The Other Cs – Filling Out The Engagement Ring Foursome

Part 3 of a 6 part series on finance and engagement rings.  

Do you ever wonder why we have to buy our love a diamond to ask for her hand in marriage?

I have.

I mean what a genius industry.  It has become the norm and really an expectation these days… for most.

But don’t hate the game here… hate the player.  One player.  The one that started this whole thing.

Just to clarify, this hasn’t always been the norm.  Actually before WWII (eons ago), only 10% of engagement rings had diamonds in them!

Man that would have saved all of us some moolah!

What changed?  A company by the name of De Beers monopolized the diamond industry and needed an ad agency to help rejuvenate the dead industry.

At the time, people must have thought this was a Mission Impossible type task.  Sales of diamonds, in the US specifically, had declined by nearly 50% after WWI.

And before their hired ad agency came around, the relationship between diamonds and love was not there.  This was where the ad agency decided to pounce.

Change the perception of diamonds to being something eternal… just like our marriages.  Because they really couldn’t sell the idea that diamonds are valuable because gold and silver dominated the game.

Ah, and this marketing agency was brilliant.  They didn't just come out and say that diamonds are for those relationships that are eternal.

They were well ahead of their game.  They dripped on the public.  What does this mean?

Well, they got some celebrities on the train and started publicizing this.  Talking about the diamonds they just got and the size.  They created articles that were fun, engaging, entertaining and educational… not sales-y.  People were getting exposed everywhere… the existential drip.

Then came 1948 and four words that changed the way we think about engagement forever.  Yup, those four words… “A Diamond Is Forever.”

DAMNIT!  Four words just made me watch a nice chunk of change exit my bank account.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Ever wonder where the idea came from that you should use two months’ salary for the ring?

Yeah, damn De Beers!

Originally, they only thought that one month was needed.  But hey, why not try to up it by one more month’s worth of salary.  So, they ran an ad with this tag line, “Isn’t two months’ salary a small price to pay for something that lasts forever?”

And then they had it… how could you say no to that?!  So two months became and still is for some reason the norm.

And this is why we even need to learn about the four Cs of diamonds… thanks De Beers!

 

Why diamonds make no sense to us (or at least me)

It’s simple… because although they may be forever, we don’t buy them forever.

I mean we live 20-30, maybe 40 years before ever needing to buy a diamond.  We don’t learn about them in school.

And then we are told to stow away two months’ salary to buy this object that we have no clue about.  That’s a huge purchase.

So we go into this jeweler… likely one we have seen on an advertisement.  And then spend that stashed away chunk of money.

And even as our beautiful marriage continues, we aren’t buying diamonds that often.  Some people find diamonds as a hobby, but not many of us.

It’s kind of like cars for me.  I hate buying cars, but I need them to get around (they are more necessary than diamonds).

But I don’t know much about them.  I know that I need it to get me from point A to point B.  The alternator, or the starter or the horsepower, though… all over my head.

The thing is, though, that they cost a lot of money and require a lot of savings.  And then we have to educate ourselves once every 7-10 years about what to buy.  Now with technology, that has become more difficult to keep up with the advancements in these things.

Eventually, it will be about picking a robot of your choice, rather than a car.

Anyway, I digress.

A diamond is a really big purchase and the problem we have is we don’t know where to even begin.  We know we need one, but we don’t really know what to do.

Some of us are lucky enough to have people to turn to and get advice.  But that isn’t always the case.

 

Never forget the 4 Cs and never worry again about diamonds

If you need one piece of advice when it comes to diamonds, it is to understand all of the 4 Cs.  Then use this knowledge to determine the necessary budget for that rock on your baby’s hand.

We’ve already talked about one C in the past.  That was cut.  And in my humble opinion, I believe it is the most important C.  Check out this blog for my reasoning.

But we can’t forget about the other Cs.

The other Cs would be clarity, color and carat.  Too often we get consumed with that word carat.  Which is fine, but we need to know where to rank it amongst the others.

Why is it important to know these four Cs?

Simple.  We don’t have a money tree to buy a diamond.  So we must play a game of give and take.  And get used to this because diamonds won’t be the only place you will have to learn this… maybe that thing you are buying a diamond for as well…marriage!

By understanding what each C means and how they interact with each other allows for you to create an understanding of what aspects of the ring we are more okay giving up on for the others.

 

Digging into the other 3 Cs

Alright, let’s dig into the other 3 Cs to get a better understanding of what we are looking for.

Remember that cut is the aspect of the diamond that makes it sparkle.  This is what makes a diamond brilliant!

Here is a look at the other Cs:

 

Clarity:

This is really the determinant of whether or not there are imperfections with a diamond.  And don’t let this scare you to just get the clearest diamond.

Realize that the people who are judging clarity are using those big glasses with microscopes on the end.  They aren’t looking at the diamond like you and me.

So those microscope glasses people take a look at the diamond and then plot out everything that they see under the scope.  Usually they are just some spots inside the diamond that they have seen.

