Get to know diamonds
Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat

In Canada, 85 per cent of brides receive a diamond engagement ring.

And although nearly half of all couples spend between $1,000 and $3,000 on a diamond engagement ring, research shows that not many people understand the four Cs -- the characteristics that determine the quality of a diamond.

The first step is to determine how much you want to spend. Many men go by the rule that they should spend two months' salary, but according to DeBeers' Diamond Information Centre, diamonds are available in a range of prices, to suit personal taste and budget.

Men should also know their bride-to-be.

With such an important purchase, do the research to pick the right ring. Get to know her style and preferences, take her fantasy shopping and talk to her friends. Read the signals and you'll make a choice that will delight her forever.

When you go looking, think about the four Cs -- cut, colour, clarity and carat.

Cut is considered the most important, because a quality cut gives a diamond its sparkle. A good cut releases the "fire" and "sparkle" through the arrangement and proportion of its 57 or 58 facets (tiny planes that create angles to reflect the light).

Determining a diamond's colour is done by measuring the degree to which it approaches colourlessness. The highest quality and most expensive stones are described as colourless and are very rare. Jewellers evaluate colour on a letter class beginning with D (colourlessness) and moving down through the alphabet.

Diamonds with a strong, pure colour are called "fancies" and can be found in pink, blue, yellow and many other colours.

Almost all diamonds contain small traces of non-crystallized carbon -- the element from which they are formed. A stone's clarity is determined by the degree to which it is free from these inclusions. It usually takes magnification under a standard jeweller's loupe to see an inclusions.

Carat refers to the weight and, therefore, the size of the diamond. One carat is divided into "points." As a result, a diamond weighing 50 points is half a carat.

Once you have an idea what you're looking for, go to a jeweller you know and trust and find the right diamond to fit your needs.