Diamond Buying FAQ’s

When it comes to buying a diamond, a little research or some expert input will ensure that you get the best possible diamond for your budget.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of questions that I’m most frequently asked, in order to help you in your search for the perfect diamond. Of course, if you can’t find the information you’re looking for or you’d like to ask me a specific question, please get in touch.

When you’re trying to establish if an online jeweler is reputable, I’d always recommend looking at their online reviews. Customer reviews are essential to the success of an online engagement ring store and they can give you a real insight into the level of service, quality, and value that a jeweler delivers.

Of course, you also need to be aware that not all reviews are accurate and trustworthy – I’d recommend looking for reviews on Google+, Yelp, and iVouch as these tend to be the most trusted sources.

For more information about finding a reputable online jeweler, please see my article: The Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring Online. I’d also recommend looking at my reviews of online retailers such as Blue Nile, James Allen, and Whiteflash.

The round brilliant cut is the most popular choice of diamond for engagement rings, currently accounting for around 75% of all of the diamonds sold today.

Due to the mechanics of a round diamond, it offers pristine reflection of light, enhancing the brightness of the stone and giving it that special sparkle.

A round diamond will cost more per carat than other, fancier shaped diamonds for two main reasons.  Firstly, whilst the demand for round diamonds is at an all time high, the yield is relatively low as a large proportion of the rough diamond goes to waste during the cutting process.

Due to this loss, the cost of every carat, or proportion of carat, retained is higher. It also takes a lot longer create a brilliant cut diamond than it does to create a good one or even a very good one. For more information, head to my Education Pages on Cut and Carat (weight).

Although the round brilliant cut diamond is the most popular choice for engagement rings, there are a wide variety of different shapes to choose from. For further information about round diamonds and other diamond shapes, please read my in-depth article here.

This one isn’t so straight forward – the answer is yes and no. The biggest determining factor in the quality of a diamond is the actual cut, rather than the shape it is cut into. Find out more about the cut of a diamond here.

However, you should be aware that round diamonds do maximise light return, which can make them appear more brilliant and of a higher quality. And, although there’s nothing better than a perfectly cut, round diamond, you can also find perfectly cut princess diamonds that maximise light return too.

The 4 Cs are the agreed industry standard for describing and measuring the quality of a diamond. Until the middle of the 20th century, there was no agreed-upon standard for judging diamonds. Then, GIA created the first, and now globally accepted standards for describing diamonds. Today, this is the universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world.

The 4 Cs are made up of Carat, cut, clarity and color. We have a separate section on the 4 Cs, which explains them fully, but here’s a brief overview…

Carat is another term for weight, so a 1ct ring will be larger and heavier than one that is 0.7ct.  In real terms, a 1ct diamond weighs the same as a paper clip and is considered by many experts to be the perfect size.

Cut  – Although cut often used to describe the shape of the diamond, it can also refer to its quality, considering the proportions, symmetry, and polish of the stone, rather than the actual shape. This is typically considered to be the most important of the 4 C’s as it determines the overall appearance of the diamond and gives it that magical sparkle.

The best official diamond cut varies between Ideal from AGS and Excellent with GIA. As these are the most respected diamond labs in the business, either of these ratings equates to a top quality cut.

The scale then slides down through very good and good, to the lowest rating on the scale, fair. A fair cut is not widely available, apart from when it comes to fancy cut diamonds and gemstones where the brilliance is not quite as important.

Clarity refers to how the diamond appears when it’s examined under a 10x magnifier. This is the only way to determine the clarity of a diamond at the top end of the scale, F-Sl1, as natural flaws, known as inclusions, are not visible to the naked eye.

Color doesn’t actually refer to the color of the diamond but rather the lack of it. We tend to think that all diamonds are colorless but many diamonds have a yellowish hue to them. Diamonds classed between D-F are thought to be colorless, with the purest being D.

G-J represents near colorless, K-M is faint yellow, N-R very light yellow, and S-Z light yellow. You will rarely find diamonds with a color lower than M sold on the best diamond websites as they simply don’t fit the criteria of what the vast majority of us believe a diamond should look like.

