Choosing a Diamond Engagement Ring

Our Definitive Guide to Choosing a Diamond Engagement Ring

Hunting for the Eternal Symbol of Your Love: The Diamond Engagement Ring Basics

Make sure your engagement ring fits your taste, budget, and lifestyle. An engagement ring is one of the key elements of a couple’s nuptial process and choosing the right one takes a lot of time and consideration, and now that you’re ready to pop the question, you need to start thinking about what style of engagement ring you want to present and how much you can reasonably afford.

Finances and the Two-Month Salary Rule

Engagement rings have a way of alluring shoppers. There seems to be an almost hypnotizing effect as prospective grooms glance from one ring to the next and get caught in some unseen gravitational pull toward the biggest, brightest, and most expensive display. This is why it is important to think about your budget before stepping foot into a jewelry store or scanning for diamond sets online.

The standard rule is to budget for two month’s salary on this ring of a lifetime. There is some debate on whether this guideline still has any credence. Origins of this measure of expense are sketchy, but seem to have been pushed forth by the jewelry industry.

Your current finances may call for you to reassess this principle and realistically determine what your budget can handle. Keep in mind that there will be other wedding expenses you will be responsible for like wedding bands, your tuxedo, and the rehearsal dinner, should all go according to plan.

Another bewitching aspect of engagement ring shopping is payment plans. Many businesses carry programs to assist buyers in purchasing a ring out of their price range. Just be sure to do the calculations before signing on to any payment program because interest rates can cost you double or more the ring’s listed price.

Whether you choose to follow the two-month salary rule or not, you should decide on some sort of price point before you start your browsing. Sticking close to a bottom line may help prevent you from wandering down a road better left untraveled.

Understanding a Diamond’s Value and Price

A novice diamond shopper may be hard-pressed to understand why the half-carat diamond costs more than the one-carat ring sitting right next to it. It all has to do with the diamond’s quality, which can be broken down into what jewelers refer to as the four “C”s.

 “carat”, “cut”,  “color” and  “clarity” or how to assess a diamond

Diamond carat (weight)

All diamonds are measured in carat weight. One carat is equal to one-fifth of a gram, and carats are divided into hundredths, called points.

Diamond engagement rings are sold in all sizes, but the vast majority of rings sold in the U.S. are somewhere near the one carat range. Depending on the cut of a diamond, the actual surface size of a one carat stone can vary quite a bit, so you’ll want to take the shape of the stone into consideration as well when you decide on the carat size you’re looking for.

Diamonds are priced by the carat, but usually cost more per carat the larger they get. Per-carat prices usually jump at the “magic numbers,” which are every 25 points.

All other qualities being equal, a 0.99ct diamond may cost $7,500 per carat, or $7,425, while a 1.00ct diamond may be $8,000 per carat, for an $8,000 price tag.

That’s a big price difference for two gemstones that are almost completely identical. In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason to choose the more expensive diamond in this case. When shopping for a diamond, give the jeweler a range to work with. Dipping below those magic numbers by a few points can save you a lot of money.

My last bit of advice on carat weight for now is strictly personal. If you can’t make your girlfriend happy without spending an uncomfortable amount of money, please think hard about why you’re marrying her, and why she’s marrying you. Diamond rings are beautiful symbols of a relationship, but the important thing here is the relationship, not the symbol.

Diamond cut (shape)

Cut is technically just one of the four C’s, but really there are two different ways to talk about cut, and both are important when you are considering a diamond purchase. There’s cut quality, which is graded by a gemologist, and there’s the more obvious meaning of cut, which is the shape of the stone.

We’ll get to the discussion on cut quality soon, but for now let’s talk about shape. Round brilliant, pictured in the top left, has long been the most popular shape for engagement rings, but diamonds are actually available in almost any shape you can dream of.

There is not a particular cut that’s necessarily any better than the others; it is simply a matter of taste. There are some things to consider when choosing between different shapes, though.

