With this Ring…


It was not so many years ago that a half-carat diamond was plenty big when it came to engagement rings. A full carat was out of reach for many. And anything twice that size or larger was left to the much-married likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

But in this era of supersizing, both first-time and more seasoned brides are opting for robust when it comes to diamond size and ring design. That’s as much the case for brides in the Sacramento region as it is for the Hollywood glitterati.

“The bling bling is everywhere right now,” says Sacramento wedding planner Jackie Young, owner of Every Little Detail. “I think it’s partly a one-upping-the-neighbor kind of thing. . . . I guess the economy can’t be that bad—or else everybody’s way far in debt.”

These days, size does matter. The Gemological Institute of America has seen a 41 percent increase in the number of two-carat-plus diamonds its laboratory has processed since 2000, says GIA spokesman Alex Angelle. And National Jeweler magazine earlier this year reported that nearly half of the couples shopping for engagement rings these days plan to buy a carat or more.

At least the diamond is forever, right? Hooey. That market myth has been upended. Younger brides and grooms and others who can’t afford the larger gemstones are buying more modest placeholders with plans to upgrade in the years ahead. At the same time, plenty of women who married in less size-conscious times are trading in their own original rings for glitzier models.

“I’d outgrown my ring,” says Marlisa Conklin, a Folsom hairstylist who began sporting a one-carat diamond in March after nine years with a stone half that size. “We both started out really young with our rings. It was just time.”
The trend reflects not just an aesthetic preference—or size for size’s sake—but the demographics of the times, according to jewelers and analysts. That men and women are marrying later than ever (the national average is 29 and 27, respectively, according to Condé Nast Bridal Infobank, which provides information and statistics about the $120 billion bridal industry) plays a large role.

“They can afford a larger stone,” says Amanda Gizzi of the Jewelry Information Center, a nonprofit trade organization based in New York. “The women are also successful. They have a job. It’s not just the man going out to buy the ring.

“The women are telling [the groom] exactly what they want,” she continues. “They’re more active in the shopping and buying process.”

Savvy grooms, such as John Jaeger of Woodland, know how important it is to include The Intended in the initial stages of the ring selection process, if only to get a sense of her likes and dislikes.

Jaeger and his fiancée, junior high school teacher Julie Blaisdell of Roseville, were en route to a Sacramento Kings game last October when he took a surprise detour to an area mall to look at engagement rings. “He told me, ‘I’m starting to look. I want to know what you like,’” Blaisdell recalls.

She definitely knew what she didn’t like: anything resembling the ring from her first marriage in 1990. That one was yellow gold with a round diamond. This time around, she chose a white-gold setting with a princess-cut square stone.

Jaeger, a senior civil engineer for Sacramento County, took it from there. He read up on the Four C’s: cut, color, clarity and carat. (See sidebar.) “Self-education is really important,” he says. “You need to have that knowledge.”

On Christmas Day, the couple’s four children (two are hers, two his) wore T-shirts that, side by side, spelled out, “Will you marry me?” They tied the knot in July.

The ring, Blaisdell says, turned out “perfect.” The center stone, flanked by three smaller diamonds on each side, weighs slightly more than a carat. The two- and three-carat diamonds Blaisdell initially tried on with Jaeger were an awkward fit for her exceptionally small hands, she says.

Size is an uncomfortable subject for some women. “I think everyone who says that they don’t want a bigger ring is lying to herself,” says one Sacramento bride, a 21-year-old public relations student whose fiancé helped her trade in her first engagement ring for one with a larger stone.

“It’s a hard thing to say,” Blaisdell admits. “If I was presented with a half-carat stone, I’d be happy with that. But I am glad that mine is bigger.”

In terms of metal, platinum is where it’s at these days in engagement and wedding rings. National Jeweler, a trade publication, cited recent poll results that 40 percent of brides and grooms plan to buy platinum, 25 percent opt for white gold and 23 percent shop for yellow gold.

“I bet eight out of 10 of my brides will do the platinum ring,” says Lora Ward of A Day to Remember, a Sacramento wedding-consulting company.

Originality also is at a premium, says Kim Sunshine, senior fashion editor of theknot.com, one of the nation’s most popular bridal websites. “One of the trends is, ‘How can I get a ring that’s not like my best friend’s?’” says Sunshine, who’s based in New York.

Hollywood’s red-carpet royalty have set the standard, with their monster-sized gems and nontraditional colored stones. (To wit: Jennifer Lopez’s eight-carat pink diamond for her short-lived engagement to Ben Affleck; a behemoth pink sapphire for Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton’s former co-star on “The Simple Life.”)
Many Sacramento area brides also seek out the unusual. Take Kim Gootee, a medical-sales representative and first-time bride. When fiancé Dustin Ogden proposed, he presented her with the ring she had chosen the year before. When the couple went shopping for a matching wedding band, they came up dry.

