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Experts Give Their Advice on Picking That Perfect Expression of Lifetime Love

For couples in love, some decisions just ring true.

Lisa Curry picked the same engagement ring that her fiancé John Flora had chosen earlier. At top, Curry takes a moment to examine the diamond.

Herald & Review photos / Carlos T. Miranda

Lisa Curry picked the same engagement ring that her fiancé John Flora had chosen earlier. At top, Curry takes a moment to examine the diamond.

Such was the case for John Flora of Flora Gems in Downtown Decatur, when he picked the engagement ring for his fiancé Lisa Curry. John had a brilliant idea for the perfect ring—a radiant-cut diamond set into a platinum mounting, with baguette and princess-cut side diamonds set into the band. Soon after, Lisa looked at about 50 rings in the store, and she picked the exact same ring. “We both have similar tastes,” John said.

“When I saw it, I was very excited,” Lisa added. “It’s absolutely stunning.”

Trends in wedding rings and customs for choosing them may change, John said, but a wise choice can still put a lasting sparkle in couples’ eyes. He said doing your homework and knowing your spouse’s tastes can help ensure she won’t get a lackluster ring.

For himself, John got a tungsten wedding band inlaid with platinum—the very same ring Lisa liked.

“It’s virtually scratch-proof,” John said.

John and Lisa got the right rings for their Jan. 25 wedding, but they’re making a more informed decision than most. He’s a fourth-generation jeweler, and she’s also learning the business.

So what’s a clueless ring shopper supposed to do?

John offers some advice: Get a general idea about what she likes. Does she want a gold or platinum ring? What shape of stone does she prefer?

“Take those clues and personalize it from there,” he said.

Not everyone is entirely happy with all the recent trends in picking out jewelry.

Douglas Bell of Bell’s Jewelry in downtown Decatur remembers when men would pick out engagement rings. But nowadays most guys come in with their wives and say, “You pick it out—you gotta wear it.”

“What happened to the true essence of chivalry?” Bell asked with a smile. “What happened to romance?”

Flora says each couple should do what works best for them.

“Each couple’s approach is different,” he said.

Many times, a couple comes to look for a ring together. Sometimes the woman is completely surprised. On a very rare occasion, the female picks out the ring by herself and the guy just sends in a check.

On one occasion, a young man came with his father and grandfather, who had also bought engagement rings at Flora’s, to help pick out a ring.

“I’ve even had a case where a woman bought an engagement ring for the guy,” Flora said.

Though some disagree over changing customs, most experts agree a round diamond is the best seller, and princess cuts have become very popular.

“There’s always some new cut coming on to the scene,” Flora said. “But none ever seems to be as popular as the round.”

Simple and elegant is also in.

“People are buying rings they feel comfortable wearing in any social setting—whether they’re going to the movies in blue jeans or to a formal dinner,” Flora said. “Our parents would be more apt to buy something to wear five times a year.”

People getting remarried may tend to get a little more creative.

“What has changed is the number of people getting remarried—the number of people willing to take the plunge for the second, third or fourth time,” Bell said. “It didn’t work the first time, so they’re looking for something a little different.”

Some look for rings with wider bands. Others are looking for something a bit more avant-garde.

Filigree rings—rings with exquisite engraving along the band—are a hit in the south and for some who want a classical look.

Tradition says the guy should plan on spending about two months of his salary on an engagement ring.

Flora recommends keeping rings within your budget, but he says it’s a deeply personal choice. Bell said the two-month tradition is just a guideline. But, he cautioned, cheapskates can come to regret it.

“Women may say, ‘I don’t want a bigger diamond,’ ” he said. “Liar! Every woman wants a bigger diamond.”

Trio sets—an engagement ring that comes with two wedding bands—are popular at Gordon Jewelers at Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth, according to Lindsay Allison, a sales associate.

Experts agree high-quality diamonds retain value better than lower-quality diamonds. A smaller, high-quality diamond can be a wiser investment than a larger one that’s of lower quality.

“Better stones appreciate much better, much faster,” Bell said.

A solitaire stone often is a wise investment.

“Put your money in the rock,” Bell advised. “People get caught up with the flash and flicker. They’re paying for a lot of gobbledygook.”

Don’t skimp on the setting of the ring either, Flora said.

Pavé settings are popular with some who are looking for a big rock, but don’t have a lot of cash. Pavé refers to pavement—think of a cobblestone road.

“It’s a lot of little diamonds pushed together,” Allison said. “It gives the illusion of a larger single stone.”

Barb Jackson, a jeweler at Bell’s, advises customers to ask lots of questions and take time to make a wise decision.

“Nobody should ever buy under pressure,” she said.

Bell identifies three reasons why people buy jewelry: traditions, emotions and vanity. The latter two are human traits, but a good jeweler can help fill in some of the magical lore of jewelry.

“I call it romancing the stone,” he said.

Celebrities also can affect trends.

Some, perhaps taking their clue from the ring Chandler gave Monica on Friends, choose to complement a diamond with colored gems.

Three-stone trends, which can represent the past, present and future, are also popular.

“They started on the soap operas,” Allison said. “Now, they’re just everywhere.”

Jennifer Lopez’s pink diamond engagement ring from fiancé Ben Affleck has led to a renewed interest in colored diamonds. Many look but don’t buy, though, since colored diamonds can be very rare and ultra-expensive.

Curry will work alongside Flora at Flora Gems after they return from their honeymoon. She admits there are much worse jobs than being surrounded by dazzling jewelry everyday. Sometimes, she can even try on a rare colored diamond.

“That’s definitely a perk,” she said with a smile.

Mike Frazier
H&R Staff Writer

Mike Frazier can be reached at or 421-7985.

Copyright 2003, Herald & Review, Decatur, IL