Updated February 19, 2017

Diamond Prices: Ultimate Guide to Best Value

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Get the maximum bling for your buck. Know what aspects of a diamond you need to focus on and which ones you don’t to get the best value on your engagement ring.

You've got the girl, you're in love, and you want to spend the rest of your life with her.

Now, it's time to get that ring.

Don't Overpay. Learn About Diamond Pricing Before You Shop

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Unless you're loaded, you've probably got a set budget for the engagement ring. And your goal is to get the best, biggest, and shiniest diamond on that budget.

Here's the current diamond pricing guideline:

  • A 0.5 carat diamond price is $1,500
  • A 1.0 carat diamond is $4,500 - $6,000
  • A 2.0 carat diamond is $18,000 - $21,000

Of course, the actual price range is much wider, but these pricing points indicate where you get the best balance of price, quality, and beauty in a diamond. And that's exactly what we're going to show you in this guide.

We will go over all the factors that impact diamond pricing. You'll get our expert tips on how to get the best value and avoid getting ripped off using real examples from online diamond retailers James Allen, Blue Nile, and Whiteflash.

Think of this as "diamonds for dummies." (But don't feel bad. We get that this probably isn't a subject you've needed to research much until now.)

This guide takes just 15 minutes to read. By the end of it, you'll be armed with the knowledge to save up to 40% on your engagement ring. And if you're in a hurry, you can jump straight to the bottom line for our helpful cheat sheet.

In this guide, you'll find:

How Much is a 1 Carat Diamond

So, just how much can you expect to pay for a 1-carat diamond? Here is a general pricing guide:

While diamond are priced per carat, keep in mind that prices increase exponentially as you hit certain carat sizes. For instance, a .25 carat round diamond starts at around $300 and a .5 carat round diamond starts at around $650. But a 1 carat round diamond jumps up all the way to $2,000+.

The 4Cs

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You've probably heard people talk about the 4Cs of diamonds: carat, cut, color, and clarity. This is a good place to start when learning the basics.

Yes, the 4Cs combine to determine the overall beauty and price of a diamond, but that doesn't mean each C carries equal weight.

Don't waste your money. Some Cs are just not as important as the others, yet can cause a huge spike in price. If you don't understand the basics, you could be spending a ton of money on features you can't even appreciate.

Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • Purchasing a diamond too high in color and clarity thinking it will make the diamond "shinier"
  • Assuming that all diamonds are cut the same and therefore a better color and clarity is what's needed
  • Placing too high of a priority on carat size and then having to sacrificing in other areas to stay within budget, resulting in a dull, poor quality diamond.

Don't make these mistakes. This guide will help you know what to look for in a diamond, what to prioritize, and what you can afford to "cheap out" on.

Watch Out: Some retailers might try to overwhelm you with diamond price charts to show how great of a "deal" you are getting. It's true, wholesalers and traders do use Rapaport, RapNet and IDEX within the industry trade.

So, why not just use the Diamond Chart? If there’s a whole chart about diamond pricing, why do you need to read this article?

The Rapaport Diamond Report is a list released every Friday as a grid comparing color and clarity of different weighted diamonds. On the surface, it makes diamond pricing look like a black and white process with no intricacies in between. However, that’s not the case. While it can serve as a good baseline, it’s important to know what its lacking. For instance, it doesn’t take cut into account, which you’ll soon find out is the most important of the 4Cs in our opinion. Other things missing from the chart that we’ll go into later are fluorescence and certification.

So overall, the diamond charts should be taken with a grain of salt. Our recommendation is to narrow down the 4Cs and then compare inventory at Blue Nile, James Allen and Whiteflash. That'll give you a more realistic baseline for finding the perfect engagement ring.

For the best price, buy a diamond online. Our latest study reveals the difference between the three top online diamond sellers.

Carat - Is This the Most Important C?

Most people prioritize carat over the other Cs. That's why it's first on this list. However, in our opinion, it's not necessarily the most important.

