For most people, an engagement ring is a once in a lifetime purchase, so they have no experience of what it involves or what they need to think about and be aware of. There are many areas where they know they need more information
(the known unknowns), but the most dangerous territory is the ‘unknown unknowns’, i.e. those things that you don’t even know you need to know about.
In this chapter I will highlight some of the most common misconceptions and mistakes I’ve seen people make which I hope to correct and dispel in the rest of the book.
Read on - or Download Chapter 4 as a pdf to read at your leisure.
• Many myths about engagement rings are peddled as facts. Most are created by ad men, but the ‘unknown unknowns’ are the most dangerous
• Diamonds are neither rare nor precious. They command high prices because supply is artificially restricted
• Think ahead to the shape of the wedding band. Don’t buy on looks and don’t assume vintage rings have been repaired
• Beware of ‘buying the box’, i.e. getting poor value from a big brand
• If it seems too good (cheap) to be true, it probably is. There is a lot of room for opinion when valuing and grading
• Don’t leave it all to the last minute, you’ll buy under duress
• An engagement ring is not a financial investment
• Doing-it-yourself can lead to poor choices and end up costing you more.
BELIEVING THE MYTHS
Do you think that diamonds are rare, precious and special? Or that only diamonds are forever? These are a small sample of the powerful myths about engagement rings, the product of very clever marketing campaigns designed to sell. Don’t feel pressurised by false ‘traditions’ into making choices you otherwise would not make, and don’t let these myths, and many more like them, get in the way of what is right for you and your partner.
NOT RARE AND NOT PRECIOUS
You wouldn’t think it from the way people talk about them, but diamonds are one of the commonest gemstones around. If all the available fully-finished gem-quality diamonds were released to the market tomorrow, the price would drop like a stone and the bottom would fall out of the diamond market completely. That is why supply is so rigidly controlled.
Diamonds are very hard and, properly cut, very sparkly, but they are not rare and, unless a major currency adopts a ‘Diamond Standard’, they do not have any significant intrinsic value.
So, fashion, marketing and the control of supply creates confidence and keeps the diamond market afloat. If they were suddenly to go out of fashion, or too many diamonds
were put up for sale, a lot of people would lose a lot of money. This is one of the reasons the industry is concerned about the successful efforts to grow high quality diamonds cost-effectively in a laboratory. Supply will increase, perhaps prices will normalise and they will lose control of the market. This is happening now and the industry is coming to a very slow and grudging acceptance of laboratory grown diamonds and other gemstones.
RELYING ON GOOGLE
When you don’t know where to begin, Google is a great place to do some background research and start to get a feel for your subject, but don’t rely on it exclusively or too heavily. The Internet can be as much a source of disinformation as fact.
You’ll find all the myths presented as facts somewhere online. There is far too much information to digest, some of it is conflicting or confusing, and Googling won’t answer the questions you don’t know you need to ask. Remember – most of what you will read online about engagement rings is written by people with an interest in selling them.
Think of your own profession, industry or specialist hobby. If you are an expert in that field, would you recommend anyone to make a key decision based only on what they could glean from Googling your subject?
MAKING POOR CHOICES
This is linked to the last two points, and happens if you try to do it all yourself and don’t know enough about what you are buying.
It includes getting the metals wrong, compromising on the wrong things, making a decision based only on the price, not getting good value in your diamond or gemstone, choosing a style or stone which isn’t robust enough, won’t last or won’t work with her lifestyle, and not thinking how it will fit with the wedding ring. All of these, and more, can be avoided, especially if you set your priorities and budget.
THE PROBLEM WITH VINTAGE
Beautiful as they can be, vintage rings by definition have been around, and probably worn, for quite a long time. Ring settings and claws show wear and damage, shanks wear thin at the back, diamonds and gemstones get scuffed on the facets or chipped at the edges. Old stones will not be certified, so you have no guarantee about what you are buying, and the ring may not originally have been designed to be worn with a wedding band.
