Understanding Diamonds, Metal, and Design
The best customer is an informed one. Knowing more gives you confidence in your purchase and enables you to appreciate the details – which is where we shine.
Not everyone has the time to learn all there is to know about diamonds and engagement rings. We've utilized our decades of hands-on experience along with the standards set by the leading gemological laboratories to provide you a comprehensive resource to understanding everything that goes into creating a piece of jewelry.
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Carat is a Weight Not a Measurement
Because carat weight is the ubiquitous size measurement for retail diamond information, it’s the measurement shoppers use. This can be a source of confusion, especially for shoppers comparing diamonds of different qualities and shapes because Carat is a diamond’s weight, not its size. There are reasons for why it’s used though, and below we’ll delve into them as well as the confusion it can create and how to still make an informed decision.
Why is it used?
Because it’s easier, and under certain circumstances, it’s good enough.Let’s start with the part about it being easier:
While a variety of factors go into a diamond’s price, pricing is measured per carat in the diamond industry. A diamond’s shape and quality characteristics will dictate the price per carat, but in the end it’s the standard unit for pricing used so it’s what suppliers and retailers are used to.
It’s not just that though…
A diamond is a 3-dimensional object, as such, its size is comprised of length, width, and depth. For a round diamond, in which the target shape around the girdle is a circle, you would measure its diameter instead of length and width, but even exceptionally cut round diamonds aren’t perfect circles, so they are listed with a diameter range. Regardless of a diamond’s shape you are looking at keeping track of 3 numbers to get a true sense of its size. These numbers are small and exact, measured in millimeters down to the hundredths place.
If you were presented with two diamond measurements, 6.60mm x 6.70mm x 3.89mm and 6.50mm x 6.54mm x 4.08mm, it would be hard to identify which is larger. If you were instead given 1.01-carats and 1.08-carats, it’d be easy to identify the larger of the two even without having certainty on what a carat is.
How can it be good enough then?
The reason it can be good enough is because there are standard proportions diamond cutters strive for and under certain circumstances a diamond’s weight can be highly correlated to its measurements.
Those circumstances are very specific though, and they are:
- The diamond’s shape must be round.
- The diamond must be very well cut.
Both circumstances must be met for there to be a strong correlation between a diamond’s carat weight and its actual dimensions. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the standard-bearing independent gemological lab in the world, only issues a cut grade for round diamonds (click here to learn more about their grading and why we only use GIA reports on our diamonds). This is because round is the only shape where there are ideal proportions, consistently recognized industry wide, and because only very well-cut diamonds are certain to be close to this ideal proportion.
When a round diamond is graded by any respected gemological lab, the considerations used to grade its cut include assessing:
- The diamond’s weight and depth relative to its diameter at the girdle.
- The depth of its girdle.
- The angle of its crown and pavilion.
- The size of its table
There are even more minute assessments made but these are the ones that clearly effect the overall shape of a round diamond. For each of these assessments there are tolerable ranges that equate to a grade, and the ranges are smallest at the highest grades.
So when you have 2 very well cut round diamonds, you can confidently use carat weight to compare their sizes because the range of all these proportions are very close to each other, as well as to the ideal.
Click here to see our Diamond Quality guide and see how little variation there is amongst Excellent Cut diamonds relative to lower cut grades.What about round diamonds that aren’t very well-cut? Or other diamond shapes?
Poorly cut round diamonds:
The lower a round diamond’s cut grade, the greater the range of all the aforementioned proportions will be. Not only will this diminish the overall look and brilliance of the diamond, but it can mean that in the above example of one diamond being 1.01-carats and another being 1.08-carats, the 1.01-carat diamond actually looks bigger as it is the diamond with the larger diameter.
This is because many of the considerations for the quality of a round diamonds cut are related to the diameter at its girdle, which is widest part of the stone between the crown (top) and the pavilion (bottom). When you look at a diamond in a ring or other piece of jewelry, you tend to assess its size by the diameter at its girdle, because you are looking at it from the top down, with its depth largely obscured by the piece it’s within. That 1.01-carat diamond may have a shallow crown or pavilion angle (or both) leading to a shallow overall depth and a disproportionately large diameter, whereas the 1.08-carat may have too much depth and an undersized diameter. This creates a circumstance where set in a ring the 1.01-carat diamond looks visibly larger than the 1.08-carat. There are innumerable combinations that can pop up comparing poorly cut diamonds because there are so many ways in which they can deviate from the ideal proportions, but in all instances those diamonds will have less brilliance and correlation between their carat weight and visual size than very well-cut diamonds will have.Other diamond shapes:
While only round diamonds are reliably given a cut grade, that doesn’t mean that any other shape diamond, commonly referred to as fancy cuts, are poorly cut. A round diamond is meant to be a circle at its girdle, and there isn’t much room for interpretation when it comes to what a circle is. Anything past a small amount of deviation is now an oval, which itself is a common diamond shape. But is there one kind of oval? That’s the issue with assessing a fancy cut diamond. You can have a long and thin oval, or a short and wide oval, and you can have the same when it comes to a cushion cut or a pear-shape. For each of them, many will find one proportion more appealing than the other, and vice versa. The inherent shapes are less defined, so the GIA only gives fancy cuts Polish and Symmetry grades, which are subsets of an overall Cut grade. They assess the remaining, less subjective parts of how a diamond is cut.
