Before you can surprise your fiancé-to-be with a beautiful proposal and the engagement ring of her dreams, it is important to do a little background research. Think you can walk into a big-box jewelry store and find the perfect ring to show your love and commitment? You may be able to find something sparkly, but to understand true quality and value, you need to know a little about diamonds first.

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The 4 C’s
The first thing you need to know when you walk into a diamond store are the Four C’s: cutclaritycolor, and carat. ( We think there are 7Cs - Find Out More ) These pillars are how diamonds are assessed across the industry. These are important to learn about so you know exactly what you are getting, and won’t be susceptible to an overzealous salesperson. Don’t assume you can judge a diamond by the information you see online. Seeing the stone in person allows you to carefully inspect it with a trusted consultant where you can judge the quality, ask questions and see the beauty for yourself. We can’t state this enough; you simply don’t know what you’re going to get when you buy a diamond blindly online. It’s especially helpful to see and hold the diamond in person and hear a professional opinion from an expert rather than just looking at a pircture on the internet.

The Diamond Dealer
It is also a good idea to get to know the merchant where you are planning on making your purchase, what their salespeople are like, and what services they provide. Most merchants will offer some form of guarantee, purchase protection, a return policy, and insurance. Look for extra services offered to see if the merchant can keep you happy for years to come.

Cleaning and inspection services can help to ensure you won’t lose stones, and are offered for free at most reputable diamond and fine jewelry merchants. Services like these are easily overlooked when you are only focused on buying the perfect ring. But it's these services that are necessary to save you money in the long run, and keep your bride’s ring looking perfect for years to come.

Making the Grade
You’ll also want to know what certifications the merchant sells and how they differ from one another. Not all diamond certifications are equal. The GIA is the foremost standard for diamond grading. An EGL certified diamond will often carry a higher grade than a GIA diamond for the same quality. Buyers should be aware that the EGL diamond may be erroneously graded higher for the same diamond, therefore misleading and harming the consumer.

Grading is a key factor that affects the price of your stone, which means for the most brilliance and value, GIA is more accurate and trustworthy. An upstanding merchant will happily explain to you the discrepancies between the grading systems to ensure your confidence in your diamond purchase. Again, we have to emphasize the importance of seeing the diamond in person, because a greatly rated EGL diamond may pale in comparison to a slightly lower rated GIA diamond - you have to see it to understand. We would suggest you insist on GIA and avoid all other diamond grading labs, including EGL.

Cut to the Chase
Once you understand how diamonds are graded, learn about the different proportions of cuts and how their grade can affect your purchase. While Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor seem self-explanatory, it is worth asking to see the difference between stones. It may seem subtle, but an expert can help you see how the light reflects differently through each stone. Different cuts mean different levels of brilliance. Settings can also affect how light reflects through the stone. Understanding all the factors can help you find the most beautiful stone for your budget.