Man proposing to girlfriend

If you and your boyfriend are tying the knot or toying with the idea of going "ring shopping" together, then make sure to check out these helpful tips on what you need to know before you go.

Pick out your
dream ring

Engagment RingFirst steps

Now that you've found the perfect man, it's time to find the perfect ring that you will cherish and love forever. But it's important to have an idea of what you're looking for when it comes to a sparkler.

The CEO and president of Gemesis, Stephen Lux, outlined some important elements to consider when picking out your dream ring. The Gemesis diamond company produces gem-quality lab-created diamonds and jewelry, which are certified by leading gemological institutes.

When starting out, Lux says one of the most important things to consider is "setting a budget -- one that fits your lifestyle." After you and your husband-to-be have decided on a reasonable budget, Lux says that you can start thinking about the appearance of the ring.

Lux refers to "the four C's" -- carat, clarity, color and cut. After those have been established, deciding on the setting style of the ring and a choice of metal is equally important.

"Last but not least is the luxury of knowing where your diamond came from -- if it was ethically and responsibly sourced," says Lux.

Engagement ringClarity

The letters and numbers of clarity can get confusing, but Stephen Lux cleared it up for us. Clarity refers to the amount, size, type and location of internal flaws in a diamond. Below are the several grades of diamond clarity, according to Lux.

FL = Flawless: This means no internal or external inclusions (flaws) of any kind are visible under a magnification of 10x to a trained eye. This is the most rare and expensive of all clarity grades, says Lux.

IF = Internally Flawless: "No internal inclusions visible under 10x magnification," Lux says, although he notes that there might be some tiny external irregularities in the finish of the diamond.

VVS-1 = Very, very slightly included 1: Usually just one tiny inclusion visible only to a trained eye under 10x magnification.

VVS-2 = Very, very slightly included 2: Tiny inclusions visible only to a trained eye under 10x magnification.

VS-1 = Very slightly included 1: Very small inclusions visible with 10x magnification.

VS-2 = Very slightly included 2: Several very small inclusions visible with 10x magnification.

SI-1 and SI-2 = Slightly included 1 and 2: Noticeable inclusions that are easily seen under 10x magnification.

Ditching diamonds: Engagement ring options >>

Having a flawless diamond is ideal, but it also comes at a price. Checking out the clarity for yourself is important, especially viewing it in different lighting, which is when the clarity tends to stand out more.

Engagement ringColor

According to the International Gemological Institute (IGI), the grading color in a diamond determines how closely a diamond's color approaches colorlessness. Fancy color diamonds are an exception when it comes to this grading system. If a diamond doesn't have enough color to be called "fancy" then it's graded on a scale of color from colorless to light yellow, which are technically called "D" through "Z." Starting with D means a diamond is considered colorless.

The more color a diamond has, the further it goes into the alphabet. If a diamond's color is more intense than "Z" then it's considered to be fancy. Lux says that yellow and pink diamonds have been popular picks for colored diamonds this year.

"Colored diamonds are a stand-out, great way to celebrate and demonstrate your unique personality," Lux says.

Note: A fancy yellow diamond will sell for a far higher price than a light yellow diamond, according to IGI.

Engagement ringPrice

A diamond's price can vary greatly and depends on a combination of the four C's. Gemesis-created diamonds generally fall in the two categories: A .50 carat: from $500 to $2,500; a 1 carat: from $2,000 to $8,000.

Your setting and the carat of the diamond(s), determine much of the price of the ring. We've all heard of engagement rings that can cost the equivalent of a four-bedroom house (which is why it's important to really determine your budget beforehand).

Engagement ring trends

Trends in engagement rings depend on the style and what's popular. Ultimately, it's your decision about how you want your engagement ring to look, but knowing the trends can help you when picking out your very own sparkler.

Lux says that halo-style settings, vintage inspiration, colored diamonds or gemstones, and eco-friendly stones and "diamonds with a conscience" are all popular picks this year.

Lux also says that prong settings that involve three to six claws have been popular this year. And, of course, the ultra-chic and classic pavé setting is a timeless style. "The French word for 'paved,' a pavé setting involves three or more rows of several small stones fit into holes that set them level with the surface of the ring. It gives the illusion of more and bigger diamonds than there really are," Lux explains.

Shapes

You have so many engagement ring shapes to choose from that it's a must to get to know them so you can pick the perfect one for you.

"Diamonds come in a variety of striking shapes, such as round, princess, emerald, Asscher, marquise, oval, pear, cushion, heart, etc.," says Lux. "Choose a shape that complements your personality."

Lux says popular shapes he's noticed couples picking out are round brilliant cut, princess cut and cushion cut.

Diamond shapes

Wedding band trends

After you've finally found the ring of your dreams, picking out the wedding bands is next. You want to make sure that you choose a wedding band that complements your engagement ring. Some wedding band trends Lux has seen this year include eternity bands (a narrow band with diamonds set around it). "These are the ultimate choice because they provide the maximum amount of shine and can be worn with the engagement ring or alone."

Lux has also noticed stacked wedding bands as a popular trend. "Three rings is a hot trend that women are loving. Two wedding bands around the engagement ring not only create a great visual balance, but also look diamond-rich," Lux says.

For a fun touch, Lux says colorful bands are on the rise. He notes that colored diamonds and colored gemstones are becoming popular and more favored by brides who want a splash of color and romance.

Tell us

What is your dream engagement ring? Share in the comments below!

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Comments

Comments on "Essential tips for engagement ring shopping"

Erica July 31, 2012 | 9:25 AM

My dream engagement ring is simple and classic! I tend to like one big stone, cut in either Emerald, Asscher, Princess or Radiant style, on a simple band. Clean and pretty!

Cassi June 19, 2012 | 12:37 PM

I love the princess cut diamond. In all things, not just wedding rings. I've got a little stud in my lip that has a princess cut opal in it, it's gorgeous and unique and I love it. And I really like the idea of a colored diamond, it could make your wedding ring really unique and pretty.

Heather May 24, 2012 | 11:18 PM

I had always heard about the 4 c's of engagement ring shopping, but had never really understood them until now! Thanks for all of the great insight. I wonder why colored diamonds are on the rise, are they generally less or more expensive than a clear diamond, or does it all just depend? I personally think a colored engagement ring would be so much fun - I just hope I wouldn't get sick of it!

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