A recent post on one of my favorite blogs, Jezebel.com, began like this: "Are you in possession of a vagina? Well then! Surely you must be longing for some diamonds." The rest of the commentary noted the ever-present holiday commercials advertising that all women want diamond-encrusted somethings this season. Christmas is sandwiched in the trifecta of women-centric holidays- first place obviously belonging to Valentine's Day and third place going to Mother's Day. The season spreads the idea that women want something shiny in a small box. As much as I'd like to blame Marilyn Monroe for coining the idea that "diamonds are a girl's best friend," that can't be the sole problem.
I hear a man's best friend is his dog, but I don't see commercials littered with puppy dogs when Father's Day rolls around. We are told as children that if we do not behave, Santa fills our stockings with coal. Women are told by advertisers that they do want coal or at least a variation of it. Many people (okay, mostly men) will likely buy something jeweled for someone they love. Whether it's an actual diamond, precious or semi-precious stone held in place with gold, platinum or silver, you'd better make it a good one if you're going to buy a polished rock.
Break it Down
I suppose it's wrong to assume that there aren't many women out there who would be thrilled to receive something shiny for Christmas. Still, just because it's shiny doesn't mean it's a winner. Prior to visiting your jeweler, investigate. Does your lady wear gold-gold or silver/white gold? Does she wear bold jewelry or subtle items? That might be a tough thing for a guy to answer.
Think about what she wears. Does she prefer necklaces, or does she prefer rings? Does she ever wear bracelets? Are her ears even pierced? While you might not know her actual ring size or if she prefers princess-cut or square-cut diamonds, if you can't pick out the kind of jewelry that she'd actually stand to wear, your best gift might be to dump her. That said, I recommend avoiding anything heart-shaped, or anything with a set of three stones that represent "your past, your present and your future."
Three stones without a story like that are fine, but like the heart, three stones with a cheesy line behind it are just that -- cheesy.
Now, if you are going all the way this holiday and using that piece of jewelry to accompany a certain question, you definitely need to spend more than 30 seconds contemplating what she likes. First, contemplate price, an important factor when purchasing any kind of jewelry. Obviously prices are higher for items that are rare or only available in a small, limited supply (yellow diamonds, platinum) or if the quality is higher (diamonds that are flawless). And the old adage that "size does matter" rings true; the bigger the rock, the bigger the bill. But a Christmas proposal is a two-in-one; it counts as her engagement ring and a Christmas gift. Find a girl whose birthday lies around the holiday and you're good as gold for gifts all year.
It's been said that a person should spend twice his monthly salary on a ring. Many believe that to be an old wives' tale, started by the jewelers themselves. Cost is an important factor when buying diamonds and other jewelry because it automatically evokes the idea of being expensive. Sometimes we associate the amount spent to the amount of love. It might not be right, but it's a school of thought (mostly by gold-diggers). Set a price that you can afford -- a good idea during these economic times -- and stick with it.
Price doesn't need to be a factor if your betrothed has a family heirloom that will be in your hand as you kneel down. If you've discussed the future with your Mrs., you may know about this and can rightfully go and ask her family. Similarly, you might offer her a ring that has been in your family. Still, if you're at loss as to what she'd like, get someone close to her to help you in your venture. A friend or a family member -- especially the women in her life -- has probably heard of what she'd like.
In the Clear
But whether it's the first piece of jewelry you'll give her as you start your life together or a gift for the woman whose been in your life for years, or hell, if you're a gal who just wants to buy her own shiny bauble for the holidays (a gift from you to you), go into the store with some knowledge. Buying jewelry is similar to buying a car in that the more information you have, the better off you'll be. Yes, you can buy something strictly from an aesthetic standpoint, but you can't truly know what's worth your money if you don't have the slightest idea.
Diamond prices are determined by a system of four C's: cut, carat, clarity, and color. A diamond's cut refers to its depth and width. All of those angles throughout the diamond increase or decrease its brilliance, essentially determining how much it supposedly "blings." The cut also factors into the shape of the diamond, which varies. Round, oval and heart shaped diamonds speak for themselves. A princess cut is square in shape, a marquise shape is like an oval but with points at the end, and a pear shape looks like rain drops. Shapes like emerald cut, asscher, radiant or cushion cut are slightly more difficult to describe. They all are typically a variation of a square cut with rounded edges. Their appearance varies more on the face of the diamond, with more incisions throughout the stone to give it more brilliance.
Carat is what people will generally know about when it comes to diamonds. The larger the diamond, the more expensive it is, as with any precious or semi-precious stone. The number of carats verses the number of stones is also a factor. For example, a ring with one stone that weighs a carat will be more expensive than a ring with 14 diamonds that equal one carat. This is because finding smaller diamonds when mining occurs more frequently than finding a single large diamond.
Clarity is all about how clear a diamond is. This is where the idea of a flawless diamond comes into play. Minerals, scratches and other "flaws" that occur within nature determine diamond's clarity. Like everything else associated with the four C's, there is a system in play that will help you know where the diamond sits between flawless, FL-grade and I-grade (that's bad). Some flaws are visible to the eye; others are not, so use your best judgment. If it looks cloudy, the clarity is not good and not likely worth your investment.
Then there's color. Yes, diamonds do come in an assortment of colors. Shades of yellow and pink diamonds have become very popular over the past few years, but diamonds actually span the whole rainbow -- with colors of green, brown, orange, red, blue and even black. These diamonds are significantly more expensive than the shade that typically comes to mind when the word "diamond" is mentioned. Again, there is a letter scale for a diamond's color: letters closer to the beginning of the alphabet being the "best" -- colorless -- and diamonds closing in on Z being noticeably colored and therefore "bad." The closer to the letter D, the more expensive; those that hit in the middle of the alphabet are a good buy as they won't show a noticeable color variation to the untrained eye.
Diamonds aren't for every girl. As Holly Golightly said in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, don't wear diamonds before the age of 50. There are gems that are just as lovely, with a grading scale just as varied- including pieces that involve both precious stones and smaller diamonds. Rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are considered precious stones because they squeak by after the diamond in rarity while stones like citrine (yellow-orange), amethyst (purple) or peridot (light green) are semi-precious stones because they are less rare. Like diamonds, these stones also vary in price depending on the size, cut and number of carats.
And lastly, and I would imagine most importantly, don't try to pass off something as a "diamond in white gold" if it's not. Unless the recipient has specifically requested cubic zirconia and a metal that slowly changes her skin a shade of green, don't use your money to buy a phony. If you don't have the money to spend on the real stuff, it might be best to just find a new gift. The commercials might suggest that all she wants this holiday is jewel-encrusted odds and ends, but really, she just wants something heartfelt and special from you -- her real best friend.
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