If there is one thing that will last far beyond your wedding—besides your marriage, of course—it's the jewelry you choose to wear for it. Learn how to pick pieces as special as the occasion and gems that are destined to become heirlooms.
The Details: Uneek Jewelry "Fiorire" princess-cut with halo and pavé, from $2,922, uneekjewelry.com. Suzanne Kalan pear rose-cut with pavé, $10,560, suzannekalan.com. Vanna K emerald center with diamond shoulders, $9,200, vannak.com.
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Shopping for a diamond ring became a lot easier with the creation of the "4C" system in the mid-20th century. The Cs assign a separate grade to four qualities of a diamond: Cut is for symmetry and brightness, clarity signifies transparency and lack of flaws, color classifies how much of a tint is present, and carat refers to weight. While the 4Cs can give you an objective measure of worth, says Fiona Druckenmiller of FD Gallery, in New York City, "a ring's value is also about its sentimental or emotional meaning." So listen to your heart, but keep in mind that ring designs do cycle in and out of fashion. "For a forever piece, think classic rather than trendy," says Gemvara's Emily Parker. Her choice for enduring appeal: "A solitaire round diamond is always in style."
The Details: Tiffany & Co. round solitaire, tiffany.com. Leon Megé "True Antique" cushion-cut with trapezoid side stones, leonmege.com. Van Cleef & Arpels 1920 marquise-cut with diamond shoulders set in platinum, siegelson.com. McTeigue & McClelland "Classic Flora" emerald-cut, mc2jewels.com. Harry Winston marquise-cut with diamond baguettes, harrywinston.com. Martin Katz emerald-cut with diamond baguettes, martinkatz.com. Norman Silverman oval-cut with pavé set in rose gold, normansilvermandiamonds.com. All prices upon request.
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What are Precious Gems?
Only four jewels are classified as precious: diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. Stones like topaz, quartz, and garnet are semiprecious and often less costly. Many gemologists consider this distinction outdated, though, because a select few, including black opal, red beryl, and jadeite, are quite scarce and fetch more at auction than their precious counterparts.
The Details: Scully & Scully white topaz, pearls, and diamonds, $2,350, scullyandscully.com. Verdura "Byzantine" white topaz and gold, $7,950, verdura.com. Buccatelli "Macri" diamond accents in 18k white gold, $12,000, 212-308-2900. Sharon Khazzam rose quartz with ruby and diamond accents, $8,400, sharonkhazzam.com.
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Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires don't have a precise grading system, but an appraiser can determine one's value based on four points: origin, color, clarity, and whether it's been treated with heat, oil, or resin to enhance its appearance, says jewelry specialist Kendall Reed of Sotheby's, in NYC. All gems should be stored separately in their original boxes to prevent damage. "Soft stones, like pearls, can be scratched by diamonds," she adds.
The Details: Larkspur & Hawk topaz rivière, $5,400, larkspurandhawk.com. Doyle & Doyle circa 1870 Etruscan revival 15k-gold collar, $5,800, doyledoyle.com. FD Gallery circa 1800s diamond rivière, fd-gallery.com.
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How to Test Your Metals
Platinum and gold continue to be, well, the gold standard for setting fine jewelry. They're more durable than other precious metals, such as silver, and the stronger the metal, the likelier it is to last for generations. Platinum is rarer, heavier (metals are valued by weight), and harder to mold and shape, which makes it the more expensive of the two.
The Details: Under the Crown pearls and diamonds, $6,100, underthecrown.com. EF Collection double-diamond bangle, $2,455, efcollection.com. Greenwich Collection diamonds, from top: 1.34 carats, $3,200; 4.07 carats, $5,900; 6.82 carats, $8,650; greenwichjewelers.com. Kentshire circa 1955 "French Woven" diamonds and gold, kentshire.com. McTeigue & McClelland "Medallion" in 18k gold, $9,150, mc2jewels.com. Paolo Costagli "Ombré" blue sapphires, paolocostagli.com.
The priciest gold, on the other hand, can be too soft for settings, leading to scratches and dings. That's because pure gold (24 karats) is more pliant than gold that's been mixed with tougher metals like copper and zinc. Parker recommends going with 14 or 18 karats to frame your gemstones. "Whether you're setting an amethyst or a diamond, using either a gold alloy or platinum ensures it can be passed down one day."
The Details: Christopher Designs diamond eternity in platinum, lamourcrisscut.com. Todd Reed diamonds and 18k gold, $13,300, toddreed.com. Kirk Kara "Carmella" pavé in 18k gold, $1,890, kirkkara.com. Tacori "Classic Crescent" baguettes and pavé, $10,750, tacori.com. Cartier "Studio Triple V" diamond eternity in platinum, $11,600, cartier.us. Henri Daussi triple-row pavé in 18k white gold, henridaussi.com. Mark Patterson "Royal Prong" diamonds, from $12,790, markpatterson.com. Steven Kretchmer "Three Row Omega" pavé in 18k white gold, $5,600, stevenkretchmer.com. Forevermark by Jade Trau "Center of My Universe" diamond eternity in 18k rose gold, forevermark.com. Fred Leighton hexagonal diamond eternity in 18k white gold, 212-288-1872.
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