Saturday, October 1, 2011

Emerging Engagement Ring Trends Blend Tradition With Modern Flair

The diamond engagement rings - a timeless expression of love and commitment.

The classic styles available - solitaire and pave, for example - still are popular today, but there are emerging trends of which you, the potential buyer should be aware.

Note: One thing that never changes is what grooms tend to pay for engagement rings - quite a bit! Latest statistics show the average amount spent is $3,000, according to these sources:

" $3,044 (Bride's Millenium Report)
" $2,982 (Bride's Magazine)
" $2,909 (Modern Bride, as cited in Weddings for Dummies)
" $3,576 (Conde Nast Bridal Group)
" $3,165 (Modern Bride Magazine)
" $2,807 (National Bride Service)

Hot ring trends - classic, antique and modern lead the way

For example, classic solitaires are very popular. Many women are choosing a classic-cut diamond solitaire. These are assured of never going out of style and make good heirloom pieces.

However, a traditional solitaire setting is upswept and raises the diamond high. Some people today select settings where the center stone sits low, creating a look that is elegant and ergonomic. Another popular setting is one that is intricately raised, as well as twisted band.

And while the round cut continues to be popular, it is becoming more common to see the oval cut, as well as the emerald.

The pave setting, where the band is studded with diamonds seamlessly, is elegant and is becoming more popular. The idea is that smaller stones are set so close together that no metal can be seen between them. This maximizes the wattage of the ring without pushing the cost too high.

Antique, vintage rings that your grandmother might have worn also are trendy, which combines an historical, period look with current fashion. Look for gold filigree settings, floral accents and gemstone baguettes. The cuts typically are cushion, round, pillow and Asscher , and their larger facets radiate more fire under less light.

Also becoming more popular are modern styles. This type features clean, streamlined designs for a cosmopolitan, chic look. The most contemporary styles feature a bezel-set and designs where the diamond seems to "float," which is a type of tension setting.

Engagement rings with colored stones also are an emerging trend, with colored diamonds being quite the rage. Many celebrities, such as Jennifer Lopez, have chosen colored diamond engagement rings and this has cemented their popularity.

For something different, consider new diamond cuts on the market. The Zales diamond cut has more facets than traditional cuts and can increase the stone's fire. Also consider the princess cut - a modified square.

Platinum - hands down the choice today

Regarding the ring itself, platinum is definitely the hot trend. Platinum is popular because its rich luster sets off the brilliance of a diamond like no other metal. This metal is naturally white and will always keep its shine, unlike yellow gold, which may tarnish. Platinum is the strongest precious metal, and is twice as heavy as most gold alloy rings.
Some women want their platinum ring carved with designs or inlaid with gemstones.

Diamond or Cubic Zirconia: Knowing the difference can save you money!

Diamond or Cubic Zirconia: Knowing the difference can save you money!

So what is the difference between diamond and cubic zirconia? Why is cubic zirconia (CZ) quickly becoming more popular as a desirable substitute for diamond? Gemologists can agree that CZ comes closer than any other gem material to matching the characteristics of a diamond.

Most people, even trained gemologists, cannot tell the difference between diamond and CZ, with the naked eye. Moreover, to the untrained eye, CZ looks identical to a good quality diamond. However, under closer inspection, CZ appears to have slightly less brilliance (or sparkle) than a diamond, and more fire, or flashes of color.

CZs were originally developed by the Russians, for their space program. They were developed as an alternative to diamonds that were used in the optics of their lasers. CZs have a refractive index, dispersion and hardness so close to a diamond it's uncanny.

So what are some key features that can guide you in telling the difference between diamond and CZ? Do keep in mind, though, in order to accurately distinguish the two gems, gemological equipment such as microscope, or loupe, must be used for testing and verification.

To start, let’s take a look at the hardness factor: Did you know CZ ranges between 8.5 to 9.0 on the Mohs’ hardness scale whereas diamond, one of the hardest materials known to man, is rated 10, lying at the top of the hardness scale?

Furthermore, glass (or sand) is rated approximately 5 to 6 on the hardness scale, therefore, dust and dirt will not scratch CZ. Indeed, CZ can scratch glass just like regular diamonds, making it more resistant to chipping.

One great difference between diamond and CZ is weight. CZs are heavyweights in comparison to diamonds; a CZ will weigh approximately 1.75 times more than a diamond of equivalent size. So basically, a piece of CZ the same size as a one-carat diamond weighs about 1.75 carats. Well…isn’t that interesting?

Contemporary production of CZ is virtually flawless, whereas diamond usually contains impurities and inclusions, or have some sort of defect, be it a feather, included crystal, or perhaps a remnant of an original crystal face (e.g. trigons).

In regards to color—more precisely, the lack of color—only the rarest of diamonds are truly colorless, as most have a tinge of yellow or brown to some extent. By comparison, CZ in most cases can be made entirely colorless, equivalent to a perfect "D" on diamond's color grading scale.

Also, under close inspection with a loupe, the facet shapes of some CZs appear different from diamonds. Both gems disperse light a little differently. Dispersion is just a scientific term for the breaking up of light into its spectral colors. With a dispersive power greater than diamond (0.060 vs. 0.044), the more prismatic fire of CZ can be seen by even an untrained eye.

Dispersion occurs based on the gem’s refractive index. In this case, refractive index simply indicates how much a beam of light will bend, based on the direction in which it is traveling when it passes between two materials of different optical densities (such as between diamond and air; or between CZ and air). Being that CZ has a refractive index of 2.176, compared to a diamond's 2.417, diamonds are therefore said to be brighter than CZ.

Another difference between the two gems is that CZs are thermal insulators—meaning, they reduce the rate of heat transfer—whilst diamonds are among the most efficient thermal conductors—meaning, they allow heat to easily pass through them. Without testing the gems’ heat conductivity, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

Remember, it is a 50/50 guess to identify a gem by visual inspection; it is not a scientific method of authentication. That is why even certified and degreed gemologists use gemological equipment for testing and verification.

You will also be glad to know that CZs are not only durable and inexpensive, but just like diamonds, they come in any color of the rainbow, making them even more desirable.

There have been many instances to see if jewelers can tell the difference between diamond and cubic zirconia, just by examining the gems with the naked eye. Over and over again, it was inconclusive; jewelers could not tell the difference just by looking at the gems. So you can now understand why the difference between diamond and cubic zirconia rests in the price, and in the mind…