaced as close as possible to your original ring. We pride ourselves on SAME kind and quality, not LIKE kind and quality.
Whether you’re insuring a charm bracelet, a Rolex Daytona, a Super Bowl ring, each and every one of Jewelers Mutual’s policyholders receives the same policy coverage and benefits. For 105 years we’ve prided ourselves on being the best jewelry insurance offered and we understand that begins and ends with ensuring we are there when our policyholders need us.
4. What are the average cost differences?
Jewelry insurance is much more reasonable than people anticipate. Typical rates average 1-2% of the value of the jewelry you’re insuring annually. So, for example, an $5000 ring would cost between $50-$100 annually to insure.
And we provide you the opportunity to add in a deductible ($100, $250, $500) to knock down the annual premium, but most policyholders opt not too as the cost is so reasonable.
Jewelers Mutual has a quote tool available that allows for you to choose your best option prior to applying for insurance.
It’s in your best interest to get your jewelry appraised on a regular basis as jewelry prices (gold & diamonds) do fluctuate. The appraisal will provide you the best insight as to what your pieces are worth which should inform what you insure them for.
Since Jewelers Mutual understands the nuances of jewelry and the chances of our policyholders being underinsured, we have an annual Insurance Value Adjustment (IVA). This increases your policy limit annually by a small percentage and in turn increases your likelihood of being properly insured in case of a claim
6. What is something that you wish all newly engaged folks knew about jewelry insurance?
That it exists! Truly, the biggest hurdle we face is that consumers simply don’t know the category- much less our brand, exists. What I hear most often is “yeah, I think it’s on my Homeowners policy”. It isn’t until you begin to discuss policy details that you see eyes widen and palms get sweaty. I’m not here to induce fear, rather let people know that there’s options outside of a warranty and homeowners insurance. In a survey we did a few years back we found that 33% of those surveyed considered an engagement ring one of the “most expensive things they own”. 43% of them did not have the ring insured. It’s stunning the time and attention couples pay to selecting the ring, planning the proposal, taking the ring selfie, and everything that comes with it, but may not take an additional minute to consider what happens if it’s lost.
7. You’ve been in business for a long time! How has your business changed over the past 100 years?
Jewelers Mutual started in 1913 by jewelers who wanted to help protect other jewelers. We’ve earned the trust of thousands of jewelers over the decade and with that trust came co-creation. They wanted us to offer the same peace of mind they got with their coverage to their consumers. So in 1953, we designed the consumer jewelry coverage we’re discussing today.
While trends and technologies come and go, jewelry buying will always be part of our cultural fabric. It’s a purchase that helps celebrate new love, achievement, birth, or even coming of age. We worked diligently to ensure that buying a Jewelers Mutual policy is as seamless as possible, be it in the eCommerce shopping cart, your neighborhood jewelry store, or in the comfort of your own home. While our gift may not be made of metal and stones, we feel the gift of peace of mind is just as valuable.
A solitaire ring is when there is only one diamond in on the ring and that diamond is the main focal point of the ring. Solitaries do not have any other diamond accents on them, no diamond halo's, nothing - just one beautiful diamond! The name actually refers to the technical setting and can mean to any piece of jewelry with a solitaire setting - such a necklace, or earrings.
Solitaires are an extremely popular style these days and are known for showing off the classic elegance of beautiful diamond. But, be careful! The thing about a solitaire is that you simple must nail the design. As with all things simple, you need to refine, refine, refine. Think about the concept of "jeans and a shirt" - this simple layout can be super polished and date night ready or it might be what you wear to repaint your room that chic gray you've been pinning all week at work.
Any stylish low key dresser will tell you that you have to have a particular vision in mind in order to slay minimalism. Same deal with your fine jewelry, curation is crucial when designing the ideal solitaire diamond engagement ring.
How To Create Your Dream Solitaire Ring
Step 1 - The Center Diamond
Step 2 - The Prongs
You have a few choices to make here: metal type, the number of prongs, shape of prongs and orientation of prongs.
1. The metal type could be the same as the band or you might switch it up and go for a mixed metal look. Imagine the combinations out there with rose gold, yellow gold, white gold and platinum all at your fingertips (see what we did there?!)
2. The number of prongs you choose will be based on many factors. In short, you can go with 4 or 6. There are some stones larger enough to accommodate 8 or even 12 - very Marie Antionette and we love this antique twist on a solitaire if your stone has the surface area to pull it off.
3. The shape of the prongs is really a place to get creative and personalized. The prongs can be rounded/"bead shaped", pointed/"claw prongs"/"talon prongs"/"pointed prongs" (all terms for the same thing), or paddle shaped prongs. Then once you pick a shape, you can add another dimension: you can have split prongs or single prongs - seriously the list is endless. You can find good examples of all of these prong shape options online, but most jewelers don't have examples of all the shapes in one store. This a great question to ask your jeweler about because the prongs can really add style and personality to a ring and an important for a solitaire setting.
