There is no doubt about it, buying simulated diamond jewelry is a huge investment - it can often cost upwards of $6,000 depending on the size and quality of the stone. With this cost in mind as the only option, it’s no wonder so many people find the buying process overwhelming and confusing! However, it isn’t as complicated as you think. Armed with a few diamond buying tips, you can learn how to shop for diamond jewelry with complete confidence that you’ll walk away as the proud owner of a beautiful stone that fits both your style and budget. Read on for our buying guide for diamonds.
How to Buy a Diamond
The budget you have available for your diamond purchase is likely one of the most important parameters when buying diamonds, but you can ensure you get the most value for your money by learning more about natural diamonds, simulated lab grown diamonds and other qualities to look for when you start shopping. Our diamond buying advice will equip you to find the best stone that fits within your budget.
Understand the 4Cs of Diamond Quality
Diamond quality is determined by four specific characteristics that are evaluated and graded by a highly skilled, trained professional. The 4Cs of diamonds include the cut, color, carat and clarity. Each of these four factors is measured against the respective ranking system developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which is widely accepted as the standard for diamond grading. The GIA generates a quality report noting the value for each stone according to the grader’s assessment of a specific diamond. Here is what you should know about each of the 4Cs.
- Cut: Perhaps the most important characteristic to consider when purchasing a diamond, how diamonds are cut will directly impact their ability to sparkle and shine. Even the highest quality diamond will appear dull and dark if the cut grade is poor. However, the cut is the most difficult to analyze of all 4Cs. A stone’s cut grade is determined using a precise calculation that considers the stone’s weight relative to the diameter, the girdle thickness, the symmetry of the facet arrangement, and the quality of the polish on those facets. The GIA cut grading system was specifically designed for the evaluation of standard round diamonds with color grades ranging from D to Z, though it can also be adapted to other shapes as well. The six grades are Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor.
- Color: Once the cut grade is determined, it’s important to consider a diamond’s color grade. While chemically pure diamonds appear completely colorless, other stones may have a yellow or brown tint. The GIA color grading scale begins with the grade D, representing a perfectly colorless diamond, and continues to grade Z, with each subsequent letter of the alphabet delineating an increasingly strong hue. When evaluating a diamond, a skilled grader will compare it to a set of master stones with previously established color grades to determine the rating. The GIA groups these 23 grades into five categories in an effort to acknowledge that some grades are fairly similar in appearance and value. These categories are Colorless, Near Colorless, Faint, Very Light and Light.
- Carat: Despite popular belief, carat is not necessarily the size of a diamond but is truly a measure of its weight. However, in conjunction with cut grade and shape, carat does have a direct impact on the apparent visual size of a diamond. A 1-carat diamond with an oblong shape such as emerald, oval or pear, for example, may appear physically larger than a 1-carat round diamond. For this reason, a diamond’s GIA certificate often lists a stone’s carat weight as well as a millimeter measurement of its actual size to help consumers better grasp the appearance of the diamond they are purchasing.
Carat measurement is one of the characteristics that most directly impacts the value of a diamond - pricing will increase exponentially as carats increase. For example, a 2-carat diamond would cost more than two 1-carat diamonds of the same quality. The general rule of thumb is that a larger diamond will typically be priced four times higher than another diamond half its weight.
- Clarity: Often considered the least important of the 4Cs to consider when purchasing a diamond, clarity is the evaluation of imperfections within and on the surface of a stone. As a result of the way diamonds are created, whether natural or lab-grown, no diamond will be completely free of all flaws. The assessment of the number, size, position, relief, and nature of blemishes on the surface of the stone and flaws seen internally, known as inclusions, is the focus when determining a diamond’s clarity grade. The GIA clarity scale consists of eleven unique grades divided into six categories including Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS), Very Slightly Included (VS), Slightly Included (SI) and Included (I).
