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Michele Velazquez Headshot

Propose Like The Stars This Valentine's Day (On An Earthly Budget)

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The year 2011 was a busy one for celebrities looking to tie the knot. It seemed like the news kept pouring in as we heard about stars such as Britney Spears, Anne Hathaway, and Drew Barrymore getting hitched to their long-time boyfriends. And of course, with each new announcement of another famous femme being taken off the market came the news of her extravagantly enviable engagement ring.

Who can forget Reese Witherspoon's four carat Ashoka diamond ring, reportedly costing approximately $250,000? Or Kim Kardashian's monstrous 20.5 carat emerald cut ring that was reported to cost $2 million?

As Valentine's Day approaches, men all over the world are gearing up to pop the question themselves. While I can help them plan the perfect proposal, I am definitely not an engagement ring expert. I wanted to talk to an expert about how I could help men find the perfect engagement ring without blowing their pocketbook. I spoke with Ira Weissman, founder of www.TruthAboutDiamonds.com to find out how you can buy a superstar ring on a budget. He gave me three steps you can take to maximize the visual impact of the diamond:

Buy Online

According to Weissman, "Profit margins at most bricks & mortar jewelry stores are well over 50 percent while online diamond sellers only make typically between 12-15 percent on their diamonds." This means that a diamond that costs $5,000 online would cost at least $6,500 in local jewelry stores. Kim Kardashian's $2 million ring would have cost close to one million had it been purchased online (and yes, you can actually buy diamonds this expensive online!)

Forget the Big Names

Weissman says that diamonds are essentially a commodity. "If you must have a famous name design your ring, then just buy the actual setting from the designer since the ring itself is the only part that's unique and is deserving of their premium. A diamond with the same '4 Cs' will be the same regardless of where you buy it, so there's no need to pay Tiffany, for example, double what you could pay elsewhere. The little blue box is nice, but it's not worth a few thousand dollars."

Don't Go Overboard on Color and Clarity

Clarity refers to how many imperfections there are in the diamond. Most people assume that imperfections are ugly, and are convinced to get a very clean diamond. But this is a mistake. An eye clean SI2 (Clarity grades go from IF, or internally flawless to VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, and finally I1), which is relatively far down the clarity scale, will look identical to a flawless diamond assuming all else is equal (yet it will cost less than half). The only thing that matters regarding clarity is that you should not be able to see the imperfections with the naked eye -- an imperfection will not make the diamond any less brilliant or fiery.

The story is the same with color. People think that since they are presented with a range of color options from D to K, that picking anything less than a D, E, or F will result in a yellow looking diamond. The fact is, that an H color diamond will still look completely white to anybody's eye. You might only notice that it's not the whitest possible shade if it were placed directly next to a much higher color diamond.

These tips are sure to help you pull off a superstar proposal. I bet my husband wishes he read this before he proposed!

Michele is a Romance Expert, who specializes in Romantic Date and Proposal Planning. She owns The Heart Bandits and has been featured on the New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News, Houston Chronicle, Orange County Register, and KTLA news. Contact The Heart Bandits to have them plan your romantic date or marriage proposal. For more information about The Heart Bandits or marriage proposal ideas, visit www.theheartbandits.com