Carat is overall the most visible of the 4Cs, at least to the naked eye, and is also the one area you have the least control over. You probably already have a goal or "requirement" and can't stray too far from it.

So, what is carat exactly? Carat refers to the weight of the diamond. One carat is equal to about 0.2 grams, which is roughly the weight of a paperclip. The heavier the carat weight, the larger the diamond.

Fun fact: The word "carat" comes from carob, a seed from the carob tree in the Mediterranean. These seeds have a very uniform weight. In the ancient days in Europe and the Middle East, they were used as a weight reference for traders - especially when dealing with gemstones where slight differences in weight are important.

Carat has the largest impact on a diamond's price. Let's look at how that happens. These diamonds all have a color of H, clarity of VS2, and an excellent cut. The difference is the carat size.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

As you can see, a 0.5 carat diamond is almost twice the price of a 0.4 carat. It again doubles when you go up to .75 and then again at 1 carat. That price increase is exponential. This is because it's becoming more and more rare to find raw materials good enough to make larger diamonds.

Tip: The largest price jumps are at those desirable half-carat and whole-carat points. To get a better value, look for a diamond just slightly under the whole number.

For example, here are some comparisons of 0.9 carat stones and 1 carat stones:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

You can see how a 0.92 carat diamond is priced as much as $1,000 lower than a 1.0 carat diamond, simply because it's not a full 1 carat. But would anyone ever be able to tell the difference? it's highly unlikely.

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

Because diamonds on the market are priced on a per-carat basis, diamond cutters have a lot of pressure to cut stones that hit a nice whole number. Sadly, this means that a lot of diamonds are cut so that they hit that desirable round number instead of being cut for maximum brilliance. This is why we recommend that you don't become too attached to a certain carat target and prioritize the next "C" instead.

Why You Should Pay Attention to Cut

We're saying this now and we'll probably say it a lot more before the end of this article. Diamond cut is the MOST important factor, and you should NEVER skimp on it.

In fact, put whatever money you can save on other areas into the cut.

Cut is what makes the diamond shiny and sparkly. And it can literally make the diamond so sparkly that it hides inclusions and masks slight color.

Cut refers to proportion, symmetry, and polish - NOT shape. A rough diamond has no shine. A diamond only sparkles because of how it's cut and how light bounces off each angle and facet. A poorly cut diamond will leak light and therefore appear dull.

A well-cut diamond will have ideal proportions and excellent symmetry and polish. This in turn means that the diamond will give off the most brilliance, fire, and scintillation. The proportions and facets are cut precisely to allow the maximum amount of light return.

Diamond Cut Scale
Diamond Cut Scale © CreditDonkey

Let's look at differences in cut (images from Whiteflash diamonds):

Screenshot from Whiteflash Website

Here you are looking at Idealscope images of 3 randomly chosen diamonds that have (from left to right) a good cut, excellent cut, and super ideal cut. These images show the amount of light return in red. You can see that the center of the first diamond has a lot of white, which means a lot of light leakage. The super ideal cut diamond, on the other hand, is all red, which means that all light is returned to the viewer, making it super sparkly.

That's why it's so important to get the best cut you can. Not only do you get a diamond that sparkles, you can also afford to down a bit in the other Cs.

In fact, an ideal cut can make the diamond appear larger.

Check out this example:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

  • The diamond on the left is 1.00 carat and has a "good" cut. The surface area is 6.23x6.26mm.
  • The diamond on the right weighs in at 0.92 carats and has an "excellent" cut. The surface area is 6.23x6.2mm.

The two diamonds have the same surface area, so face up, they are both the exact same size. But because the poorer cut of the first one, about 10% of the carat weight is wasted on the deep cut (just to hit the 1 carat mark). So, it's not going to appear as brilliant as the other diamond.

For about $500 less, you can purchase the smaller diamond on the right. It may not hit that coveted 1 carat mark, but it looks just as large and will be a lot more sparkly.

