HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR DIAMOND
In an ideal world with unlimited budgets and an infinite supply of diamonds, everyone would have beautifully cut “D Flawless” diamonds. In the real world every diamond is unique. There are plenty of gorgeous diamonds to go around – you just need to know how to find one.
Choosing a diamond is about balancing several factors to make the most of your budget. Each factor contributes to the beauty and prestige of your diamond. I will explain these factors so you will be prepared to make an informed decision about your diamond purchase.
FACTOR 1: CARAT WEIGHT
People often use the word Carat when discussing how big a diamond is, however “Carat” actually refers to the weight of a diamond.
There is no rule as to what carat weight you should buy, but you’ll doubtless have heard that “bigger is better.” If you ask me, I think bigger is great but you shouldn’t forget about the other aspects of a diamond’s quality.
A useful tip: if you’re looking at Certified Diamonds, you may find it valuable to compare the diameters of different diamonds. Since every diamond is individually cut, some may appear larger than others of the same weight.
FACTOR 2: SHAPE
Approximately 75% of diamonds sold worldwide are Round Brilliants. Rounds diamonds are the most popular, most brilliant, and most expensive. If you are purchasing a diamond as a surprise, Round Brilliant is generally your safest bet.
There is no real hierarchy of shapes being better or worse – it is truly a matter of personal preference. Princess Cuts are the second most popular, and a classic alternative to round diamonds. Cushion Cuts are trendy and have a beautiful vintage look. If you want something different but not too crazy, try an Oval Cut, Asscher Cut, or Radiant Cut diamond.
While no shape is better, there are some significant differences between shapes. Take for example, the radiant cut vs the emerald cut. Though they are a similar shape, the extra facets of the radiant cut give it additional fire and sparkle. If you prefer the emerald cut’s understated elegance, consider that it’s easier to spot any imperfections and select a higher clarity grade.
Another tip: Diamonds (even round diamonds) may not be perfectly symmetrical. It’s nothing to worry about if your diamond’s width does not precisely match its height, but if your diamond is much longer than it is wide it may not be what you’re expecting. This is especially the case in shapes like Cushion and Oval, where a more asymmetrical diamond might look “skinny”, with much of the fire and brilliance concentrated at the ends.
FACTOR 3: CUT
“Cut” refers to a diamond’s finish and proportions, and is critical in determining its beauty. Getting the angles right ensures a beautiful diamond that’s full of life. In many cases it can be more difficult to spot flaws in a fiery, brilliant diamond.
Cut is generally graded in five categories: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent. Excellent is the highest graded awarded by GIA (whereas other labs may use terms like “ideal” or numbers like “0”). If you want to play safe, stick to “Very Good” and “Excellent” cuts when you choose your diamond.
FACTOR 4: CLARITY
Almost all diamonds have naturally occurring features called “inclusions.” Inclusions form as the diamond crystallizes deep underground, and they are unique to each diamond. They take many different forms, and can help you identify a diamond as your own. However, large and prominent inclusions can detract from the beauty of a diamond.
There are many different types of inclusions, and not all are created equal. If your diamond certificate has an “inclusion map,” check where the inclusions are. Try to find a diamond with inclusions near the edge where they will be masked by sparkle or hidden by the setting of your diamond.
If your budget is limited, I recommend buying “SI” clarity or better. “SI” stands for “Slightly Included.” With close inspection you can usually spot the inclusions in an SI graded diamond, but these inclusions will most likely not be visible once your diamond is set in jewellery. If you want to be sure your diamond will look “eye clean”, even up close, I recommend selecting a VS2 clarity diamond or better. “VS” stands for “Very Slight Inclusion,” and imperfections in VS clarity stones are rarely seen by the naked eye.
FACTOR 5: COLOUR
The term “colour” usually refers to how much warm tint is in a diamond. The scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (very strongly tinted yellow or brown). Pure white diamonds are considered more desirable, and are more expensive. Warmer-hued diamonds (such as K, L, and M) are not necessarily less attractive, but they are significantly less valuable.
Conventional wisdom is to select J colour or better. Personally, I love G and H colour diamonds - they hit the “sweet spot” where most people will not notice colour in the diamond unless they’re doing a direct comparison. However, an I or J colour diamond that is well cut and has a lot of life can give you a beautiful diamond at a bargain price.
Depending on how they are cut, different diamonds will display colour differently. This is why colour grades are assigned by looking at a diamond upsidedown. Generally, more brilliant diamonds show their colour less than less brilliant diamonds.
FACTOR 6: FLUORESCENCE
Fluorescence has a bad rep, and most of it is unfair. Diamond Fluorescence refers to how a diamond responds when subjected to ultraviolet light. Fluorescent diamonds can glow any one of several colours, but the most common is blue.
In rare cases fluorescence can cause your diamond to have a milky appearance when viewed in direct daylight. This is most often the case with strong or very strong fluorescence and D/E/F colour diamonds.
However, there are many, many more cases where blue fluorescence is a positive thing. Imagine you were shining a blue light on a yellow diamond… the blue tint can make your diamond look whiter. If your diamond falls in the “near colourless,” “lightly tinted,” or “tinted” range I recommend looking for medium blue or faint blue fluorescence.
Warning: Green, red, and yellow fluorescence are rare, and they will not have the same benefit. If you are interested in a diamond that has strong blue, very strong blue, green, red, or yellow fluorescence, I recommend asking your salesperson to show you your diamond outside in natural daylight. If you’re buying online, contact the seller prior to making your purchase so they can examine the diamond first in natural daylight.
FACTOR 7: GRADER
This should always be your first question: Says who? Every diamond grading laboratory has different standards, so comparing diamonds graded by different sources is extremely unreliable. One grader might grade a diamond K SI2, and another might call that same diamond F VS2. I know that sounds crazy, but I see it happen all the time.
The most reputable and consistent grading laboratories are GIA, AGS, IGI, and HRD. GIA is considered the global standard worldwide. AGS is a popular alternative in the U.S.A. while IGI and HRD are more common in Europe.
EGL is tricky because there are EGL labs all over the world, and some of them do a great job while others can be less reliable. We strongly recommend caution when buying an EGL certified diamond unless it’s from EGL-USA.
Many diamonds are assigned grades by valuation companies and in-house graders. If your diamond does not come with a report from a major laboratory, you should always ask where the grader trained. He or she should be certified by a major grading laboratory: GIA, AGS, IGI, or HRD. Be smart and be cautious about reports done by uncertified shop owners, salespeople, or valuation companies.
SELECTING YOUR DIAMOND
You can choose to purchase your diamond online, or from a retail store. If you prefer to purchase your diamond in a retail store, avoid the big chains and shop with smaller independent jewellers. Many independent jewellers are actually significantly less expensive than their large competitors. (You don’t have to take my word for it – shop around and you’ll quickly learn that this is true). This way you’ll buy a better quality diamond and – if you wish – you’ll have the opportunity to design your own hand-made engagement ring setting.
If you choose to shop online, I would recommend comparing prices and service across several websites. Be sure that the company ships from your country – otherwise you’ll be hit with expensive duty and GST. Always make sure you call or e-mail customer service and have them hand-inspect your diamond before you complete your purchase. Sometimes a diamond may seem like a great deal, but it could have an unfortunate inclusion, asymmetrical cut, or be negatively impacted by fluoresence. And above all, make sure you have an easy and affordable way to return the diamond if it doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped. Online shopping is the best way to get a great deal on a diamond for your engagement ring, diamond studs, or pendant – just review this article, be reasonably cautious, and have fun.