Table of Contents
As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.
This is a question that is frequently asked by our readers, and the problem is that there isn’t a direct answer. It’s similar to asking, how much does an acre of land cost? Do you see what’s wrong? There are so many variables affecting the price that all these need to be taken into value before an exact answer can be given.
Some of these factors are cut, color, clarity and yes, carat weight. But there are also those other factors that aren’t immediately noticeable like fluorescence, polish, symmetry and the grading lab among others. Tweaking even one or two of these variables a little will often result in a change in price.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the average cost of a 1 carat diamond and the factors that influence the cost. We’ll be using lots of examples from top online retailers like James Allen, Blue Nile and Brian Gavin for the sake of comparison and to give you a clear example about what we’re talking about.
1 Carat Diamond Price Range
When considering the cost of 1 carat diamonds, it’s important to understand that there’s a wide price range and the diamonds on either end of this spectrum are very different from each other. A 1 carat diamond can vary in price from $2500 to $16,000.
Here are two diamonds on either end of the price range of 1 carat diamonds. Both are 1 carat stones but that’s the only similarity in their specifications. The difference in price between these two stones is approximately $14,500! If we were going by carat size alone, it just wouldn’t make sense that there is such a price disparity between these two stones. But when you look closer, you realize why.
As you can tell just from looking at it, the stone on the top is poorly cut, has many visible inclusions and is yellow-tinted. The second diamond has an excellent cut, which means its light performance would be much more superior to the first diamond. It’s also near colorless and there are no visible flaws as the diamond is internally flawless.
Which would you buy? If going by carat size alone, either would do. But this is where the other quality factors come into play.
Factors That Affect 1 Carat Diamond Price
There are many aspects that affect the price of a diamond but these are the most important aspects with the biggest impact on the overall cost of the stone.
1- Diamond Shape
Diamond shape is often confused with cut, but these are two completely different characteristics of a diamond. The shape refers to the geometry and the appearance of the stone while the cut refers to the faceting structure.
There are ten main shapes that diamonds come in, as pictured in the screenshot above. The round brilliant is easily the most popular diamond shape, making up over 60% of all diamonds sold while the princess cut is the second. Marquise, oval and cushion are some other increasingly popular shapes. These shapes have varying costs depending on factors like customer demand and the cost of cutting the shape.
Going back to the round brilliant, it’s important to note that this is the most expensive diamond shape. As mentioned above, the demand for it is exceedingly high and the cost of cutting a round shape out of diamond rough is high. There is a lot of wastage, as only 1 round diamond can be cut out of the cubic shaped diamond rough.
Square shapes, however, often allow diamond cutters to source two stones from a single diamond rough, resulting in very little wastage and therefore lower price points.
So, if you were to choose a 1 carat princess cut diamond, for example, you’d be paying less than you would for a round. And you’d still be getting a stunning stone.
Read our article on the Top 10 Diamond Shapes to learn more about the best diamond shape for your money.
2- Diamond Cut
This is the most important quality factor when it comes to colorless diamonds. It’s always a good idea not to compromise on the quality of the cut. What point is there in a large diamond that has no sparkle?
Cut affects the light performance of the diamond, influencing its sparkle and fire. Cut refers to the proportion and symmetry of the stone and is dependent on the skill of the cutter and the facets of the shape. A cut that is too shallow results in a larger stone, but one that will have poor light refraction. A deep cut stone often has excellent sparkle but will look smaller as a lot of the stone is invisible under the surface.
The higher the cut grade, the more expensive the stone, all else being equal. An Excellent / Ideal cut is a great choice, but if you have the money to splurge you can opt for a Hearts and Arrows diamond which are the crème de la crème of diamond cut.
3- Diamond Color
After cut, color is often cited as the second most important criteria to watch out for. The higher up the color scale you go, the more expensive the diamond. In general, people want a colorless stone with no yellow tints and the demand for these stones is high.
To illustrate the price difference, compare these two 1 carat diamonds that are similar in almost every way except in color. One is an M color diamond and the other is a D color stone. The price difference is almost a whopping $5000!
So, the price of a 1 carat diamond would be significantly impacted by the color grade you choose. The grade you choose, however, depends largely on your preference and the setting of the jewelry.
