Diamonds are still forever

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Jewelry trends can change faster than Steamboat Springs weather. But when it comes to engagement rings, a local jeweler says diamonds are as timeless and unchanging as the Sleeping Giant.

Gary Hofmeister, owner of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in Steamboat, said future couples "very seldom" will vary from diamonds when choosing the bride's engagement ring.

"Girls might think they would like something different, but most girls, when they get engaged, they want everybody to know," said Hofmeister, who has been in the jewelry business for 36 years.

About 98 percent of women considering a different gemstone - such as sapphires, opals or rubies - change their mind, Hofmeister continued, "after seeing a beautifully cut diamond that blinds them with its brilliance."

Prices for such brilliance depend on how much blinding the buyer can afford.

"You can start as low as you can possibly go, and you can go to the stratosphere," Hofmeister said.

Norbert "Del" Delhaute, owner of Del's Jewelry in Steamboat, said the most popular engagement ring at his store is a three-stone diamond ring, which costs between $500 and $2,500.

"They come in either round-cut or the princess cut, which is a square-cut diamond," said Delhaute.

Delhaute runs his store with his son, Jerome Delhaute, at a location he has owned since 1970. Before that, Del's Jewelry was across the street, where it opened in 1946.

"I think I'm the oldest business-owner still in business down here on Main Street," the elder Delhaute said, referring to Old Town Steamboat's main drag.

As for the old adage that a man should spend one month's salary on his bride's engagement ring, Delhaute upped the ante.

"Even two months salary is not too much to put into a lifetime situation," he said. "It's once in a lifetime, so they should be ready to put a month to two months salary into the purchase."

When choosing how to spend that money, old is new these days, Hofmeister said.

"The one thing that has been fairly hot lately is an antique-type style of wedding ring," he said. "The kind of styles you might have seen up to 100 years ago."

Hofmeister said that with about one-third of the couples he sees, the groom comes in alone and surprises his bride with a ring, while about two-thirds come in together to pick out an engagement ring.

"If a guy is going to do a surprise, I always give him several options to change it after he presents the diamond to her," Hofmeister said. "(Changing the ring) doesn't happen all that often, but it's important to have the options."

For couples looking for something different, Christine Muzik has an idea.

Muzik is the owner of the Spiritpass store in Craig, where she sells hand-made, hand-forged Native American wedding bands and rings made of sterling silver and gold.

"They are the most beautiful wedding bands you ever saw," she said.

Muzik said each of the unique pieces are "museum-quality" collector's items, some of which have been shown at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Muzik said she buys the jewelry directly from Navajo and Santo Domingo artisans in New Mexico and Arizona, allowing her to sell the pieces at prices from $64 to $308.

Usually, she said, the jewelry will sell for as much as $1,700.

"I refuse to mark up my jewelry by 3,000 percent," said Muzik, who will have a 25-percent-off Valentine's Day sale. "People work hard for their money."

She and her husband re-did their vows with Native American bands, Muzik said, adding that the items are becoming "very popular" with couples looking for unique jewelry with a lasting meaning.

"These wedding bands can be passed from generation to generation," Muzik said.

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