Because other shapes are less rigidly defined than circles, the correlation between carat weight and visual size for a fancy cut diamond is much looser. This means that you could have 2 diamonds that are the same type of shape and carat weight, and they’d look starkly different. It also means that two diamonds of different shapes, but the same carat weight may look totally different. In each scenario, using carat weight as the only measurement for size can lead to getting a stone that looks drastically different than your expectation, and this can have further adverse effects such as changing the overall look and construction of your dream ring. If your chosen ring isn’t already designed to account for this, that can mean detracting from the ring’s look and durability.Why That Specific still uses Carat weight:
Despite the pitfalls laid out above when it comes to referring to diamonds by their carat weight, that is still how we list diamonds. There are a few reasons for this:
- We only source diamonds that receive an Excellent cut grade or better, so the correlation between carat weight and size is very high, and there’s no risk of comparing a well-cut diamond with a poorly cut one.
- Currently we only source round diamonds, so there’s no risk of different shapes being compared.
- Our rings are designed to proportionally adapt to any diamond between 0.30-carats and 3.00-carats so regardless of the size, our rings will be perfectly proportioned to fit any diamond regardless how you measure it.
- While we use carat weight as the initial size descriptor, we clearly list the diamonds actual dimensions once we’ve sourced your specific diamond, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
Diamond Quality Essentials
Our goal is for every piece we produce to be a source of pride and worthy of being a family heirloom. We are extremely selective in the materials we work with, as only the best will make such a goal possible.
Diamonds are uniquely suited for this because not only are they the most brilliant gemstone, but they are also the hardest natural surface, allowing their beauty to sustain for decades and generations.
When it comes to diamonds there is almost no limit to how much can be spent to attain total perfection. That doesn't mean every customer can or even should spend excessively for total perfection. Diamonds are graded in labs, with special lighting, and 10x magnification. Past a high threshold, the improvements in the quality of a diamond are lost to natural light and the naked eye. They are further obscured when set in a ring or any other piece of jewelry. Our quality standards start at this threshold, so every diamond we sell is unblemished to the naked eye and stunning when set in any piece of jewelry.
Below we've laid out what each characteristic of a diamond means in a practical sense, and how we drew the line for our specific standard. We believe exceptional diamonds can be found at any price point, and we provide the tools and information necessary to enable this.
It is important to remember that each characteristic of a diamond is tied to every other one. Because of this, balance is key, and it is what we've ensured through our quality curation. Prioritizing color, clarity, cut or even size is up to personal preference, but over-emphasizing any of them can lead to over-paying for an underwhelming stone because the flaws end up detracting from the strengths.
Any natural diamond we sell will have a grading report from the independent diamond grading lab The Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The originators of the 4 C's, they are considered the standard-bearers in the industry, and the grading scales we refer to are based on their grading reports. As such, we have incorporated their visuals and additional explanations below.
Our Standard: 0.30 carats to 3 carats.
The Reason: While Carat size is considered one of the 4 C's, we do not consider size to be a measure of quality. While size isn't a reflection of quality, there are reasons to limit the range:
- Diamonds below 0.30 carats are typically not certified, which is a requirement for our diamond centers.
- Above 3 carats cost can vary widely, and there are fewer stones available, providing less consumer choice.
- We've designed all our ring builder designs to fit any stone within this range, with adaptive proportions adjusting to accentuate the beauty of the specific center. Going beyond this range, above or below, would require design changes that would preclude adaptability.
Practical Advice: Diamond costs are calculated per carat, and the larger a diamond is, the higher its price per carat goes. This means that when quality is equal, a larger stone will cost more than a smaller stone not only because it weighs more, but because you are paying more for that weight. These per carat price jumps tend to happen at common numbers, such as 1 or 1.5 carats. Values can sometimes be found by focusing on intermediary sizes or opting to upgrade quality instead of trying to hit a specific, common size.
Our Standard: H color or better. On a scale of D (highest) to Z (lowest), H and up represent the 5 highest color grades.
The Reason: A diamond's lack of color is part of what makes it such a unique stone, and so well suited for any color metal. The non-center diamonds we use, and those in our wedding bands, are always of G/H color or better, so if a center stone were to be of lower color than the stones around it, the overall look of the ring would be diminished.
Practical Advice: Because of our high standard and the optical effect of contrasting color, if you are planning on a ring in Yellow or Pink Gold, you can de-emphasize Color relative to the other qualities and the diamond will look more colorless than it would in a White Gold or Platinum ring.