Elongated shapes like the pear, marquis, and oval diamonds may demonstrate what’s known as a bow tie. You can see a bow tie effect in the pear cut diamond in this picture — basically, because the diamond does not have uniform depth, the play of light may not be as strong in the deeper part of the stone, creating a shadow across the middle.

Diamonds that have a sharp point in their shape like the pear, heart, marquis, and princess cuts, are more susceptible to chipping, so if you select one of these shapes, be sure to select a setting that protects its points.

Lastly, step cut diamonds like the emerald and asscher are cut in such a way that the inside of the diamond is much more visible to the naked eye. Because of these more open cuts, inclusions can be a lot more visible, and you may have to go for a higher clarity stone than if you selected one of the other cuts.

All of these factors should be considerations when you select a diamond shape, but it really does boil down to personal preference. As far as price is concerned, you may see slight variations, but the shape of the diamond is not a big factor.

Diamond cut (quality)

Whereas shape is largely just a matter of personal preference, cut quality as graded by a gemologist will have a major effect on two important factors: the brilliance and the price of your diamond.

When grading cut, a gemologist will start by measuring the proportions of a diamond. The best relative proportions will vary a great deal depending on the shape of a diamond, so rather than simply stating the measurements, gemologists rate the cut on a scale.

There is no worldwide standard for this scale, but the Gemological Institute of America, the leading authority in diamond grading, uses a five-step scale from Poor to Excellent.

Other labs tend to use similar grading terminology, and these assessments are generally easy for the average diamond consumer to understand.

The quality of the cut will determine the brilliance of your diamond. A well cut gem allows for the maximum play of light within the stone, with the maximum light reflecting out the top of the stone and back to your eye, creating that brilliant sparkle.

A diamond with poor proportions will allow light to slip out through the bottom, or not bounce around before reflecting back, decreasing the brilliance of the stone and sometimes creating shadowy effects.

A poor cut in elongated shapes like the marquis, oval, and pear may emphasize the bow tie effect in the wide part of these stones, which is essentially a shadow or lack of brilliance at the stone’s deepest section.

A lot of consumers go for particularly shallow cut diamonds, because their surface area is quite large compared to the carat weight.

A diamond like this may create the illusion of a much bigger rock than you’ve actually got, but you’ll be sacrificing a lot in the way of sparkle.

On the flip side, a diamond that is cut too deep will have a small surface area with a lot of carat weight (which translates to much higher cost) and little sparkle — why would you want that?

So be careful to look for the gemologist’s opinion of the cut, and you’ll probably want to go for something rated “good” or better.

Diamond color

Did you know that diamonds come in every color in the spectrum? I’ll talk more about fancy colored diamonds in a future post, but for now I want to discuss how gemologists grade color in white or colorless diamonds, which have always been the most popular gemstone for engagement rings.

You’ve probably never really thought about how diamonds can vary in shade, and you probably wouldn’t even notice such subtle differences unless you were looking at two stones side by side, but color can have a tremendous effect on the look of your ring, not to mention its price tag.

Diamonds are graded for color on an alphabetical scale, starting with D and going down the alphabet to Z, getting more yellow-brown as you go down the scale.

Colors D, E, and F are considered truly colorless, without any hint whatsoever of yellow or brown. These diamonds will also tend to have the best sparkle, though this is also heavily influenced by cut.

G, H, and I are considered near colorless, and some gemologists will lump J in the near colorless group.

A near colorless diamond has a touch of yellow, but will appear colorless face-up (gemologists hold diamonds upside down to grade color). The sparkle may not be quite as brilliant as a D-colored diamond, but unless you’re holding the two stones next to each other, the difference is not noticeable.

When you compare prices, you will find that you’ll pay about a 15% premium for a D, E, or F color, and that the per-carat price drops off significantly when you get to J or lower. The best bang for your buck will be on G, H, and I diamonds, which will appear colorless in a setting.

If you’re getting a ring with multiple diamonds, be sure that the colors are close matches on all the stones. The difference between a G and an I may not be noticeable, but if you’ve got two H’s and an E, or a row of diamonds that are all different colors, the ring may look awkward or dirty.