So the two met with a diamond merchant in Las Vegas, and Gootee chose a custom design with a vintage look: a princess-cut stone in the center, surrounded by pavé diamonds.

“I think I’ll probably keep it forever. There’s sort of a sentimental value once you get married with the ring, as cheesy as it sounds,” says Gootee, whose fiancé will wear her own father’s wedding band after they’re married.

Folsom hairstylist Marlisa Conklin is still wearing her original diamond, but not in the same setting as when she married in the mid-1990s. Back then, she and her husband were just 25 and finishing up school. Three children and nine years later, Conklin says she was ready for an upgrade.

Conklin half-jokingly included a new wedding ring on her Christmas list. Her husband complied, presenting her with a one-carat diamond last December. She created a new design—this time in white gold instead of yellow—by adding the new, larger stone to those from her original ring. “That kept the sentimental value,” she says.

In the wedding industry, women heading down the aisle for a second (or third) tour are known as “encore brides.” When Sacramento wedding planner Lora Ward started out in the business nearly 30 years ago, most of her veteran brides selected simple bands over sizable sparklers. These days, however, “the second-time bride is definitely going for the diamond,” she says.

Marta Davis of Sacramento wound up with not one, not two, but three engagement rings. The River City Bank vice president was a widow when friends set her up on a blind date. She and Steve Davis hit it off immediately. When he proposed to her, he did so with diamond-and-ruby ring in hand. Six months later, he got cold feet and called off the nuptials.

The second time he proposed, Marta insisted the couple choose a different ring. “The first one is tainted. We can’t use it,” she told him. The second time, she picked out a five-diamond channel-set ring.

“I loved it to pieces. I picked this one out myself,” Marta recalls. “Now I have two [rings]—he can’t commit to a date. He can’t even figure out the venue.” After 18 months, Marta broke off the engagement and gave the second ring back.

Steve moved to Santa Fe. Marta moved on to a new beau. That brought Steve back a third time. “I told him, ‘The other two are tainted. I can’t do that.’”

Steve and Marta married in March. The first ring was resized for her right hand. The second serves as her wedding band, nestled comfortably under No. 3, a diamond solitaire.

Point, Click, Buy

By Anna Lisa Hernandez’s own admission, she is a woman of champagne tastes and a tough-to-please palate when it comes to many things, especially jewelry.

“When my boyfriend first said that he wanted to get me a ring, I guess he knew better than to just show up with something,” says Hernandez, owner of Sacramento’s White Bird Ceremonial Dove Releases.

Hernandez had one priority: She wanted an authentic vintage ring. She and boyfriend Dale DeWald, a flutist, scoured area pawnshops and antiques and jewelry stores. Nothing made her heart sing.
So what was a 21st century bride to do? Log on to eBay.

With upward of 12,000 engagement rings listed at any moment (with opening bids ranging from 99 cents to $130,000), Hernandez had plenty of options. She ordered her first ring, an antique platinum setting with an oval center diamond and two trillions (triangle-shaped diamonds).

The only problem: When Hernandez took the ring in for sizing, no area jeweler would touch it for fear of damaging the detailed filigree. Broken-hearted, Hernandez returned the ring to the seller—under eBay’s money-back guarantee—and went back to her computer.

Fortunately, luck struck again. A platinum ring. Twenty-six small diamonds. A carat-plus in the center. Provenance: Philadelphia. “It was, and still is, the perfect ring,” says Hernandez, who bought the jewel in 2000 and married DeWald in 2002.

Hernandez advises other eBay brides to check the customer feedback on each seller—handily accessed on the site—and secure a money-back guarantee.

“I know it’s a big chunk of money just to be sending off into the netherworld,” she says. “But if it’s something you really wanted, if it’s the perfect thing, the resources are out there.”
The Four C’s—Shopping for an engagement ring can be almost as intimidating as the wedding proposal itself. To gain the upper hand, discerning brides and grooms should study up on The Four C’s.

CUT: To many, the diamond’s cut is the most critical feature. Not to be confused with the shape, the term refers to the formula of facets cut into each stone.
“Arguably, cut is the most important because that’s what releases that fire and brilliance in the diamond,” says Amanda Gizzi of the Jewelry Information Center.
The “round brilliant” is the most common cut, with 58 facets or polished surfaces. An “88 cut” is on the market these days, too, says Gizzi, but does not necessarily provide more sparkle than the traditional 58 cut.

