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I can't help much. I love pretty stones - but I'm just as fond of lab stones as "real" stones. (More so - because they are clearer and cheaper :) ). My ring uses a "heritage" stone. I inherited a bunch of my grandmother's jewelry and we took the stone from a diamond (we think) ring and her wedding ring. We had a jewelery maker we knew custom design us a ring where the wedding ring was the centre band between two white gold bands. While the ring isn't what I would have chosen (they designed it and surprised me with it) - I love it. (And I do love watching the stone sparkle).

I did help a friend ring shop once and here is what I noticed:
The cost of the ring is largely in the stone.
The beauty of the ring is a mix of the setting and the stone - so you can go with a much cheaper stone if you get the right setting.
Some settings make diamonds look bigger. Some more sparkly (I like sparkly). Some don't work at all. Same thing with cuts. I found that a few smaller diamonds on either side of the main diamond gave a more "diamondy" appearance. It seemed to highlight the centre diamond more and bring out its good features. Hence you can get away with a smaller diamond.
So I find the easiest way to save money on a ring is to spend more on the setting so that it highlights the diamond.

Or you can do what DH did. Get a totally original ring done using pieces of special significance to you / her. This cost us very little ($400 for each of our rings) and we have stunning rings of extra meaning.

Meanwhile - I do suggest when the time comes to consider your ring. At the end of the day what you have with you every day after the "big day" is your ring. I think it does warrant a little extra thought because everytime you look at it - you get to think of your special someone. (DH's ring compliements mine - but does not match it. It is garners a fair bit of attention when people notice it. It is subdued, yet striking. If it weren't for the special materials in my ring - I'd like it more than mine!)


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