How to choose the best diamond for your budget

Diamond Shopping

For most people, buying a diamond could be a challenging exercise. Diamonds are shining rocks that come in different sizes, shapes and colors, and to the untrained eye, many of them look almost the same.  Diamond education is critical since minor differences in color, cut or clarity of these beautiful rocks could significantly impact on the final price. The goal is to get the “best diamond” at your price range and for that we need basic diamond education.

Prices of Diamonds Always Rise

In shopping for diamonds, it is important to realize that the cost increases dramatically as diamonds move through the retail chain. A diamond purchased straight from the source (i.e. the mining company) could easily cost less than half the cost at the retail store. Purchasing a diamond in a wholesale center or in major diamond exchanges (located in Israel, Belgium, Russia and South Africa) will dramatically reduce the overall purchase cost. A 1 Carat GIA certified round diamond, with G color and VVS2 Clarity could easily cost $8,000 at a US retailer. The same diamond could be purchased at a direct wholesale exchange in Israel or Belgium for less than $4,000.

What Makes Diamonds Unique

Every diamond is unique, and there are a variety of factors which affect the price of a diamond. Focus on those factors most important to you, and choose a diamond that satisfies your individual standards for beauty and value. This might be a very different diamond than someone else with a similar budget would choose. The first important thing to consider when shopping for a diamond is its certification. There are many certifications available but I would recommend the GIA (American Gemological Association) certification. It is a high standard certification that provides a thorough, independent evaluation of the diamond’s quality and is accepted around the world. Review the link to learn how GIA diamond grades are established, and how those grades affect the diamond’s price. The GIA guide provides a simple explanation of the 4 C’s (Carat Weight, Cut, Color, and Clarity).


The four C’s determine the true value of a diamond:

1) Carat Weight

The first of the C’s is Carat weight. A bigger diamond will have a higher Carat weight and it is important because a bigger diamond cost more in general and is more impressive. The diamond shape must be considered because each shape will have different dimensions for the same Carat weight. Two diamonds of equal carat weight may also appear very different in size based on the shape of the diamond. For instance, a 1 carat marquise tends to appear larger than a 1 carat round. The chart below illustrates why.















































As the carat size of a diamond increases, the diamond’s price increases at an increasing rate because the larger the diamond, the more increasingly rare it is. Fewer than one in one million mined stones are large enough to produce a finished 1 carat diamond. So, as carat weight increases, you will typically pay much more in total price. The cost of a diamond is categorized id Carat Bands, so it is recommended to look for a diamond at the upper end of the carat cost band (i.e. 0.99 carat or 1.49 carat) in order to get the biggest diamond in the carat cost band. The table below illustrates the typical relationship between diamonds of equal quality and increasing carat weights:






Price-per-caratTotal Price

$ 6,000

$ 6,000

$ 12,000

$ 24,000

$ 18,000

$ 54,000


Two diamonds of the same shape and carat weight may still appear different in size based on the proportions. A deeply cut diamond has a greater proportion of its total weight “hidden” in the depth, resulting in a smaller diameter than a well cut diamond. A well cut diamond may even have a slightly lower carat weight than a deeply cut diamond, yet still have a larger diameter, making it appear larger in size.

 2) Cut

The second C is the Cut, and diamond cut proportions are important because they determine the “fiery” multicolored reflections out of a well cut diamond. When light strikes a diamond, approximately 20% immediately reflects off the surface (as glare). Of the 80% that enters, a portion will escape through the bottom of the diamond. A well cut diamond will have each facet properly placed and angled so as to maximize the amount of light that reflects back out of the crown (top) of the diamond, to the eye of the observer. This reflected light is perceived as scintillation, fire, or brilliance.

In the diagram below, three common light patterns are shown. When light meets any facet of a diamond, it will either reflect (bounce back) or refract (bend while passing through the facet). The angle that the light hits the facet determines whether the majority of light reflects or refracts, which is why cut is so important.

If the diamond cut is too shallow, entering light strikes the firstfacet at a low angle and passes through the facet (refracts), escaping through the bottom of the diamond.
If the diamond cut is too deep, entering light strikes the first facet at an angle sharp enough to reflect to the second facet, but the light strikes the second facet at too low an angle, causing the light to refract (pass through the facet), escaping through the bottom of the diamond.
In a well cut diamond, the light strikes each facet at an angle which allows most of the light to reflect back to the crown (top). As it passes through the crown facets at a low angle, the light refracts upon exit. In this case, refraction is a good thing, as the bent light travels to the observer’s eye and is perceived as a lively multicolor fire or brilliance.



