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A 12.13 ct. cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant-cut diamond ring sold for $482,500 at Bonhams Fine Jewelry auction on June 19.
Sales from the entire auction totaled $5.3 million. “The auctions saw both colored and colorless diamonds exceeding their high estimates, with excellent prices realized for signature jewelry as well as fine quality colored stones,” said Virginia Salem, director of the Bonhams jewelry department in New York City, in a statement.
12.13 ct. cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant-cut diamond ring (Photos courtesy of Bonhams)
Other highlights from the auction included:
- The sale price for an 8.5 ct. pear-shaped fancy intense yellow diamond ring more than doubled its preauction estimate; the ring went for $266,500.
- A 1923 Oscar Heyman & Brothers diamond and sapphire bracelet more than tripled its estimate, selling for for $92,500. The bracelet features French-cut sapphires and 24.60 cts. t.w. diamonds.
- A Harry Winston necklace featuring a 13.45 ct. rectangular-cut Colombian emerald surrounded by an additional 32 cts. of diamonds sold for $230,500.
Get the maximum bling for your buck. Know what aspects of a diamond you need to focus on and which ones you don’t to get the best value on your engagement ring.
Don’t Overpay. Learn About Diamond Pricing Before You Shop
Thinking about buying a diamond? You have probably got a set budget for the engagement ring. And your goal is to get the best, biggest, and shiniest diamond on that budget.
We’re going to show you exactly how to do that. Rule of thumb: A 1-carat diamond can cost as low as $2,000 and as high as $25,000. That means a middle-of-the-range diamond should be $11,000 – $12,000. Sounds simple, but that is overpaying. A good value, good quality 1 carat diamond should cost you around $4,500 – $6,000. We’ll explain below.
Bottom Line: Save money on cut and clarity. You just need an eye-clean (flaws are not visible) diamond. We recommend H color and VS2 clarity diamonds for the sweet spot.
Whether you choose those specs or not, go to James Allen. They offer a large selection to fit any taste and competitive pricing (other jewelers might rip you off with a 40% markup). Every diamond is certified so you can expect quality for your budget.
Just How Much is a Diamond?
Here’s the current 2020 diamond pricing guideline:
- A 0.5 carat diamond price is $1,500
- A 1.0 carat diamond is $4,500 – $6,000
- A 2.0 carat diamond is $18,000 – $21,000
Of course, the actual price range is much wider, but these pricing points indicate where you get the best balance of price, quality, and beauty in a diamond.Related: Best Engagement Ring at Every Price Point
We will go over all the factors that impact diamond prices. You’ll get our expert tips on how to get the best value and avoid getting ripped off. We’ll show you with real examples from top online diamond retailers Blue Nile, James Allen and Whiteflash.
This guide takes just 15 minutes to read. By the end of it, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to save up to 40% on your engagement ring.
And if you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight to the end for our helpful cheat sheet on the top 10 tricks to save on diamond prices that you might not know about.
In this guide, you’ll find:
- How Much is a 1 Carat Diamond
- How Much is a 2 Carat Diamond
- How Diamond Prices are Calculated
- How to Calculate Price per Carat
- Diamond 4C Overview
- Diamond 4C Priority
- Shape: Value, Cut and Sparkle
- Bottom Line: Our Recommendation for the Best Value
What to Know About Diamond Prices
In this article, we will discuss the industry secrets to diamond prices that jewelers don’t want you to know. But before we explain, here are a few things you absolutely need to know to get the best diamond for your money.
- Quality (4C’s): The carat weight, cut, color, and clarity of a diamond determines how much a diamond is worth. The more flawless and colorless the rock, the higher the prices. But here’s a secret: Save yourself money on color and clarity. These characteristics can’t usually be seen by the average person. All you need is a diamond that looks eye-clean and white. We recommend H color and VS2 or SI1 clarity as the sweet spot.
- Certification: It’s extremely important that you only buy a diamond certified by a reputable lab. The certification is how you know that you paid for the quality advertised. Pro Tip: All James Allen diamonds are certified by either Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AGS), or International Gemological Institute (IGI). We recommend diamonds certified by GIA and AGS, as these labs have the highest grading standards.
- Where to Buy: Jeweler markup has the biggest effect on diamond pricing. The same quality stone can be priced many times higher when it comes in a trademark little blue box. To avoid paying high markup prices, we recommend shopping online at places like James Allen. Online retailers can cost as much as 50% less than big name jewelry stores.
