A fancy colored diamond mounted in a modern setting creates an engagement ring that is both attractive and investment oriented. The naturally colored, apricot-yellow diamond shown here would be surprisingly affordable. Its price may not be much different than that of a comparable white diamond.
You've finally chosen the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Now the time has come to seal the deal with a gorgeous ring. Of course, any good thing comes with a price, and in this case it will be the cost of a glamorous engagement ring. Say goodbye to anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several tens of thousands of dollars.
Or do you really have to say goodbye to that money? Does the ring you are giving (or receiving) have any value, other than as a symbolic expression of love? In other words, you're potentially spending several thousand dollars on this small piece of jewelry. Is an engagement ring an investment? Does it have tangible value that can be expected to appreciate over time?
These are reasonable questions, especially when spending so much money for a once in a lifetime event. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of diabolical myths making the rounds on the internet about engagement rings. Like all good myths, they have a kernel of truth to them - just enough to convince the unwary they are completely true.
The first myth is that diamond engagement rings were a 1930s marketing ploy by diamond monopolist De Beers to sell more stones. This is half true. De Beers did employ the U.S. advertising company N.W. Ayer & Son in a (tremendously successful) attempt to increase diamond sales in the U.S. toward the end of the Great Depression. Less than a decade later, Frances Gerety, a young copywriter employed by that same ad agency created what is arguably the greatest advertising slogan of the 20th century - "A diamond is forever."
But diamond engagement rings were around long before De Beers' marketing push. In fact, the first recorded use of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian I of Austria gave one to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy. Later, during the Victorian age in the 19th century, diamond engagement rings became popular among the middle class.
This was undoubtedly because large diamond deposits were discovered in South Africa in 1867, making the adamantine gems more widely available. Before that time, diamonds were the exclusive province of the wealthy and nobility. It's no surprise every bride-to-be wanted a diamond of her own as soon as they became affordable!
Another false charge commonly leveled against engagement rings is that they are like cars. Once "driven off the lot" - or in this case carried out of the jewelry store - their value drops considerably and continues to depreciate for years to come. Once again, this myth has some truth to it. Every jewelry retailer must have a profit margin, so it is normal for the wholesale value of an engagement ring to be less than its retail value.
But where you buy an engagement ring has a huge impact on the amount of its markup. Buying an engagement ring online from a company like Blue Nile, Leibish & Company or James Allen will get you much more bang for your buck because these companies do not have to maintain the overhead of physical jewelry stores. They also function on relatively slim profit margins - usually around 10% for loose diamonds - and sometimes less!
Conversely, the markup on engagement rings from national retailers like Kay Jewelers or Zales is always excessive. Luxury retailers like Tiffany, Harry Winston and Cartier are no place to find bargains either. They use their prestigious brand names as an excuse to charge inflated prices for engagement rings.
Another excellent way to buy a superb engagement ring at a great price is to purchase an estate ring. The term "estate" simply means that a piece was pre-owned. Some people might be uncomfortable with this idea, but it really is the single best way to invest in a top quality engagement ring without breaking the bank. Think of it this way: heirloom quality jewelry rarely ends up scrapped or in the melting pot. So many fine antique and vintage estate engagement rings are still available at reasonable prices - especially when compared to the price of new engagement rings.
Unlike a new ring, the fabrication cost of an estate ring is what is known as a "sunk cost". This means that the ring was made so long ago that no one is trying to make a profit based on its fabrication cost anymore. That lack of markup translates into a better ring and more money in your wallet simultaneously.
Here is the bottom line. There is no reason a carefully chosen engagement ring can't appreciate like a stock, bond or any other investment. This is because, at its core, a fine engagement ring is a work of art sculpted from gold, platinum, diamonds and gemstones that a woman wears on her finger. Great works of art appreciate reliably over the decades and so too does a high quality engagement ring.
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But there are a few rules to follow if you're considering buying an engagement ring with investment potential. First, you must avoid buying a ring set primarily with modern-cut, white diamonds. I know this might not make sense given that I just debunked the myth of diamond engagement rings as an artificial De Beers marketing creation. But, unfortunately, white diamonds are simply too common to make reliable investments.
Don't let this discourage you however. There are exceptional diamond rings that do make good investments - notably antique rings set with old mine cut or old European cut diamonds. These beautiful diamonds were handcrafted by skilled artisans in the near mythical diamond cutting centers of Europe in the decades before World War II. Cushion shaped old mine cut diamonds were popular from the early 18th century to the Edwardian age - around 1910. Old European cut diamonds - a rounder, updated modification of the old mine cut - were in vogue from just before 1900 to the 1930s.
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Both of these antique diamond cuts feature deeper proportions than a modern brilliant cut stone. This greatly enhances an antique cut diamond's fire, or rainbow flashes of light. However, this comes at the cost of substantially reduced brilliance - the white pinpricks of light a viewer sees. This might seem like a dubious trade-off at first glance. You would be wrong to assume that, however.
