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How to Buy a Diamond Ring

By Ryan Knight

As you know, diamonds are one of the most sought-after gems in the world and are commonly used for engagement rings and other jewelry. When purchasing a diamond, it is important to understand what quality of diamond to look for, how to find it, and how much to pay. Taking a little extra time to plan ahead will make buying a diamond a great success for you and it will make for a very happy recipient.

What To Look For In A Diamond – The Four C’s

1. Carat

The weight of a diamond is defined in carats and a carat is the most common reference to size. A two-carat diamond weighs twice as much as a one-carat diamond, but may not look twice as big depending on the cut. When looking for a diamond, it’s good to have a general idea of what weight you are looking for, but leave room for flexibility as you may want to balance carat with color and clarity within your budget.
  • Tip: If you want a 1 carat diamond, consider .98 and you may save a lot of money by going for a less-demanded weight (and you can still round up when you tell people).

2. Cut

The cut of a diamond generally refers to the shape, but more specifically refers to how well the diamond is designed to optimize its brilliance and size. A well cut diamond will shine brightly whereas a poorly cut diamond will allow light to pass right through. In addition to shining brightly, a well cut diamond also makes the most of its weight. By this I mean that a well cut diamond will stretch out the weight to look as big as possible without compromising the shine.
  • Tip: If you are considering a round diamond, use the patented Holloway Cut Advisor to compare the dimensions of your diamond with ideal standards.

3. Clarity

The clarity of a diamond deals with how many imperfections or specs of dust, dirt, or carbon can be seen in the diamond. A perfect diamond does not exist naturally, but anything close is extremely expensive. For most people, finding a diamond with no obvious flaws is just fine. Most diamonds are certified by a gemologist, but you should also take the opportunity to compare diamonds with easily seen flaws next to diamonds with flaws only seen under a microscope. Decide what you are comfortable with and stick with it. Typical clarity ranges for most diamonds range from “Small Inclusions” to “Very, Very Small Inclusions.” Ask to look at a range of these and decide what is clear enough for you.
  • Tip: A “Small Inclusion” or “Very Small Inclusion” diamond may have inclusions, but usually requires a microscope to see them. These are often a great value.

4. Color

The color of most diamonds ranges from colorless to light yellow on a scale from D to Z. Similar to clarity, color is a personal choice that you must feel comfortable with. A good range that has hints of color only to the trained eye is the G to K range. It probably makes the most sense to pick a diamond in this range.
  • Tip: “H” and “I” colored diamonds look clear to everyone other than gemologists and offer great value.

5. Certification

This is not one of the four C’s, but it is a crucial one. A Gemological Institute of America (GIA) certification guarantees the specs on the 4 C’s. It may add a few hundred dollars to the price, but will protect you from a scam. I highly recommend getting a diamond that has been certified. One of the worst experiences I had when diamond shopping was a dealer offering a diamond at a very high cost with specs that had not been certified. They claimed to have their own internal certification (an obvious conflict of interest). When I told them I was not interested, they dropped the price in half. This is an obvious sign that they were overvaluing the diamond initially and were now bringing the price closer to the diamond’s real value. If this happens, just walk away. Otherwise, you are asking to get scammed.
  • Tip: A GIA certification raises the price, but keeps you from getting scammed by an in-house “expert.”

james allen

Price Research

Once you have a good idea of the four C’s, do price research. There are a few online wholesalers that offer a good place to start to understand the prices you should expect to pay:

Know What She Wants

When you’re ready, an engagement diamond is a guarantee that you’re in it for the long run. Since you’re making a long-term commitment, I encourage you to err on the side of getting too much instead of too little. Of course you can upgrade later, but relax your frugality and surprise her! Don’t forget to try to subtly figure out her ring size as well!

