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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
- BlueNile.com – well known online diamond and jewelry website
- UnionDiamond.com – a diamond wholesaler with a store in Atlanta
- Costco Jewelry – this discount wholesaler also sells jewelry
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!
- 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!