Check out this guide to learn more about diamond color.
4- Diamond Clarity
Clarity refers to the transparency of the diamond and the lack or presence of inclusions within the stone. The clarity scale ranges from Included to Flawless and similar to the color scale, the higher up you go, the more expensive the gemstone becomes, all else being equal.
However, just because a diamond is of a certain clarity grade, doesn’t mean that it’s automatically assigned a specific price.
For the sake of comparison, we’ve taken two diamonds from James Allen. Both are SI1 stones, but take a close look at them. Diamond 1 has visible inclusions whereas Diamond 2 is eye clean. Which diamond would you prefer to purchase?
Chances are you want Diamond 2. And just like you, most shoppers will choose Diamond 2 over Diamond 1. Even though both diamonds are SI2 clarity and have identical clarity grading on paper, Diamond 2 looks better which would result in greater demand for the stone, factors which add to its value thereby driving the price up.
When assessing clarity, it’s important to see the actual diamond carefully and to examine it from all angles.
Other Factors that Affect Diamond Cost
There are other less obvious aspects of a diamond that add to or detract from its price.
Fluorescence is not readily noticeable in diamonds, but they are present in many stones. In the diamond industry, fluorescence is often looked down on as a bad thing, but it can actually be a benefit. Read our guide on fluorescence in diamonds which explains this phenomenon and how to benefit from it.
When you search for diamonds online, you’ll notice that the advance filter options often allow you to choose the quality of polish, symmetry, depth and table. These are all aspects of cut and although minute, are important in the overall look and price of the stone.
Another thing to watch out for is the grading report. The most recognized lab is GIA which is known for its stringent quality criteria. A diamond that is priced high by a different lab may have its worth slashed in half by the GIA’s evaluation. The AGS is also a highly consistent and trustworthy lab. Always look for either GIA or AGS certified diamonds.
Why 1 Carat Diamonds are Over-Priced
The price of diamonds increases exponentially as the carat weight goes up. The difference in price between a .98 carat diamond and a .99 carat diamond is only about 1%. However, the price difference between a 1 carat diamond and a similar .99 carat diamond can be up to 20%! This .98 diamond is significantly less expensive than this 1.0 carat stone.
They look quite similar to each other so why is there such a big difference in price?
It comes down to the emotional factor of buying diamonds. There is a high demand for 1 carat diamonds and many shoppers are prepared to pay more for a perfect round weight number. There’s something satisfying about a complete number. There’s also the prestige factor and being able to say that the diamond is, indeed, a perfect 1 carat as opposed to, say .97 carats.
Because the demand for 1 carat diamonds is so high, the prices are often jacked up. There are many poorly cut 1 carat diamonds on the market for the simple reason that the cutter decided to sacrifice quality for value.
All this is why experts recommend staying under standard prices like 1 carat to get the best bang for your money. Having said that, many shoppers have cottoned on to this and diamonds just under 1 carat have become very popular. As a result, the demand has driven the prices of these ‘90s’ diamonds up. Unlike in the past, the difference in prices between 1 carat and 90s diamonds is not as significant as in the past.
Should I Buy a 1 Carat Diamond?
The answer to this question depends on you and your partner. Why are you buying the diamond and what do you want it to represent?
As we’ve seen, 1 carat diamonds are expensive but there are ways to pick a great diamond at a lower price point, by manipulating the quality factors and opting for a diamond below the 1 carat mark.
If done right, you’ll never notice the difference by looking at it.
Online Stores We Recommend for 1 Carat Diamonds
A 1 carat diamond is a big purchase and not one to be undertaken lightly. By taking your search online, you’ll be able to access competitive prices and have a wide range of options to source from.
However, it is imperative to choose a trustworthy and reliable vendor, known for the quality of their products and services. We recommend the following retailers when it comes to online shopping.
James Allen allows you to view each diamond carefully from all angles using their ground-breaking Diamond Display Technology. They also have Diamond Experts on hand to help you through the process.
Blue Nile has the largest online inventory of diamonds at competitive prices. They’re known for their quality and great customer service.
Brian Gavin’s diamonds are famous for their cut quality and for their continuous innovation in perfecting their cut quality. Their Black and Blue Collections feature some of the very best diamonds. See their range here.