Diamond clarity

I’ve covered carat weight, cut (shape), cut (quality), and color now, so this brings us to the last of the four C’s: clarity.

A diamond’s clarity refers to any surface imperfections, known as blemishes, and any internal characteristics, called inclusions. Clarity is graded under 10X magnification.

An explanation of the clarity scale follows:

  • Flawless (F): Flawless diamonds have no visible clarity characteristics whatsoever under 10X magnification.
  • Internally Flawless (IF): IF diamonds may have very minor surface scratches, but absolutely no inclusions or other kinds of internal characteristics visible under 10X magnification.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2): VVS diamonds have clarity characteristics that are very difficult for a gemologist to see under 10X magnification. Inclusions in a VVS diamond are small in size and very limited. A grade of VVS1 is higher in clarity than VVS2.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2): Like a VVS diamond, inclusions in a VS stone will be very small, though there are more of them in a VS than in a VVS stone.
  • Slightly Included (SI1, SI2): Stones graded as SI may have large and/or plentiful inclusions, but none that are visible to the naked eye. No matter how numerous the inclusions, they are visible only under magnification — and not to the naked eye — if the stone has an SI rating.
  • Included (I1, I2, I3): Any diamond that has inclusions visible to the naked eye will have a grade of I. I1 diamonds may not have obviously visible inclusions, but I2 stones will have clearly visible, possibly black inclusions. An I3 stone will be more inclusion than sparkle. These stones come cheap because their beauty is somewhat compromised by all the clarity characteristics, but be careful with these. All the inclusions make the stone especially susceptible to cracking, breaking, or shattering. Diamonds are hard, but they are not unbreakable.

The best is a stone at the SI level, because no one, not even a trained gemologist, can tell the difference between a slightly included diamond and a flawless one without magnification, and when you’re showing off that ring, how many of your friends are going to ask you to place your hand under a microscope?

As you go up the clarity scale, you will pay more per carat. If you can get a good deal on a higher clarity stone, go for it, but why pay more for something that would look exactly the same as a cheaper stone?

When you’re looking to pinch pennies, clarity is a good place to compromise. If you’re willing to trade a VS for an SI, you can put that extra cost instead toward color or carat weight — characteristics that are actually visible to you.

If you want to be a diamond snob, fine, but if you want a flawless diamond, you’re going to pay way more than three months’ salary for that ring (a figure, which, in my personal opinion, is a little absurd to begin with).

Try not to think of inclusions as a bad thing. They make up your diamond’s unique fingerprint. Furthermore, as synthetic diamond technologies improve, inclusions can serve as proof that your diamond is natural rather than man-made.

Clarity-enhanced diamonds

I’ve covered the basics of the four C’s, so now it’s time to go into a little more depth, starting with some new technologies that can affect diamond clarity. As a consumer, it’s very important that you know what it means to have a clarity-enhanced diamond, because this affects not only the look of your stone, but its value, care, and durability.

Simply defined, a clarity-enhanced (or CE) diamond is any diamond that has been treated to reduce the appearance of inclusions. There two main ways this is done.

  • Fracture Filled: Fracture filled diamonds may have originally had some noticeable cracks or fissures on the surface of the stone, giving the diamond an irregular look. Fracture filling involves injecting a clear material, usually glass, into these cracks to give the diamond a smoother look.
  • Laser Drilled: Laser drilling is used on diamonds with internal inclusions. A laser cuts a small hole into the diamond toward the inclusion, then chemicals are used to dissolve the inclusion and flush it out of the stone through the hole, leaving an almost imperceptible hole behind where the laser went in. Often these are also filled with glass, as in fracture filling.

You might think that clarity enhancement is good for a stone. After all, it makes it more attractive, but you have to look out for the downside. For one thing, filling a fracture in a diamond with non-diamond material artificially increases the carat weight.

When you pay by the carat, you want to be paying for diamond, not glass.

Most vendors who sell CE diamonds will disclose the treatment, and the diamonds generally sell at a significant discount, but not every vendor is honest.

