Finding the perfect life partner is tough enough; but finding the perfect diamond engagement ring - set with the perfect diamond, is even tougher. To eliminate the pain of it all, here are step-by-step instructions to ease the process.

Educate Yourself
Start the diamond education process by learning about the four Cs. To begin with, one needs to understand how diamonds are evaluated and categorized. The four Cs refer to clarity, cut, color and carat, and by understanding each  you can determine which is most important to you and then start shopping. This will also help you determine how much you’re willing to spend.

Get Input
Find out what she wants. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Take her to a jewelry store - that is, if marriage has been a topic of conversation and a surprise engagement is not on your agenda. Have her try on as many rings as possible. Make her look at every shape of diamond and type of setting. Does she prefer a pear-shaped over a princess cut diamond? Also read detailed article from Velvet Girls about choosing your diamond.  Either way, you’ll know exactly what will make her swoon when you pop the question. If you’re being discreet, look at the jewelry she wears on a day-to-day basis; is it classic or more fashion forward in style? Is she prone to wear larger pieces or dainty? The other option is to ask someone close to her, like a sister or a best friend, for insight.

Let’s Talk Carats
As soon as you’ve decided shape, you need to look at the carat or weight of the diamond; carat is how diamonds and other precious gemstones are measured -in “carat” weight. One carat, for example, equals 1/5 of a gram. Sometimes you will hear carat weight referred to in ‘points’. There are 100 points in a carat and as points or carats increase, so does the price of the diamond. For example, the price per carat will be less for a .90 diamond than the price per carat for a 1.00 diamond even if the color and clarity are the same. Determining the size of the diamond, and then the cut and color is really going to help establish your budget parameters.

Pick a Color
Color is the third most important decision in the diamond selection process. Diamond color is graded according to the Gemological Institute of America or GIA Color Grading Scale - D being the whitest, and N and below color ratings showing noticeable yellow tones. E and F have no detectable color tones to the naked eye. And from G to J range, diamonds remain near colorless however, from J to M, you do begin to see a faint trace of yellow. 

The Cut and Sparkle
Cut is the most important and perhaps the most misunderstood and controversial of the four Cs. It’s about more than the shape of a diamond.  When we talk diamond cut, we’re talking about the exact angles, proportions, symmetry and polish that affect the way the diamond reflects light and sparkles. Diamond dealers also refer to cut as "make" - as it is the only feature of a diamond that can be controlled by man, and it must be precise. Each facet - or small plane surface on the diamond - must be cut to align perfectly with the facet opposite it. There’s not much room for error because this affects the diamond’s ability to sparkle, or what we call in the industry...brilliance

How Important is Clarity?
Gemologists use a grading scale set forth by the GIA to determine a diamond’s clarity - how clean the gem appears when viewed through a magnifier. Most diamonds contain some "inclusions" - crystalline fractures or irregular crystal growth. The GIA Clarity Grading Scale ranges from Internally Flawless (IF) through included (I3). Flawless (F) and Internally Flawless (IF) being the highest, with the next best grade being VVS1 and VVS2 or very slight inclusions followed by VS1 and VS2, referring to very slight inclusions which are difficult to see even with magnification.

SI1 and SI2 diamonds will have slight inclusions, which are easily seen through magnification, but may remain clean to the naked eye, depending on the specific diamond. The clarity of the stone you purchase will depend on your level of comfort and budget. Some advice: Inclusions are more difficult to see in ideal cut and super ideal cut diamonds, because of the exactness in the cut.

Establish a Budget
After determining the four Cs, you should be able to set a budget or at least have a figure in mind for the purchase of your diamond engagement ring. The general rule of thumb is to set aside one to two months worth of salary. "If you’re hesitant to set a rupee amount, look at your options in diamonds and settings to get a general idea of what you’d like to spend. 

Select a Jeweler
After you have educated yourself, it is time for the next step in your checklist for choosing a diamond engagement ring: choosing a jeweler. It is important that you find a reputable, trustworthy jeweler. You can ask for recommendations from friends and relatives, or start with a local jeweler with a long history. When in doubt, ask to see the jeweler’s certification and other credentials.

Time to Shop!
Before you place the order, make sure that you will receive a grading report with your purchase. If a grading report will not accompany your diamond engagement ring, make sure the sale is contingent upon an independent appraiser’s opinion. Another option is to ask for a fingerprint of the diamond. This is a three-dimensional drawing of the diamond indicating the four Cs, along with the stone’s overall dimensions and enhancements. Inclusions and blemishes should be noted. As soon as you receive the diamond, double-check all of the information, including the bill of sale and drawing to make sure that it is, in fact, the diamond you purchased.

Set the Diamond
If you purchased a loose diamond, you’re now faced with the setting. And, like diamonds, the options for diamond engagement rings are endless. Consider three stone settings, a solitaire or a custom design. We suggest allowing four to six weeks before popping the question if you go the handcrafted route. If you’re simply lost in the decision making process - propose with diamond in-hand and pick out the setting later - together!