How to Buy a Diamond: Everything You Need to Know
When looking for a diamond, you should make sure you pay close attention to the cut, clarity, color and carat, also known as "the four Cs," of each diamond. These traits help determine the value of an individual diamond.
- The parts of a diamond should be equal and well proportioned.
- The brightness, fire and scintillation of the diamond determine a good cut.
- A perfectly cut diamond will produce a high shine and sparkle.
- If the cut of the diamond is too deep, you'll notice a dark spot in the middle.
- Each diamond is rated on a color scale from D (completely colorless) to Z (light yellow).
- Completely colorless diamonds are the most valuable because they are chemically and structurally pure.
- Clarity refers to any internal and external blemishes on the diamond.
- Eleven grades of clarity fall into six different categories that describe the level of visibility of any flaws.
- You'll need a jeweler to help appraise the value of the diamond and point out any unseen blemishes.
- The carat refers to the weight of the stone; one carat is equivalent to a weight of 200 milligrams.
- In general, the larger the carat the more expensive the diamond. However, a larger low-quality stone may be less expensive than a smaller high-quality one.
- Carat should not be confused with karat, which is the unit measurement of gold.
Learn more about carat and karat.
Types of Diamond Cuts & Shapes
Otherwise known as the "pillow cut" or the "old mine cut," the cushion cut has been around for nearly 200 years. This shape features a proportionate, almost square rectangle with rounded edges. You can find these diamonds in square and rectangular shapes.
- Shines brightly - Cushion diamonds have a high fire, which means that they shine very brightly. Diamonds with this cut make a great gift for anyone who wants high shine and an intense sparkle, but still wants the appeal of a timeless shape.
- A classic feel - The cushion cut is one of the oldest varieties. A cushion cut gives any new diamond a classic feel, which can be paired with a modern setting and style.
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Originally designed to cut emeralds, this shape is extremely recognizable even to those who don't know much about jewelry. Emerald cut diamonds have fewer facets and range from nearly squared to narrow rectangles. A good emerald cut should have a length to width ratio of 1.5 with narrow angled cuts that resemble a set of stairs.
- A deeper look - Thanks to the beveled corners and step facets, this cut of diamond is more transparent than other cuts for a higher clarity.
- A vivid shine - The deep cuts produce a hall-of-mirrors effect with contrasting light and dark planes that give a beautiful shine.
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The Asscher cut has eight sides and stair-step facets that are extremely similar to the emerald cut. These diamonds have the same facets as emerald cuts but are squarer than their rectangular counterparts.
- A vintage favorite - The Asscher cut was a 1920s favorite for engagement rings. It originated in the Roaring Twenties, so it sports the Art Deco feel of this era with an antique charm. You can still find Prohibition era rings or have an Asscher set in a modern take on an Art Deco-style setting.
- Always in fashion - The Asscher-shaped diamond adds a dramatic flair to any look with deep cuts that produce a high fire. The unique shape of the Asscher cut offers a sophisticated feel to any piece of jewelry.
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The heart-shaped diamond is the perfect way to show that you care. A high-quality heart cut will have a distinct cleft and bottom point. The cleft is the part that sits between the two lobes, or halves, of the heart-shaped diamond. It’s easier to see the heart shape in diamonds with larger carats, so consider carat size when shopping for a heart cut.
- Speaks more than words - Diamonds cut in a heart shape not only show a sign of love, but they also show a sign of support. Giving diamond jewelry says that you trust that they're mature enough to wear such a precious stone and that you cherish them.
- An iconic design - A heart-shaped diamond features one of the most recognizable shapes in the world.
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The marquise cut is a long, slender diamond with an elliptical shape that comes to a point on each end. A unique perk to this elongated cut is that it maximizes carat weight. For example, a marquise cut stone is that 1.5 carats looks larger than a marquise diamond that weighs 2 carats.
- A slimming design - When placed vertically on a ring, the elliptical shape of the marquise cut stone will elongate your fingers and offer a slimming effect.