Online diamond retailers (such as Blue Nile, James Allen and Whiteflash) allow you to custom design your own engagement ring with a loose diamond and setting. This also helps you save so you’re not limited to a store’s pre-set ring selection.
How Much is a 1 Carat Diamond?
- $2,000 to $25,000 for round (see live prices)
- $2,000 to $10,000 for princess (see live prices)
- $1,700 to $17,000 for cushion (see live prices)
A good price for an 1 carat engagement ring is around $6,000 for an ideal cut diamond of H color and VS2 clarity. We will explain what cut, color and clarity means in this article.
This chart below shows the diamond price ranges of a 1-carat, round ideal-cut stone. Based on the color and clarity grades, you can easily see the vast pricing difference.
The highlighted boxes show our recommendations for best value. Color H and clarity of VS2 will get you a white-looking diamond that appears eye-clean. If you can find an eye-clean diamond at the SI1 clarity level, even better. Store vs. online diamond prices: One thing to note is that we are using online jeweler prices. CreditDonkey conducted an independent market survey, where we found that online jewelers, such as Blue Nile and James Allen, offer pricing 32% to 50% cheaper than traditional big-name brick-and-mortar jewelers. Online jewelers are able to offer much lower prices because of their low overhead. They’re also able to provide a wider selection.
If you see a cheap diamond at a traditional store or there’s an awesome sale on diamonds going on, make sure the diamonds are GIA or AGS certified. In many cases, they’re not, and that’s why they’re on sale.
How Much is a 2 Carat Diamond?
Here is a price chart based on an ideal cut, round 2-carat diamond:
The highlighted boxes are where we recommend you stay to get the best value – a diamond that appears white and eye-clean. Also, keep in mind that for fancy shapes, you can knock an extra 10% to 40% from these prices too.
How Much is a 3 Carat Diamond?
A 3-carat diamond can cost anywhere from $20k to $200k+. For the best value, we recommend a 3-carat diamond with color H and clarity VS2, which will cost around $35,000 – $50,000, depending on the shape.
To learn more and to avoid common costly mistakes, read our detailed guide on shopping for a 3-carat diamond.
How Diamond Prices are Calculated
There is no one-size-fits-all diamond calculator. Many factors determine the final retail price of a diamond. We will go over the factors in the rest of this article.
And don’t forget that retailers like James Allen can offer you a vast selection with the ease of online shopping. Okay, let’s look at diamond pricing.
Diamond prices are calculated per carat. The per-carat price increases exponentially as you move up in carat weight. This is because it is more rare to find bigger sized diamonds.
For example, a .25 carat round diamond starts at around $300 and a .5 carat round diamond starts at around $650. But a 1 carat round diamond jumps up all the way to $2,000+. For best value, we recommend staying just under half or whole carat weights (for example, go for 0.9 carat instead of 1 carat).
How to calculate diamond prices: Diamonds are priced per carat. A 0.5 carat diamond may cost $2,500 per carat. The price of that diamond would be $1,250 ($2,500 * 0.5). The per-carat cost increases as the weight and quality increases.
Did you know: Like diamonds, no two snowflakes are alike?
How to Calculate Price per Carat
Using price per carat, here’s how to calculate the actual diamond price:
- If a 0.91 carat G SI1 stone is $5,500 per carat, the diamond price would be $5,005 (0.91 x $5,500)
- If a 1.2 carat H VS2 stone is $7,200 per carat, the diamond price would be $8,640 (1.2 x $7,200)
Here’s how you can use the price per carat to determine best value:
Let’s say you’re deciding between two diamonds with the same color, clarity, and cut. Both look the same in size.
- A 0.88 carat diamond that costs $5,000. The per carat price is $5,682 ($5,000/0.88)
- A 0.82 carat diamond that costs $4,800. The per carat price is $5,853 ($4,800/0.82)
Even though the 2nd diamond costs less, it’s actually more per carat. So in this case, maybe you would think the first stone is the better value.
Note that to compare the per-carat price, you must be comparing apples to apples. This means that you need to compare diamonds with the same cut, color, clarity, fluorescence, and lab certificate. You also need to look at actual appearance. This means whether flaws, tints, or haziness are visible. Diamonds are priced per carat. Here’s what you get at lower carat weights.
