There are two types of people. Those who thrive in the chasm of information overload and enjoy spending hours online researching and filling their mind with material about a particular product, and then there are people like me. I hate, and I mean loathe, this research. I would rather sit in traffic than weed through the digital haystack of opinion on the information super-highway.
The purchase of an engagement ring is one of the larger life purchases an individual will make, both emotionally and economically. The vast majority of this cost is allocated to the center stone, and it is no coincidence that it’s also where the most confusion and jargon is used to needlessly upsell. My efforts with this post are a modest attempt to create a singular source for any and all information needed to acquire said stone, while simultaneously utilizing KISS (keep it simple, stupid). There are only 5 things you need to know.
#1 The larger the stone, the higher the price PER carat. For example, a two carat stone is not twice the cost of a one carat stone, depending on the other three “Cs,” it could be 3-5 times as much. The breaks in market pricing are at the half carat, meaning you would pay a lot less for a 1.49 carat stone than you would for a 1.5 carat stone. Because of this, it is very rare to find stones close to those pricing breaks. I suggest aiming for a 1.3 - 1.4 carat instead of a 1.5; visually the difference is hardly noticeable, but your wallet / checkbook / app will see a sizable difference.
#2 Higher clarity isn’t always better. Folks are inclined to buy the highest clarity within their budget. The clarity scale spans from I3 to Flawless, and, to me, buying a flawless diamond is a massive waste of money. Like buying a brand new car, it decreases in value the moment you drive off the lot. My value and price sweet spot when buying diamonds is between the SI1, VS2, and VS1 clarities. An SI1 is typically eye clean and VS2 and VS1 have inclusions that are difficult to find under 10-time magnification, even to a seasoned jeweler. Purchasing a clarity higher than VS1 is akin to buying a car that can go 300 miles per hour. Although you may find solace in knowing that your car can hit 300 MPH, do you really need a car whose speedometer can clock above 200 MPH?
#3 When considering color, take into account the metal that will house the diamond. Will it be white, yellow or rose? For diamond color, the scale ranges from D to Z. If you’re putting a diamond in white metal, you do need to err on the side of colorless; ideally not dropping below a G hue. If you are setting in yellow or rose gold, you can go a little bit deeper as the diamond will pick-up the colors of the prongs, setting and band; down to a J color is acceptable. My ideal stone is an F or G color - it works with any metal, but if you’re worried about price, the distance between an F and a J is visually not much different in colored gold and your bank app will thank-you.
#4 Cut is the most important “C.” People usually think the term cut stands for the shape of the diamond, but it actually refers to the faceting of the stone—how the proportions, polish and symmetry are graded—and it makes a huge difference in how it reflects light and thus sparkles. I recommend spending for the excellent cut (referred to as "triple ex" with round stones and "double ex” with fancy shapes). If you offered me a higher clarity stone with a good cut vs a lower clarity with an excellent cut, I am going to choose the latter every time.
#5 Read the fine print. If you see a stone that’s a lot cheaper than another seemingly comparable one, there is always a reason. Typically it has either been enhanced or has fluorescence. Enhanced means it’s been altered by a human—it could mean a hole has been drilled and filled with silicon to remove a black speck or that it has been heat treated to enhance color. Fluorescence, simply put, means the stone will glow under a black light, ranging from faint to strong. IMO faint is a-okay and even strong fluorescence is not harmful if that is what the budget allows - it can actually enhance the color of deeper stones making them appear more colorless. Both will be noted on the GIA certificate, and both variations will come in with a lower ticket.
The 4 “Cs” and the “fine print” can all be found on the stone’s certificate; however even two stones with the exact same grades can appear very different in person - one may appear flat and lifeless while the other may “smile” - a slang word in the jewelry industry for a stone that just has that special sparkle.. The best advice I can give is to work with a jeweler whose eyes you trust or, if possible, to see the stone IRL (and have the dealer or designer walk you through the stone’s inclusions with 10X magnification). I typically discourage people from buying loose stones online from mass-market retailers like Blue Nile - their stones are listed by independent sellers and drop-shipped vs hand-picked by the site.
Depending on which type of person you are, before taking the plunge, you can research diamonds ad nauseam or keep these 5 simple tips in your back pocket. Again, I’ll chose the latter.
To learn more about diamonds, schedule a private engagement ring appointment.
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