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

Pricewise, here's an example of what the differences between cuts look like:

Screenshot from James Allen Website

There's quite a jump to the excellent cut (and even more to super ideal - what James Allen calls "TrueHearts"), but in our opinion, this is an area where that extra money is well worth it as the difference in quality is very visible. If your budget doesn't allow for an excellent cut, go down in the other areas before you go down in cut.

Tip: Are you convinced that a well-cut diamond is the way to go? Our favorite retailer for high-quality cut diamonds is Whiteflash, which has one of the largest inventories of ideal cut diamonds in the world. They are especially known for their signature A CUT ABOVE® super ideal cut diamonds. We love Whiteflash for the fact that each diamond comes with light performance imagery, so you can be confident in your purchase.

You can also browse super ideal cut diamonds in Blue Nile's Signature Line. Blue Nile offers a huge selection of competitively-priced diamonds. But the downside is that you won't receive light performance data or even an actual photo in some cases.

Color - Does It Matter?

A lot of people think that color and clarity affect how brilliant the diamond is. In fact, they have nothing to do with it.

However, color does still make an impact on the overall beauty of the ring.

Color refers to a slight yellow tint in colorless diamonds. The color ranges from D (completely colorless) to Z (obvious yellow/brown tint), though diamond retailers typically don't sell anything less than K.

Diamond Color Scale
Diamond Color Scale © CreditDonkey

True colorless diamonds are extremely rare and thus, priced at a premium. Most diamonds will have a slight yellow tint, but most of the time, it's undetectable to the naked eye.

The difference in price as you go up and down color grades is truly staggering. Here's an idea of how wildly it swings. All these diamonds from James Allen are 1 carat with a clarity of VS2 and an excellent cut. The only difference is the color.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

But here's the thing: most people cannot tell the difference between colorless and nearly-colorless diamonds. And there's really no point in splurging on something with no visible difference.

To get the best value for your money, we recommend going with H. H is commonly thought of as the tipping point between colorless diamonds and diamonds with a slightly noticeable tint. Most people can hardly see the difference.

The three diamonds below - from left to right - represent an F diamond (bottom of colorless range), an H diamond (middle of near-colorless range), and a J diamond (bottom of near-colorless range). Looking at them face up, can you really spot a difference?

Screenshot from James Allen Website

The color of the setting can also make a huge impact . H is a safe bet if you're going with a platinum or white gold band. But if you're going for a yellow gold or rose gold band, then even H may be overkill. A diamond will naturally pick up the color of the band, so even the iciest of diamonds will take on a warmer tint with a yellow gold band. In this case, you can safely go down to a J or even K.

So, what if H is still out of your budget? Easy - go down in color even more. Personally, we'd rather have a J-colored diamond with an excellent cut than an H diamond with just a fair cut.

Clarity - Not As Important As You Think

Clarity refers to the flaws on a diamond. There are two types of flaws: 1) inclusions, or internal flaws and 2) blemishes, or flaws on the surface.

It doesn't actually matter very much if your diamond contains flaws (most do). All you have to do is get a diamond with flaws you cannot see (called "eye-clean"). But a big mistake is assuming you need a diamond graded high in clarity for it to be eye-clean.

Clarity is last of the 4Cs on our list for the simple reason that you cannot see most flaws with the naked eye. Most of them are only spotted under 10x magnification (and nobody is going to examine your diamond that closely). A flaw would have to be pretty major to be visible to the casual observer.

Diamond Clarity Scale
Diamond Clarity Scale © CreditDonkey

We recommend VS2 as the most bang for your buck. The VS clarity grading refers to diamonds that have more noticeable flaws under magnification but most likely can't be seen with the naked eye.

Here are some examples of eye-clean VS2 diamonds.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Diamond 1 / Diamond 2 / Diamond 3

Even though it's possible to find eye-clean diamonds lower than VS2 in clarity, it becomes very hit and miss. But VS2 is a generally safe bet. That means if you're purchasing from a site without photos, you will most likely receive a diamond with flaws you can't see.

Let's take a look at the price differences as we move up and down in clarity. All these diamonds are around 1 carat, an excellent cut, and a color of H.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

Internally flawless diamonds are priced so high because of how rare they are. But just like with color, you will not be able to appreciate this because the difference isn't visible. You shouldn't pay $1,500 more just to have "flawless" written on a piece of paper.