- How much is a 0.5 carat diamond? A good quality 0.5 carat diamond (H, VS2) is around $3,000 per carat. This means the diamond itself would be priced at $1,500 (0.5 * $3,000).
- How much is a quarter of a carat diamond worth? A similar quality 0.25 carat diamond is around $2,000 per carat. So the diamond itself would cost $500 ($2,000 * 0.25).
Diamond Price Chart
Here is a price chart for a round, excellent cut diamond by carat:
|Carat Weight||Price Per Carat|
|0.25 carat||$300 – $2,000|
|0.50 carat||$800 – $3,000|
|0.75 carat||$1,000 – $5,600|
|1.0 carat||$2,000 – $25,000|
|2.0 carat||$10,000 – $44,000|
|3.0 carat||$33,000 – $130,000|
Wholesale Diamond Prices
The Rapaport is a price chart that is intended to be a baseline pricing for individual loose diamonds. It’s released every Friday and is meant to represent the current market value of diamonds. Tip: This report used to be available for only those in the diamond industry. But anyone now can buy the current report for $50 on the Rapaport website.
Here is an example of what a Rapaport looks like:
|Sample Diamond Price Chart|
|Note: this chart is for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect actual diamond prices.|
It’s shown as a grid comparing color and clarity of different carat ranges. The numbers are by the hundreds (43 = $4,300). The price listed is per-carat. You have to multiply your carat weight by the listed number to arrive at the final diamond price.
There are other similar reports:
- RapNet: This is part of Rapaport’s Diamond Trading network. The prices listed here are the actual average asking price by sellers. This is only accessible to jewelers and dealers.
- IDEX (International Diamond Exchange): The diamond prices listed on the IDEX report are higher than Rapaport’s. Diamond retailers would usually apply a discount when selling.
What’s Wrong with Industry Diamond Price Charts
If there’s a whole chart about diamond prices, then why don’t we just use that?
The Rapaport chart makes diamond pricing seem so simple. But there are some problems with it, including:
- It doesn’t take cut into account. Rapaport prices are only based on carat, color, and clarity. But cut is a very important factor. It affects how brilliant the diamond appears. And the pricing difference between different cut grades can be huge.
- Different diamonds of the same grade can look very different. One SI2 diamond can be completely eye-clean while another one has visible flaws. One D colored diamond can be beautiful and clear while another looks hazy because of strong fluorescence. Of course the diamond that looks more beautiful will be sold at a higher price.
- The price is high. Rapaport itself says the price listed is the “high asking price.” Retailers will generally apply a discount. Some jewelers will show you the Rapaport pricing and tell you that you’re getting a “good deal” because they’re selling for less. If you’re unfamiliar with diamond prices, you may be fooled into believing that.
Instead, use this article to learn how to get the biggest diamond with most sparkle for the best value. Learn about key factors that affect diamond prices. Then you’ll learn how to shop for diamonds online to save even more money and get the maximum value.
Current Diamond Prices
Current diamond price sweet spots for different carat weights:
- 0.5 carat: $1,500
- 0.75 carat: $3,000
- 0.9 carat: $4,800
- 1 carat: $5,550 – $6,000
- 2 carat: $18,000 – $25,000
There are diamond calculators out there to provide a guideline for what you should be paying. But you can’t just rely on those. You still need to understand the factors that determine diamond prices. We’ll go over that in the rest of the article. For the best price, buy your engagement ring online. Our latest study reveals the difference between the three top online diamond sellers.
How to Get Lower Diamond Prices
The 4Cs combine to determine the overall beauty and price of a diamond. But that doesn’t mean each C carries equal weight.
Don’t waste your money. Some Cs are just not as important as the others, yet can cause a huge spike in price. If you don’t understand the basics, you could be spending a ton of money on features you can’t even appreciate. Did you know? Don’t get too caught up on finding the most perfect diamond. Most women are not too concerned with that. 86% of women say the most important is the overall design of the engagement ring. So spend more effort to find out what kind of engagement ring style she will like best.
Some of the most common mistakes include:
- Purchasing a diamond too high in color and clarity thinking it will make the diamond “shinier.”
- Assuming that all diamonds are cut the same and therefore a better color and clarity is what’s needed.
- Placing too high of a priority on carat size and then having to sacrificing in other areas to stay within budget, resulting in a dull, poor quality diamond.