Most experts will say “yes” and, in an ideal world, where money didn’t matter, I would agree. But, if your budget doesn’t extend to a 2ct, D colored stone with an ideal cut and F clarity, don’t despair – you can still find many beautiful, and affordable, diamonds with the help of an expert.

It’s always best to try and secure the best quality diamond within your budget, but it is possible to save money by accepting a slightly lower quality score for one of the 4C’s, or even buying a very slightly smaller diamond.

If you have your heart set on a diamond with a carat weight around 1 carat then perhaps think about choosing one that comes in just below this mark. For example, if you opt for a 0.8 – 0.89 Carat diamond, it can be around 50% of the cost of a 1 Carat diamond. More information here.

Regarding the other 4Cs, Cut is always king.

If you’re really struggling to find the right diamond then why not drop me a line? I will be happy to use my knowledge to help you find the perfect diamond, within your budget.

If you’re not a diamond expert, it can be difficult to know if you’re paying the best price for your diamond. I’d always recommend comparing like for like diamonds between the various websites or getting some independent advice.

Even if you are looking at a preset ring, it’s worth comparing it with a site that allows you to design your own ring. Select the setting first then head to the diamonds. The filters on the sites like Whiteflash.com and Jamesallen.com make it incredibly easy to do this.

So, for example, if you’ve found a white gold ring with a 0.9ct, color I, VS2 clarity and good cut diamond, you put these parameters into the search filters.

By being slightly flexible, such as including VVS2 in the clarity filter and very good in the cut filter, you may find that you can actually afford a better diamond for your budget.

Some people choose to start with the setting first to gain an understanding of your diamond budget rather than blowing it all on the stone and realizing there is nothing left for the setting. Of course, for other people, the diamond is most important and so they select their stone first and then find a setting to accommodate it and their budget.

This may seem time consuming but, when you consider you can save yourself thousands of dollars or get a much better diamond for your budget, it is time well spent. Buying a diamond should never be rushed, especially if it’s for something as special as an engagement ring.

Although many people assume that loose diamonds are reserved only for collectors and jewelers and aren’t easily available to the public, this perception is actually way out of date.

Loose diamonds are easy to find online, in fact, many of the companies that we’ve reviewed sell loose diamonds without a setting and offer ‘design your own ring’ features – allowing you to choose the setting and stone individually rather than buying a ready made stone.

There are a whole host of benefits to buying loose diamonds online and it will almost always be the cheapest option.  Online jewelers have driven down the price of loose diamonds and they are now very affordable.

Thinking of buying a loose diamond? Check out my Blue Nile or Whiteflash reviews as a starting point!

There are many different diamond labs offering certification and, unfortunately, not all laboratory results are equal, meaning that the same diamond may achieve different grading results from two different certification organizations.

Confused?! I’m not surprised! This is why I always recommend buying from a jeweler whose diamonds are graded by the AGS (American Gem Society) or the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). These are the two most trusted diamond labs in the USA and, although neither of them actually sell diamonds, they grade them for quality and issue certificates as proof of a diamond’s quality.

But what about the EGL?  Well the European Gemological Laboratory comes a distant third in credibility behind the two major players. In our opinion, they don’t have the same criteria or standards as the AGS or GIA and there has been several lawsuits with claims of overgrading and there is even a website dedicated to dealing with victims of EGL overgrading.

We strongly advise avoiding EGL diamonds altogether and only purchasing AGS and GIA accredited stones for the optimum level of quality assurance. If you do buy an EGL certificated diamond, we’d recommend having it independently appraised.

Head to my Diamond Certification article for more information.

Non-conflict diamonds or conflict free diamonds refer to diamonds that have been ethically sourced and the funds from their sale when they were mined, have not gone to rebel movements.

Blood diamonds, as some people refer to them, are diamonds that have been mined in a war zone and sold to finance a warlord’s activity. Many of these diamonds have been mined during civil wars in countries such as Angola, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.

The Kimberley Process was set up by joint Governments in a bid to stop the trade of conflict diamonds.

Reputable companies only sell non-conflict diamond and you should only deal with dealers who can detect the origin of their diamonds.

I only ever recommend reputable companies. Luckily, the sale of non-conflict diamonds have been as good as eradicated from the US market and many other developed countries.

Many people assume that catalog rings are cheaper – think off-the-rack as opposed to haute couture. But, in reality, this isn’t always the case and custom rings can often turn out to be cheaper for the same quality of setting and diamond.

