Choosing a diamond

Choosing a Diamond

A diamond engagement ring may be one of most expensive--and hopefully, the most lasting--purchases you ever make. But a two-carat diamond could cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000. So what determines the price?

A basic understanding of diamonds can help you find a rock that fits your budget and your sweetheart's finger.

how-to-know-a-diamond-quality1Quality over Quantity

There are four features of a diamond that determine the price: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.  The cut of your diamond typically has the biggest impact on its price--about 25% to 50%. Carat weight will influence about 10% to 20% and color and clarity each make up the last 10% to 15% of the price.

Some people just want a big rock, but if you're looking for value, carat weight is the last feature you should consider. Get the highest quality you can afford.

The Essential Four Cs



How a diamond is cut directly affects its brilliance or sparkle. And the sparkle is why you're buying a diamond. If you're going to splurge on one of the four C's, do so on the cut. A smaller-carat diamond can look bigger if it's cut well.  Try to purchase the highest cut grade within your budget, trading down on color and clarity if needed.

Although the cut of a diamond is an important measure of quality, some jewelers don't openly reveal the cut rating. If they don't, be sure to ask.

A diamond's color rating begins with the highest grade of a letter "D," which is a colorless (white) diamond and continues to Z. Diamonds below a J rating will begin to show a hint of yellow. Most people start to see a color difference in the I to J range, so you don't necessarily need to buy a D-rated diamond.

Keep in mind that color will become more obvious as the carat size grows. The metal of the band may also affect your decision: a yellow gold band will enhance the yellow in a diamond while a platinum or white gold band may not.

Flaws in the diamond, such as minerals or laser lines (from when the diamond is cut), are called "inclusions." Consider an "eye-clean" diamond, meaning it appears flawless to the naked eye. Buying either a "very, very slightly included" (VVSI) or "very slightly included" (VSI) diamond will cost less, and many of them look just as pretty. Some people prefer diamonds with inclusions, because they're more personal. Diamonds are a material which is formed naturally, some have little imperfections.

Once you've determined how much you're willing to spend on the first three C's, you can determine what carat weight fits your budget and quality criteria. Larger carat-weight diamonds are rarer, so as they grow in size, they rise in price exponentially.

One trick is to "buy shy," which means buying just under whole carat marks, which can save hundreds of dollars. If you're looking to buy a two-carat diamond, consider 1.8 carats instead. Visually, you won't be able to tell the difference. You may also want to consider buying several smaller diamonds, which can be less expensive than a single stone with the same weight.


In order to trust the stone you're buying is accurately rated, diamonds are certified by an unbiased third party. Two of the main companies that certify diamonds in the U.S. are the American Gem Society Laboratories and the Gemological Institute of America. Another legitimate certifier is the European Gemological Laboratories.