Sometimes they do find some real imperfections and that’s what you need to be aware of… not necessarily some specs that won’t be visible to the naked eye inside the diamond.

They rank a diamond on a scale from flawless (FL) to Included (I3).  And in between are different variations like very slightly included (VSI) and slightly included (SI).

To make this short, most of the time you can go all the way to slightly included 1 (SI1) and still not see any of the inclusions from the naked eye.

 

Color:

The name really explains it pretty well.

This aspect of the diamond determines the color of the actual diamond.  The problem that some can run into if they don’t pay enough attention to this is that they end up buying a yellow diamond.

Now, that may not be a bad thing if it is what you intended to do.  But a lot of people want that shiny diamond and then would be in a tough spot when they realize the diamond they bought was yellow.

Just like clarity, though, there is a range where it is really tough to see its difference from the naked eye.  This could be another area that we can move down the scale a little and not have it noticeable to the naked eye. This could give you some wiggle room to buy a larger diamond.

So, color is scaled from D to Z.  I guess they just wanted to start the scale below average… for some brilliant reason!  Which, although has been explained, isn’t really that brilliant.

Diamonds in the range of D-F are deemed to be colorless... a perfect, clear diamond.  G-J diamonds are near colorless.  K-M diamonds will begin to see a hint of yellow.  While you begin to see more color to the naked eye as you move past M.

This image from lumeradiamonds.com provides a pretty good visual as to the color of a diamond.

lumeradiamonds

 

Carat:

I saved this one for the last item, because most everybody knows about carat.

Yeah, it’s the size of the rock.  One carat is equal to 1/5 of a gram for whatever that means.

The size of the diamond could impact how much you waver on some of the other Cs.  However, I would be careful giving up higher cut just for carat.  The brilliance of the diamond will be less if you give up cut.

Yeah, maybe you have a bigger diamond, but the bling will be much less.

Also, buying diamonds on the full carat means you are buying at a higher premium.  What do I mean here?

Well, in essence, I would suggest buying on the fringe.  So, instead of buying an actual one carat diamond look to buy either a 0.99 carat or 1.01 carat diamond.  The price will be more reasonable on a per carat basis.

Jewelers charge a premium for those full carat points.  It is the same as you get bigger with two, three, four or even five carats (damn that would be a big rock on your lady’s finger).

Having an understanding of how the diamond would look on your lady’s hand is something else to take into consideration.  Size may not necessarily matter.  Understand the size of your lady’s finger.  While getting her a huge diamond may make you feel masculine, it may just be awkward on her finger and for her.  Buy a ring with a particular carat size that makes sense for her and for her to be able to wear every day.

 

Where to give and where to take

So, I just gave you a tip in regards to carat.  Look at the interval levels (0.9, 0.01, etc.) when it comes time to select the size of the diamond.  Stay away from those full sizes.

Okay, great.  But now what about the other two Cs?

When it comes to color, I believe a lot of value can be found in that G-J range.  And if you want to take it a step further, wrap this one in with your carat decision.  If you go with a ring under one carat you can probably move down the scale in regards to color, possibly to the I-J range.  This would allow for you to get an even better cut possibly and make that diamond bling.

But if you go above one carat, you would probably want to stay in that G-J range with regards to color.  This allows for the color to be a little better, but not necessarily flawless.  This also allows for you to reach a little higher on the cut spectrum.  Thus allowing your budget to buy you even more brilliance.

Clarity is where you can make your budget go further on some of the other aspects.  Personally, I believe that SI1 is a great spot.  As long as there are no noticeable imperfections (which don’t tend to show here), then this allows for us to move higher on the spectrum with each of the other Cs.

If we are looking for a diamond under one carat, then I think that we can even move to the SI2 category for clarity.  Remember, these clarity issues are seen under a microscope.

How often is someone coming up to your lady with a microscope to look at her ring… never.  And if does happen, just chalk that individual up into the wacky column!

This is another area for us to really stretch our budget.

 

A diamond does last forever… make it worth it

Yeah, De Beers screwed us, men, a little.

They created a marketing campaign that in the day is reminiscent to our current view of the Chick-fil-A cow ads.  Brilliant!

They changed the perception of an industry and made it one that went from a near non-existent to something that was a necessity.

The actual way that they revolutionized an industry (the diamond industry) is, to me, more brilliant then the actual diamonds they are promoting.

But they changed the way we must get engaged, and we must play within the new rules.

In order to play in the rules, we need to have an understanding of what constitutes the game.

The four Cs are the rules of the game and then, as a buyer of the diamond, we can take any strategy of our choice to how we approach it.

There are different ideas of how to best play the game, but ultimately it comes down to a couple main points.

What does your lady want?  What can you spend without breaking the bank?  And how can you best stretch your budget?

Knowing the 4 Cs allows you to present the best option based on the answers above.

May your diamond truly last forever!