You've found "the one"—now it's all about buying the right bling to make it official. We've enlisted a local designer to help guide your way. (And yes, it's OK to pass this article along to your significant other. )
Denver-based fine jewelry designer Ashley Schenkein can custom design stunners like this 14 karat rose gold ring with 0.63 tcw (total carat weight) diamonds and 2.96 tcw morganite.
—Photo by Heirloomsnaps
"Engagement ring"—the item that strikes fear in the hearts of men and women everywhere. Not because of the commitment it symbolizes, but because of the stress of finding just the right one for that special someone. It's a major decision. After all, it's the ring your significant other will (hopefully) wearing for the rest of his or her life. Perhaps you’ve done some research and found a dearth of information beyond the four Cs (if you’re not familiar with those, you’re already in trouble; see question three). Don't stress. We enlisted Denver-based fine jewelry designer Ashley Schenkein  to share her expert knowledge on this all-important purchase.
5280: What's the most important thing to know before purchasing an engagement ring?
Ashley Schenkein: The bride-to-be's style. For example, it's helpful to know whether her style is vintage/antique (think intricate design), modern/contemporary (sleek, minimalist lines), or bohemian/edgy (a look that requires a stone that's a bit more out-of-the-box, such as a raw diamond or alternative gemstone like morganite). It can also be helpful to enlist a sister or a close friend; if a woman truly cares about what her ring is going to look like, she will probably have told someone who can help guide the guy through initial design decisions. These days, it can also be helpful to snoop around her Pinterest page. If the bride-to-be has not mentioned anything to anyone, then it can be fun to design something that will completely surprise her.
How much money should you be saving up?
Cost really varies and depends on how much someone is willing to spend on an engagement ring. I have designed beautiful rings for as little as $2,500 and upwards of $35,000, but I would say the average cost is typically from $5,000 to $10,000.
(Pictured: 14 karat white gold ring with 0.61 tcw diamonds in setting and a center one carat diamond; photo by Styleexpo Photography)
We always hear about the four Cs of buying a diamond: cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. Can you explain the importance of each one?
When speaking about diamonds, color actually means a lack of color. This is typically the most important factor because the whiter a diamond is, the more valuable it is and the more attractive it is to the eye.
The cut grade of a diamond is determined by how well a diamond's facets interact with light and how well the cutting is proportioned. This is probably the next most important factor to a buyer, as the cut is what gives a diamond its brilliance. Oftentimes, it is both the cut and color together that equate a diamond's beauty.
Clarity refers to the amount and location of inclusions (small imperfections) in a diamond to the unaided and aided eye. This is always a personal preference, but you never want to be able to see inclusions with the naked eye, in my opinion.
When we talk about carats, this is the weight of diamond and a large factor in determining the price. Typically, diamond prices rise as carat weight increases. (I should point out that two diamonds with the exact same carat weight could have a drastically different value and price when the other three Cs vary.) It's very important to have a well-cut diamond so you're not paying for carat weight resulting from the depth of the diamond or a very thick girdle (the edge of the diamond).
Is one of the 4Cs more important than the others, or does it depend on the stone? For example, if the color, clarity, and cut are great, but the stone has a low carat weight is that considered better than a larger stone with a lower color and clarity rating?
It can be overwhelming to a customer to research and become familiar with diamond grading. Assuming that a customer wants the largest diamond within his or her budget, it’s ideal to find one with no yellow coloration, no visible inclusions to the naked eye, and looks like the prettiest diamond to that person. Beauty should be in the eye of the beholder, as all diamonds are completely unique.
What if you want another stone other than a diamond in the setting? Do the same four Cs apply?
The four Cs also apply to colored gemstones, including sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, although the color of a gemstone is usually going to have the greatest impact on its value. Rarity is another factor that affects the value of a gemstone. For example, untreated sapphires are going to be the most valuable as they only comprise approximately 0.5 to one percent of all sapphires. Another example of a rare gemstone is alexandrite, which has color-changing properties.
(Pictured: 18 karat yellow gold ring with 0.36 tcw diamonds and a 4.5 tcw sapphire; photo by Styleexpo Photography)
You do custom bridal rings. What's the process like?
First, we meet to discuss design ideas, personal styles, metal preferences, occupation and/or lifestyle (as this could impact the design), and talk through any questions the client might have. I usually sketch an initial design to kickstart the process. Next, I research stone options that fit the client's budget and provide a quote. Once the quote is approved and the stones are selected, I create a computer rendering of the design and email it to the client. We go back and forth, and I make any necessary changes until the client is 100 percent satisfied. Finally, the ring is created and the stones are set. One last look with the client is scheduled, and then the ring is on its way to the proposal!
Ashley Schenkein Jewelry, 2261 N. Broadway St. (by appointment only), 303-828-7183, asjewelrydesign.com