4. The orientation of prongs is another thing to consider. The most common prong orientation for 4 prongs is to have them at the four corners of the stone, as if each was the corner of a square. You can switch this up by going for a "compass prong orientation" where you shift the prongs to sit at the North, East, South and West points of the stone. The 6 prong options are the opposite. The classic 6 prong has a prong on the North and South point of the diamond and the East and West are open. The alternative 6 prong option is to leave the North and South open, covering the East and West. This is a lot to visualize, but it's simple enough once you do a little visual research.
Pro tip: you might also consider a bezel or semi-bezel setting.
Step 3 - The Setting
Is stacking with bands important to you? You may want to consider a cathedral setting that allows the diamond to be visible and stack with multiple rings. Do you have any antique stone that might be more fragile? You might want a bezel setting. Wear gloves every day? You might want a low profile setting with diamond set into the band.
Because the diamond is the focal point in a solitaire setting, the details are super important! Make you go over all of them with jeweler or reach out to u for a chat about what options might suite your personal style best!
The national average for an engagement ring generally fluctuates between $3500-6000. It's our pleasure to bring you our curated collection of fave engagement rings under $3000 on Pinterest. There are absolutely stunning rings out there that don't require you to overspend. We are big fans of helping people stay within a super reasonable budget. All said and done, $3000 is still a lot of dough to throw at some rocks and metals. So you'll want to come out on the other side with a stunning, heirloom quality piece that is both stylish and unique.
The THREE pro tips for folks looking in the $3000 engagement ring budget range:
1. Look for antiques! Play up clusters, halos and unique styles....
2. Check out artists on Etsy! There are some incredible designers showcasing their work here. You just have to sift a bit.
3. Open your mind to something totally different!
1. Hiring a Ring Consultant can save you 20 to 40 percent off the cost of the ring
2. Ring consultants have insider knowledge
3. We can offer a wider selection
A word to the wise: check on the commission
This should give you some insight and help you determine what direction you should focus your attention and research energy. By the end of this lil exercise, you should have a firm idea of your next steps and whether or not you need additional guidance along the way.
NOTE: we recommend copy and pasting this list into a Google doc or similar and recording your answers in note form so that you can actually reference back to it. Seriously, if you bring these answers with you anywhere you will have a much more successful experience. Ok, here goes!
- What is she like?
What does she do professionally? What's her personal style of dress? Does she already wear lots of jewelry? Does she like to shop? You want to get the full picture. Where does she shop, what shoes does she wear on the weekends... what shoes does she gravitate towards. Trust us, simply saying that her style is "classic" won't help you find the coolest "classic" ring to match her personal tastes. Get specific. Perhaps check out her Pinterest page...
- What is your timeline?
Most rings need to be made from scratch, as very few of them are just sitting on a shelf. Is there a specific trip, date, season, due date or pocket of time in which you would like to have the ring in hand? (For more info on what to expect in terms of timeline check out: How Long Does It Take to Get an Engagement Ring?)
- What is your desired price range?
We are going to ignore all rules here. Try to steer clear of averages or monthly salary bologna. What feels right? What is realistic for you and for your partnership? (If you're really not sure what to expect based on what you suspect she will want - and you don't want to feel like a sucker - you might benefit from our complimentary BIRD CALL.)
- Shopping locally or remotely?
There are some major pricing and selection differences based on where you look. Sometimes the ideal jeweler just isn't in your area. Other times the perfect designer is nearby but you're not sure how to find them. Maybe shopping online feels really overwhelming, but you notice the pricing is more in line with what you're looking for. List specific aspects you're looking for in a jeweler so you can narrow your search: Trusted brand name? A small studio jeweler? An indie designer? The list goes on. What are you looking for in a retailer?
- What style of setting are you interested in?
Rings are a two part process. You pick a setting AND a central stone (see this part in #6). The central stone shape an type can be a bit easier to sort out, and we find that most folks really grapple with understanding the anatomy of the setting itself. You'll want to know exactly what type, shape and number of prongs, what the "gallery view" of the ring looks like, cathedral shoulders or no, will it sit flush with a wedding band, the list goes on. To get started in identifying the ideal setting, check out our Pinterest to learn about the different types of rings and their anatomy:
Solitaire Engagement Ring Designs
Diamond Band Engagement Ring Designs
Halo Engagement Ring Designs
Three Stone Engagement Ring Designs
Antique Engagement Ring Designs
Unconventional Engagement Ring Designs
- What type of center gem you are going for?
