Interviews Rings

Your Wedding Jewelry Questions Answered


Answers to the top engagement ring and bridal jewelry questions from expert Michael O’Connor. Details on cut, clarity, carats and cost.

Simon G.

Over the last few weeks, you, our readers, submitted wedding jewelry questions to be answered by jewelry expert Michael O’Connor. We received excellent questions relating to engagement rings, bridal necklaces, wedding bands and more. We chose the top five questions and are back with the answers from Michael O’Connor. Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in!

Q: I understand that all: color, clarity and cut are important, but most of us are not able to get a perfect stone. What characteristic of the stone would you recommend to ‘stick to your guns’ with and which one would you recommend to be more relaxed about?

Posted by Jade on June 2, 2011

A: Thanks for this great question, Jade. It’s definitely one worth thinking about when buying a diamond. Like everything in nature, very few diamonds are truly “perfect” and buying one that is perfect is not really necessary. Of the 4-C’s it’s easiest to decide upon “Carat Weight”, however, you should realize that the higher the carat weight of a diamond, the more rare, and therefore the more expensive it will be. The other three C’s (Color, Cut and Clarity) need to work more in tandem with each other. For example, if a diamond has good color and cut but is cut poorly you might not get the fire and scintillation from the stone that you hope. Likewise, if a diamond is well cut, but has very poor color and clarity it may appear cloudy, milky or dark. In my opinion you want to think about them all together but if you have to prioritize them I would advise this order: Color, Clarity, Cut). I believe color to be the at the top of the priority because if you’re looking for a white or clear diamond, you don’t want it to appear dark – especially in an engagement ring. You can be a little more relaxed on Clarity (since most diamonds are graded with a 10X magnification) since it is often difficult to see inclusions. Also many diamond cuts can camouflage the odd inclusion, due to the sparkle. However, you definitely don’t want to see any inclusions with the naked eye, which is how most diamonds will be viewed. Cuts do not have to always be “perfect” to create a beautifully sparkling diamond. However, cuts that are “ideal” or close to ideal will maximize the fire and scintillation of a diamond by ensuring that most of the light is reflected and refracted back out of the top of the diamond. Bottom line is that you can be a little relaxed on each if the other two are held in higher priority.  Since each “C” adds to the value (and therefore the price) you’ll want to be extra careful about what you set your diamond into. Setting a diamond into a truly natural white metal like platinum will ensure that the setting will not taint the color of the gem by casting any of the metal’s own color into the diamond.

Tacori Ring


2. Do the majority of the mainstream jewelry stores in Canada and the U.S.A sell white gold made with nickel? Do you find custom jewellers tend to stay away from that? I know Europe has banned the use of white gold with nickel, because it causes allergic reactions, but why hasn’t North America done the same?


Posted by Elisa on June 5, 2011

A: Hi Elisa. I can’t speak to the laws of either country and therefore don’t know why it hasn’t been banned. However, I have heard that approximately 20% of the population does have some reaction to nickel content. Most jewelry stores in both Canada and the USA purchase their white gold settings from designers or manufacturers and few of them actually cast the settings themselves. Therefore, they may find it difficult to know whether a particular designer or manufacturer uses nickel in the white gold settings they supply. This can be very confusing, since white gold at the 18K level is approximately 75% pure with approximately 25% other “alloys” mixed with it and 14K is approximately 58.5% pure with approximately 41.5% other “alloys” mixed with it. Often alloys may contain a mixture of various metals that help whiten the naturally yellow gold. If you’re interested in having a white setting you may want to consider platinum, specifically if you are worried about allergic reactions. Platinum is not only naturally white, which means it will never fade or change color. It’s also 90-95% pure making it hypoallergenic.

3. I’m wondering how much to spend on an engagement ring. I’ve often heard the groom should spend about two months salary. Is this a good starting point?

Posted by Dan on June 3, 2011

A: The notion of a two months salary guideline is a commonly held belief in the cost of the engagement ring, Dan. Personally, I believe that this should not be a hard and fast rule to be applied. I believe that the man or the couple must determine what they are comfortable spending for an engagement ring within the following framework. An engagement ring is a couple’s unique symbol of having found the perfect soul mate. As such, the quality of the ring (diamond and setting) should reflect the rarity of finding something that special. Additionally, the engagement ring is a piece of jewelry that will be worn daily for life, being subjected to continual wear and tear. As such it needs to be made from materials that will last a lifetime and be able to stand up to the rigors of life – hence the idea of a diamond and platinum ring being the most appropriate ring. Diamonds are an extremely durable gemstone and platinum is a very dense metal and will not wear down as quickly as other metals, making it perfect to not only last a lifetime, but to hold diamonds and gemstones securely.


Kirk Kara Ring

Kirk Kara

4. If I want to buy a loose diamond and have it mounted, what are the most important questions to ask about the diamond?


Posted by Paul on June 8, 2011

A: If you’re buying a diamond Paul, you should do your research on the “4 C’s”. Those are the questions that you should be asking your jeweler about the stone itself. Your jeweler should be able to supply you with the carat weight of the diamond, the clarity, the color and the cut. Each of these elements will play into the cost of the gem. Each is based to some extent upon rarity. For example, it’s rarer to find a larger diamond crystal to cut a larger diamond. It’s rarer to find a crystal with a total absence of color and a total absence of inclusions (including stress marks from heat and pressure). It’s rarer to find a diamond that has been cut to “ideal” proportions. You should be well versed on each of these areas before you shop for a diamond. You should always shop at a reputable jeweler who you trust, and if you are still concerned you should ask your jeweler to provide you with a certificate from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or another non-partisan organization that details the exact properties of the stone you are interested in. Further to the diamond though, you should make sure that your jeweler carries and shows you high quality settings to put the diamond into. There’s no sense worrying about the diamond alone when it’s the setting that will be getting the wear. You’re going to want to set and protect your diamond in a mounting that will hold it securely and enhance its sparkle and brilliance without casting any color of it’s own into the diamond. Make sure you ask him to show you platinum mountings first. They may cost a little more but long term it worth the investment for a lifetime of wear.

5. Which diamond cuts give off a bigger or more brilliant appearance?

Posted by Emily on June 9, 2011

A: Emily, there are two elements here; cut and shape. Although a diamond’s cut will impact its shape, a diamond’s cut refers more to its proportions and angles and how effectively the diamond will be able to return light back through the top of the stone. Well cut diamonds of every shape will appear brighter and fiery while poorly cut diamonds will appear lifeless. If a diamond is well cut it may also appear larger than a diamond of the same carat weight and shape that is not as well cut. Further, different shapes of diamonds are based upon different facet proportions and angles that return light in different ways. For example, asscher, emerald, square and baguettes are based upon a “step cut” with fewer, larger facets that return whiter light flashes through the top of the stone. Some people may view this as a diamond having a more “brilliant” appearance. Round, princess, pear, marquise are based upon what is known as a “brilliant cut” with facets that return more sparkling scintillation through the top. Some people view this as a diamond being more “sparkly”. Whichever shape you choose, make sure you choose a diamond that is well cut and set that diamond into a naturally white metal such as platinum to enhance the diamond’s natural sparkle.

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