Your essential guide to diamond rings

Is there anything more beautiful than the sparkle of a diamond ring? An engagement ring, eternity ring or ‘just because ring’…whatever your reason for buying a diamond ring, it’s a special purchase and one you want to be sure you get right. Exciting? Yes! But a little daunting too? Most definitely.

If you’ve already started to look around, perhaps flicking through a few magazines or doing a spot of internet searching, we’ll guess you’ve realised that buying a diamond ring isn’t quite as straightforward as you’d hoped. There are technical terms to get your head around, cuts, colour choices and certification to consider. Don’t panic. And above all don’t let anything dampen the enjoyment of your ring shopping. Buying a diamond ring – whatever the occasion – should be fun. And our team of experts, here are Silk Road Diamonds, are here to make sure you get it right.

To help get you started we’ve pulled together this essential guide to diamond rings, covering all the basics you need to know. Discover the 4Cs of diamond buying - and how they separate a good diamond from a great diamond - the most popular diamond ring settings and much more! You’ll learn everything you need to make an informed choice and find the right ring for you.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started…


The history of diamond rings

When we think of a diamond ring most of us automatically make the mental jump to an engagement ring. It doesn’t have to be though. Yes, diamonds are popular for engagement rings but essentially the only thing that marks out a ring as an engagement ring is the finger upon which it is worn. So, if you’re loved up and plan to get wed, stick to the fourth finger of your left hand – otherwise you’re free to sit your diamond ring on any finger that takes your fancy.

How long have engagement rings been about?

Engagement rings are regarded as a symbol of love and commitment. But, in truth, their history is far less romantic. Originating in Rome as a sign of ownership the original ‘engagement rings’ were often made from iron, ivory or even bone, symbolising mutual obedience and worn as proof of a business contract.

It took until 850 for engagement rings to be given an ‘official’ meaning, with Pope Nicholas declaring they represented a man’s intent to marry.  And it was later still (1477) that diamonds made their first appearance on the engagement ring scene when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to his dearly beloved. Whilst this man should be saluted for raising the bar of the engagement ring, it took a while for the trend to catch on and diamond engagement rings only really became a thing in 1947 when De Beers, a British diamond company, launched its legendary advertising campaign ‘A diamond is forever’. Thankfully, since then, it would seem that they are, remaining an iconic part of engagement rings today. Phew!


What makes a good diamond?

Essentially all that should really matter when it comes to choosing a diamond, is that you love it. But we recognise it’s not always that simple. You want to be sure that you are getting value for money but the more you look around the more confusing it can seem. How can a huge bauble cost less than a diamond a fraction of its size or two seemingly identical stones differ so vastly in price?

Well it all comes down to the 4Cs. Understanding these – and their impact on both the look, quality and cost of your diamond ring – is the key to understanding the diamond ring market.

So, what are they and what do they mean? Well, back in 1953, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) created ‘the 4Cs’. These became the first globally accepted standards to benchmark the quality of diamonds based on the four characteristics of colour, clarity, cut and carat.  We’ll examine some of these in more detail later in the guide but let’s take a quick look at what each of them mean here.

The famous 4Cs

Colour – perhaps the easiest of the 4Cs to get your head around. This simply refers to the colour of your diamond. Stones can be graded from D-Z on the GIA colour grading system. D is classed as colourless (and is usually the most desirable) with shades gaining increasingly yellow and brown tones as you move through the scale. Distinctions between colour grades can be hard for the untrained eye to see, even under magnification but the difference between a diamond graded as an F and that graded as a G, could really impact the price you pay.

Clarity – as diamonds are created, they can form a number of natural flaws. Internal characteristics are called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics are referred to as ‘blemishes’. The size, amount and position of these affect the diamonds clarity as well as the overall look of the stone. The higher the clarity the higher the price.

Cut – a diamond can be cut into many different shapes and it’s crucial to the stone’s resulting beauty and value. It’s often regarded as the most complex diamond characteristic to grade as it is judged on how well the stone’s facets (the flat surfaces on the shape of the diamond) interact with light. The most desirable features that are recorded are the brightness, fire and scintillation. Yet more weird and wonderful terminology unique to the diamond world, so let’s shine our own light on the subject…

  • Brightness – also referred to as brilliance, this is the amount of internal and external white light emitted from a diamond (worth noting that a brighter diamond often looks bigger!)
  • Fire – when white light hits the facets of a diamond it is split and scatters into the colours of the rainbow. The more facets a diamond has the more it can refract light which will enhance the diamond's fire.
  • Scintillation – this term is all about the sparkle. Scintillation refers to the flashes of light and sparkle a diamond produces as you move it about.