Make sure a trusted gemologist examines any diamond before you buy it. Sometimes clarity enhancements are difficult to detect, but a trained gemologist should be able to tell if your stone has been treated. The diamond in the picture has a thin line from a laser’s drill, and the light play is slightly irregular around the filling.

Clarity enhancements may compromise the durability of your stone. The diamond will be weaker along the line of the laser’s drill hole, and the filling material will not be as strong as the natural diamond. Furthermore, the material used to fill fractures may react poorly to heat from a jeweler’s tools.

If you take your diamond ring in to be sized or have prongs re-tipped, and the jeweler doesn’t remove the diamond from its metal setting, the heat from his torch may cause the filling to melt, change colors, or have another visibly unappealing reaction.

If you do select a CE diamond, be sure to tell any jeweler who works on the setting. The jeweler will have to remove the stone any time your ring is worked on with a torch (almost all repairs require this), which will add to the cost of any maintenance work on your stone.

The one advantage to a CE stone is the price. You can get a much larger diamond for your money when you buy a CE stone, but most reputable gemology labs won’t certify these stones, and a lot of jewelers can’t or won’t work on them, or will charge you quite a bit more for any work done on your ring.

If you’re shopping for diamonds and a deal seems too good to be true, check to see if the stone is clarity-enhanced. Lots of online vendors, especially on eBay, I’ve noticed, put this information in the very fine print, if anywhere, sometimes doing nothing more than to note “CE” by the stone, and most consumers don’t even know what that means. But now you do.

Diamond Fluorescence

You’ve done your diamond homework and you’ve been shopping. You know the four C’s and you know exactly what she wants: a 1.00ct VS2 D Round Brilliant Ideal Cut, Certified by the GIA. You’ve seen three diamonds with the exact same specs at various jewelers. They all look the same to you. So how do you decide? You buy the cheapest one, right?

Not so fast…

Are you sure you’ve considered ALL the characteristics of each diamond? Are they really all the same? The answer is probably not, and a lot of jewelers won’t even be able to tell you the difference. But check each certificate carefully.

A good certificate will mention a diamond’s fluorescence. It will say something like “Fluorescence: None” or “Very Light” or any description up to “Very Strong.” This is a measurement of a diamond’s reaction to concentrated UV light.

The test is done in a lab and most people will own their diamonds for decades without ever knowing it even has such a characteristic, unless they have one of those diamonds with particularly strong fluorescence.

Most diamonds, as well as plenty of other gemstones, will have some fluorescence. In most cases, the fluorescence is light, and the diamond may put off a dim glow, usually blue, under concentrated UV light.

To see a stone’s fluorescence, you generally need this concentrated UV light in a lab setting, but strongly fluorescing diamonds could react visibly to regular sunlight.

They’re never put to this test on the shelves of a jewelry store, but once the noon sun hits your diamond, you may wonder why it looks so cloudy all of a sudden, even a little blue. It’s because the trace elements in that particular stone cause it to have a strong reaction to UV light, including sunlight.

So before you just put down the cash for the cheapest diamond, make sure you also look at its fluorescence rating. Anything with greater than “Medium” fluorescence may occasionally demonstrate reactions that are visible to the naked eye. Anything from “Medium” on down, you’ll never know the difference, unless you light your home exclusively with UV lamps.

Colored diamonds for your engagement ring

It’s funny to me that even though the Hope Diamond, which is blue, is one of the most famous gemstones in the world, most people don’t realize that diamonds come in colors other than white. In fact, some diamond colors, like yellow and champagne, are quite common, just not in your typical engagement ring.

As with any gemstone, trace elements within a diamond or other elements present during the stone’s formation will affect its color.

The vast majority of colored diamonds really only exhibit a hint of color at best. The most valuable colored diamonds are the ones with the naturally vibrant colors.

Yellows and browns are the most common and least expensive of the colored diamonds, while shades of red are the most rare and most expensive.