Don’t make these mistakes. This guide will help you know what to look for in a diamond, what to prioritize, and what you can afford to “cheap out” on.Watch Out: Some retailers might try to overwhelm you with diamond price charts to show how great of a “deal” you are getting. It’s true, wholesalers and traders do use Rapaport, RapNet and IDEX within the industry trade. On the surface, the reports make diamond pricing look like a simple black and white process. However, that’s not the case. While it can serve as a good baseline, it lacks several important factors. For instance, it doesn’t take diamond cut into account, which you’ll soon find out is the most important of the 4Cs in our opinion.
In our opinion, the diamond price charts should be taken with a grain of salt. Our recommendation is to narrow down the 4Cs and then compare inventory at Blue Nile, James Allen and Whiteflash. That’ll give you a more realistic baseline for finding the perfect engagement ring.
Carat – Is This the Most Important C?
Most people prioritize carat. That’s why it’s first on this list. However, in our opinion, it’s not necessarily the most important.
Carat is overall the most visible of the 4Cs. Most admirers say “Wow what a big rock!” instead of “Wow what a colorless and flawless rock!”
Unfortunately, it’s probably the one area you have the least control over. You probably already have a goal or “requirement” and can’t stray too far from it.
So, what is carat exactly? Carat refers to the weight of the diamond. One carat is equal to about 0.2 grams, which is roughly the weight of a paperclip. The heavier the carat weight, the larger the diamond. Fun fact: The word “carat” comes from carob, a seed from the carob tree in the Mediterranean. These seeds have a very uniform weight. In the ancient days in Europe and the Middle East, they were used as a weight reference for traders – especially when dealing with gemstones where slight differences in weight are important.
The diamond price increases exponentially as the carat goes up. A 0.5 carat diamond is almost twice the price of a 0.4 carat. It again doubles when you go up to .75 and then again at 1 carat. This is because it gets more rare to find raw materials good enough to make larger diamonds.
Thankfully, James Allen has plenty of options that make the buying process easier. In fact, they have over 150,000 ethically-sourced diamonds.
Tip: The largest price jumps are at those desirable half-carat and whole-carat points. To get a better value, look for a diamond just slightly under the whole number.
For example, here are some comparisons of 0.9 carat stones and 1 carat stones:
You can see how a 0.92 carat diamond is priced as much as $1,000 lower than a 1.0 carat diamond, simply because it’s not a full 1 carat. But would anyone ever be able to tell the difference? it’s highly unlikely.Here’s the math: A 1-carat round diamond is around 6.4-6.5 mm in diameter. But a 0.9-carat round diamond is 6.2-6.3 mm in diameter. This is literally just a difference of 0.2 mm at the most (equivalent to the thickness of a piece of paper). But you can save so much. Don’t spend the money on something you can’t even see. You would need a size difference of 20% apart to be able to tell.
Because diamond prices can jump so much at whole carats, diamond cutters have a lot of pressure to cut stones that hit a nice whole carat weight. Sadly, this means that a lot of diamonds are cut to hit that desirable round number instead of being cut for maximum brilliance. This is why we recommend that you don’t become too attached to a certain carat target and prioritize the next “C” instead.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Cut
We’re saying this now and we’ll probably say it a lot more before the end of this article. Diamond cut is the MOST important factor, and you should NEVER skimp on it.
In fact, put whatever money you can save on other areas into the cut.
Cut is what makes the diamond shiny and sparkly. And it can literally make the diamond so sparkly that it hides inclusions and masks slight color.
Cut refers to proportion, symmetry, and polish – NOT shape. A rough diamond has no shine. A diamond only sparkles because of how it’s cut and how light bounces off each angle and facet. A poorly cut diamond will leak light and therefore appear dull.
A well-cut diamond will have ideal proportions and excellent symmetry and polish. The proportions and facets are cut precisely to reflect the most amount of light. This means that the diamond will give off the most brilliance, fire, and scintillation.
Let’s look at differences in cut (images from Whiteflash diamonds):
|Screenshot from Whiteflash Website|
Here you are looking at Idealscope images of 3 randomly chosen diamonds that have (from left to right) a good cut, excellent cut, and super ideal cut. These images show the amount of light return in red. You can see that the center of the first diamond has a lot of white, which indicates light leakage. The super ideal cut diamond, on the other hand, is all red, which means that all light is returned to the viewer, making it super sparkly.
Aesthetically, cut also make a huge impact on beauty.
