Budgeting The allure of diamond shopping makes it easy to get swept up in the taglines and buzzwords and find yourself completely outside your initial budget. Many jewelers may try to convince you that diamonds are an investment and that they never go out of style – but that’s not a reason to purchase the first diamond within reach. Do your research, set a budget (including re-sizing, insurance, etc.) and don’t budge from that price.
Color Diamonds come in a spectrum of colors, with colorless diamonds being the most valuable on the current market. The color scale starts at Z (heavily-colored) and moves up to D (colorless). To give you an idea of the precision of determining a diamond’s shade, only a diamond expert will be able to see subtle yellow or brown undertones in an F colored stone, and the color may be imperceptible to your eye in an I colored stone set in a ring or pendant. Ask to see green, orange, yellow, red, and blue diamonds while shopping and you just might find a gorgeous rock within your budget!
Carat When it comes to diamond shopping, size matters – but not as much as you might think. Perhaps the most important determinant of the price of a diamond jewelry item is its carat weight, which you can compare most easily on round-cut stones. Ask to see a few colorless diamond rings (colored diamonds have a different density and carat weight) with a round cut, and determine the size of diamond that you would like to buy while wearing the piece. One important note to keep in mind is that the cut of a stone may make it look dramatically bigger, so budget-conscious shoppers can get more visual bang for their buck by trying pear, marquis, and oval cuts instead of deep shapes like princess stones.
Cut This is where your personal style comes into play. Diamond cuts and styles have ebbed and flowed over the centuries, but only you know what looks and feels best for you. The simple round cut is by far the most commercially-popular diamond sold, with over 70% of women purchasing round diamonds. However, princess cuts and cushion cuts are rising in popularity (particularly for engagement rings). Try on a few rarer cuts and see how you like them: the marquise shape has a huge surface area for more visual impact; emerald cuts show the beautiful light and dark parts of the stone, and pear-shaped diamonds offer a regal effect.
Clarity There are very few truly flawless diamonds in the world; however, most imperfections in diamonds at your local jewelry store are almost imperceptible to the human eye. Jewel experts determine diamond clarity by examining the stone for little bits of black carbon, tiny hairlike cracks in the stone, and other blemishes. Stones are ranked from FL (flawless under 10x magnification) to I1-I3, where inclusions are easily seen by the naked eye. While a chip could be polished out, a crack might make your stone more vulnerable to breakage. Ask your jeweler specific questions about your diamond’s clarity ranking and the nature of any inclusions.