These are all things which it is easy to overlook, or just not see if you do not know what to look for.
You are buying a ring to last and be worn for a lifetime. A vintage ring may already have been worn for a lifetime. Over the years I have had to recreate completely a number of vintage rings which had not been refurbished by the retailer and were sold to unsuspecting clients who did not know what they were buying. I’ve replaced stones and shanks, created replica settings and, in some cases, complete replica rings because the whole thing was too delicate and damaged to wear. In these cases the rings ended up costing a lot more than if they had simply been made from new.
This does not mean that you should avoid all vintage rings, but you really do need to know what you are buying, what it is really worth and how much refurbishment it will need.
LEAVING IT TO THE LAST MINUTE
If you are reading this, you probably won’t be someone who leaves everything to the last minute, but it’s easy to spend ages thinking about the ring, preparing for it and not actually getting round to doing anything about it until the last minute.
It’s a crass generalisation, but men have a reputation with we women for leaving things like this to the last minute.
You may have been planning the proposal for months – the holiday, the dinner, how you’ll surprise her – but you haven’t quite got around to the ring. Never mind – there are lots out there, right?
Well there are, but you’ll be surprised how much they all look alike, and you can’t find the right thing, and time is slipping away. As the most important piece of jewellery you will ever buy her, you will not want to rush it. Take your time, plan ahead, but also do something about it, and allow at least a month if you are having a ring made for you.
CUTTING A 'DEAL'
In this age of the Internet we’ve got used to shopping around, searching for bargains and good deals. But we may overlook the fact there are things you can’t cut corners on, and if something seems incredible value or too good to be true, then it probably is.
Check out the sources of anyone supplying your ring and don’t assume that you can cut the price without compromising on quality.
NOT SUCH A GREAT DEAL
A couple became my clients because they needed her ring to be remade. They thought they’d had a very good deal from a well-known jewellery centre in London, but within a couple of weeks, Katherine had problems with the ring: one of its little stones fell out of the shank, the band was too tight, and when it was resized the setting was damaged and the jewellers distorted the whole band shape. It was all a bit of a disaster, Katherine was distraught and did not want to go back to where they had bought it.
When I examined it, the ring was in a poor shape and would not have lasted long, so I completely remade it and reset new stones in the new shank. Katherine was finally happy, but it had cost Richard a lot more than it would have without the ‘deal’.
YOUR RING AS AN INVESTMENT
It may be an emotional investment in your future together, but do not ever think of jewellery as a financial investment, unless you are a latter-day Richard Burton. People are perhaps understandably confused about this because they see the insurance value as somehow representing intrinsic or market value. It does not. It represents how much you would have to ask the insurance company for if you wanted to replace the ring with an exact replica.
First of all, an investment is only a financial benefit if it is realised, i.e. sold. Under what circumstances do you think you might ‘realise’ the value of her engagement ring? This one is intended for life, is it not?
Secondly, the ‘value’ of second-hand jewellery really does come down simply to how much someone is prepared to pay for it on the day. Unless it’s a ‘vintage’ item, many people have an emotional objection to buying a ring which may have come from a relationship break-down, or perhaps because the answer was no.
As long as the stone is in good condition on a second-hand ring, and it may not be, jewellers are the main purchasers. They will dismount the stones for reuse and send the metal for scrap. The same jeweller can buy a new diamond, in perfect condition, together with its original certificate from their diamond dealer at wholesale prices. They will not pay even that for a second hand diamond, which may need repolishing or re-cutting and might also have to be recertified.
So, choose your stones to wear and look beautiful, then invest in a vintage Bugatti if you must.
The list of potential errors is long. This chapter outlines just a few of the areas where people can make mistakes or be misled by myths and misconceptions. The rest of this book will arm you with the information, confidence and resources you need to avoid them all.
Read On – Chapter 5 looks at who you can trust so that you get the best practical advice to avoid these common mistakes.