Our Standard: VS2 clarity or better. On a scale from FL (Flawless) to I3 (Included), VS2 and up represent the 6 highest clarity grades.
The Reason: VS stands for Very Slightly Included, and it means that even under 10x magnification, it will be hard to see any imperfection in your diamond. For every grade above VS2, the level of imperfection diminishes, all the way up to Flawless. The presence of a noticeable imperfection can stick out and draw the eye whether the diamond is set or loose, and imperfections can also interfere with light refracting in a diamond and reduce its brilliance.
Practical Advice: Where a diamond's imperfections are located can't be imparted by just its clarity grade. Because of this, we review every diamond and remove from consideration any that have an imperfection in a more visible location, such as close to the surface or in the center of the table.
Our Standard: Excellent cut. On a scale from Excellent to Poor, it is the highest cut grade.
The Reason: This is the highest cut grade recognized by the GIA, regardless of what you may read elsewhere. The beauty of a great diamond can be ruined if not expertly cut, and the better a stone is cut, the more it maximizes size, cost efficiency, and brilliance.
- Polish and Symmetry: Polish and symmetry are two subcomponents of a diamond's overall cut grade. A diamond can still be an Excellent cut if one of polish or symmetry is graded as Very Good. We prioritize sourcing diamonds that have both subcomponents graded as Excellent, referred to then as a Triple Excellent diamond. If maximizing budget is a prime consideration and there is a substantive saving we will consider a diamond with a Very Good polish or symmetry grade as long as the overall cut grade remains Excellent. When conveying a diamond's information, we make sure to clarify if it is Excellent or Triple Excellent.
Practical Advice: The better a diamond is cut won't make it cheaper, but it will make it more cost efficient. This is because the ideal proportions for a diamond are meant to maximize the stones brilliance without excess carat weight. The poorer a stone is cut, the more excess it will have, and this excess weight diminishes the diamond's look and brilliance. Diamonds that are especially poorly cut not only look worse, and less brilliant, but can also appear smaller than lower carat weight, well cut, diamonds because they are disproportionately deep or misshapen.
Our Standard: No Fluorescence.
The Reason: Ultraviolet light waves, which are present in sunlight, can cause some diamonds to Fluoresce, which means to emit another color than what is visible when the diamond is not exposed to UV Light. If fluorescence is present the intensity is graded and can range from Faint to Very Strong, typically tinging the diamond with a blue color, though other colors are possible. While this tinging can enhance the appearance of lower color diamonds, at the Near Colorless range it does the opposite, diminishing the appearance and can even lead to a milky look when the intensity is strong. Because of our high color standards, we do not consider any diamonds with fluorescence.
Practical Advice: Wherever you buy your diamond, make sure you know if the stone is fluorescent or not, and if so, how intensely. Because it is not part of the 4 C's, this is a characteristic that can easily be left out or overlooked, but it can have a strong effect on a diamond's cost, value, and appearance.
While these standards are more selective than even the most revered of traditional retailers, because we can source across the industry, we are never short of options and can confidently guarantee that our customers get more from their budget than anywhere else. Learn more about how we source and purchase diamonds here.
A Note on Lab Grown Diamonds
We take every step possible to ensure that the natural diamonds we source are ethically and sustainably mined, but we recognize the economic and ecological appeal of lab grown diamonds.
We view lab grown diamonds as just the same as natural diamonds. Unlike simulants (well-known ones include moissanite and cubic zirconia) that approximate a diamond, lab grown diamonds look and behave like natural diamonds because they are molecularly the same. They are the result of the same conditions that create diamonds, it's just that people have created the circumstances for those conditions instead of them arising naturally.
We apply the same quality standards to lab grown diamonds as we do natural diamonds. Because lab grown diamonds are newer and the diamond and jewelry industry has not uniformly accepted them, we currently accept stones with IGI and GCAL grading reports as well as those from the GIA. Adoption and the practice of lab grown diamond and their grading is new compared to the decades of natural diamond grading. As such there is less uniformity amongst lab grown suppliers on where they receive their reports from.
Some labs differ in terms of grading terminology. The primary difference being a cut grade of Ideal above Excellent. We believe that any stone with an Excellent cut grade on a GIA report compares favorably to any stone with an Ideal cut grade from any other lab. While we specify when a stone has an Ideal Cut grade from a lab that lists it, we consider an Excellent cut grade from a GIA report as the top possible grade for the category.
Understanding Lab Grown Diamonds
Lab grown diamonds have recently exploded in interest and exposure, but it remains to be seen where pricing and value will settle long-term. For those interested in purchasing a lab grown diamond, it is worth examining the lab grown market to better understand why lab grown diamonds cost less than natural diamonds, and where prices may go.
The current growth in lab grown interest stems from a confluence of consumer and supply side factors. On the consumer side, their decreased ecological impact and lower financial cost relative to natural diamonds make them an increasingly appealing alternative. On the supply side, technology has finally reached the point where high-quality lab grown diamonds can now be affordably produced in large, consistent quantities.