High quality old mine cut and old European cut diamonds explode in a dazzling display of color. Their cut was meant to be at its best in low light conditions like candlelight. In this endeavor these marvelous diamonds do not disappoint; their intense fire can easily be seen across a room. The unique look and charming presence of old mine cut and old European cut diamonds is the stuff of legends. It is the reason these exceptional gems are still so desirable today even though a century or more has passed since they were cut.
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If old mine cut and old European cut diamonds do not appeal to you, then perhaps a colored diamond would? Diamonds are actually found in a range of colors in nature. This includes brown (champagne), yellow (canary), orange, pink, blue, green and even red! Colored diamonds - also referred to as fancy diamonds or fancy colored diamonds - are thousands of times rarer than their colorless counterparts.
Their incredible rarity, along with their wide range of alluring hues, is one of the reasons colored diamonds make good investments. However, not all fancy colored diamonds are equally rare and desirable. Champagne and light yellow canary diamonds are on the lower end of the pricing scale for colored diamonds, while orange, green, blue, pink and red diamonds are more expensive.
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If you're worried about being priced out of the market for these coveted, multi-hued gemstones, let me put your mind at ease. Champagne, light yellow canary and even some orange diamonds are generally less expensive per carat than equivalent white diamonds! That's right. You can have a stunningly unique, investment grade diamond engagement ring that will appreciate over time and it can cost less than a run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter white diamond engagement ring!
Colored diamonds have one big drawback however. It is difficult to find them in really intense, eye-popping colors. Colored diamonds almost universally tend towards desaturated, lighter shades, which naturally have less visual impact. Of course, some very intensely colored fancy diamonds do exist. Browns and yellows are the most commonly encountered intensely colored diamonds. Unfortunately, deep brown diamonds - also known as cognac diamonds - are sometimes unattractive due to oversaturation. Deep yellow canary diamonds, while not completely out of reach, are extremely expensive.
Vividly colored diamonds in orange, green, blue, pink and red are generally unattainable for the average person. For example, the Hope Diamond is renowned for its fully saturated, dramatic deep blue color. But it is also locked in a museum as a priceless treasure. Prices for attractive, vividly colored diamonds (other than brown and yellow) usually start in the high five or low six figure range and escalate quickly from there. Generally speaking, gemstones of this magnitude are usually reserved for movie stars, corporate titans and other wealthy moguls.
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Although diamonds are strongly associated with engagement rings in the public conscience, there are other compelling options available for those seeking a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, investment grade engagement ring. I am, of course, speaking about breathtakingly gorgeous, investment quality natural colored gemstones
Even though ruby, sapphire and emerald are the most widely recognized colored stones, they are not necessarily the best colored gemstones for an investment worthy engagement ring. Instead some less well known colored stones - spinel, tourmaline and some fancy garnet varieties - are not only rapidly appreciating in price, but also look fabulous in engagement rings. This is because these gems are almost always completely natural and untreated.
This situation is actually rather unusual in the world of gemstones. Most colored stones - including rubies, sapphires and emeralds - are subject to heat, flux filling, irradiation, diffusion, oiling or other artificial treatments to enhance their clarity or color. Only one of these, heat treatment, has been fully accepted within the gem industry, provided it is properly disclosed. Even diamonds are sometimes laser drilled or fracture filled to improve their clarity. Unfortunately, these gemstone treatments - even routine heat treatment - are rarely disclosed to the ultimate consumer at the time of purchase.
Preeminent among all natural, untreated colored gemstones is spinel. Spinel is a little known cousin to the ruby and sapphire family. Almost chemically identical to ruby, red spinels were mistaken for the king of colored gemstones for most of human history. It was only in the early 19th century that spinel was finally determined to be a chemically distinct gemstone from ruby and sapphire. Spinels come in the same dizzying range of colors that sapphires and rubies do - intense blues, reds, pinks and purples. Being so closely related to sapphires and rubies, spinels have also inherited their superb physical properties. Spinels are tough, hard and extremely brilliant, making them a perfect colored stone investment for a breathtaking engagement ring.
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Tourmalines are another class of gemstone that comes in a broad range of colors. While commonly found in shades of blue, green, red and pink, tourmaline stones can also be multi-colored, displaying two different hues on opposite ends of the same faceted gem! Tourmaline's wide range of colors and good hardness, couple with the fact it is readily available in larger sizes, make it perfect for the woman who wants an impressively flashy colored stone engagement ring. I should note that while it is relatively uncommon, tourmaline are sometime heat treated to improve color.
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Garnets are usually thought of as excessively dark red stones that populate cheap jewelry. And this can certainly be true. But garnets are also found in a stunning range of colors - every hue of the rainbow except for blue! These exotic, non-red garnet types are known in the gem trade as fancy garnets.
One of the most desirable fancy garnet varieties is the fabled Mandarin garnet. Mandarin garnets, also called Spessartite garnets, are an exceptionally beautiful gemstone that range in color from light yellowish-orange to a deep, rich red-orange. The very finest specimens are a bright, crisp pumpkin orange - a very unusual color for a completely natural gemstone. Mandarin garnets also have excellent brilliance and hardness, making them a phenomenal choice for those seeking a unique, durable and unconventional engagement ring.