Work with a Trained Professional
When buying diamonds, it’s important to work with a professional who has proper training that you feel you can trust, such as a jeweler or gemologist. Select this person with as much attention as you would a doctor, lawyer, or other trained professional. The right person to work with will be armed with the appropriate training, open to questions, and able to clearly communicate answers in simple language. They should not make you feel uninformed, belittled or swindled. It’s important to have a rapport established with your local jeweler or gemologist so you feel comfortable openly discussing your needs, wants and concerns and can work together to find the best stones and fine jewelry for you.
Finding someone who is credentialed, such as a GIA Graduate Gemologist (GG) or Applied Jewelry Professional (AJP), is a wonderful place to start when searching for a diamond professional. Whatever training your professional has should come from a highly-recognized and internationally accredited program. The GIA provides a retailer lookup so you can easily find a jewelry store near you that carries GIA-graded diamonds or has GIA-trained associates on staff.
Ask for the Grading Report
An unbiased, scientific grading report will provide more information on the diamond you are purchasing and act as proof of the stone’s quality as well. This is an important component of how to tell if a diamond is real and how the different qualities of a specific stone work in conjunction with one another. Typically, these reports should come from the GIA or another recognized association, listing a reference number that you verify with the grading organization. Beyond the 4Cs, a grading report will also confirm the composition of the diamond, natural or lab-grown alternative details, and disclose any treatments it may have undergone to alter its color or clarity.
Some differences in diamond quality can be so subtle that they are undetectable without lab verification, so always insist that any diamond you purchase come with a grading report. If your seller is not able to readily provide this information, you are better off walking away and finding a new vendor.
Protect Your Purchase
In addition to the value of the grading report, it may also be helpful to have your diamond independently appraised. This can help to verify the quality and value of your diamond. This information will give you the necessary details for taking out an appropriate insurance policy to protect your stone if that is something of interest to you.
As an additional measure, you may also consider having the diamond laser-inscribed with its GIA report number. This would help to provide verification and identify it if it were ever to become lost or stolen.
Another important aspect of protection comes to caring for your diamond. When you make your purchase, make sure you understand how to clean your diamond ring so you ensure its beautiful qualities will sparkle for years to come.
Know Before You Go
Before heading out to make your big purchase, do some research and have an idea of what you’re looking for. Learn about the solitaire ring meaning, the impact of different metals on style, and more to better inform your search. All of this research will help your jeweler guide you toward your perfect diamond. That said, it can also be helpful to not be too rigid in your expectations, as some flexibility will allow you to get the most value possible.
In addition, you’ll also want to know your budget prior to going to pick out a stone. Determining this ahead of time will prevent you from overspending and will help your jeweler advise you on the best diamond options for your budget.
If you’re not sure what ring setting you or your loved one wants, you might want to buy loose diamonds and have it set at a later date. However, you’ll still want to have it graded and appraised prior to mounting if you decide to take this course of action.
Diamond Alternative Options
No matter what fine jewelry you’re looking to purchase, another key consideration in your diamond search should be lab grown diamonds and alternatives. Diamond alternatives present a wonderful option in many respects - not only are there high quality, shining diamond alternatives available today, but they also present a much more affordable and eco-friendly option for consumers. At Diamond Nexus, we developed a patented diamond alternative formula to simulate the look, weight and feel of natural diamonds, but at the highest quality levels. Every Nexus Diamond™ alternative has grade D color, IF clarity and an Ideal Cut. Moreover, due to the production method of lab diamonds, our alternative stones can cost up to 80% less than mined diamonds and eliminate any ethical or environmental sourcing concerns.
You should never have to compromise on the quality of your diamond to meet a budget or sacrifice the honeymoon of your dreams solely in order to afford a high-quality, beautiful diamond ring. By choosing diamond alternative options like Diamond Nexus, you can really have it all - an affordable price and a sparkling diamond simulant guaranteed to last a lifetime!
*Diamond Nexus strives to provide valuable information, while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab grown stone that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a mined diamond, with two exceptions - it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.