Sat11292014

Wedding To Remember

Rings that last a lifetime

Los Altos jewelers offer advice on engagement and wedding rings

Engagement and wedding rings may be among the few pieces of precious jewelry most people purchase during a lifetime. Certainly, they are jewelry that people generally wear every day and that couples should consider carefully before buying.

Seven of Los Altos' eight jewelers shared their advice and experiences to assist prospective brides and grooms in making knowledgeable decisions.

"We believe in putting money in something of quality rather than size," said Ellen Yamane, owner of Yamane Jewelers, of choosing diamonds and other gemstones for engagement rings. "That way, you'll always be proud of your purchase."

Diamonds remain the most popular gem for engagement rings, with sapphires and rubies the next most popular choices. Jim Marcel, owner of Marcel's Jewelers, said emeralds also sold well at his store.

Diamonds are the hardest and thus the most durable of gems, followed by sapphires and rubies. Other gems, including emeralds, are softer and can scratch or fracture more easily.

The jewelers said the couple should consider "the four C's" that factor into the value of any gemstone - how it is cut, its color, its clarity and its carat weight.

"Ideally cut" diamonds and other gems are those fashioned by a diamond cutter out of the rough stone to achieve the maximum reflectivity, also called "brilliance," and symmetry.

A gemstone's shape also affects its sparkle. Los Altos jewelers agreed the traditional "round brilliant" has remained the most popular choice among their customers. It is also the cut with the mos reflectivity, according to Lindsay Blackman, a sales associate at Earthworks.

The second most popular shape is the "princess cut," which is "slightly squared off," Blackman said. Other shapes include pear, marquis and emerald cuts, and a cut called the cushion, which is square with rounded corners.

The jewelers explained the value of a diamond is also based on its color and clarity, both of which are natural occurrences. Diamond color ranges from nearly colorless to light yellow or brown, with the colorless variety as the rarest and most expensive.

Natural inclusions, such as clouding, cavities and the presence of crystals, affect diamond clarity.

Don't choose a diamond based solely on the idea of wanting, for example, a half- or one-carat stone, because a smaller diamond of higher quality may be the better choice. "All the aspects change the pricing of a stone," said Pamela Smith, manager of Gleim's Jewelers.

The Gemological Society of America provides the standard color and clarity scales by which a gemstone is rated, said Tony Balistreri, senior broker at the Diamond Brokers. You may also request a jeweler to provide a diamond-quality certificate.

White gold and platinum are the most popular metals for women's and women's engagement and wedding rings, but Jim Schilder, manager of Dean's Designs, said yellow gold also sells well at his store. Platinum is the most durable of the three.

Both women and men usually, though not always, select simple styles for their rings.

Surprisingly, even nowadays, the men still prefer to surprise their fiancees with an engagement ring, most jewelers agreed. The jewelers usually advise the man to place the diamond in a simple setting. His fiancee can return to the store to choose the setting she prefers.

"Above all, it's the romance, the surprise, his willingness to go around and spend the time choosing something for her," Balistreri said.

However, Yamane and Gianluca Pecora, owner of Preziosi, said most of their customers shopped as a couple. A man was more likely to shop for engagement rings on his own around Christmas and Valentine's Day.

The jewelers recommended the best way to care for engagement and wedding rings is to return about every six to eight months to have them cleaned and checked to ensure the gemstones are firm in their settings. Unless the rings need some kind of repair, jewelers in all the Los Altos stores generally provide the service at no cost.

"We give this to our customers as a service, and for us, good customer service is worth a lot," Marcel said.

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