Diamond Buying Guide

How to Buy a Diamond

Bottom Line Recommendations…

  • Buying a diamond requires careful evaluation of the different factors that affect its appearance and light performance. Understanding the 4Cs is the best way to make an informed purchase decision. These include the color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Coupled with these, the type of setting and the type of metal ensures a piece of stunning jewelry.
  • Completely colorless diamonds are extremely rare. Their demand is also high which pushes up their prices. You can compromise on the color and go lower on the color scale as far down as you can tolerate and still get a stunning looking diamond. Take a look at this option 1. Just make sure to choose the right setting that will hide the tint and make the diamond appear whiter.
  • The cut of the diamond is the most important of the 4Cs. While you can compromise on clarity and color, it is not a good idea to compromise on the diamond’s cut quality. This is because it has the biggest impact on the appearance of the diamond including the diamond’s fire, brilliance, and scintillation.
  • While the diamond certificate will tell you all about the cut quality of the diamond, it will not tell you about the appearance of the stone. For that, you need to observe the stone yourself. The best way to do this is by viewing 360-degree videos of the diamond. Pick a seller such as James Allen and the Blue Nile who can provide you the best quality videos.

James Allen Diamonds

It’s not surprising that diamonds have such an aura of elegance and timelessness. Deep under the earth’s crust, carbon undergoes immense pressured over millions and even billions of years to form that crystal stone we call a diamond.

The diamond will then be pushed towards the surface of the earth as though a gift from mother earth herself.

It may take forever for a diamond to be formed. However, choosing the right diamond for you doesn’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor.

This diamond buying guide teaches you everything you need to know about buying your ideal diamond.

Let’s find out!

The Diamond Carat weight

Carat is simply the weight of the diamond. A single carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams. Keep in mind that the majority of the diamonds will weigh one carat or slightly less than that.

Since it takes millions and even billions of years to form a diamond, it makes sense that large stones are extremely rare. This also means that the larger stones will command the highest prices. A slight difference in carat weight can result in a huge difference in the prices.

When you are buying your diamond, an excellent tip is to buy a diamond that falls short of the 1-carat mark. For example, a 0.9 carat diamond. While the eyes cannot tell the difference between the two, the difference in price can be huge. This is because a one-carat diamond falls into the magic number and can come with a high price tag.

Also, note that there is a difference between the carat and karat. The latter is used to measure the pureness of the gold.

The Diamond Cut

Often new diamond buyers will confuse the cut of the diamond with the shape of the diamond. However, there is a difference. The cut refers to the symmetry, quality of cut, proportions, angles, and polish of the stone.

Whether the diamond appears round, oval or pear refers to its shape. The cut is considered to be the most important of the 4Cs which includes the carat weight, cut, color and clarity.

A diamond that has a top-quality cut will reflect most of the light that enters through its crown. Everyone wants to have a sparkling and shining stone with excellent light action. Indeed, the fire, the brilliance and the scintillation of the diamond depend mostly on the quality of the cut.

Brilliance refers to the amount of light that is reflected by the observer. The more the amount of light, the higher the brilliance.

Fire is the dispersion of light once it enters the diamond where it is separated into its seven colors.

The diamond’s scintillation is when the fire and brilliance of the stone sparkles and seems to turn on and off when moved in the light.

The GIA grades cut quality from Ideal, Excellent, Very good, Good, Fair and Poor.

The best cut is the ideal cut. Here the diamond has the best proportions and symmetry and the facets are at the best angle to maximize light reflection. The result is a diamond has plenty of fire and brilliance.

The different parts of the diamond cut

There are different parts of the diamond’s cut. The round brilliant cut is the most popular diamond cut. It features 57 facets. Some round brilliant cuts will have an extra facet at the very bottom of the pavilion known as the culet.

A slight misalignment of any facet could cause the light to escape the diamond through the pavilion. Keep in mind that more light reflected back to you will result in more fire and brilliance.

Another major downside of a stone that has been poorly cut is that its structure will be weekend. As a result, the diamond is prone to chipping and breaking. A jeweler may also have a hard time setting the diamond and a less secure fit means that the stone could fall off and get lost easily.

The table is the topmost facet on the diamond.

The crown is situated around the table and comes into contact with the girdle.

The girdle separates the top half of the diamond with the bottom of the diamond.

The pavilion is the bottom half of the diamond.

The culet is the bottommost facet. Sometimes this exists and sometimes it doesn’t.

Different types of diamond cut

There are many different diamond cuts that you can find. The most common of them all is the round brilliant cut. All other diamond cuts other than the round cut are referred to as fancy cut diamonds.