Colored diamonds are graded the same way as colorless diamonds, except for one of the four C’s: color. Whereas white diamonds are valued for their lack of color, these stones are more valuable as the color gets more intense.

The color grading of a fancy diamond actually has three categories: hue (the characteristic color), tone (the color’s relative lightness or darkness), and saturation (the strength or weakness of the color). The Gemological Institute of America’s grading system is the worldwide standard.

When shopping for a colored diamond, bring some knowledge to the table to avoid getting ripped off. A naturally vivid colored diamond can be extremely valuable, but these colors can also be manipulated in a lab, for an equally beautiful diamond, but slightly less valuable because the colors are not natural to the stone.

Diamond color can be irreversibly changed through a process called irradiation. There is no completely accurate way to predict what color change will occur with irradiation, and once it is done it cannot be reversed.

Most irradiated diamonds started off as some undesirable shade of brown, and depending on the trace elements within the stone, they can change to any color in the spectrum. An honest jeweler will give you an honest answer about whether or not a stone has been color treated.

Gemological labs can test stones to determine if their color is natural or treated, and if your colored diamond is certified, it will have this information. A laboratory cannot always tell if the color is natural, in which case they will disclose that as well.

Only pay the top premium prices for stones certified as naturally colored. In most cases, these stones will be quite a bit more expensive than an equal quality colorless stone, because the truly vivid colors are very rare, even with irradiation treatment.

I would strongly advise against purchasing a colored diamond online. Color is difficult to catch accurately in a photograph, and photographs are also too easily manipulated. Most of the major scams involve false representation of colored diamonds by online vendors.

If you’re considering buying one of these gorgeous stones, view it in person and make sure you get a certificate from a reputable gemology lab like the GIA before you make the purchase.

Settings for your rock

If you go to a major chain store to buy your engagement ring, you’ll get to look at a selection of a few dozen rings in a case and choose from what the shop has in stock. It’s okay to shop this way, but to be sure you get exactly what you want, I find it’s best to buy the ring by its individual parts. You choose all the metals, the gemstones, and the settings.

The style of setting is mostly a matter of taste, so I don’t really have any recommendations one way or the other in that regard, but I do suggest that no matter what style of ring you choose, you select a secure head for the stones in your ring. The head is the piece that holds the stone in place, and there are dozens of designs to choose from, some far more secure than others.

You may like the look of a certain setting, but if it’s not secure, you risk losing your diamond, or whatever gemstone(s) you may have in your ring.

The first thing to consider is the metal for the head. The vast majority of diamond settings are either platinum or white gold. Even if the ring is yellow gold, the head is generally white, because a yellow setting would reflect inside the diamond and detract from its color.

A platinum setting will last longer than white gold, because it won’t wear down as quickly. You shouldn’t need to have the prongs retipped on a platinum setting for decades, whereas white gold prongs need to be retipped every few years.

Platinum is more expensive, but maintenance on a white gold setting will run the cost much higher over time. One advantage white gold has over platinum is that it will not bend as easily, though most jewelers will tell you that platinum is still the best choice.

Once you’ve selected the metal, you need to consider the shape of the setting. If you select a pronged setting, the more prongs the better. I don’t recommend a four-pronged setting, because if one of those prongs happens to break, your diamond is not secure anymore. On a six-pronged setting, the diamond is still mostly surrounded after you lose one or even two prongs.

It is important to have your setting evaluated for wear and tear every few months to be sure that you are not at risk to lose your stone.

If your diamond has points, you should choose v-shaped prongs rather than just a metal tip at the point(s) of your diamond. The chevron tip will hold your stone more securely and guard against chipping.

If you don’t like prongs, bezel and partial bezel settings are even more secure. A bezel surrounds the stone, and can come in varying degrees of thickness. This type of setting doesn’t let as much light into the stone, so it may cut down some on the sparkle, but some women prefer this design.

Non-diamond engagement rings

Diamonds are by far the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, or any type of jewelry, for that matter, but there is no law that says you have to have a diamond ring. Not every girl likes or wants a diamond engagement ring, and the alternatives are endless.

