With their timeless beauty and intrinsic value, diamonds are quite rightly the most popular choice for an engagement ring. They also happen to be one of the most expensive gemstones in the world, and it pays to know just what to look out for.
In fact, the price of a diamond ring depends on a combination of things, primarily the four C’s – cut, colour, clarity, and carat weight. Currently, a flawless, perfectly cut diamond sells for up to $10,000 per carat – and that’s just the stone itself! Prices for larger and rarer diamonds can reach stratospheric levels.
Nevertheless, a diamond engagement ring doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. If you know what properties to look for and which aspects to trade off, you can buy a good-quality stone at a significantly lower price.
Here’s all the information you need to know to spot a good deal.
A structurally perfect and chemically pure diamond is colourless. The standard colour grading scale starts from D to Z, with D representing colourless and Z representing the highest presence of colour. Naturally coloured diamonds that have more hue than a Z stone are called “fancy-colour diamonds”.
Among the grades D, E, F and G, there aren’t any noticeable differences in colour. But from H going down the scale, you will see a stronger yellow tint.
If you want maximum value for money, go for an F or G as it is still considered a premium stone but will come with a lesser price tag.
Only about one percent of the world’s diamonds are flawless. The other 99 percent have so-called “blemishes” and “inclusions”, which are small black or white crystals trapped inside the stone.
The diamond clarity scale has six categories: Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2), Slightly Included (S1, S2) and Included (I1, I2, I3).
Going down as far as Sl1 – the inclusions in this type of diamond are not visible to the naked eye so you still get a clear, brilliant stone.
However, you need to be careful because not all SI stones are eye-clean. Make sure you look very closely into the stone. Check it in daylight to make sure there aren’t any visible inclusions.
Many people confuse a diamond’s cut with its shape, e.g. round, pear, oval, emerald, heart, etc. In fact, the ‘cut’ refers to the symmetry, polish and proportion of the stone’s facets.
An excellent cut is what gives a diamond its brilliance, fire and scintillation. It takes precise workmanship and artistry to fashion a perfectly cut diamond. Among the 4Cs, a diamond’s cut has the most impact on the stone’s value.
Carat is a fifth of a gram or 200 milligrams. The higher the carat, the more expensive the diamond is.
When looking for a diamond ring, take note of the so-called “magic points” — 0.50 ct., 0.75 ct., 0.90 ct., 1.00 ct., 1.50 ct and 2.00 ct. Diamonds that weigh just below these magic points are a great bargain. Why? Because a 0.99 carat stone won’t have much visual difference to one that weighs a full carat, but the price difference can be significant.
The perfect diamond shape pretty much depends on your personal preference or the personality of the ring’s wearer.
Nevertheless, a diamond’s shape can affect its price to a certain extent. For example, a round-shaped diamond is typically more expensive than an emerald-shaped stone even though they are the same weight. Round diamonds are the most sought after because they offer maximum sparkle and beauty.
If you’re on a budget, go for non-traditional shapes like heart, emerald, oval, marquise, princess or pear. They will cost much less but will still look elegant.
As for the ring’s setting, you literally have hundreds of options to choose from. In addition to your budget, keep in mind the wearer’s personal style and daily activities when selecting a ring setting. A ring with intricate galleries or dainty bands would fit a true romantic, while a ring with a non-traditional form would suit a contemporary woman. If you’re not sure what to get, go for popular styles such as the classic solitaire, vintage, halo or a custom setting.
Two diamonds of the same carat weight and shape may still appear different in size depending on the cut proportions. A well-cut diamond tends to have a wider diameter than a deep-cut diamond, and thus appears larger.
Accordingly, the diamond’s price increases exponentially as the carat size increases. This is because larger diamonds are rare or more difficult to produce.
Fluorescence is the diamond’s reaction to UV light. A diamond that has fluorescence in it would appear cloudy or milky in daylight or blue under artificial lighting. So you want to avoid fluorescence.
There’s a scale that ranges from Nil to Very Strong – stick to Nil or Faint to get a very good diamond. As you go further down the scale, the price will drop significantly but for a good reason.
Most jewellery shops will have UV light for checking a diamond’s fluorescence, but it’s best to check the diamond’s certification as well. Make sure the certification was awarded by a recognised body, i.e. the GIA or HRD to ensure the authenticity of the grading report.
The price of a diamond ring ultimately depends on how much you are willing to spend and on what aspects you are willing to give up. If you have your heart set on a particular diamond cut or setting, consider a trade-off in other aspects to get maximum value for money.