Wedding Ring Chat with Paul Pastor of Chas Schwartz & Son Jewelers, Thursday, May 22 at 11 AM

Ask the owner of Washingtonian's oldest jewelry store your questions about engagement rings, wedding bands, and more.

Paul Pastor is the president of Washington's oldest jewelry store, Chas Schwartz & Son (5300 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-363-5432; 1400 F St., NW, 202-737-4757). He got his start in the business at age nine, when he began to help his father at the family’s antique-jewelry store. A few years after college, he joined Black, Starr & Frost jewelers in Southern California and became vice president of operations for the United States. He purchased Chas Schwartz & Son in 1984 and says helping future brides and grooms pick out rings is one of his favorite experiences in the jewelry business. Chas Schwartz carries Hearts on Fire diamonds, pink diamonds, designs from super-elegant designer Michael Beaudry, vintage pieces, and more.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. We run into these and many others every day in selling engagement rings. If you'd like to see a nice selection of engagement rings, wedding bands, and of course Michael Beaudry and Hearts on Fire, as well as wonderful vintage jewelry, please stop  by our locations.

—Paul Pastor 

Do you ever sell engagement rings that don't have diamonds? I want to convince my boyfriend (soon to be fiance) that it's ok to buy me a ring with a colored stone.
There are occassions that we sell stones other than diamonds as engagement rings. The top candidate is a sapphire, and many times it's actually a natural color sapphire, such as a pink or a yellow. Sapphires come in every color of the sun. Other times it could be a ruby. I would have to say one of the most unusual times would be when someone bought an alexandrite. I will also say the alexandrite was not well received six months after she had it. It's truly not an exciting looking stone. It's actually brownish purplish green.
washington, dc
what is the most popular cut of diamond for an engagement ring?
The most popular cut of diamond for engagement rings at this time is still the brilliant cut—the round cut. However, there is also a strong emphasis on the cushion cut and asscher cut diamonds. These have become very popular. The cushion cut is more of like a pillow. It can be squarish, it can be elongated. It has soft shoulders and is very brilliant. The asscher cut is actually a cut cornered square diamond developed by John Asscher in 1908, perfected in 1920, and has become popular with more of a prismatic effect for light reflection. Those are the three most popular cuts right now.
Arlington, VA
I'm really into the vintage style ring….which diamond vendor provides the most options and best quality ring?

For vintage style rings, you should start first with stores that carry estate jewelry. You'll find many unusual and non mass produced styles and many times the stones have been repolished and certified to satisfy the quality issue on estate pieces. For a reproduction estate piece, there are  numerous manufacturers out there trying to reproduce old mountings. A couple that come to mind: White House Manufacturers, Ritanti, and the most exclusive of all, Michael Beaudry. We carry Michael Beaudry.

 If there is a style of ring that you really would prefer, if you see something in a magazine, many times that style can actually be reproduced by a fine jeweler. 

Washington, DC
Do a lot of single women come in and purchase a nice ring for themselves? I've heard all of this hype about women buying themselves a "right hand ring" but wasn't sure how many actually do that…

Actually we sell a lot of right-hand rings to independent women. Today women have their own income, they have their own thoughts as to what they would like. Many times the guys just don't get it, and so they'll come in and purchase a right-hand ring or a diamond ring for themselves. What's really fun, though, is when the future fiance comes in and picks out her engagement ring, decides exactly what she wants, and of course brings him in, pretends she's never been there, and we have to try to counsel him into picking out this ring. 

For the right-hand ring, we see women buying more diamond than anything else. Ocassionally colored stones, but the advertising that DeBeers puts out that people are seeing these days is for diamond rings—whether they be white diamonds, yellow diamonds, or pink diamonds. 

Washington, DC
Hearts on Fire diamonds market themselves as the best-cut diamonds, but I don't really get it. What makes them better than other diamonds?
Hearts on Fire diamonds are cut and marketed as the perfect cut diamond. They actually reflect 97% of the light that reflects into the stone. They are cut under 100-power magnification, as opposed to 10-power, which most diamonds are cut by. They're cut one at a time by a master cutter, as opposed to most diamonds cut 6 to 8 at a time. They are polished to 10 times the industry standard. And all diamonds 1/2-carat and above are certified by the American Gem Society. You can actually put a Hearts on Fire diamond next to a regular diamond and see the difference. You can get a list of Hearts on Fire dealers at
Arlington, VA
I need help with wedding bands! Do they have to be made out of the same metal as the engagement ring? Or if I want platinum and my husband wants gold, is that weird?

Wedding bands do not have to match these days. Many times the husband and wife's rings don't match whatsoever, and sometimes, as you've mentioned, your ring may be platinum, his may be white gold, yellow gold, or these days many people are choosing palladium due to the cost of platinum rings. Palladium is a much less expensive metal to make rings with. It's a completely white metal, therefore it doesn't change color at all. And it has the same durability as platinum. Palladium was actually used a great deal during the deco period, 1920s and 1930s. Today it's becoming popular again.

If your engagement ring is white gold and your band is platinum, they could wear differently. Many times the white gold ring will begin to show a slight yellow tint to it, because white gold is basically a mixture of yellow gold with either nickel, or today they're using palladium. When the ring is made with palladium and yellow gold, it has a tendency to stay whiter than the old style nickel and yellow gold. However, there are very few manufacturers currently making white gold with palladium. Two that come to mind: Hearts on Fire, and Furrer Jacot.  