Ilona wanted an opal. I love opals, too, and I really love opal jewelry, but I’d warn against it for an engagement ring. Opals are very soft, and can crack or shatter easily. They are not really suitable for everyday wear. That doesn’t mean you can’t have opal jewelry, an engagement ring doesn’t have to be the only jewelry your husband ever gives you (hint, hint).

When they say “Diamonds are forever,” it’s not just because they’re a symbol of everlasting love, it’s because they are the hardest substance found in nature.

A mineral’s hardness is graded on the Mohs Scale, and a diamond is a 10 (out of 10) on this scale. There are some common misconceptions about gemstone hardness, which I will try to explain.

Hardness represents how easily a stone can be scratched. Just because it is a 10, that does not mean it cannot break. Furthermore, a stone with a hardness of 9 is not just a step below a 10. A diamond (10) is comparatively much harder than corundum (9), than corundum is to topaz (8).

See the graph below for an illustration of this.



When choosing a stone for an engagement ring that will be worn everyday, I would not go lower than an 8 on the Mohs Scale. Sapphires and Rubies are both types of corundum, meaning they have a hardness of 9, and are pretty durable stones.

You can go lower on the scale if you have your heart set on a certain type of stone, just be aware of its relative hardness and take precautions in your care for the stone.

You also need to accept the fact that sometimes we are rough on our hands, and you may scratch or crack your stone at some point. This is true even with a diamond ring, but the harder your stone, the less you have to worry about its durability.

Here is a list of more popular gemstones and their relative hardness:

  • Beryl (Emerald, Aquamarine): 5
  • Topaz: 8
  • Quartz (Amethyst, Citrine, Rose Quartz): 7
  • Garnet:5-7.5
  • Alexandrite: 5
  • Opal: 5-6.5
  • Tanzanite: 5-7
  • Tourmaline: 7-7.5
  • Moissanite (Created Diamond): 25
  • Pearl: 5-4.5

If the stone you want for your engagement ring is too soft for everyday wear, maybe you just don’t wear your engagement ring all the time. Or maybe you get something else for your engagement ring, but wear your gorgeous pearls as part of your wedding day ensemble. It’s up to you, go with your own style.

Alternative Ring Choices: Blood diamonds and heirlooms

In recent years, there have been some ethical objections from consumers regarding the treatment of workers at diamond mines and the environmental harm done by diamond mining.

If this is a concern for you and your significant other, you can look into conflict-free diamonds, which are ethically mined. Some companies even donate a percentage of proceeds from sales to help rebuild African communities harmed by the diamond trade.

If a couple is thinking about using an heirloom engagement ring, but it’s not exactly to their tastes, the stone can be reset into a more modern setting. Just be sure that everyone involved is okay with having the ring modified. Heirlooms can hold a great deal of sentimental value, and when changed, can lead to hurt feelings.

What are conflict or blood diamonds?

Engagement rings and wedding bands symbolize the starting point of a lifelong union and are a visible testament to a couple’s commitment. As more couples come to learn about the environmental and human damage caused by destructive mining practices and the gem trade, they are choosing to begin their journey together with a more sustainable choice: conflict-free diamonds.

Three out of four brides receive diamond engagement rings, yet few realize that every diamond carries a social and environmental cost. Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are those mined in unstable regions of Africa and used to finance civil war and widespread brutality. Dangerous, unjust labor practices employed by large-scale mining operations often go unregulated. Mines have historically been breeding grounds for harsh conditions where workers are beaten and tortured, and child labor is common.

This makes it hard, if not impossible, for smaller and less destructive mines to compete and stay in business. In addition, diamond mines are notorious for environmental damage such as soil erosion, flooding and water pollution.

How can I avoid conflict diamonds?

In 2000, the global diamond industry began to crack down after a decade of extreme brutality in Sierra Leone and announced a zero tolerance policy on conflict diamonds. The world community, with the help of the UN, various NGOs and the diamond industry decided to create a system to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain.