The above shows some examples of diamonds of different cut grades (Good / Very Good / Ideal / TrueHearts) on James Allen. You can easily see that the better the cut, the more beautiful the diamond.
That’s why it’s so important to get the best cut you can. Not only do you get a diamond that sparkles, you can also afford to down a bit in the other Cs.
In fact, an ideal cut can make the diamond appear larger.
Check out this example of 2 loose diamonds:
- The diamond on the left is 1.00 carat and has a “good” cut. The surface area is 6.23×6.26mm. It costs $5,240.
- The diamond on the right weighs in at 0.92 carats and has an “excellent” cut. The surface area is 6.23×6.2mm. It costs $4,720.
The two diamonds have the same surface area, so face up, they are both the exact same size. But because of the poorer cut of the first one, about 10% of the carat weight is wasted on the deep cut (just to hit the 1 carat mark). So, it’s not going to appear as brilliant as the other diamond.
For about $500 less, you can purchase the smaller diamond on the right. It may not hit that coveted 1 carat mark, but it looks just as large and will be a lot more sparkly.
Here’s an example of the diamond prices at different cuts (for a 1-carat, H, VS2 diamond):
The diamond price jumps quite a bit to the excellent cut (and even more to super ideal – what James Allen calls “TrueHearts”), but in our opinion, this is an area where that extra money is well worth it as the difference in quality is very visible. If your budget doesn’t allow for an excellent cut, go down in the other areas before you go down in cut. Tip: Are you convinced that a well-cut diamond is the way to go? Our favorite retailer for high-quality cut diamonds is Whiteflash, which has one of the largest inventories of ideal cut diamonds in the world. They are especially known for their signature A CUT ABOVE® super ideal cut diamonds. We love Whiteflash for the fact that each diamond comes with light performance imagery, so you can be confident in your purchase.
Color – Does It Matter?
A lot of people think that color and clarity affect how brilliant the diamond is. In fact, they have nothing to do with it.
However, color does still make an impact on the overall beauty of the ring.
Color refers to a slight yellow tint in colorless diamonds. The color ranges from D (completely colorless) to Z (obvious yellow/brown tint), though diamond retailers typically don’t sell anything less than K for engagement rings.
True colorless diamonds are extremely rare and therefore, priced at a premium. Most diamonds will have a slight yellow tint, but most of the time, it’s undetectable to the naked eye.
The difference in price as you go up and down color grades is truly staggering. Here’s an idea of how wildly it swings. All these diamonds from James Allen are 1 carat with a clarity of VS2 and an excellent cut. The only difference is the color.
But here’s the thing: Most people cannot tell the difference between colorless and nearly-colorless diamonds. And there’s really no point in splurging on something with no visible difference.
To get the best value for your money, we recommend going with H. H is commonly thought of as the tipping point between colorless diamonds and diamonds with a slightly noticeable tint. Most people can’t see the difference. Expert tip: If you’re examining diamonds in person at a store and not sure whether a diamond will appear yellow (without all that bright store lighting), here’s a trick you can do. Fold a pure white business card in half and place the diamond in the crease. Look at it away from the spotlights. If you see any yellow at all, it will also appear yellow when set in white gold or platinum. This diamond is most likely at best a J or K.
The three diamonds below – from left to right – represent an F diamond (bottom of colorless range), an H diamond (middle of near-colorless range), and a J diamond (bottom of near-colorless range). Looking at them face up, can you really spot a difference?
The color of the setting can make a huge impact. H is a safe bet if you’re going with a platinum or white gold engagement ring. But if you’re going for a yellow gold or rose gold band, then even H may be overkill. A diamond will naturally pick up the color of the band, so even the iciest of diamonds will take on a warmer tint with a yellow gold band. In this case, you can safely go down to a J or even K.
So, what if H is still out of your budget? Easy – go down in color even more. Personally, we’d rather have a J-colored diamond with an excellent cut than an H diamond with just a fair cut. Read: Best Diamond Color for Your Money
Clarity – Not As Important As You Think
Clarity refers to the flaws on a diamond. There are two types of flaws: 1) inclusions, or internal flaws and 2) blemishes, or flaws on the surface.
It doesn’t actually matter very much if your diamond contains flaws (most do). All you have to do is get a diamond with flaws you cannot see (called “eye-clean”). But a big mistake is assuming you need a diamond graded high in clarity for it to be eye-clean.
