When Jeremy Ziskind of Pico-Robertson proposed last year to his then-girlfriend, Allyson Marcus, he had a basic idea of what kind of engagement ring he would give his future wife.
“Allyson told me pretty early on in our relationship that she loved the idea of a heart-shaped ring,” he said. “So I knew that’s what I wanted to get.”
Relying on a tip from a friend, Ziskind searched for rings on BlueNile.com, which claims to be the largest online retailer of certified diamonds. Using a tool on the Web site, he crafted a 0.9-carat engagement ring. Marcus (now also Ziskind — they were married this past May) loved it.
Although Jeremy Ziskind knew little about diamonds and engagement rings before he bought one, he was able to use information on Blue Nile’s site to educate himself. That’s where he learned about the Four Cs: clarity, cut, color and carat weight, which are used to determine the price of a ring.
The site also provides information detailing what “color” means and explaining how jewelers use a grading scale from D to Z. Diamonds with a D rating are colorless; toward the other end of the scale, diamonds start to look more yellow.
Before deciding upon any ring, know how much you want to spend, said Alan Friedman of Alan Friedman Jewelry in Beverly Hills.
“One of the first things that I help people do is figure out a budget they would like to stay in. It helps somebody understand what then becomes available to them.”
Some people go with a predetermined budget, such as three months’ salary. But not Ziskind.
“I didn’t follow any specific rules about percentage of salary or anything like that,” he said. “I knew about the three-month rule, but that seemed like a hugely unnecessary benchmark. I mostly focused on getting something that looked great that wouldn’t impoverish me.”
After setting a budget, conduct research online and consult with different jewelers in person (often chosen by word of mouth). Jeremy Auslander, a partner at Roxbury Jewelry in downtown Los Angeles, said, “Most people are doing research online but buying in person and using the education as a tool to speak intelligently about what they are buying. One of the things we do is really focus on educating clients about what they are buying. Reading about a diamond is different than seeing it in person.”
Next, decide upon the most important element of your ring. Goel Tala, who has been at Goel Tala Diamonds in downtown’s Jewelry District for 20 years, said that, in his eyes, size matters most.
“When people have a certain budget in mind, they go for size or quality,” he said. “Not too many people can afford to have both. Personally, I’m a believer in size. As far as quality goes, as long as there is a good color and shine, I really don’t see why you should pay more because it looks better under a microscope.”
Jonny Ritz, whose business, Jonny Ritz & Co., is also located in the Jewelry District, emphasizes the significance of the cut first and foremost.
Too often, he said, consumers don’t realize the importance of cut. Because the best cuts make for the most expensive diamonds, he said some merchants don’t show them as much. However, a person should request to compare rings with cuts of various quality. That’s the only way they will be able to tell the difference and see the superiority of a very good cut, which will have more sparkle and brilliance, he said.
When it comes to today’s trends, Friedman said 80 percent of the diamonds being purchased from him are round. Many of the rings are simple and contain smaller diamonds surrounding the main one.
Auslander finds that women are striving for a vintage look and hope to re-create what their grandmothers or great-grandmothers wore. The rings resemble those from the 1920s to 1940s, have a European cut, and are more detailed and intricate than those made today.
In the end, though, a person shouldn’t put too much weight on what’s in style, or what other people or wearing, or how much it costs. Above all, a woman should be proud to wear the ring and be satisfied with how it looks, Auslander said.
“The guy should get some understanding for what a girl likes in terms of style. He should want to make his girlfriend happy and buy something that she’s really going to like.”