Carat this is the measurement of a diamond’s weight. It is largely connected to how big the diamond is but as the stone’s shape can affect its overall dimensions the larger the carat doesn’t always mean the bigger the diamond. A jeweller may describe the weight of a diamond below one carat by its ‘points’. For instance, a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats would be called a ‘twenty-five pointer’. Diamonds weighing more than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. So a 1.09 carat stone would be described as ‘one point oh nine carats.’


Different diamond shapes

And breathe. It’s ok we’re getting there…you’ve now got a handle on the key terms and more nitty-gritty information needed for diamond ring shopping and we’re getting to the fun bit - their design!

Essentially, the shape of your stone is still very important and does affect the price of diamonds - with certain cuts causing more stone wastage and so upping the price. The quality of the cut and the lines produced also impacts the value, but let’s not get sidetracked. What shapes are there to choose from and what do they look like?

12 of the most popular diamond shapes:

  • Round brilliant – a timeless classic. Round brilliant diamonds account for more than two-thirds of worldwide diamond sales and it’s easy to see why. This elegant circular cut is the iconic diamond ring shape and lends itself to any number of ring settings. Having weathered all modern trends, this stone style remains a popular choice.
  • Princess – appearing almost square to the naked eye, this cut offers optical properties similar to the round brilliant. Setting wise it’s preferable to opt for designs that protect the corners against damage.
  • Emerald – originally used for emeralds, this cut produces a rectangular-shaped diamond with carefully crafted corners. Elongating the finger, this is an extremely flattering and versatile style.
  • Pear – another great shape for slimming the fingers is the pear. A well-cut pear should have a rounded end (like a semi-circle). If it is too flat or wide it will give a squat appearance. It is also crucial that the pointed end is perfectly aligned with the centre of the rounded end.
  • Radiant – one of the more modern diamond cuts, radiant diamonds came about with the desire to combine the elegance of the emerald cut with the sparkling facets of the round brilliant. Sometimes referred to as the ‘square modified brilliant’ or ‘rectangular modified brilliant’, the radiant cut works well at masking inclusions and can be used in almost any diamond ring design to exceptional effect.
  • Square and rectangle cushion – originally called the ‘mine cut’, cushion cuts are either square or rectangular in shape with delicately rounded corners. Again, this type of cut can appear bigger than the carats would suggest, which can help to keep the cost down.
  • Marquise – this diamond cut is known by many other names not least Navette (French for little boat), football and eye-shaped cut. It is a cut used for numerous other gems but that works beautifully with diamonds. If this is your preference for a diamond ring then careful mounting and setting will be required to protect the narrow tips from fracturing.
  • Oval – a big bonus to this cut is that the diamond can often appear larger than others of similar carat weights. Be careful though. It’s important to get the right length to width ratio so that the oval doesn’t appear too stubby.
  • Heart – does anything say love and romance quite like a heart? If you’re an old romantic, diamonds cut to the shape of a heart could be just what you’re looking for as the centrepiece to your ring. Heart diamonds work best at 0.50 carats and above, as below this you run the risk of losing the definition of the heart.
  • Asscher – this cut, brought to prominence by Elizabeth Taylor, is a sophisticated step cut that draws the eye to the centre of the stone. It produces minimal waste during the cutting making it favourable on the pocket too.
  • Trillion – this cut presents a triangle-shaped stone with softened, slightly rounded sides. A style that is great for hiding inclusions it offers both unique style and affordability.


The colour of your diamond

If you’re in the market for a diamond engagement ring the chances are you’re looking for a classic colourless diamond. The more yellowy the hue of your diamond the less expensive it is, as completely ‘colourless’ diamonds are generally the most sought after.

But there’s no need to be conservative. Perhaps you want to brighten things up? Or you are looking for a real statement ring. If so, how about a bolder colour choice? Diamonds can be found in all colours of the rainbow so the choice really is yours. Pink and blue diamonds attract the biggest price tags whilst, in terms of rarity, it is the red diamond that it the most exclusive gem.


The ring setting

There are seemingly endless ways to create and customise your own diamond ring. And, once you’ve decided on the right stone for you, your next decision is how you want to set it.

