How to choose a diamond – a step by step guide
If you are after a diamond engagement ring, you might agree with us that the hardest part about buying an engagement ring is choosing the diamond. Most online retailers, like Blue Nile and James Allen, give you option to build your own ring. Part of this process is selecting your diamond, out of hundreds of others. If money is no object, then this is not an issue at all. But if, like the rest of us, you don’t want to cut too big a hole in your pocket, then choosing your diamond becomes more time-consuming and complicated. Knowing that the diamond determines the overall look of the ring does not diminish this pressure, and you want to ensure that your loved one receives a gorgeous ring that she will love.
So for a top quality look, you need a top quality diamond. But that always comes with a hefty price tag. Or does it? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps that will help you get the best price without sacrificing the appearance of your diamond.
- Decide on your budget. This is critical because it ensures you stay within a reasonable price range. It is very easy to go over your budget if you aren’t aware of all your options. Most online retailers make it easy to stay within your budget by checking out combinations of the 4Cs. For more information read our article on all you need to know about the 4C's of diamonds.
- Next, decide on the shape of your diamond. A point to note is that the diamond shape is different to the cut. The cut refers to the angles and facets of the stone and is a method of evaluating the diamond. The most popular shapes are round, princess and cushion cuts but there are at least 10 popular shapes to choose from.
- Decide on the carat weight. This depends on how much you’re willing to spend and what is expected.
- Now that you’ve decided on your budget, shape and carat, it’s easy to begin the search. Start with the highest quality diamond. This means color grade D and clarity grade IF (internally flawless) or FL (flawless). For cut, go with the highest option on the grade. Different retailers have different terms for their best cut, for example Signature (Blue Nile), True Heart (James Allen) or Super Ideal (Brilliant Earth). If your budget is high, you will have options. Generally, though, a search for very high quality diamond against a low budget will not return any results. This requires you to start making adjustments to your search criteria. The following order yields the best results:
- Clarity is the first factor to adjust to find a diamond within your budget. You can lower the clarity grade to as low as VS2 before adjusting other factors. This is because VS2 diamonds are still eye-clean in most cases (no imperfection is seen with the naked eye).
- The next step is to lower the color quality. As a rule of thumb, you can gradually decrease the color quality from D to G up until color H before making adjustments to other factors. The following two tips will come in handy when choosing your diamond: Tip 1: Only set colorless diamonds (D-F color grade) on white gold or platinum. If a colorless diamond is set on yellow or rose gold, it will appear yellow. This would make it pointless paying the premium for the white diamond. Tip 2: Detecting the color difference between D and H color grades becomes very difficult once the diamond is mounted and worn. If you are on a tight budget, you can limit you color grade to E-F knowing they probably will appear as good as a diamond with D color grading.
- Cut is the most important factor that determines the brilliance of your diamond and should be the last factor to adjust. It is recommended not to go for diamonds below the Very Good cut grade.
- If your search yields no satisfying results, it is wise to decrease your carat weight by 10%. For instance, if you were targeting a 1 carat diamond, change your criteria to 0.90 carat. While not easily detected when viewed, this decrease in carat weight makes a big difference in the price.
- By now, your search should be giving you some good options. If you are still not having any luck and find that you need to make further adjustments to your search criteria to gain more options, then it is recommended to go with the following steps:
- For diamonds between 1 and 2 carats you can drop to clarity grade SI1, as for this grade imperfections are not usually detectable with the naked eye. For diamonds less than 1 carat, clarity is the least important factor and you can safely drop down to SI2.
- For diamonds under 1 carat, you can go as low as I-J color grades for a diamond that would appear colorless mounted on a white gold or platinum ring. If it is an option, consider setting the diamond on yellow gold and safely drop the color grade to K.
- Round and princess shapes are the most brilliant, due to their high number of facets. As they reflect light brilliantly, these shapes are better at hiding yellow tins of diamonds. This means you can target these shapes and drop your color grading even further.
- If the carat weight is your primary concern, consider buying a shape that will create the illusion of appearing larger than other shapes of the same carat weight. For example, the marquise cut appears larger than other diamond shapes of the same carat size.
- Some diamond shapes are cheaper than others. The princess cut is one of the cheapest cuts as its shape allows for a higher yield of the rough diamond. And yet this doesn’t mean that it compromises on brilliance and beauty. The round brilliant, on the other hand, is a more expensive shape.
- Fluorescence is another factor that can help you budget. While generally seen as a disadvantage, in white diamonds it can actually be an advantage. It can create the illusion of the diamond appearing whiter. You can choose a diamond with fluorescence which will generally be cheaper. The additional bonus is that this will allow you to drop down on the color grade scale (again a way to drop the price) as the fluorescence will offset the tint in the diamond. But ensure that you view the diamond to find the perfect balance between the fluorescence and the color.
At this point in your search, you will hopefully be coming up with many diamond to choose from, within your budget and search criteria. It is time consuming and can be stressful, but by making calculated decisions and changing the combinations of the 4Cs, you will be able to shave off several hundred dollars off the price of your stone and cherry pick the ideal diamond for your ring.