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The Price of a Diamond Ring

The process of selecting the perfect wedding or engagement ring is a daunting enough task without the confusion that ensues when you encounter rings that, to the untrained eye, appear the same but retail for extraordinarily different prices.

Dino Tedesco has been in the jewellery business for more than 40 years and understands the confusion. For three generations his family has owned and operated Venetian Jewellers in Hamilton. Consequently, the well-certified Tedesco knows that size doesn’t always matter. What distinguishes the price of one ring from another is a combination of factors, he explains: whether or not the ring contains a precious metal and in what percentage; the number and size of diamonds it has; and the quality of those diamonds.

The most precious and expensive metal used in the construction of rings is platinum. Yellow and white gold are second, and vary in cost depending upon number of karats.

“Platinum is harder to work with, so the cost is much higher then even 18-karat gold,” Tedesco notes. “Then there’s 14-karat gold, which is medium, and 10-karat gold, which is the cheapest.”

Mixing metals can also affect the cost, as can the use of non-precious metals, the most common of which are steel, tungsten and titanium, but Tedesco sells few of those, noting that steel rings are typically special ordered for those who like the look of white gold but decide it is out of their price range.

But it’s the diamond that most defines the price. “Let’s say a fellow wants gold and he wants a very plain, very light, 10-karat wedding band—he can get it for a couple hundred dollars,” Tedesco observes. “But a bigger diamond doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always more expensive. When they want a big diamond of low quality, we say a guy wants a lot of glow for little dough.” 

Diamonds are sold by weight and sometimes are cut in such a way that they retain their weight but compromise the quality of the cut. They may be large but they won’t sparkle as a smaller diamond with a finer cut will.

“Every facet has a particular angle. When a diamond is cut 100 percent the way it should be, it’s called ‘ideal cut,’ and will sparkle like you wouldn’t believe,” says Tedesco.

There are four C’s to consider when assessing the quality of a diamond, he notes. The first is cut. And don’t confuse cut with shape. Shape refers to the general outward appearance of the diamond—i.e. round, princess, radiant, pear, oval, emerald, heart, etc. When a diamond jeweller (or diamond certificate bearer) says “cut,” it’s a reference to the proportion and finish—that is, table percentage, depth percentage, polish and symmetry—or the elements that affect the reflective qualities of the diamond.

“Cut is most important,” Tesdesco notes, “because it affects sparkle, and that can be seen from further away.”

The second C is clarity. Diamonds are a natural substance, and no two diamonds are exactly alike. Nature stamps each of its creations with tell-tale characteristics, which can be considered internal flaws. The visibility, number and size of these “inclusions” determine a diamond’s clarity. While most of these are inherent qualities of the rough diamond and are present from the earliest stages of the crystal’s growth below ground, a few are actually a result of the harsh stress that a diamond undergoes during the cutting process itself.

“I don’t even carry anything where you can see inclusions with the naked eye—no thanks,” says Tedesco. “People won’t even buy it. Years ago, consumers didn’t care—they wanted a lot of flash for little cash. Not anymore. They’re more fussy now.”

The third C is colour. When jewellers speak of a diamond’s colour, they’re usually referring to the presence or absence of colour in white diamonds. Colour is a result of the composition of the diamond, and it’s something that never changes over time. The colour varies from colourless (the highest quality) to many shades of yellow (more common). Colourless diamonds are the most desirable since they allow the most refraction of light (sparkle), while off-white diamonds absorb light, inhibiting their brilliance.

The final of the four Cs concerns carat weight, which is the best indication of a diamond’s (or any other gemstone’s) size. Jewellers often refer to it in terms of “points.” Each carat is divided into 100 points, so each point is 1/100th of a carat. For example, a 50-point stone equals 0.5 carats.) Each carat, meanwhile, equals 200 milligrams (0.2 grams).

When used with gold, on the other hand, the term karat represents a unit of purity: 24-karat gold is pure gold, but manufacturers typically mix gold with a metal like copper or silver to make jewellery since pure gold is too soft. Therefore, a pure gold ring is actually 99 to 99.9-percent gold. Each karat indicates 1/24th of the whole. So if a piece of jewellery is made of metal that is 18 parts gold and six parts copper, that is 18-karat gold.
The bottom line is that a diamond ring may well represent one of the most significant investments in your life. But considering the rock on top required more than a billion years to form, it’s actually not that bad a deal.