The quality and shape of your diamond should always be considered at this point as different styles can help to enhance or conceal diamond features and maximise your stone’s beauty, but let’s take a look at some of the most popular:

Solitaire – a simple band with one central diamond, if want your diamond to do all the talking then a solitaire setting is for you. The most popular choice of cut to pair with the solitaire is the brilliant round, but don’t be afraid to get more creative. The solitaire setting is able to hold all manner of diamond cuts.

Channel – an attractive way to add more wow factor to your diamond ring. Chanel settings use a row of smaller diamonds or gems to emphasise the beauty of the central diamond. The smaller stones are set into the ring’s band and can go all or part way around.

Bezel – one of the most popular ring settings on today’s market, Bezel holds the diamond in place with a thin metal rim to give a sleek modern finish - that won’t snag on clothing! It’s also great for protecting the edges of the diamond from damage. The downside? The solid metal reduces the amount of light flow which does impact the brilliance of the stone.  Although you can have a ‘partial’ bezel which leaves the side partially open to give you the best of both worlds.

Three-stone – why have one diamond when you can have three?! A three-stone or ‘trilogy’ setting is ideal as an engagement or eternity ring or to mark a special anniversary, as the three stones are said to represent a couple’s past present and future. Set closely together the stones can be the same size or often you’ll find the centre stone is slightly larger to take prominence, with the side gems used to complement and enhance.

Pave – also known as ‘bead setting’, this look is achieved by closely setting small diamonds so that the beads or prongs holding the stones in places can barely be seen, giving the illusion of a continuous band of sparkle.

Vintage-inspired – vintage is a hugely popular look these days and rings can be designed to mimic specific periods in fashion jewellery - such as Art Deco, Edwardian and the Victorian era. Vintage style diamond rings often include intricate detailing such as filigree and milgrain which, whilst looking great, can make them more of a nuisance to keep clean.

Prong – a classic and much-loved ring setting. The prongs are essentially little metal claws that raise and hold the diamond in place – usually either four or six prongs are used to keep the diamond securely in situ. The bonus to this minimal setting is that, with a limited amount of metal surrounding the stone,  more light is able to pass through the diamond, enhancing its sparkle.

Halo – a halo setting literally creates a halo of angelic sparkle around your centre stone and can be a fabulous way to enhance the appearance of a smaller diamond. Experiment with alternative looks by opting for different shaped centre stones and coloured halos. 

Split shank – the shank is the band of metal that circles your finger, a split shank setting is where this band of metal splits into two at either side. The benefit of this? It creates additional space to add more diamonds, sparkle or colour. Or, if you prefer to keep it simple, it jazzes up a classic shank and creates a more unique look, drawing the eye to the centre stone.   


Finding the right diamond ring for you

So, you’ve read the guide and you now know your carats from carrots but how do you really know which is the right diamond ring is for you? The best tip we can give you? Try before you buy!

Look around, visit jewellery stores, ask friends if you can slip their ring onto your finger. Experiment with different shapes and sizes - even if you’re convinced a style isn’t for you. You might be surprised at what you like the look and feel of best.


How much do diamond rings cost? 

From the 4Cs and the cut of your diamond, right through to the setting and metal choice, every element of your diamond ring design has an impact on the overall price you pay.  

Here at Silk Road Diamonds, we are a largely online business with only a small retail footprint. This allows us to pass substantial savings on to you, our valued customer, leaving you more money to shop with!

Why not use our handy online diamond finder to search out the right diamond for you at the right price point? You can tweak individual elements – shape, colour grade, clarity, carat etc. to calculate the effect different characteristics have on cost.

Ethically sourced diamonds

One thing you always want to be confident of in your search for a competitively priced diamond ring is that your stone has been responsibly and ethically sourced. Every quality diamond should be supplied with full certification – something you can be guaranteed of with Silk Road Diamonds.     


Create your dream diamond ring today

Now you have a proper understanding of the essentials when it comes to buying diamond rings, the great news is you’re ready to invest in your own.

Choose from beautifully crafted rings or handpick your stones from our vast collection of loose diamonds to create your own unique design. Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? We’ll source specific diamonds for you. So, whatever your dream ring looks like, we can help to make it a reality.  

We focus on providing quality diamonds at exceptional prices but always with exceptional service too. So, if you’re still undecided, be sure to ask for help from the experts. Our friendly team are at the end of the phone if you need advice or guidance and you can, of course, make an appointment at any time to pop in and view diamonds in the flesh and try rings on. So what are you waiting for? Happy ring shopping!