In terms of their physical makeup and application within a piece of jewelry, we view lab grown diamonds just the same as natural diamonds. Unlike simulants that approximate a diamond, common ones being moissanite or cubic zirconia, lab grown diamonds look and behave like natural diamonds because they are molecularly the same. They are the result of the same conditions that create natural diamonds, only people have artificially applied those conditions instead of them arising naturally. So, at an aesthetic level, and for us as designers and producers of jewelry, at a functional level, they are one and the same.
Considering this, it is easy to envision a large-scale shift away from natural diamonds and an adoption of lab-grown diamonds as the de facto engagement gemstone of choice. While this could be a possible long-term outcome, it is far from certain, and until everything plays out consumers will be forced to assume the risk of this uncertainty.
Natural diamond costs over the past handful of decades have been rather stable, allowing them to be viewed as a good store of value, and this is predominantly due to 2 limiting factors. The first is that it is exceptionally capital intensive to create a functioning and viable diamond mining company. The second is that even if you can clear that first hurdle, you need to have access to diamond mines, which are finite, geographically constrained, and largely already claimed by existing diamond mining companies. Because of these 2 factors, the production and supply of natural diamonds is predictable and stable.
Lab grown diamonds do not share this long-term stability yet, nor the constraints. Lab grown diamond production is the result of ever-improving technology, which is continuously decreasing costs and increasing output efficiency. It's easier than ever to create a functioning and viable diamond growing lab. Because the diamonds are grown and not mined, the limited amount of diamond mines and presence of existing companies does not apply at all, and labs can essentially be set up anywhere and with significantly less capital investment.
Without any natural constraints on lab grown diamond, there is the persistent potential for the market to be flooded by a level of production that far outpaces demand. This could drive lab grown diamond prices down exceptionally low (think of how precipitously the cost of flat screen TVs has fallen). Increased accessibility to diamonds is a positive, but it also exposes consumers to the risk that something they purchase one day could be worth significantly less the next. While this would not diminish the sentimental value, nor the positive physical traits of lab grown diamonds, it could de-stabilize the lab grown diamond market. The appeal of natural diamonds as a stable store of value would not apply, and under such a circumstance lab grown prices could be subject to large fluctuations in price as suppliers contract and expand responding to consumer demand, which is itself responding to the supply side, creating a feedback loop.
Because technology exists to differentiate natural and lab grown diamonds, there is a likelihood that under such a circumstance, a stratification would take place. While the broad diamond category would become more readily available, natural diamonds would become scarce relative to the flood of lab grown diamonds and effectively become a super-luxury item akin to an original artwork, while lab grown diamonds would fall into a category comparable to reproductions and prints despite maintaining the same visual appeal as a natural diamond.
At present, lab grown diamonds offer a great financial savings relative to natural diamonds and appear to have a smaller ecological footprint, which is a global positive. Within jewelry, they function and appear the same. What remains to be seen is the stability of their pricing, stemming from the supply not having as much constraint as natural diamonds. There isn't a right or wrong decision when it comes to selecting between natural and lab grown diamonds but understanding the differences between the two can allows for a more informed decision, just as understanding how a ring is constructed or diamond characteristics manifest can enhance the overall engagement ring buying process.
Why Design is About More Than Just Looks
Most of what is written about jewelry design focuses only on the look but truly well-designed piece of jewelry, that’s meant to last years and generations, is made by achieving a balance between aesthetics and construction. A beautiful ring will cease to be so if it can’t stand up to the unpredictability and rigors of being worn daily. Many assume that since fine jewelry is made from metal, it inherently will be able to withstand years of wear and tear. This is only the case when a piece has been thoughtfully designed and constructed, balancing looks and proportions, and considering how it’s worn and what it’s made of.
These considerations are especially important when it comes to engagement rings because they are designed to focus on the center stone, raising it further away from the finger so that it can receive as much light as possible and be the focus of one’s eye. While this structure maximizes the center stone’s beauty, the higher the center stone sits above the finger the more likely it, and the rest of the ring accommodating this height, are to get bumped or dinged. Ignoring practical design and construction is especially perilous now because engagement rings are worn more constantly than in the past. They are more regularly exposed to the nearly automatic actions that we do countless times a day, like reaching into a drawer or putting on a sweater, which are done with our innate understanding of our hand shape and size. Adding an additional dimension to our hand such as a ring with an elevated stone can mean repeated exposure to getting caught or dinged that we’re never even conscious of.
Read below for our explainers on how to consider materials and design for your ring.
How Construction Effects Design
The BasicsThere can be countless ways to design an engagement ring, but customarily an engagement ring has 3 structural elements:
- Center Diamond (or other gemstone)
- Center Setting
Understanding the interplay of all 3 is essential to the construction of a well-designed piece. The material section of our design guide has covered the considerations for center stone types. Type of center stone is also very relevant to ring construction. For example, more fragile stones require greater protection since they cannot withstand the same wear and tear as a diamond or even a sapphire. In terms of design considerations, an emerald ring would benefit from a center setting that is heavier and less elevated from the shank to cover its edges more and avoid unnecessary exposure.
