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Colour, clarity, carat — love shouldn't be this complicated. Help is on the way!

Love hurts, the saying goes. And more times than not that pain is in your wallet. You’ve wooed with flowers, expensive restaurants, romantic getaways and now the day has arrived: the day you will pop the question. And what better way to say how much you want to spend the rest of your life with someone than with a jealousy inducing diamond right?

Well, maybe not jealousy, but at least something to show to her friends. But there are a few problems, not least of which is that you haven’t even begun saving for the ring. And even if you did or were about to start, where do you begin looking? Colour, clarity, carat — love shouldn’t be this complicated…

Stop. Breathe. There are options, some more affordable than others.


The first one, which may take out the element of surprise, is talking to your partner about their desires. Do they want a ring? Is there an heirloom in the family that gets passed down? Do they want a diamond or some other gemstone? Do they have to have a showstopper, set in 24k gold, or can other variations be considered? Once you have a clear idea you can think about how to pay for it.

Diamond miner and retailer De Beers originated the concept that men should spend one month’s salary on a diamond engagement ring. That was in the 1930s. Times and prices have changed. So understanding what you are buying can make the price more digestible. Jeff Korda owner of JH Korda Gem Services, a Toronto-based diamond dealer and expert, says even if you know nothing about diamonds you should come with a budget. “If you don’t know any of the features that make diamonds more or less expensive, at the very least, you should be able to come equipped with a budget that will be helpful to whoever you are availing yourself to their services to be able to direct you and give you choices.”

Size (and Colour and Clarity and Carat) Matters

Carat, of course, is how jewelers measure diamond size (not to be confused with karat, the measurement for gold and precious metals). The size of the diamond itself will determine the price and the sky is the limit on how big you want to go. Colour is measured in letter values from “D” — the most clear or colourless, to values of “M” which can be on the yellow side. Clarity is also a price changer. Some diamonds are flawless (no inclusions), while others can have visible inclusions that take away the brilliance of the gem. So even if the colour and carat are considered good, the clarity may not be — or some variation of that.

For example, according to Blue Nile (an online diamond retailer), a round “D” colour diamond with slight inclusions weighing .30 carats will run about $714. That same diamond, but with a “J” colour, will cost $373. A big difference depending on where you are willing to make sacrifices. Korda says he directs his clients to the mid-range of the market in order to provide quality diamonds that won’t break the bank.

Brick and Mortar vs. Online

Where you shop can also determine how much you spend. Large diamond or jewelry chains in malls, or in fancy shopping districts have overhead, rent, sales people to pay etc. Online retailers can have lower overhead and therefore provide more value for your money. “When people ask me what I should look for in a diamond I say ‘it’s not what you look for in a diamond but rather what you look for in your diamond dealer.'” Korda also notes that the larger online retailers often deal in goods that the rest of the diamond industry has passed on making them a lesser quality. It’s a bit harder to shop for such an expensive item online but if you’ve done your research and know what you want, it can be done.


People know people who may have already been down this road before. Talk to your friends and see if they have a trusted resource for buying diamonds. It may save you time and money. Even if you can’t find anyone, explains Korda, you can go to reputable places and make sure you have a good feeling about the person you are dealing with.

Pay in Full or Finance

If and when you start saving (after you know what you want) you can also consider payment options. Many retailers provide financing and payment plan options. Perhaps at a slight interest charge or no charge at all. That can help spread some of the pain over time but not leave you out of pocket all in one fell swoop. “I’m not very big on taking out loans to buy your engagement ring. I find it’s best not to start a marriage in debt,” says Korda.

Research and Planning

Most importantly don’t jump into anything too quickly. Do your homework. Study the styles, colours, cuts etc. Consider buying used or antiques. Get creative and find a dealer/retailer you feel good about. The more you know the better your decision will be and (hopefully) the happier your partner will be.