If you have the time, then why not select the perfect diamond and setting yourself…or with my help. Many retailers make this process quick and easy and adding that person touch will make the ring even more special! James Allen and Whiteflash both offer great ring design services.

For inexpensive settings, head to Blue Nile that have loads of affordable, entry level settings. However, for a great selection of high quality engagement rings such as Ritani, Tacori, Simon G, Verragio head to Whiteflash and also James Allen carry some as well.

Why not get a custom ring if you want something truly unique? Whiteflash and James Allen both have great services.

Matching your diamond up with the perfect setting for its shape, is the key to giving it the ultimate wow factor.

Take the classic solitaire for example. The diamond stands proud in the setting to allow the stone to catch the light from all angles. A setting that sits flat on the finger doesn’t allow the light to shine through the diamond completely and can make it look dull.

Settings also come down to personal choice. Some people prefer a plain setting while others prefer something a bit more elaborate.  There are some very talented jewelry designers who are renowned for their engagement ring settings including Tacori, Jeff Cooper, Simon G, Verragio, Michael M and Vatche to name but a few. You’ll pay a slight premium for a designer setting, but it will make the ring even more special! More information can be found here.

Tradition dictates that a man should pay anywhere between 1 month and 3 months salary on an engagement ring… but that was probably an idea dreamt up by an advertising agency many years ago.

The current average spend on engagement rings in the USA is around $6000.  This is for the complete ring and not just the stone so bear this in mind when you are making your purchase.

Some people end up using a finance arrangement to buy their engagement ring.  This may allow you to buy a better quality diamond for your ring by breaking the payments down over a number of months. It’s important that you check out the APR first however to make sure that paying for the ring on finance won’t mean you’ll be paying double the price.

Ultimately, what you spend isn’t as important as the gesture of giving the ring and what it symbolizes. My tip would be to spend what you can afford and try to avoid getting into debt. I have a detailed piece on Pricing here.

If you’ve searched far and wide and simply can’t find a diamond that fits both your budget and your requirements, the first thing you need to decide is which of the 4 Cs you are most prepared to compromise on.

For example, if you have your heart set on a 1ct diamond, even the highest quality 0.5ct will most likely leave you disappointed because there will be a noticeable difference in size.

Research has suggested that the size of the diamond is more important to the man than the women, so if you’re buying an engagement ring, don’t focus too much on size. In my opinion, Cut is a much more important factor.

However, there are ways to get a big diamond for your budget. For example, rather than buying a round brilliant diamond, buy one that has less facets and less wastage when it is cut.  Round brilliants are sold at a premium price so if you choose a different shape, you will most likely get a bigger diamond for your money.

Alternatively, instead of buying a VVS1 diamond, try searching for a VS1 that is eye clean.  This will also have an impact on the price that you pay.

Of course, you can also start small and work up, with a supplier who will allow you to upgrade your ring at a later date, when you can afford it. Whiteflash, for example, offers a lifetime upgrade service. Although many other companies offer this service, you should always check the terms and conditions as they often have plenty of strings attached. In my opinion, Whiteflash have the best scheme.

If you’d like me to help you find a diamond within your budget, get in touch, let me know what your budget is and if you have any special requirements, and I’ll help you find the best options for your budget.

If you’re not happy with your ring once it arrives, you simply send it back. Well, most of the time anyway. The same distance selling rules apply to diamonds as they do to TVs or anything else that you buy online.

Online jewelers’ return policies can vary, however, so we’d strongly advise checking this section of their T&Cs before paying for the ring. The general rule is a 30 day money back guarantee but there are different terms and conditions attached to this policy depending on the company you are buying from.

We strongly recommend that you read the returns policy through thoroughly before ordering any custom items, as in many cases they will be non-returnable. Likewise with engraved items. Some companies will charge a small fee for re-polishing the ring so it can be offered for sale again, whilst others are very strict and will not accept the return of engraved items.

It can take a short period of time to get your re-fund as the company will want to verify you have returned the same diamond they sold you. For more information on the major jewelers and their return policies, read my James Allen, Blue Nile and Whiteflash Reviews.

Richard Jenkins, The Diamond Guru

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