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A Girl's Best Friend
Oliver Moor
For the novice, buying a diamond engagement ring is a nuclear-tipped, anthrax-laden, mustard-gas-impregnated minefield.

The engagement had been discussed, but actually going ahead and doing it was another matter entirely. Of course, I had doubts, or, as they're more commonly referred to these days, "issues". Well, it's a massive decision, isn't it? The question "do I really want to do this at all?" rumbled ominously through my head day and night. Was I making the right choice? Would I live to regret it? And most important of all, could I possibly get away with a bit of cheating?
Before I have my head removed from my shoulders with a single bite of a certain female's slavering jaws, I should point out that I am not referring in any way to my choice of partner, which naturally has never been in question. Purchasing a ring presented the problems.

For the novice, buying a diamond engagement ring is a nuclear-tipped, anthrax-laden, mustard-gas-impregnated minefield. Get it wrong and your anhilation will be instantaneous and complete. Or even worse, you might have to take it back to the shop and choose another. But for us old hands, us guys who have stared down steely-eyed gem merchants in dark subterranean vaults, or at least who have spoken to the bloke behind the counter in H. Samuel 's a few times, it's a lot simpler. This is all you need to know.

Firstly, buy a good stone. You might think that all diamonds look exactly the same, or that a substitute, such as Zircon, Diamondique, or even a bit of glass would suffice. And of course you'd be absolutely correct. A piece of perspex mounted on blu-tack would do OK if you'd told your beloved it cost five grand or so, but you're not likely to get away with that. So you may as well get ready to shell out for the real thing.

But how do yout ensure that you're buying The Genuine Article? It's quit straightforward really. Take your diamond, place it in a cup of tea, and give it a stir. Then drink the tea. If it tastes either sweet or salty, demand your money back. If neither, be careful as you drink -- but rest assured that you have a genuinely high quality stone -- or at least one which will fool everybody into thinking it is.

We now have the 4C's to take into account: clarity, cut, colour, and carat. Clarity is easy. If you can't see through it, it's probably a bit of coal, so don't buy it. Cut is easy too. It's the shape: round, oval, rectangular, so if you can cope with the windows on Play School you'll be OK here. Colour is even more obvious. Diamonds do look basically the same, but the yellowish ones aren't so desirable. So if the stone looks like it's been soaking in a urinal for a few weeks, avoid. The last -- carat -- is easiest of all: the bigger the better (although this statement depends very much whether you're the donor or the recipient.) Size is, as ever, the only thing that matters. If you can eat your dinner off it, it's generally about the right size for an engagement ring. So now you've chosen your diamond -- now it's time for the ring.

Diamond engagement rings fall into two categories. These categories are 1) cheap and nasty or 2) expensive and tasteless. Both of these are available on your local high street. The shrewd buyer, of course, aims for something which looks like a definite category 2, but which is, in fact, a prime example from category 1. The best way to do this is to have a few goes at the Hatton Garden Walk.
The Hatton Garden Walk is a traditional dance performed by a courting couple. It starts with the pair standing side by side, gazing into each other's eyes as they link arms. Then they simply walk slowly, pausing every few yards, from Ludgate Circus to Gray's Inn Road. At each stop the woman laughs happily, claps her little hands togethers, and begins dribbling, while the man's face becomes drawn into a ghastly rictus, particularly if, like me, he's a dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate. The dance continues until the man either runs away or pays somebody a lot of money to make it stop: either a diamond merchant or, less commonly, an international hit-man.

Whether you go to Hatton Garden or not you are at some point have to decide on what kind of ring you want: gold, platinum, or white gold. White gold and platinum look similar and both have to be coated with rhodium every few years to make them sparkly, which adds to the cost. So basically it'll be white gold or platinum then.

Then there is the added decision of how many diamonds to get? The traditional "solitaire" is still popular. This consists of a single large diamond. Or you could go for a three-stone ring, which consists of a medium sized diamond with two small diamonds next to it: this style is either just coming back into or just going out of fashion, depending on who you ask. My partner's own choice was for a three-stone affair, which in fact consisted of three bloody enormous diamonds. I drew the line at this on the grounds that the trolley-jack we'd need to lift her hand off the table has not yet been built.

Finally, of course, there is price. This is the easiest of all. Remortgage the house. Cash in those investments. Sell your shares. The more you spend, the better. After all, you're only doing it once, right? (Of course, if it all goes pear shaped, don't for one single solitary second think you'll get the ring back, particularly if it's worth anything, 'cos you won't.) But enough of this cynicism. Let's face it - diamonds are pricey. But then again, diamond rings aren't something you buy every day. In the UK, De Beers "recommend" spending a month's salary (in America it's two months, so count yourself lucky, British guys.) This doesn't always work out -- as a student I thought I'd get away with something out of a cracker, but alas no -- even I've been persuaded to shell out. Anyway, it'll be worth it -- at least I'll have bought some peace. Until the eternity ring starts to raise its ugly head.

© Oliver Moor 2001

Now if you need a ring in a hurry, try below.

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