 3) Color

The third C stands for Color. Diamonds come in a variety of colors, however in a pure white diamond is preferred because the presence of a yellow tint will degrade its beauty and lower its price. The less body color in a white diamond, the more true color it will reflect, and thus the greater its value. The GIA grades diamonds on a scale of D (colorless) through Z (light color). All D-Z diamonds are considered white, even though they contain varying degrees of color. Below is the GIA diamond color chart.

Colorless While there are differences in color between D, E, and F diamonds, they can be detected only by a gemologist in side by side comparisons, and rarely by the untrained eye. D-F diamonds should only be set in white gold / platinum. Yellow gold reflects color, negating the diamond’s colorless effect.
Near Colorless While containing traces of color, G-J diamonds are suitable for a platinum or white gold setting, which would normally betray any hint of color in a diamond.Because I-J diamonds are more common than the higher grades, they tend to be a great value. I-J diamond may retail for half the price of a D diamond. Within the G-J range, price tends to increase 10-20% between each diamond grade.
Faint Color Beginning with K diamonds, color (usually a yellow tint) is more easily detected by the naked eye. Set in yellow gold, these warm colored diamonds appeal to some, and are an exceptional value. Others will feel they have too much color. Due to its perceptible color tint, a K diamond is often half the price of a G diamond.
Very Light Color Diamonds in the N-R color range have an easily seen yellow or brown tint, but are much less expensive than higher grades.
Light Color S-Z diamonds have too much color for a white diamond.


4) Clarity

The fourth C stands for Clarity. Clarity refers to the degree to which imperfections and inclusions are present inside the diamond. Diamonds which contain numerous or significant inclusions or blemishes have less brilliance because the flaws interfere with the path of light through the diamond. The position of an inclusion affects how easily it can be seen. Diamond cutters make every effort to cut a stone so that inclusions are not visible through the table of the finished diamond. Almost all diamonds are graded for clarity using the 11 point GIA diamond clarity scale. In grading diamond clarity, the GIA considers the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of every flaw visible under 10x magnification. The GIA diamond clarity chart is provided below.


FL Flawless: No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. Extremely rare, less than 1 in 5000 jewelry quality diamonds are rated FL.
IF Internally Flawless: No inclusions, only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. FL and IF diamonds appear identical unless viewed under 10x magnification by a skilled grader. Less than 3% of jewelry quality diamonds are rated IF.
Very, Very Slightly Included: Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. VVS1 inclusions are typically only visible from the facets while VVS2 inclusions are visible from the crown. The inclusions are invisible to the eye, appearing only under 10x magnification by a skilled grader.
Very Slightly Included: Inclusions are clearly visible under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor. Inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. Perhaps 1 in 100 untrained observers can detect VS2 inclusions with the naked eye, on close inspection under ideal conditions.
Slightly Included: Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. SI1 is the lowest grade with flaws often invisible to the naked eye. SI2 inclusions are usually visible to the naked eye, although they will require close inspection.
Included: Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance. I1 diamonds have inclusions that are almost always visible to the naked eye. I2-I3 diamonds have pronounced inclusions.

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9 Responses

  1. A very comprehensive guide to diamonds. I remember doing a lot of research when I was buying the engagement ring…I don’t plan on buying anymore diamonds in the future though. And I don’t see the point for buying more for things that are undetectable by human sight. It’s not like people will check out the rock under a magnifying glass when they see the diamond.

  2. Wow, this is great and very detailed! My fiancé did a lot of research when buying my ring as well, like Andrew mentioned he did when proposing to his wife. I have a great ring on my finger, and I’m not all that concerned about the diamond but that’s just me! There is this great diamond store here where I live and they have prices that are at least 30% less than every other store. Their commercials say that’s because they buy directly from the source but that could be a marketing ploy.

    1. That is because when you buy from the manufacturer and it isn’t passed to another seller, it is always cheaper. It is like going to a factory story, it is always cheaper there than in the normal retail store.

  3. I decided to chose clarity and color for my wife over the carat and cut. The cut really didn’t matter too much and she really expressed an interest in something as pure as possible. High clarity and color has given her something that still shines, sparkles and is gorgeous without a huge rock!

  4. Oh wow, detailed information, very comprehensive. I sometimes wondered how come diamonds have different prices, because they pretty looked the same to me 😛

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  6. My family members all the time say that I am wasting my time here at web, however I know I am getting experience every day by reading such fastidious posts.

  7. Thank you for suggesting that you should check out and learn what makes the diamond unique. My boyfriend and I are looking at engagement rings and I want to make sure we get the perfect one. We will have to look around and find our favorite in the area.

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