COLOR: White diamonds are classed on a color scale from D to Z, with D reserved for the whitest or most colorless stones and Z for the yellowest. The latter speaks to a dull hue of white and should not to be confused with “fancy yellow diamonds,” a separate (and pricey) category.
“When we refer to the white, colorless diamonds, we refer to them as icy white,” Gizzi explains, adding that the more colorless D stones are much more rare than those at the other end of the scale.

CLARITY: Shoppers should look out for inclusions, which are carbon spots, fractures or other flaws within a diamond. They can affect the stone’s clarity and interfere with the passage of light through the diamond. The fewer irregularities, the more costly the stone. However, don’t turn your nose up at inclusions.
“The thing about these imperfections is that they are what makes these stones yours. No two stones will have the same thing,” Gizzi says. “We like to call it nature’s birthmarks rather than imperfections.”

CARAT: This refers to the weight of the diamond. The term dates to ancient times, when a carat equaled the weight of a carob bean.

A couple of other points to remember: Diamonds come in most colors of the rainbow, from pink to blue and orange. As colored stones are rare and not cheap, many brides opt to use them as accent stones around their central diamond.
“That’s a great way to bring color into an engagement ring without breaking the budget,” says Gizzi.
Round diamonds remain the most popular shape, but princess, or square, cuts are quickly catching up. The oft-overlooked oval can flatter the hand by appearing to elongate the wearer’s fingers.

Want to Know More?

Looking for more information about diamonds and engagement rings? Check out these websites:


* American Ge m Trade Association: agta.org
* Brides magazine: brides.com/fashion/accessories/
* Diamond Trading Company: adiamondisforever.com
* Gemological Institute of America: gia.edu
* Jewelry Information Center: jic.org
* Platinum Guild International: preciousplatinum.com
* The Knot: theknot.com

Local Jewelers

Ben Bridge Jeweler

Galleria at Roseville
1151 Galleria Blvd., Ste. 137
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 780-7733

Arden Fair
1689 Arden Way, Ste. 2056
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 923-2880

Downtown Plaza
545 Downtown Plaza, Ste. 1077
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 441-6433

Birchfield Jewelers
11759 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
(916) 966-4552

Crescent Jewelers
Galleria at Roseville
1151 Galleria Blvd., Ste. 273
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 784-2885

3651 Truxel Road, Ste. 3
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 928-6150

Arden Fair
1689 Arden Way, Ste. 1013
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 925-3177

Florin Mall
5957 Florin Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 392-5120

8469 Elk Grove Blvd.
Elk Grove, CA 95758
(916) 684-2488

Dalin Jewelers
8765 Elk Grove Blvd.
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 685-6530

DeVons Jewelers

Galleria at Roseville
1151 Galleria Blvd., Ste. 105
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 788-4150

Sunrise Mall
5916 Sunrise Mall
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
(916) 961-3181

Arden Fair
1689 Arden Way, Ste. 1076
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 929-3991

2030 Douglas Blvd.
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 783-8171

500 First St.
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 792-8088

Diamond & Gold Vault
1750 Howe Ave., Ste. 270
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 920-4988

Grebitus & Sons Fine Jewelry & Gift House

The Lakes Specialty Center
705 Gold Lake Drive
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 985-4644

Downtown Plaza
511 L St., Ste. 1035
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 442-9081

Lyon Village
2580 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 487-7853

Guzzetta & Co. Fine Jewelers

805 Howe Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 924-9666

1850 Douglas Blvd.
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 783-5890

Hamilton Jewelers Pavilions
504 Pavilions Lane
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 927-2300

J.D. Gray’s Designer Jewelry
1426 E. Roseville Parkway
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 772-3113

Kenny G & Company Fine Jewelers
5460 Sunrise Blvd., Ste. 1
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
(916) 965-6664

7440 Laguna Blvd., Ste. 112
Elk Grove, CA 95758
(916) 691-9600

1132 Galleria Blvd., Ste. 100
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 772-8400

Max’s Gallery Fine Jewelry & Design
8375 Elk Grove Blvd.
Elk Grove, CA 95758
(916) 683-6800 or 686-6655

Rogers Jewelry Company

Sunrise Mall
5965 Sunrise Mall
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
(916) 965-7778
965 E. Bidwell St.
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 984-8665

Arden Fair
1689 Arden Way, Ste. 1334
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 927-0583

8521 Bond Road
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 714-2590

Shane Co.

366 N. Sunrise Ave.
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 783-3500

Sharif Jewelers
1338 Howe Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 927-0542

309 Iron Point Road
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 353-1982

Skalet Family Jewelers

935 Front St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 441-1976

Stark Designs Fine Jewelry
556 Pavilions Lane
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 923-2533

Syd Curtis Fine Jewelry
4393 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95864
(916) 973-1699