Clarity is last of the 4Cs on our list for the simple reason that you cannot see most flaws with the naked eye. Clarity grade is assigned based on what flaws can be seen under 10x magnification. In real life, nobody is going to examine your engagement ring that closely. A flaw would have to be pretty major to be visible to the casual observer.
We recommend VS2 as the most bang for your buck. The VS clarity grading refers to diamonds that have more noticeable flaws under magnification but most likely can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Here are some examples of eye-clean VS2 diamonds.
Even though it’s possible to find eye-clean diamonds lower than VS2 in clarity, it becomes very hit and miss. But VS2 is a generally safe bet. That means if you’re purchasing from a site without photos, you will most likely receive a diamond with flaws you can’t see.
Let’s take a look at the price differences as we move up and down in clarity. All these diamonds are around 1 carat, an excellent cut, and a color of H.
As you can see, the difference in diamond prices as you increase in clarity is astounding.
Internally flawless diamonds are priced so high because of how rare they are. But just like with color, you will not be able to appreciate this because the difference isn’t visible. You shouldn’t pay $1,500 more just to have “flawless” written on a piece of paper.
And keep in mind that even diamonds of identical 4C’s (including clarity) can differ a lot in pricing. This can be due to the type of flaws and whether you can see them or not. Some SI2 diamonds are completely eye-clean, while some have an undesirable black spot right in the center.Tip: Don’t forget that with a well-cut diamond, the brilliance of the stone can hide clarity and color flaws. That’s why cut is the most important C. Don’t skimp on it and instead, go down in color and clarity. If you’re shopping on a site like James Allen Diamonds where you can see HD videos of the diamonds, pick a diamond even lower in clarity that appears eye-clean.
Read: VS2: The Best Diamond Clarity for your Money
What if VS2 is still out of your range? SI1 and SI2 diamonds provide even better value. In fact, it’s not impossible to find an eye-clean i1 diamond if your budget is truly limited. Clarity is the best area to go down in first. But just make sure that you can examine the diamonds in person or at least see magnified photos/videos to make sure it is eye-clean.
Shape of the Diamond Makes a Difference Too
You might already know what shape your girl prefers or maybe you have no clue.
If it’s the latter, you may have some flexibility budget-wise here. An alternative shape also makes for more unique engagement rings.
Round diamonds are the most expensive and most traditional. Their popularity is due to the fact that round diamonds exhibit incredible brilliance. But if you think your girl could appreciate a unique shape, consider other diamond shapes as they are all cheaper than round.
- Princess cut diamonds are the second most popular shape because they are almost as sparkly as round diamonds. Princess cut diamonds are edgy and contemporary, yet still feminine and delicate.
- Oval diamonds put a modern, elegant twist on the classic round. It is for the girl who appreciates tradition but likes to express individuality. Oval diamonds are in the family of brilliant cuts, so they are close to round in terms of brilliance.
- Other fancy cuts, such as pear and marquise, scream for attention. A woman drawn to these likes to stand out in a crowd. These shapes are also great because they often look larger than a round diamond of the same carat weight.
- Step cuts, such as asscher and emerald, were very popular during the art deco period. These are for the sophisticated lady with vintage tastes.
- Other square/rectangular cuts, such as radiant or cushion, will appeal to those who like the princess cut but want something a little less mainstream.
You can save as much as 20%-40% by going with a shape other than round. You can then put that money towards a larger stone, a fancier setting, or higher color/clarity grade.
A word about fancy shapes: Fancy-shaped diamonds are not given a cut grade by GIA, so they are a bit more challenging to buy. If you’re considering one of these alternate shapes, make sure you do the research and talk to a trustworthy jeweler who can tell you if the diamond is cut well or not. If you’re purchasing online, make sure you purchase from a website that shows you actual magnified photos of the stone (such as James Allen).
Certification: The Fifth C
Certification is important, so much so that it’s often thought of as the 5th C.
There are several diamond grading labs around the world: GIA, AGS, EGL, and IGI to name a few. These labs all have their own grading criteria and standards.
We recommend that you buy diamonds certified by GIA or AGS. These two labs are the most respected worldwide and have the highest, most consistent grading standards. For example, another lab may grade a diamond as VS2 clarity that would really be graded as an SI2 by GIA. Other labs may inflate their quality by as much as two whole grades. You’d be paying for an inferior product that just looks good on paper.