Up to 75% of all diamond buyers will choose the round cut. The reason is simple—it has the most brilliance of all the diamond cuts. This is owing to the larger number of facets that are between 57 and 58 facets depending on whether a culet exists.

The modified brilliant is a category of the fancy cut diamond that features the most shapes. This is because the round shape can be altered into multiple different shapes. Since they are similar in cut to the round brilliant, they also exhibit a lot of fire and brilliance. The modified brilliant cuts include the marquise, the oval cut, the pear cut, and the heart cut.

Step cuts are a different category and are also under fancy cut diamonds. They can either feature a rectangular shape or a square shape. These diamonds are called step cuts as the sides are similar to staircases. They do not have many facets and are therefore not as brilliant as modified brilliant cuts. That said, step cuts focus more on the luster and clarity of the diamond. An example is the emerald cut and the Asscher cut.

The Diamond Clarity

Natural diamonds are prone to having inclusions and blemishes either on the surface of the stone or inside the diamonds. These can be anything from scratches to air bubbles to cracks and other elements. The price of the diamond is affected by how flawless the stone is.

However, when considering the clarity of your chosen stone, keep in mind that having blemishes isn’t always a bad thing. It’s about finding the right balance between blemishes or inclusions and an ideal cut diamond. This way you can save considerably and get a great deal especially when you are on a budget.

The GIA clarity grading

Diamonds are graded from flawless to included as follows:

Flawless (FL)—these diamonds have no blemishes or inclusions when the diamond is placed under 10X magnification.

Internally Flawless (IF)—there are no inclusions and the interior of the stone is flawless. However, under 10X magnification the trained gemologist can spot some very minor surface flaws.

VVS1-VVS2—these are Very Very slightly included diamonds. While there are some minor inclusions in the diamonds, these are very difficult to see even under 10X magnification.

VS1-VS2—Very Slightly Included diamonds. Some minor inclusions can be seen by the trained gemologist under 10X magnification.

SI1-SI2—Slightly Included diamonds. The inclusions in these diamonds are very easy to see by a skilled gemologist with 10X magnification.

The Diamond color

Most diamonds will be graded based on the lack of color. The more colorless a diamond is the higher its price will be.

The color grading ranges from D to Z. The closer a diamond is to the D color range, the less color it has. D diamonds are completely colorless.

To arrive at the diamond color grading, the gemologists and graders will compare the stone to a master stone contained at the lab.

For the naked eye, it is hard to tell the difference between the different color grades. However, such minuscule differences can cause a huge difference in the price.

A buying tip is to choose the right setting when going for diamonds lower on the color grade. A yellow gold setting will reflect through the diamond making it appear whiter than it is. The great thing is that you can save a lot of money.

The GIA diamond color scale is as follows:

D- represents diamonds that are completely clear and have no color.

E-F – Colorless diamonds. Color can only be detected when the diamond is set under high magnification.

G-H—Nearly colorless diamonds. Only a well-trained grader can tell if there is any color in the stone. You may also only be able to tell them apart when placed next to a completely colorless diamond.

1-J—These diamonds are nearly colorless and have only the slightest tint of yellow.

K-M—These diamonds are faint yellow. Note, however, that some can have great fire and brilliance.

N-R—The diamonds are highly light yellow in color.

S-Z—light yellow diamonds.

Note that fancy colored diamonds are graded differently. These are judged on the presence of color and the more color a diamond has the more its price.

The next diamond grade from Z is Yellow. This represents diamonds that have a concentrated yellow color and are considered to be fancy colored diamonds.

The Diamond Certificate

Many people who are buying a diamond for the first time will have heard of the 4Cs of diamond quality. These are the cut, color, carat weight, and clarity.

However, there is also something else to consider—the diamond certificate. Any diamond that you intend to buy should have a certificate from a recognized diamond lab such as the GIA.

But what exactly is the diamond certificate?

This is a record of the evaluation of the diamond’s 4Cs. Note that the diamond certificate is not the diamond appraisal. The latter only evaluates the value of the diamond according to its price.

Only an independent 3rd part agent can provide a diamond with its certificate. The most popular include:

  • The Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
  • The European Gemological Laboratory (EGL)
  • The International Gemological Institute (IGI)
  • American Gemological Society (AGS)

It is highly important to buy diamonds that have been certified.

The main benefit is that the buyer is sure of the quality of the diamond. It is an effective way of avoiding unscrupulous sellers who may rip you off your money.

Some diamond buyers wrongly believe that only the highest quality demands and the most expensive stones come with a certificate. The truth is that all diamonds should come with a certificate.

A diamond’s certificate will tell you the characteristics of the diamonds and the quality of its cut. If you are on a budget, you can pick a diamond with a good quality cut and a few inclusions. You can get such information from the certificate.