Key Considerations: Size and Shape
The Reason: While the quality characteristics of a diamond (color, cut, clarity) are never afterthoughts, size and shape are the essential considerations when it comes to a ring’s construction. This is because they physically effect how a ring can be designed and structured, including determining the proportions of their setting and how it connects to the shank of the ring.
It’s important to make a clarification before delving further, and that is:
Carat is a unit of weight, not a measurement of size.
This is important to keep in mind, because when considering stones with different cut grades or different shapes, 2 stones with the same carat weight can be very different and drastically alter the shape of your setting.
TL;DR: One size does not fit all, a ring designed for a ½ carat diamond can’t have a 2 carat diamond in it, and trying to make it work will imperil both the center diamond and the ring.
Practical Takeaway: A bigger stone needs a bigger setting and shank. Whether you opt for custom-made or buying an existing ring to set your diamond in, it needs to be designed for your specific diamond’s measurement. Diamonds shapes adhere to certain proportions, while these can change depending on the shape and cut quality, larger diamonds are deeper than smaller ones. This means they are further raised off the finger, making them more exposed to the accidental dings and bumps of everyday wear. To account for this, everything about a ring should be incrementally increased as the center size increases. Whether it’s prongs, bezel, or a halo, there needs to be more metal covering the key points of the diamond so that it remains secure. The ring’s shank should also be heavier to account for the larger diamond and its setting so that there is more metal to enforce a stronger connection where the shank and the setting meet.
The increase in center diamond size changes the proportions of the ring, its height and construction, as well as the overall size of the center prongs.
Putting a 2-carat diamond in a ring that was designed for a ½-carat diamond may make the center look even larger and more impressive, but it also imperils the safety of the diamond, reducing the strength of the center setting and the shank, as well as causing there to be disproportion between the setting and the shank.
With that you may come to see that some choices work better at some sizes than others.
- A 6-prong setting will have more points of security than a 4-prong setting, but below a ½-carat the diameter of a diamond is much smaller than that of a diamond over 1-carat. Because prongs need a certain level of thickness to maintain structural stability, using 6-prongs on a smaller center may detract from the beauty of a center diamond more than it adds to its security.
- Conversely, halos are a great way to enhance the beauty of smaller center diamonds, as well as create a protective buffer. Past 2-carats though, there is lesser need to enhance what is already a rare and significant diamond. While the proportion of the halo relative to the center can be adjusted downwards, it inherently increases the overall size such that the protective buffer a halo offers is diminished because the size is large enough that it is more likely to get bumped or dinged.
- Opting for a shank with an airline is one way to protect larger centers, and it provides a nice aesthetic for any size center. Having a shank with an airline means there are more points of connection to the center setting, and the raised shoulders will shield the sides of a center diamond and setting as they are further off the wearers’ finger.
Key Considerations: How you wear your ring, what metal you choose.
The Reason: The center setting for a diamond is not just part of the design, it is the linchpin of the entire ring. It secures the center stone and connects it to the ring (shank) and its wearer.
TL;DR: If you plan to wear your engagement ring at all times, and be active with it on, more metal around the center diamond will keep it secure and looking good.
Practical Takeaway: As we’ve covered, engagement rings have become more and more a piece of jewelry that is worn all the time, including while we work, exercise, take care of kids, etc.…
With that in mind it’s important to consider the most appropriate setting for the stone you have and your expected use:
The setting most synonymous with engagement rings. Prong settings will raise the diamond furthest off a wearer’s finger and expose most of the diamond to maximize light refraction. It’s the traditional engagement ring setting and is meant to emphasize the beauty of the center stone. That’s not to say it’s an impractical choice. A well-made 4-prong ring can withstand decades of regular wear and opting for a split prong (especially for fancy cuts like Squares or Emerald Cuts) or 6-prong are great ways to personalize the design while adding a bit more protection.
Another consideration would be platinum instead of gold since it is a more durable metal. If exercise or hand intensive activities, like gardening or working with tools, are part of your daily routine we’d recommend removing your ring, especially for any center that is over a ½-carat, or any ring made in gold. This is because the height of the ring can lead to getting caught which poses a risk to the ring itself as well as to you the wearer. Because gold is a softer metal, wearing a gold ring while interacting with other metals is an easy way to misshape it, even if you are careful to avoid bumps.
The ideal setting for wearing your ring day in and day out while active is a bezel setting. It’s a setting type that keeps the ring as low and protected as possible. A bezel is a rim of metal around the circumference of your diamond (known as the girdle), which minimizes the chance of any damage to it or of the diamond getting loose. Not only will a bezel cover more of your diamond, but it will also sit lower, meaning closer to your finger, which lowers the risk of getting dinged or bumped in the first place. It is also the smoothest of settings, with no edges or bumps, minimizing the chance it gets caught on clothing or anything else. Because it covers more of the diamond than other settings, we recommend it for diamonds ¾-carats and above, but if protection and comfort are the key considerations, it will work at any size.