Diamonds certified by GIA and AGS are pricier (as much as 10-30%), because it is more expensive to receive a certification from them. But this is an area that you absolutely should not compromise on. Did you know: The Federal Trade Commission legally allows a jeweler to be off by one color and clarity grade. So this means a jeweler can sell a diamond to you as a VS2 H, when it is really a SI1 I. This makes you think you are getting a better diamond and they can fetch a higher price. This is why you should never buy a diamond without a GIA or AGS report. These two labs have the most accurate grading practices.
Diamond Fluorescence Can Work In Your Favor
There is one last characteristic you need to know about – diamond fluorescence.
Fluorescence is when a diamond shows a soft glow under ultraviolet light (usually blue). This is caused by certain minerals in the diamond. This effect is totally natural, appearing in one third of all diamonds.
Usually, fluorescence doesn’t actually cause any negative effects on the appearance of a diamond. But since fluorescence is generally seen as a “bad” thing, the good news for you is that a diamond with this characteristic can have a 2-15% lower price.
In diamonds with lower color grades (I and lower), the blue can counteract the slight yellow tint and improve the face-up color usually by one whole color grade. Because this is an improvement, in these cases, the price can be marked up 2-3%. But the great news for you is that you can buy a diamond with fluorescence in a lower color grade (which is a significant discount) and have it appear whiter. Though there is usually no negative effect, you should know that for diamonds with a very high color grade (D-F), a strong-very strong fluorescence could cause a hazy appearance. But we wouldn’t recommend that you purchase a diamond in the colorless range anyway!
For an in-depth guide at diamond fluorescence, please read this article.
Other Factors that Affect Diamond Pricing
Besides diamond characteristics factors, there are a couple of other things that affect how retailers price their diamonds:
- Jeweler markups: This has the biggest effect on diamond prices. Of course, prestigious brand names such as Tiffany and Harry Winston have high premiums. But popular mall jewelry stores have high markups as well. Stores with a physical location need to pay for a lot of overhead (the store itself, staff, etc., not to mention commission to salespeople), so these costs are passed onto customers. Online diamond retailers have less overhead, so they can sell their diamonds at a lower price.
- Jeweler policies: Some jewelers will give you a lifetime warranty, free resizing, and 100% buy-back. These generous policies can be factored into the selling price of the diamond.
How to use this information for a 1-carat diamond
Now that you understand a bit about diamond characteristics and the best value points, let’s look at it in practice.
Here is a price chart we put together for a 1-carat diamond. This is for an ideal cut round diamond.
The highlighted boxes show our recommendations for best value. Color H and clarity of VS2 will get you a white-looking diamond that’s eye-clean. If you can find an eye-clean diamond at the SI1 clarity level, even better. And if you’re buying a yellow gold or rose gold band, you can go down in color to J and save yourself $1,000.
Remember, to save even more, look for a 0.9 carat diamond. No one will be able to tell the size difference and you can save as much as 15%. Read our more detailed articles about buying a 1-carat diamond, 2-carat diamond, and 3-carat diamond.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for diamond buying:
- Go just below the 1 carat mark (or half carats) for a big drop in price – as much as 20%. We recommend checking out James Allen for affordable prices.
- Color and clarity do not affect the brilliance of the stone, so you don’t need to splurge on flawless and colorless rocks. Cut is what determines how sparkly it is, so don’t cheap out on this. Put whatever money you have into this area.
- A clarity of VS2 offers the most value for the money because most people won’t be able to see the small inclusions.
- A color of H is the best value for diamonds set in white gold or platinum bands.
- Getting a yellow or rose gold setting will save you more, because you can safely go down to a J or K diamond.
- Round diamonds are the shiniest but also the priciest. Consider a fancy shape for a more unique, yet budget friendly engagement ring.
- Look for a diamond lower in color grade with medium-strong fluorescence for a significant price drop and a whiter appearance at the same time.
- Multiple smaller diamonds cost a lot less than one single larger diamond. The halo setting is great for making a smaller center diamond appear huge on a budget.
- Only buy a diamond graded by GIA and AGS to ensure you receive the quality advertised.
- Online diamond stores offer prices as much as 50% less than big name jewelry retailers.
Do you feel ready to shop for an engagement ring now? Picking a diamond is part emotion and part science. It’s about hitting that balance of all 4Cs so that you get a stone that satisfies all your preferences while staying within your budget. We hope our diamond price guide has given you a good starting point to understand diamonds and what to expect in cost. Please read our more detailed articles for more information.