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The ABCs of Picking the Perfect Engagement Ring

Choose the center stone first. A diamond is the standard stone for an engagement ring, but a quality colored gemstone can make a stunning statement. (Princess Diana's engagement ring featured a sapphire surrounded by small diamonds.) Some forward-thinking brides love the look of colored diamonds.
 
Review the Four Cs. If you decide on a diamond, consider the ?four Cs? (color, clarity, carat and cut). Sometimes, to remain within your budget, you'll have to compromise on one C for the sake of another. If your fiancée wants a big diamond, for example, make carat weight a priority. (But remember that ?carat? refers to weight, not size, so a well cut diamond will sometimes appear larger than one of greater weight.) If she values the brilliance of a diamond, consider cut and clarity first.
 
Pick a Shape and Color. A white solitaire diamond in a round (brilliant) shape is traditional, but ?fancy? shapes and colors are also available, and are increasingly popular. The square or ?princess? shape is versatile. The emerald shape offers a solemn, sedate elegance. The marquise, as its name implies, looks aristocratic. Colored diamonds can provide a ?wow factor,? but they can be pricey. Whatever you choose, insist that the stone come with a certificate from a major gemological laboratory.
 
Choose a favorite metal and setting style. A platinum or white gold setting is traditional and the most popular, but many women are taking a second look at yellow gold. Side stones ? particularly complementary to certain fancy-shaped center stones ? are another consideration.Develop a realistic idea of how much you'll spend. A professional jeweler will never ?guilt? you into spending more than you can afford.
 
Bottom line: You want to choose a ring that you and your fiancée will cherish for a lifetime.