Halos present a nice middle ground between Bezels and Prongs. Halos wrap the center diamond with a ring of smaller diamonds (which creates a halo effect from which the setting gets its name). This not only creates a nice aesthetic, but it functions as a buffer around the center. Halo settings are inherently larger than other settings because they not only hold the center diamond, but many smaller diamonds around it. There isn’t one uniform size for these smaller diamonds, but as the center gets larger, the buffering offered by the smaller diamonds begins to diminish due to the overall size of the setting becoming overly large, making it more likely to get bumped or caught. We recommend halos for centers below 2-carats. Past that size you can still have a great looking ring, but it’s size will be such that it will be best suited for occasional wear.
Key Considerations: Plain or with diamonds, will it be worn next to a band, how will you wear your ring.
The Reason: We’ve focused a lot on how you wear your ring may literally and figuratively impact your center stone, but it’s also a key consideration for the shank. This is because the shank is the part that physically goes around your finger, so when you grab or push or pick something up, it’s guaranteed to get bumped or dinged, so it needs to be able to hold up to your daily routine.
TL;DR: The thicker the shank, the more wear and tear a ring can withstand - which is especially important if there are diamonds on the shank.
Practical Takeaway: A common request for the design of the shank is to keep it as thin as possible. It’s an understandable request, a thinner shank is lighter, and any center stone will look larger relative to it. Unfortunately, it is also a prime example of aesthetics being placed ahead of construction because an excessively thin shank endangers the stability of the center setting, accent diamonds, and the overall structure of the ring.
Pure gold is not a naturally hard metal, but it is hardened by the alloys mixed to create 14k or 18k gold in its various colors (yellow, white, pink, etc.). Gold and even the naturally harder platinum both require a certain amount of thickness to be durable and avoid deforming or even outright breaking. When a shank is too thin, it may initially appear stable and feel hard to the touch, but even light wear and tear may be enough to weaken the metal’s integrity and compromise the ring’s structure.
A common scenario that can really exacerbate the issues of a thin shank is wearing your engagement ring and wedding band together. It’s a great look, especially if the ring and band are designed to sit flush together, but the reality is that the ring and band are rubbing against one another. A well-made shank has enough metal that under normal circumstances this rubbing will never adversely affect it – especially if it’s platinum which won’t wear down as much as gold. When a shank is too thin, this rubbing can be the final straw that compromises an already shaky structural integrity, making it easily susceptible to bending or a full-on break.
When a shank has diamonds or other gemstones set on it, it should be made a little thicker so that there is enough space for healthy settings as well as a little buffer metal so that the settings aren’t right on the edge. When a shank is too thin though, not only is the shank itself compromised but there won’t be sufficient space for healthy prongs, which will more easily wear down or break from an impact, both of which will lead to the diamonds falling out. When one diamond falls out it’s likely an indicator that more will fall out as well. When a shank is too thin to have healthy prongs, then designs that have the diamonds sit right on their edge are especially susceptible to losing numerous stones because they don’t have any buffer metal to protect the weakened prongs and can be a source of perpetual frustration and additional costs to repair and replace lost diamonds repeatedly.
The shank also acts as a counterweight to the center stone. The lighter it is, especially as the center diamond gets larger, the more likely your ring is to twist on your finger (this is further exacerbated by wearing a ring that is not the right finger size). This can create discomfort as the diamond and setting may begin to rub against your other fingers because they are not sitting upright and away from your hand.
Whether you intend to wear your engagement ring with your wedding band or alone, how active you intend to be while wearing it is important. If you expect to be active, opt for a thicker shank if you can find one you like. If having a diamond shank is important, consider having them set within the shank instead of on top so that the diamonds and their settings are more protected and there is buffer metal. Not having the diamonds extend beyond the halfway point of the shank is another practical consideration. Not only will it make re-sizing a ring easier, but there will be no diamonds or settings impacted when grabbing or holding on to anything, just plain metal because even healthy prongs can get misshapen or break if impacted or pressed against other hard objects repeatedly (think exercising or gardening). If having an as-thin-as-possible look is important, consider a knife-edge style shank. This is a shank that has a wider base that tapers upwards – like the point of a knife. The top will be thinner than the base, but because the base is thicker, the shank and the rest of the ring will have enough metal to maintain structural integrity.
How Materials Effect Design
Just because stones and metal are hard, doesn't mean they're invincible. It's important to understand how your material choices relate to design. We've explained why we're so selective in the materials we choose to ensure a lifetime of beauty, quality, and your happiness.
What We Use: Diamonds and Sapphires.
The Reason: Diamonds are the hardest natural substance. This, along with their brilliance, make them the ideal stone for use in any important piece of jewelry. While diamonds aren’t the only gemstone used in engagement rings, their enduring characteristics are a large reason why the two are so synonymous with one another.
