The diamond was discovered in India more than 3,000 years ago and was described as a breath of eternity. Thus diamonds have long been symbolic of lasting love.

Just be sure that the diamond engagement or wedding ring you choose is of a style that is timeless - and of a quality that makes it a good investment."No two diamonds are alike," says Lloyd Jaffe, chairman of the American Diamond Industry Association, "and of course as with any commodity, the rarer the diamond, the more expensive the stone."

The price of a diamond is equally dependent on four factors, says Jaffe - Shape (cut), color, weight (carat) and degree of perfection (clarity).

CUT: The shape of the diamond - round, oval, emerald cut, heart, marquise, pear-shape - is a matter of personal taste. A fully cut diamond has 58 facets which, when properly proportioned, will maximize the `fire' in the stone. Round stones traditionally are the most popular.

CARAT: The larger the size, the rarer the stone and the greater its value. A carat is roughly equivalent to one-fifth of a gram.

CLARITY: The number and location of imperfections in a stone determine its clarity grade. A diamond with fewer flaws is rarer and therefore more valuable.

COLOR: Diamonds come in a variety of colors ranging from colorless (blue-white) to deep yellows. Those closest to colorless are more desirable.

In the end, says Jaffee, "... appearance, the element which helps reflect individual taste, should be the primary factor for the buyer to consider."