When looking at the certificate, ensure that it is at least three years old. This is because over time, a diamond may experience wear and tear, and its accompanying certificate may not accurately tell you about the condition of the stone.

The different grading labs will have different methods of certifying the diamond. keep in mind however that the most popular lab is the GIA and its grading is considered the standard for the industry.

Having understood the crucial role played by the diamond certificate, a buyer may doubt whether the certificate is the right one for the stone they intend to purchase.

You will also get a diamond report accompanying the certificate. It highlights the number and location of the inclusions. The diamond report will also tell you about the type and nature of the inclusions such as pinpoints or feathers.

You can use this to match against the actual stone and some of the information on the certificate.

That said, it is important that you get a qualified gemologist is to inspect the diamond for you and to help you make the right decision.

The Diamond Setting

After buying the diamond, you will need to place it on a ring, necklace or earring. The metal that the diamond is placed on is called the setting.

Different diamond cuts and shapes can be placed in different settings to create the most stunning looking piece of jewelry.

The different setting styles offer their unique contribution to the diamond help brings out its appeal.

The different types of setting include:

The solitaire 

Its main characteristic is to show off the single stone. Unlike in some other settings, there will not be any side stones. Prongs are used to hold the stone to the setting. This where there are metal extensions that extend from the settings on upwards an outwards. Once the stone is placed, they are bent to hold it in place.

There are many different ways that prongs can be set. It depends on the shape of the diamonds. In some diamonds, there could be several prongs around the diamond. In others, there could be a single prong on each corner of the stone.

Diamonds that have pointed tips such as the marquise cut or the pear shape may require a V shape prong that offers protection to the pointed end thus preventing it from chipping.

However, they are not without their downsides. While they will offer protection to the sharp diamond edges, they can also snag on clothes and other items.

The halo setting 

It has one main central diamond and around the stone itself is a ring of smaller diamonds. This is a versatile set and different diamond shapes can work with the halo setting. Sometimes the center stone could be another different type of gemstone surrounded by tiny diamonds.

The three-stone setting

It features three stones as the name suggests. There is one main center stone as well as two other stones with one on either side. Often the center stone is the largest.

But there is an even deeper meaning to this type of setting. It shows a relationship’s past, present, and future. It is this inner meaning that results in the three-stone setting being so popular on anniversary rings.

The pave setting

This setting has many tiny diamonds along with the band of the ring. Sometimes it may even be difficult to spot the metal and the ring appears as if it is made completely from diamonds.

The channel setting 

This features two metals strips that secure the diamond and result in a channel. The stones on the metal remain flush to the setting and this increases their security as there is minimal chance of it snagging onto something.

There is some similarity between the channel setting and the pave setting. Often, however, the diamonds on the channel will be larger.

The split shank setting

It features a shank that separates into two when it reaches near the top thus its names. While it is possible for the shanks to have multiple diamonds on them, they can also feature just plain metal. It is a versatile type of setting that can accommodate different diamond shapes.

Bezel setting 

The bezel setting perhaps offers the best protection to the edges of the diamond. It features a single metal ring that encompassed the entire diamond. However, it may sometimes encompass just a section of the diamond. The bezel will also extend above the edges of the stone just slightly.

One advantage of the bezel setting is that imperfections that are near the edge of the diamonds can be hidden. It also tends to cause the stone to look larger than it is.

The metal for the setting

Picking the type of setting is one thing, but you will also need to choose the type of metal. Start by learning the different types of metal options and how each one compares into the next.

The brilliance and color of the metal are some of the most important considerations. Durability is another crucial factor and will determine how long the metal will maintain its conditions.

There are mainly 3 different types of metals to choose from. These include:

  1. The 14K gold

Remember that the purity of gold is determined in karats (K). The highest and purest gold rating is the 24K. Sometimes gold will be mixed with other metals to form an alloy. The 14-gold setting will, therefore, contain 14 parts gold and 10 parts of different metals.

Gold is a soft metal and adding other alloys makes it stronger and more durable.

  1. 18K Gold

This type of gold alloy is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals. It will be more expensive and shinier than 14K gold.

  1. Platinum

Platinum comes in brilliant white color and is among the rarest metals in the world. It is often referred to as a noble metal since it is very difficult to tarnish. This means that even over the years, platinum will maintain its natural color.

The ring size

When buying your ring, it’s important to ensure that you get the right size ring for your fingers. You can simply use a plastic ring sizer to get an accurate measurement.

Before choosing your ideal diamond, ensure you observe 360-degree videos of the stone. This is the most accurate way to judge its appearance.

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