This doesn’t mean other gemstones can’t be used in an engagement ring, but it does mean that rings featuring a different type of center stone will need to alter their design to better protect the more susceptible stone. The designs we all instantly recognize as an engagement ring, have been shaped to maximize a diamond’s beauty while accounting for its unique and unparalleled durability. The exception to this is sapphires. They are not quite as hard as diamonds, but they are the second hardest precious gemstone, which you may already know because cellphone screens now often have sapphire particles in them to increase their resilience. Even sapphires have their limitations relative to a diamond, and past a certain size, similar design concessions will be needed to ensure they are not unnecessarily exposed.
Practical Advice: Engagement ring designs focus on the center stone, so while a unique design may be eye-catching it needs to also adequately protect the center from damage, and this is especially imperative if the center is not a diamond. No design looks good when your center stone is cracked or has a visible break. There are styles of rings that are best suited for gemstones less durable than a diamond, but if your heart is set on using a different gemstone in a traditional engagement ring design, continue reading our Design Guide to learn what decisions you can make to achieve your desired look, while best protecting it.
When it comes to diamonds, while size might be the most recognizable characteristic, we recommend focusing on the quality characteristics (color, cut, and clarity). Every ring we produce can be made to fit any center size diamond, and every customization option in our Custom Ring Builder has been adaptively designed to complement the size of any diamond we sell, both aesthetically and structurally, so your perfect design won't depend on what size center you choose.
What We Use: Platinum as well as Yellow, White, and Pink Gold all in 14k or 18k.
The Reason: We consider platinum the ultimate metal for an engagement ring. It is a dense and rigid metal that balances durability with beauty, having a natural white metal color and enduring radiance that complements any gemstone but especially diamonds. We use 95.2% Pure Platinum mixed with 4.8% Ruthenium, to allow enough flexibility for it to be molded, cast, and have stones set within.
Gold is the metal most synonymous with all jewelry, and because of that it is important to understand the types of gold suitable for use in fine jewelry and engagement rings. Gold is a soft metal and as such, needs to be mixed with alloys to be hard enough to maintain its shape and hold up to daily wear. The alloys used can also influence the color of the gold, which is naturally yellow, but can be turned to many other colors, most familiarly white and pink.
The percentage of gold is measured in carats (k) with 24k gold being pure gold [Please Note: Diamond and gemstone weight is measured in carat, which is the same word but a different unit of measurement. As such, unless specifically indicated, when referring to metal purity we will only use the abbreviation “k” while the word “carat” will refer to a diamond or gemstone’s weight]. 24k gold is too soft to keep its shape or securely hold any stones set within it. Fine jewelry will use either 14k or 18k gold. 14k is comprised of 58.3% pure gold (14/24) while 18k gold is 75% pure gold (18/24). Depending on the fineness of the gold chosen, and the desired gold color, various alloys can be used. For yellow, white, and pink gold: silver, copper, and palladium are used in varying combinations and proportions.
14k and 18k are the standards for gold in fine jewelry because they each strike a balance when it comes to aesthetics and durability. 18k preserves much of natural radiance of gold, while being able to withstand regular wear and tear if the design is proportioned suitably, while 14k concedes a little radiance for added durability with the added benefit of also being cheaper.
While 10k is legally allowed to be referred to as gold (and 9k in Europe), at that level, gold is no longer the main metal. We believe that below 14k, the metals radiance is diminished, and the characteristics of the alloys used can begin to obscure the gold’s beauty. Jewelry can also be made with gold above 18k but we do not recommend it given the softness of gold. Past 18k, gold is too soft to maintain its shape and design, and the security of any stones set within is compromised.
Practical Advice: When choosing between the various colors of 14k and 18k gold as well as platinum there is no wrong answer but depending on your considerations a specific option may stand out.
If you are interested in a white metal, we recommend platinum. It is a harder metal and naturally white so it will keep its color better. White gold’s coloring is not only a product of the alloys used, but also an end process called rhodium plating, which enhances the whiteness of the metal but can wear off over time. Traditionally platinum has been significantly more expensive than gold, but the cost of gold has risen significantly in past years to the point that it costs more per ounce than platinum. The same ring will still cost more in platinum than gold, because platinum is a denser metal (platinum is about 1.7x denser than 14k gold and 1.5x denser than 18k gold) but the difference in cost is ahistorical and small enough that the benefits of platinum are hard to pass up.
Many times, budget is the deciding factor in opting between 14k and 18k gold (as well as platinum). While we do not consider diamond size a measure of stone quality, generally you can operate by this rule of thumb:
Below 1 carat, opt for 14k, above 1 carat opt for 18k (or platinum).
While this is not a universal rule, because we maintain high quality standards in a tight range for the diamond centers we sell, it works well as carat weight will typically be the characteristic with the most variation and largest effect on price.
