Taking the Plunge

Selecting a Diamond

In many cases, you can save the most money while getting the exact ring you want by purchasing your diamond and ring setting separately. Here's our strategy for getting the largest possible diamond for the price.

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A budget helps you to take emotions out of the decision. Don't forget to include the cost of the ring or setting for the diamond! Setting prices start at a few hundred dollars for a simple 14K solitaire setting to $2,000 - $3,000 thousand for a pave set platinum setting.

Round brilliant is the classic, can't-go-wrong shape. Other popular shapes we carry include the square-shaped princess cut and the pillow-shaped cushion cut. For the quality of the cut of the diamond, "good" to "very good" rated cuts look great, but for the very exact customer, there are also "excellent" or "ideal" rated diamonds. Higher grades of cut can often be much more expensive.  

Most diamonds have small internal imperfections called inclusions. The degree and size of inclusions determine "clarity" which is graded on the following scale:

You will notice that in many cases clarity differences are not visible to the naked eye, so buying anything above the SI grade may mean spending thousands of dollars on something that can't be detected by the naked eye.

In other words, the value strategy in diamonds is to buy SI1 or SI2 diamonds that don't reveal their imperfections to the naked eye. However, buying SI1 and particularly SI2 diamonds without guidance can be tricky. It takes a trained jeweler and diamond grader to advise you which of these value stones presents an attractive deal.   

Like clarity, diamonds are also rated according to color on a letter scale from D to Z. The closer to D the whiter the diamond should be. We think diamonds look best through the letter grade J because they are colorless or near colorless.

Many experts recommend that buying anything from D to H does not translate into a characteristic that can be appreciated without a visual aid, though diamonds in this color range can cost considerably more. Therefore, the greatest value strategy is to buy in the color grades of H, I, and J. Princess cuts, due to their shape, should be purchased in one grade better.

There are two caveats to the above rules. If you are buying a yellow gold setting, the yellow of the gold gets incorporated into the color of the diamond so you can safely buy all the way into the K and L color ranges.

In addition, an optical property of diamonds called blue fluorescence tends to make diamonds in the I, J, K, and L color grades appear whiter. So, if you are looking to save the most money, buy a diamond in this color range with medium to strong blue fluorescence.

Needless to say, bigger stones make bigger impressions. But that doesn't mean you have to push yourself to buy something you can't afford. There are some tricks if your budget is limited. For example, the Princess cut tends to look larger than an equivalently sized round diamond. In addition, certain settings, by elevating the stone, can make a round diamond look 10-20% larger.  

Diamond certifying labs carry different price premiums. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) & AGS (American Gem Society) Laboratory are the most well known consistent laboratories, but GIA & AGS certified diamonds carry a significant price premium reflecting this.

However, we have become big fans of European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) diamonds when priced and graded correctly. Very large and high-quality EGL diamonds are sometimes available for significant discounts. A rule of thumb to get a great looking EGL diamond is to select clarity grades above SI1 and above and color grades D-H. Look for the price to be significantly discounted relative to a similarly graded GIA or AGS stone.
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