Other Tips

  • Just because a jewelry store says they buy diamonds directly from the mines does not mean you are getting a good deal – check the prices and compare!
  • Learn about Diamond Insurance that covers any loss or problems. Most jewelry stores offer insurance programs, but have a lot of fine print. Check out JewelersMutual.com for a reputable company.
  • You don’t need as good of quality when buying diamond earrings or necklaces. These are not being gazed at as often as a ring so you can usually get better prices here.
  • Check out these tips on buying an engagement ring for some other great advice.

Did I leave anything out? Have you been through the diamond-buying process? I’d love to hear your firsthand experiences!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Ryan Knight
Ryan is a business analyst in Atlanta, GA and proud supporter of Georgia Tech. He enjoys blogging as a way to share with others ideas about finding time, saving money, and having fun. He regularly contributes to ObsessedAnalytic and MoneyCrashers and has been featured on ChristianPF and RedeemingRiches. In his free time, Ryan enjoys playing and watching sports including running, soccer, football, and disc golf. Follow him on his twitter account: ramblinknight.

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  • H

    Negotiate!

    My jeweler came down thousands of dollars as I pressed him. Then once he wouldn’t go lower (the second time) I offered to do some work for him which knocked even more off the price.

  • K

    Why buy into the “diamonds are great” hype. They are so common and the price is so overhyped by a monopoly. Get other gemstones instead and save the money. Not every girl wants a common rock on their finger. I chose to go with blue sapphire and love it, it matches both my and my husband’s eyes and is more precious to me for that.

    I’m really disappointed to see this type of article on Money Crashers. You don’t even mention the possibility of alternative stones or semi-precious items like pearls with diamonds as a last resort. Are you also suggesting that a frugal person “relax their frugality” and pay x number of months salary for a ring as well? Get off the bandwagon. If I want the bandwagon I’ll go to De Beers.

    • Ryan Knight

      I agree that there is a lot of hype surrounding diamonds. The true intrinsic value of a diamond is mostly focused in its ability to cut through objects without breaking. The extrinsic value people associate with diamonds (or sapphire or any other stone that in reality is just some combination of elements with little intrinsic value) is based on perception and emotion just like most things in life. Just like you love sapphire because of the association with your husband’s eyes, other people may love diamonds because of a personal association or a joy in the simplicity and clarity it represents. No matter what, we all value things for different reasons and the point of this article is not to get into what we value and why, but instead to offer a resource to those interested in diamonds for whatever personal reasons they may have.

      With that said, I know a lot of people who have chosen other stones that aren’t as highly priced as diamonds. From sapphire stones to pearls, there are plenty of options for those interested in an alternative from the mainstream. I appreciate the idea, and will research those options further and post on them soon.

  • http://ow.ly/2XVtK Washington

    Buying an engagement ring can be a tricky process and this article contains some great advice. Something else to consider before making this purchase is how you will be paying for the ring. Work with your bank to make sure you have a plan in place before the purchase!

  • David

    Ryan

    Great piece.

    Very informative.

    i would emphasize the GIA certification. There are a million appraisals out there, and I could print an official looking one from my printer at home if I really wanted to.

    Make sure its GIA.

    Also, you can always consider shopping for diamonds at pawn shops. Really.

    The prices there are usually half of retailers, and well, a diamond is a diamond is a diamond.

    Its at least worth looking into in my opinion.

    • Ryan Knight

      David, thanks for the emphasis on GIA. One bad story I didn’t mention in the post was of a friend buying a non-certified diamond from a shop. Later, the engagement got broken off and when he tried to take the diamond back he found out the shop wouldn’t take it and he had overpaid by a few thousand dollars. Getting a certified diamond and comparing prices online is key to insuring the value of a diamond purchase.

  • Kyle

    Excellent piece of information Ryan and I do like you’re choice of those three jewelers. I’ve been a member of Costco for many years and agree that you can get sometimes get great deals there.

    Blue Nile and Union Diamond are also great choices. I shopped both when buying my gals engagemnt ring and both had exceptional customer service. I ultimately chose Union Diamond because they offered the ring I wanted in rose gold.

    I dont think I could buy at a pawn shop though. It seems to me that the stones they sell have bad karma! ;-)

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