Diamond and Jewelry Glossary
Carat/Karat or kt or k (Metal Measurement)
K is the measurement of fineness in gold. 24k gold is 100% gold. Gold is a naturally soft metal, so pure gold is not recommended for use in jewelry as it will easily distort and be unable to keep its shape or hold any stones set within. 14k (58.3%) and 18k (75%) are the industry standard levels of fineness used for fine jewelry, balancing durability with gold's natural radiance. Gold is naturally yellow. Silver, copper, and palladium are used in varying combinations at the various levels of fineness to create other gold colors such as white and pink.
Carat or ct (Diamond Measurement)
Ct is a unit of weight measurement for gemstones. It is commonly used as shorthand for overall size because gemstones, especially diamonds, are uniformly cut and as such there is a strong correlation between carat weight and overall, visual size (diameter). Poorly cut stones can distort this correlation, and the correlation is dependent on the shape and type of gemstone. Two round, 1ct diamonds that are well cut will have near identical diameters and visual size, but the size of a well cut and a poor cut 1ct round diamond will be noticeably different, as will a well cut 1ct round diamond and a well cut 1ct cushion diamond. Always consider the cut grade and diameter of a gemstone when assessing its carat weight.
Total Weight (Diamond Measurement)
The carat (ct) weight of all the diamonds in a piece. Used when there is more than 1 diamond. It should not be used when different types of gemstones are used in a piece, i.e., a sapphire center and diamond sides. The weight of each should be listed separately in such an instance.
A diamond that came to be organically without any human influence or intervention. What is commonly meant when referring to a diamond.
Lab Grown Diamond
A diamond that came to be through human effort by way of replicating the natural circumstances that produce diamonds in a lab environment. Must be specified as lab grown or similar names, such as: lab, lab created, lab-made, man-made.
The initial state of a diamond, preceding cutting and polishing into its finished shape. Typically rough is large enough that multiple finished diamonds can be cut from it, referred to as its yield.
Diamond or Gemological Report
A written analysis of a diamond or gemstone's key characteristics, including Color, Clarity, and Cut, based on the analysis of an independent gem lab. Other details conveyed include dimensions, carat weight, and in newly mined diamonds as well as many gemstones, the country of origin.
Gemological Institute of America, an independent gem lab. The primary lab used by That Specific given their consistency, reputation, and high standards.
Ultraviolet light waves, which are
present in sunlight, can cause some diamonds to Fluoresce, which means to emit another color than what is visible when the diamond is not exposed to UV Light. If fluorescence is present the intensity is graded and can range from Faint to Very Strong, typically tinging the diamond with a blue color, though other colors are possible. While this tinging can enhance the appearance of lower color diamonds, at the Near Colorless range it does the opposite, diminishing the appearance and can even lead to a milky look when the intensity is strong.
Color Grade (Diamond Characteristic)
The amount of color in a diamond, on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light coloring of yellow, brown, or gray). Diamonds exhibiting intense colors such as yellow, pink, or blue are not graded on this scale.
Clarity Grade (Diamond Characteristic)
An assessment of how free of internal inclusions and surface blemishes a diamond is under 10x magnification, from Flawless to Included. The higher the clarity grade the more brilliance a diamond will have.
Cut Grade (Diamond Characteristic)
An assessment of how close to ideally proportioned a round diamond is, from Excellent to Poor. A higher cut grade means more brilliance, as well as a stronger correlation between dimensions and carat weight. The cut grade includes the grading of the polish and symmetry sub-categories. Only round diamonds have a cut grade, other shapes (fancy cuts) will only have polish and symmetry grades without an overall cut grade.
Polish Grade (Diamond Characteristic)
An assessment of a diamond's surface finish, which is affected by its initial polishing from rough, as well as subsequent wear and tear or re-polishing. Measured from Excellent to Poor.
Symmetry Grade (Diamond Characteristic)
An assessment of a diamonds shape and symmetry. Measured from Excellent to Poor.
Center Setting (Ring Construction)
The portion of a ring that holds the center stone(s). Common center settings are prongs or bezel.
Setting (Ring Construction)
The way diamonds or other gemstones are held in a piece of jewelry.
Shank (Ring Construction)
The portion of a ring or band that goes around the finger.
Prongs (Ring Construction)
The most recognizable method of setting center stones as well as smaller accent stones. Metal tines uniformly spaced to hold and protect key points of diamonds and gemstones while maximizing light passage. In center settings commonly 4 and 6 prongs are the standard combinations. For accent stones, shared prong and split prong are the common methods.
Bezel (Ring Construction)
A metal border around a diamond or gemstone that maximizes protection of the stone but does sacrifice some light passage relative to prong settings due to the additional metal coverage.
Halo (Ring Construction)
An array of gemstones, typically diamonds, that encircle the center stone and setting of a ring. Halos can be made around either prong or bezel settings.
Channel (Ring Construction)
A style of setting for smaller side stones where the stones are laid within the ring or band secured into the metal bordering them on each side. Offers greater coverage of the stones, but relative to prongs there will be less light passage.