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It's Time to Shine

Unlike the housing bubble, a diamond - or for the modern bride, a gemstone - is forever.

"It is a big investment," says Amanda Gizzi, associate director of public relations for the Jewelry Information Center, when talking wedding jewelry. Whether it's the engagement ring or the wedding bands, Gizzi outlines one piece of advice for ring shopping: Determine what your budget is early on, then try to find the best quality rings for that budget.

"Bridal [retail] will continue to hold its ground, as couples continue to get engaged and want to celebrate their engagement," says Gizzi, but cautioning that "people are being a lot more cautious with how they're spending their money."

Potential fiancés aren't just being cautious on how much they spend - the average cost of an engagement ring is just more than $6,000, according to a 2009 study - but also on making sure they pick the right bling. According to the same study, nearly 60 percent of brides provided input on their engagement ring, and nearly 20 percent of brides picked out the ring themselves.

Diamonds, and the four C's that comes with them, are the

go-to engagement stone, but there has been an increase in colored stones, says Gizzi.

• Sapphires - These stones come in blue, pink and yellow varieties, and they're a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so they're something you're going to be able to wear every day.

• Rubies - The gemstone for the popular wedding month July, rubies also are a 9 on the Mohs scale, and with their red hue, rubies "really do capture the essence of love and romance," Gizzi says.

• Emeralds - Emeralds are a go-to gemstones that are present in many heirloom pieces, says Gizzi.

The Band

As has been the trend in recent years, the majority of couples are still turning to white metals like platinum and white gold for bands, which help set off the natural color of the stone. However, Gizzi is seeing a slight return to yellow gold, as it's becoming more popular in fashion jewelry.

For the bride, groupings of wedding bands are becoming more popular, such as two thin eternity bands, one worn on each side of the engagement band. "It translates over from the 'stacking' trend in fashion," Gizzi says. Color is being included in the wedding bands, too, if the bride has a diamond engagement ring; pairing colored rings may look too matchy.

Gizzi also notes that wedding bands are getting larger, too. Wide bands also work for engagement rings if the bauble is of substantial size.

And, of course, there is the groom.

"Grooms definitely are taking the ring-shopping more seriously," Gizzi says.

Just like their brides, grooms want to have the best. That is translating to more diamond wedding bands or bands with masculine details, such as those from Cartier and Scott Kay.

"They're saying, 'Hey, I want my personality to shine through my wedding band, as well,'" Gizzi says.

© CTW Features