Q&A with Torin Bales, fine jewelry expert
Jan. 7, 2013 at 11:03 a.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend. And for guys, their best friend is Torin Bales. At least he should be when shopping for engagement or wedding rings.
He's been in the business of fine jewelry for more than 30 years and got his start as a youngster because his father worked in the jewelry industry. He owns Torin Bales Fine Jewelry in Victoria and has sold thousands of engagement and wedding rings. The store sells trendy and timeless pieces of jewelry. He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to share his expertise with Golden Crescent Magazine.
What's the biggest difference between an engagement and a wedding ring?
Traditionally, an engagement ring is the ring you get at the time of engagement. You would wear that ring and at the time of the wedding, you would get another ring, which would be worn on the inside of the engagement ring because the wedding ring is supposed to be closer to the heart.
In more modern times, people sometimes take the option of having a single ring and that would be the engagement and the wedding ring.
Some brides will have the two rings soldered together and it would become one ring.
What is the most recent trend you've seen in engagement and wedding rings?
The most recent trend, besides the cut of diamond and kinds of diamonds, is the halo, which is when you have a single diamond held in the center and have a halo of smaller diamonds that circle it. It's really beautiful because you can take a beautiful diamond, and, if done properly - De Beers (jewelry company) coined the phrase "Center of my Universe" - it's a beautiful way to showcase the center diamond without taking away from it.
What's your favorite style of ring?
I really like the cushion-cut diamond. To me, the cushion cut diamond is a fabulous stone. Just the way the light reflects off the facets; I think the cushion cut is a very beautiful stone. The round stone is still by far the most popular cut in diamonds, and I also really like halo. I re-did my wife's ring in a halo design, and I really like the way that looks.
We heard that you've witnessed a few proposals in your day. What is your favorite proposal story - other than your own, of course?
I've participated in one recently that was in my store. It was really kind of cool. I didn't really know the customer was going to do this, but he brought the bride-to-be to the store and a bag with him.
I was already kinda prepared for them to come in and had out different styles of rings that he had preselected.
But he had brought out a bottle of champagne and three glasses, so he included me in the deal. And we actually have Godiva chocolates here in the store - so we all sat around and showed her the rings and he put the ring on her finger right there in the store - we had chocolate and champagne.
I hear the stories so many times, but I never actually get to be there when it happens, so that, to me, was really cool.
Who set the standard of spending three-month's pay on an engagement ring?
De Beers came up with that years ago. The reason they did that was there were so many men who didn't have any idea about how much they should spend on an engagement ring. We still have people who come into the store and have no clue what to spend.
And sometimes that can get them into trouble. They want to know ahead of time because they want to get something they'll love but also something they can afford.
Going back to tradition, the man was the one who bought the engagement ring and surprised the lady with it. Now, 50 percent of the time, they come in together. So a lot of times, it's nicer for them to know ahead of time.
De Beers, years ago, came up with this concept of three-month's salary, and it kinda gives you a perspective that if you're going to spend three-month's salary on a ring that she will wear the rest of her life, then it's not really that much money.
It gives you a basis for what to spend on somebody. Some people will spend less, and some people will spend more. It just depends on the person.
What advice can you give men out there who are getting ready to pop the question?
I am still a believer of finding out what she likes. For me, I still like the surprise part of it. I guess I'm more traditional. I like when the guy comes in and he makes the selection and he goes through the full thing of asking the parents for their daughter's hand and still goes through the process of surprising the lady.
I think sometimes we lose the romance part of it. One of the most romantic things you will ever do is proposing to your wife-to-be. I just think that it's a super special time.
Is there anything else that you want the buyer to be aware of?
The one thing we try to talk to people about is to buy quality, no matter how much you spend. I would rather see somebody get something smaller of good quality than something large of bad quality. When you're talking about engagement rings, it's the one piece of jewelry that she's going to wear all the time and never take off. Whether it's the quality of the diamond or the mounting, you want it to be a good quality ring.
It's something you want her to be very proud of when she shows, because the first thing her friends are going to do when she gets engaged is want to see her ring. You want it to sparkle, you want it to be brilliant, beautiful. Even if it's not as large; it's still going to be more beautiful than something that's larger but low quality.