My bridesmaids are wearing strapless light blue dresses. What style of necklace would you recommend?
I don't think anyone is really limited to what style of necklace would be appropriate there. Typically I would imagine you wear something close fitting to the neck, more of a choker length. Pearls are always good for weddings. And of course today people are wearing white gold or silver for the metal for whichever style of necklace you may choose. 
OK, weird question. I want a ring that people will notice (sorry, I do!), but I also have small hands and don't want the ring to, like, engulf my hand. What's a good compromise?

A good compromise would probably be something in the 2-carat plus diamond range. You may want something with a few diamonds on the side. We would typically call this a two-table ring. Two tables meaning you can actually see that you're engaged from two tables away. Regardless of how large the ring may look to you in the store, we find that they often shrink when you're outside the store. I have so many brides come in and at first glance they think, oh, this ring is so big! But a week later, they're more used to it and they think, oh, I should have went for that bigger ring. 

I've never met a person yet whose hands were too small to carry a large diamond. It always looks good. The bigger the better. 

What's your favorite kind of diamond?
My personal favorite is the cushion-cut diamond, because it incorporates much of the brilliance of the round diamond with a softer shape, more like a pillow. My second choice would be the emerald-cut, with the prismatic effect light plays in the diamond. My wife is wearing an emerald-cut right now, but she would like to exchange it for a cushion.
Washington, DC
I love my girlfriend, but she has very picky taste. Is it OK to bring her in and have her help pick out the ring?
The fact that your girlfriend has very picky taste means it would be a good idea to have her involved in choosing the right ring. There is only a million styles from which she can choose. You may want to discuss some parameters such as size, color of metal, price range, so that when you enter a store at least you can narrow it down to a certain selection. By involving her, it's harder to surprise her, but bottom line is: Our whole intention is to make her happy and excited with her ring. 
Arlington, VA
Do you guys engrave wedding bands? How far in advance do we have to order?

We certainly do engrave wedding bands, and we have a large selection of wedding bands to choose from to be engraved. Typically hand engraving takes roughly 2 and a half to three weeks. We only do hand engraving as opposed to machine engraving for its durability and finish.

I actually always recommend that men get the wedding date engraved on the inside of the wedding band—that way, they'll always know the anniversary date and woe be that guy who forgets the anniversary date.

Bethesda, MD
I really like pink diamonds, but I know they're very expensive. I've heard lab-made pink diamonds are cheaper. Is that true?
The fact that you like pink diamonds is terrific. You can certainly get pink diamonds in a variety of color variances, which will affect the value of the stone, so you may be able to find something in your price range. As far as lab-created diamonds, I don't carry them. I don't want them anywhere near me. They have absolutely no secondhand value whatsoever. If you pay $10,000 for a lab-created diamond, it has no value.
Bethesda, MD
Also, my friend told me that yellow diamonds are actually cheaper than white diamonds. Is she right?
Yellow diamonds that are not fancy yellow diamonds are certainly less expensive than white diamonds. White diamond ranges typically from D, being the very finest, the very whitest of diamonds, to Z, which has a very yellow coloring to it. Diamonds that are in the M, N, P, Q range can be very inexpensive to purchase. Yet if they're mounted properly, they give a wonderful yellow color resembling a fine quality fancy yellow. Fancy yellow diamonds, on the other hand, actually range in a variety of colors as well. They can be light fancy, they can be fancy, they can be intense fancy, and they can be vivid intense fancy yellow. Vivid intense fancy yellow is the color of the brightest sun you've ever seen, whereas light fancy would be an even-colored light yellow diamond with certification of being light fancy.
Arlington, VA
What's the newest trend in engagement rings?
The newest trend in engagement rings would be the micro pave diamonds surrounding the center solitaire. This can also have multiple bezels of micro pave, it can have micro pave in the shank, which is the sides of the ring, and of course you can also have the center stone surrounded by fancy yellow or fancy pink diamonds of micro pave. Micro pave is really tiny stones, like half pointers or three quarters of a point, surrounding the stone in the middle. The leading designer of this is Michael Beaudry.
How can we guarantee that we are getting non-blood-diamonds? We don't want a blood diamond, but I'm not sure of the best way of finding out where to get a "blood free" diamond?
The easiest way to avoid any concern involving blood diamonds or conflict diamonds would be to purchase a Hearts on Fire diamond, which is guaranteed to be conflict free, or for the true skeptic, there are Canadian diamonds. Canadian diamonds mined in Canada, cut in Canada, certified by GIA, and sold at Chas Schwartz & Son.
My soon to be fiance and I aren't really ring people, but we'd like a piece of jewelry to commemorate our engagement…any suggestions?

Non-ring people brings to mind an interesting story where the husband really had an aversion to wearing a wedding band, so the fiance mentioned it was perfectly fine with her as long as he got a tattoo on his ring finger in place of the wedding band. On a more serious note, though, we've had a number of couples come in over the years looking for a commitment piece of jewelry or something non ring related. Many times it can be a bracelet that they can engrave the dates in, it can be a pendant. One time we even had someone get a belly ring. 

If you're looking for something both you and your fiance can get, I think the bracelet is the easiest. I've seen many people get two bracelets.