- Stands out without standing out - Fans of an antiquated look will love how these diamonds boast a unique shape as both a solitary gem or added as side stones to a different cut.
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Oval cuts are a great choice if you like round cuts with a slight twist. They accentuate fingers to make them look longer while maximizing your carat weight. Similar to a marquise cut, a wide-cut oval diamond of a smaller carat weight will appear larger than a heavier stone due to its elongated and wide shape.
- Better value - One benefit to purchasing an oval diamond is that the smaller carat sizes often look bigger than a larger carat diamond. The length and width of the oval tricks the eye into thinking that it's a bigger stone. This is where buyers can feel like they’re getting the most for their money.
- A slimming look - If you're not fond of the elliptical marquise stone but still want a diamond that helps elongate your fingers, oval is the perfect choice.
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The pear cut, otherwise known as a teardrop, is another diamond cut that offers a slimming effect on the hand. This shape combines the point in a marquise cut and the circular top of a round cut. The pear shape has a tapered end and can be easily chipped, so the tapered end should always be set in a prong. The proper way to wear this cut is with the tapered end pointing toward the wearer.
- Unexpected beauty - The uniqueness of the shape and rarity at which it's worn offers the wearer something special and uncommon in the world of jewelry.
- Looks great in a set - The pear cut looks stunning as a solitary stone and even better when offset by two smaller stones on either side.
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The princess cut is a square diamond. Princess cuts are one of the most popular engagement ring styles and one of the iconic diamond shapes. When shopping for a princess cut, be sure you have all four corners set in prongs to prevent any chipping.
- Shines like you will - Princess-cut diamonds have a high level of fire, which means that the light catches the diamond and creates an intense shine.
- Easier on your budget - When jewelers cut princess diamonds from a larger stone, they don't have to waste as much of the diamond as they would for more intricate cuts. This helps to make them more affordable.
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The traditional radiant cut is a square or rectangular diamond with brilliant facets that catch the light. All radiant shapes have trimmed corners that set it apart from the princess cut.
- A durable design - Radiant-cut diamonds don't have sharp corners like princess-cut diamonds, making them a good match for people who are active and like to do things with their hands. The lack of sharp corners makes the diamond more durable and resistant to chipping.
- Brilliant in more ways than one - Radiant cuts embody their name with tiny facets that catch the light in a variety of ways. The radiant diamond is in the square category but has soft edges and brilliant luster.
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The beautiful round diamond is one of the most popular diamond cuts on the market. The high demand and low supply for this style, as well as the fact that more of the rough diamond is lost in creating this cut, are the main factors contributing to its high price.
- Simply brilliant - This cut is known for its unrivaled fire and brilliance with excellent light refraction properties.
- Timeless design - Round diamonds are a classic choice that will always be chic. Whether it's a pair of stud earrings, an engagement ring or a bracelet, it's the perfect choice for any fashion taste.
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When Should You Buy a Diamond?
Different occasions call for different types of gifts. If you're thinking of gifting jewelry, try to save diamonds for extra-special moments. Here are a few instances where these stones work best.
- Popping the question - Diamonds have been the traditional stone for engagement rings for years. There's no better way to say forever than purchasing a diamond engagement ring for your significant other.
- Milestones - If you're wondering what to get your significant other for a birthday or anniversary gift, diamonds are always a fantastic choice.
- Special events for teens - Diamonds are great coming-of-age gifts for teens. Consider a pair of diamond studs with gold posts as a graduation, sweet 16 or golden birthday gift.
You'll commonly find three types of diamonds sold in the market today: synthetic, conflict-free and natural. Make sure you know what these terms mean before you buy your next diamond.
- Synthetic - Synthetic diamonds are man-made stones created in laboratories.
- Conflict-free - Conflict-free diamonds are certified to be from mines with ethical practices.
- Natural - Natural diamonds are created with the extreme heat and pressure of the Earth's mantle.
Learn more about synthetic diamonds and conflict-free diamonds.