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Valentine’s Day is often said to be a ploy by greeting card companies looking to cash in on people drunk in love. Regardless if this is actually true or not, there’s no denying that February 14 is synonymous with the emotion – as well as the commercialism surrounding the day – which includes tried-and-true purchases like flowers, chocolates and jewelry.

According to Facebook internal data, Valentine’s Day is joined by Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve as the most popular dates on the calendar to get engaged.

If finding the right match is priority number one, and securing a “yes” to a proposal is a close second, nestled between the discovery phase and “death do us part” is finding the right engagement ring to seal the deal.

Purchasing an engagement ring can seem like a daunting task, especially for those who have never purchased jewelry before. Adding further confusion to the process are antiquated ideas about how much money should be spent.

If this year, next, or 10 years from now you intend on taking the plunge, consider these eight purchasing tips for buying an engagement ring.

How much to spend

Ritani

Conventional customs of yesteryear used to dictate that a person should spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. In an imagined scenario where the proposer made $100,000 USD a year, he/she should spend $25,000 USD on the engagement ring.

When online jewelry retailer Brilliant Earth recently conducted a survey to find out what men and women thought should be spent on an engagement ring, they found that most people – 75 percent of men and 83 percent of women – believed you should pay $5,000 USD or less on an engagement ring and just 9 percent of men and 5 percent of women thought spending $10,000 USD or more is appropriate.

In 2015, The Knot found that the average engagement ring spend was $5,978 USD.

The four C’s

Heavy

The “four C’s” of purchasing a diamond refers to cut, clarity, carat and color.

Cut

David's LTD

Cut refers to the angles and proportions of the stone and has the largest impact on the diamond’s brilliance. Thus, if a stone is cut either too shallow or too deep, the light entering and subsequently leaking out of the bottom and sides will make it appear dull and murky. According to The Knot, a “well-cut diamond will have two factors: mirror-like facets and a ‘white light’ reflected both internally and externally, also known as the brilliance, or what will make your engagement ring shine bright.”

Clarity

Kay Jewelers

Clarity is evaluated by viewing the gemstone under 10x magnification which unveils tiny signatures (not unlike fingerprints) which tell the story of how a diamond was unearthed and treated, and classified as “Mineral inclusions,” “Naturals” and “Feathers.”

The most recognized and commonly used system to determine a diamond’s clarity was created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). A flawless diamond shows absolutely no inclusions and is considered very rare. As you run down the scale – IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2 and I3 – reflect a descending order of quality with the latter-most described as containing obvious inclusions that are visible without any magnification.

Color

Maria & Elizabeth

Color is also a major factor in determining a stone’s value. In general, colorless diamonds are the most expensive (except in the case of very rare colors like blue, pink, red, yellow, green and brown). Using the same Gemological Institute of America (GIA) scale, colorless are classified as D, E & F; near colorless are G, H, I & J; faint yellow is K, L & M, N, O, P, Q and R are very light yellow; and S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z are light yellow.

Carats

Getty

Carats refer to the weight of the diamond, not the size. Due to the cut of the diamond, a stone can actually appear to be much bigger than a stone that is actually denser and thus has a larger carat. Additionally, since large stones are much more rare, a single 2-carat diamond will cost much more than two 1-carat diamonds.

Diamond shapes

Buchroeders

Diamonds are cut into 10 standard shapes – round, princess cut, oval, marquise, pear-shaped, cushion cut, emerald cut, asscher cut, radiant cut and heart-shaped.

Since round cut diamonds have become the most preferred shape for brides/spouses, they cost more. Thus, a person can save up to 40% by choosing a non-round diamond.

The “trade up” clause

Best Brilliance

While most people view an engagement ring as tangible and expensive proof of one’s love, many people opt for sensible “starter” rings with an eye for trading up as circumstances evolve in the relationship.

Not only does it allow you to purchase other things – car, condo, house, which services life’s other needs – but it has become quite customary for grand gestures on anniversaries to come in the form of new engagement rings.

Most jewelers allow for “trade in” where they give you money towards a future purchase (that’s at least double the value).

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