Do some quick research on the 4 c's and decide where you think you might fall. This is important stuff. Again, this is totally stuff we go over during our complimentary BIRD CALL. So, if you think you might benefit from a bit more personalized guidance here, take us up on our offer to help (for freeeee).
- Have you figured out her ring size?
Yes. You'll need to address this at some point. For the complete guide to ring sizing: 11 Things You Need to Know about Engagement Ring Sizing
- Do you know what type of metal is right for the ring and for your partner?
Platinum, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, palladium... the list goes on! If you're just saying "white or silver metal" then you have some research to do. It's a good idea to look at her other jewelry, survey some of the other rings you see on friends, etc.
- Are "ethical origins" important to you?
It's ok to say "I don't know". Brush up on your "conflict free diamond" definitions here: Diamond Politics - or - What Would Leonardo DiCaprio Do? (WWLDD)
What are the most popular of colored diamonds?
Yellow was the gateway to color for most people. “Canary diamonds” as they are often called, are still very popular along with brown or “chocolate” diamonds (Levian’s trademarked term.) They are more abundant in nature and are therefore, a very affordable option for diamond lovers. Thanks to impressive auction results over the past decade, along with some celebrity attention, pinks and blues are also quite desirable. They are much rarer though, so prices are significantly higher - a collector’s item of sorts.
Are colored diamonds more expensive than traditional colorless/near colorless diamonds?
Yes and no. Colorless and natural colored diamonds are both valued based on rarity. As I mentioned above, yellows and browns are mined frequently so their prices are generally lower, especially compared to a D (colorless) flawless diamond. Very rare colors though, like green, purple and red are so rarely discovered that they can sell for over $1 million per carat, blowing colorless diamonds out of the water! Of course other factors like carat weight and color intensity can affect price too.
What is your opinion of lab created colored diamonds?
Lab created diamonds are interesting. Right now they are being touted as an eco-friendly and conflict-free alternative to mined diamonds - but that might be a whole separate conversation to have. As far as their beauty? I can’t say for sure. I would say that because they have the same chemical makeup, they can be just as lovely.
Color treated diamonds though, to me, are just not as incredible as the real deal. Many are “coated” with a color that can wear off or chip. Others are heat treated to get better color. Part of the intrigue of natural colored diamonds is that Mother Nature combined these rare forces to give us unique jewels.
Is there a specific shape and color combo that you see time and time again?
Diamonds with natural color are a challenge to cut. From the rough, the cutter wants to bring out the most color. Rounds are best at reflecting white light so the shape is best for colorless diamonds. Brilliant cut fancy shapes (cushion, oval, radiant, pear, marquise) bring out the color best. We see a lot of yellow radiants because they produce strong color. As far as fashion and demand, we’re seeing a pretty big surge in cushions and pink just keeps gaining popularity. Yellows will probably always have a place in the business though because they are pretty and affordable.
Is there a specific shape and color combo that you think is amazing that the general population just hasn't tapped into yet?
I think chameleon diamonds are just absolutely insane. They change color and scientists aren’t completely sure why. How cool? They are priced really well too but that likely won’t last if we see a spike in demand.… maybe it’s just because my favorite color is green!
My other thought on this has to do with saturation. I think it’s interesting that most shoppers only want really strong color. A nice fancy light pink oval? So dreamy. Plus, they’re way more budget friendly than fancy intense or vivid options.
What are your favorite setting designs for a colored diamond?
I’m not a fan of the halo when it comes to colorless diamonds, but when you put some bright whites around a colored diamond, the color really pops. I think a traditional three stone is also nice for the same reason. There’s something so chic about taking a classic style and adding your own twist - in this case, a colored diamond center.
How long have you been working with colored diamonds? Why did you choose this avenue?
Our founder grew up in the business and he’s had his own wholesale company for over 15 years. He started out cutting colorless diamonds, but when he came across natural colored diamonds, he fell in love. I started in the industry just 3 short years ago but I’m hooked too! For us, color is exciting. Each stone is unique and special. There’s so much to learn and see.
We have an affinity for rare. Since starting in colored diamonds, we’ve added emeralds, sapphires and rubies to our inventory. We focus on each stone individually. If it’s extraordinary, we’re interested. We always joke that it’s hard to sell because we have a hard time parting with something so beautiful.
It can be a challenge to find natural colored diamonds in retailers across the US and the world, so we decided to share our passion with everyone. In 2013 we launched DiamondEnvy.com to bring our rare inventory to the web.
Alternative Engagement Rings
Bay Area Jewelers
Celebrity Engagement Ring
Ethical Origin Engagement Rings
Lab Created Diamonds
My Engagement Ring Story
New York Jewelers
Precious Metal Education
Press & Media Mentions