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Another legendary fancy garnet variety is called Tsavorite. This relative newcomer to the gem community was first discovered in the African nation of Tanzania in 1967. It subsequently made its international public debut at the luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. in 1974. High quality Tsavorite garnet is a bright, saturated emerald green color. In fact, Tsavorite can look stunningly like emerald, except that the green garnet is tougher, more brilliant and rarer than emerald. It is little wonder that Tsavorite prices have risen inexorably since the stone's fortuitous discovery 50 years ago.
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Most women want the beautiful gemstones mounted in their engagement rings, diamond or otherwise, to be as natural as possible. This is one reason why old mine cut diamonds, old European cut diamonds, spinel, tourmaline and fancy garnets are particularly desirable for engagement rings. They are all extremely unlikely to have been subjected to any kind of treatment or enhancement. In other words, the beauty you see in these gems is completely natural. They were mined straight from the earth looking that good - a pleasant anomaly in our modern, synthetic world. Because colored diamonds may be subject to certain treatments, it is recommended that you only consider specimens certified as untreated by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) to ensure you are buying a completely natural stone.
In addition to buying an engagement ring set with the right gemstone, there are also a few other simple rules that can help you invest in the best ring possible. For example, it is wise to avoid pave settings, a technique where many small diamonds or gemstones are set closely together to imitate a larger stone. All else being equal, a single gemstone of a given weight has more investment potential than many smaller stones that aggregate to the same weight. You want a ring set with either a single, large central stone or, at most, a few larger stones. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a big central gem to be surrounded by a multitude of small accent stones.
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Another guideline is to never purchase an engagement ring mounted with synthetic or simulant gemstones. Synthetic gems are sometimes referred to as "lab created", "created" or "cultured" in marketing materials. Diamond simulants like moissanite and cubic zirconia, as well as synthetic diamonds or synthetic colored stones, should all be rejected.
The only exception to this rule is antique jewelry from before World War II. In this case, synthetic rubies, sapphires and emeralds - often calibre cut - were commonly employed as small accent stones. Because their use is historically accurate and intrinsic to the design of some rings from the early 20th century, synthetic gems used this way do not detract from the investment potential of an antique engagement ring, assuming the large central stone or stones are genuine.
Antique engagement rings are a hot trend right now. But their vintage look may not be ideal for everybody. A quick overview of the styles commonly seen in antique rings can help you decide if one is right for you.
The Victorian period lasted from 1840 to 1900. Rings during this time were characterized by heavy, yellow gold settings that were often decorated with engraved flowers, flutes and scrolls. Claw set solitaire rings became popular during this era, although rings employing the newly developed gypsy setting were also fashionable towards the end of the 19th century.
Edwardian rings from circa 1900 to 1915 are typically light and diaphanous in construction. They often feature ribbon, bow, garland or heart motifs set with calibre cut diamond or colored gemstone accents around one or more larger central stones. However, it also isn't uncommon to find rings from this period set with anywhere from one to five gemstones - often diamonds - mounted flush into a simple gypsy setting.
Art Deco, popular from about 1915 to 1935, was a starkly linear design language. Its bold lines and rigid, geometric forms evoke the rapid and ubiquitous mechanization that dominated Western Europe, Japan and the U.S. at the time. Rings set with large diamonds or precious gemstones of high intrinsic value dominated Art Deco jewelry. These expensive stones were often lavishly set in white gold and platinum settings that were elaborately carved or filigreed.
If you are considering an antique ring, try to avoid buying a modern reproduction. A reproduction ring in an antique style may possess the look you desire, but it will not appreciate in the same way as a genuine, original antique. Numerous vaguely Edwardian and Art Deco "style" rings have been produced within the last couple of decades.
Recent imitations of these older styles will rarely adhere to all the characteristics found in original antique engagement rings. One dead giveaway is when a supposedly "antique" ring has no wear on its shoulders or shank. A true antique ring that is close to a century old will have at least modest wear in these areas. In addition, only diamonds with old mine cuts or old European cuts were mounted in antique rings before the 1930s.
An engagement ring is a token of the strength of your commitment - a symbol of the eternal love between two people. But there is no reason that this major purchase can't also be a compelling investment as well. The many thousands of dollars you will spend on your wedding and honeymoon will quickly evaporate, leaving nothing but memories. They will be sweet memories certainly, but memories all the same.
An engagement ring is the one aspect of your marriage that can, if properly vetted, be a perpetual, tangible investment. Buying an engagement ring set with an antique cut diamond, colored diamond, spinel, tourmaline or fancy garnet can provide you and your spouse an asset of lasting value.
Buying an engagement ring isn't all about money though, so it is important that both you and your future spouse are happy with your choice. Buy a ring that is within your budget and in a style she likes, even if it isn't strictly "investment grade". Don't blindly buy a certificate, no matter what it claims. Instead, trust your eyes. Buy what looks good to you. In the end, this ring will be your treasure and your jewel.