The agreement that was reached is referred to as the Kimberly Process. In essence, it is a system of mine-to-market documentation for each stone to insure that from the point of extraction to the point of sale it follows legal, traceable channels. It aims to keep conflict out of the supply chain by closing off points of entry.

Since the adoption of the Kimberly Process in 2003, the number of conflict diamonds has been reduced from approximately 4 percent to less than 1 percent. Today, most of the global production of rough diamonds occurs in nations certified by the Kimberly Process.

However, it can be extremely difficult to know the exact origins of a diamond. While the Kimberly Process has eliminated many of the human rights abuses associated with the diamond industry, some Conflict diamonds still enter the market through a loophole that allows rough conflict stones to be certified from the conflict-free country that cuts and polishes them.

In addition, the Kimberly process does not take into consideration the environmental impact of mining. Canadian diamonds, for example, have become the conflict-free choice for many, but it’s important to remember that every newly mined diamond carries a cost.

It seems incongruous to choose a ring with these origins to serve as the symbol for a lifetime of love. So what’s a couple to do? Rest assured, there are plenty of beautiful, eco-friendly, socially responsible ring options.

Conflict-Free Diamond Options

1. Certifications.

When Ashlee Simpson’s engagement to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz was announced, Wentz made a point of saying that her ring did not contain conflict diamonds. How could he be sure? There are different certifications that document diamonds from mine to jeweler to help consumers know what they are buying.

Any reputable jeweler should be able to tell you where their diamonds come from, and if they are conflict-free, fair trade or Kimberly certified. Doing some research on different types of certifications will help you know what to look for when you shop.

2. Heirloom Diamonds.

Why not use a ring or stone already in the family? This environmentally friendly choice also adds a personal touch to your ring. If your family ring doesn’t fit, it can easily be resized. Longtime animal-rights and environmental advocate Alicia Silverstone was given an engagement ring that belonged to her husband’s grandmother.

If you have a piece of heirloom jewelry but don’t like the look, you can have the stones reset to match your style, or have the metal melted down and fashioned into your dream ring.

If you cannot find a local jeweler who can do this, there are many companies (listed below) who will take your recycled metals and stones and turn them into something new.

3. Antique Rings.

Diamonds that were mined before 1880 predate large-scale mining operations. Purchasing an antique ring is a glamorous way to recycle, and it ensures your ring did not contribute to mining pollution.

4. Synthetic and Cultured Diamonds.

Synthetic diamonds, such as cubic zirconium, look like real diamonds but have different compositions. They can be seen on the fingers of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, who refuse to wear real diamonds. Even though synthetic diamonds have celebrity appeal, that doesn’t mean they cost big bucks; in fact, synthetic diamonds will often save you money.

Besides synthetics, man-made — or cultured — diamonds, are also available. These are identical to natural diamonds but are created in a lab.

5. Canadian Diamonds.

Certified Canadian diamonds are mined, cut, and polished in Canada under strict environmental and working regulations. Many American jewelers and online retailers now offer certified Canadian diamonds.

6. Diamond Alternatives

1. Natural Options.

Consider having a ring made with a unique focal point such as opal, pearl, river stone, or sea glass.

2. Wood.

There are many companies today that carry handcrafted wooden rings, which can be inlaid with stones, or combined with a metal. Often these retailers use environmentally sound practices, such as using downed trees and scrap wood, or planting a tree for each ring sold. Your purchase not only ensures an eco-friendly ring, but also helps give back.

3. Gemstones.

Although the production of some gemstones, such as emeralds and rubies, can cause the same harmful impacts as diamond mining, there are a number of producers (listed below) that pride themselves on “ethically sourced” gems. This means they follow strict labor, trade, and environmental protocols.

4. Tattoo Rings.

This is a green alternative to traditional engagement and wedding rings that truly is forever.

Reputable Conflict-free, Recycled, and Fair Trade Jewelers:

Green Karat

Brilliant Earth

Ruff & Cut

Reflective Images

Touch Wood Rings

Simply Wood Rings