Tip: Don't forget that with a well-cut diamond, the brilliance of the stone can hide clarity and color flaws. That's why cut is the most important C. Don't skimp on it and instead, go down in color and clarity. If you're shopping on a site like James Allen where you can see HD videos of the diamonds, pick a diamond even lower in clarity that appears eye-clean.

Read: VS2: The Best Diamond Clarity for your Money

What if VS2 is still out of your range? SI1 and SI2 diamonds provide even better value. In fact, it's not impossible to find an eye-clean i1 diamond if your budget is truly limited. Clarity is the best area to go down in first. But just make sure that you can examine the diamonds in person or at least see magnified photos/videos to make sure it is eye-clean.

The Shape of the Diamond Makes a Difference Too

You might already know what shape your girl prefers or maybe you have no clue.

If it's the latter, you may find you have some flexibility budget-wise here.

Round diamonds are the most expensive and most traditional. Their popularity is due to the fact that round diamonds exhibit incredible brilliance. But if you think your girl could appreciate a unique shape, consider other diamond shapes as they are all cheaper than round.

  • Princess cut diamonds are the second most popular shape because they are just as sparkly as round diamonds. Princess cut diamonds are edgy and contemporary, yet still feminine and delicate.

  • An oval diamond is a modern, elegant twist on the classic round. It is for the girl who appreciates tradition but likes to express individuality. Oval diamonds are in the family of brilliant cuts, so they are close to round in terms of brilliance.

  • Other fancy cuts, such as pear and marquise, scream for attention. A woman drawn to these likes to stand out in a crowd. These shapes are also great because they often look larger than a round diamond of the same carat weight.

  • Step cuts, such as asscher and emerald, were very popular during the art deco period. These are for the sophisticated lady with vintage tastes.

  • Other square/rectangular cuts, such as radiant or cushion, will appeal to those who like the princess cut but want something a little less mainstream.

Pricewise, here's how they compare, using the benchmark of 1 carat, H color, and VS1 clarity to control for the other Cs.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

You can save as much as 20%-40% by going with a shape other than round. You can then put that money towards a larger stone, a fancier setting, or higher color/clarity grade.

A word about fancy shapes: Fancy-shaped diamonds are not given a cut grade by GIA, so they are a bit more challenging to buy. If you're considering one of these alternate shapes, make sure you do the research and talk to a trustworthy jeweler who can tell you if the diamond is cut well or not. If you're purchasing online, make sure you purchase from a website that shows you actual magnified photos of the stone (such as James Allen).

Certification: The Fifth C

Certification is important, so much so that it's often thought of as the 5th C.

There are several diamond grading labs around the world - GIA, AGS, EGL, IGI - to name a few. These labs all have their own grading criteria and standards.

We recommend that you buy diamonds certified by GIA or AGS. These two labs are the most respected worldwide and have the highest, most consistent grading standards. For example, another lab may grade a diamond as VS2 clarity that would really would be graded as an SI2 by GIA. Other labs may inflate their quality by as much as two whole grades. You'd be paying for an inferior product that just looks good on paper.

Diamonds certified by GIA and AGS are pricier (as much as 10-30%), because it is more expensive to receive a certification from them. But this is an area that you absolutely should not compromise on.

Diamond Fluorescence Can Work In Your Favor

There is one last characteristic you need to know about - diamond fluorescence.

Fluorescence is when a diamond shows a soft glow under ultraviolet light (usually blue). This is caused by certain minerals in the diamond. This effect is totally natural, appearing in one third of all diamonds.

Usually, fluorescence doesn't actually cause any negative effects on the appearance of a diamond. But since fluorescence is generally seen as a "bad" thing, the good news for you is that a diamond with this characteristic can have a 2-15% lower price.

In diamonds with lower color grades (I and lower), the blue can counteract the slight yellow tint and improve the face-up color usually by one whole color grade. Because this is an improvement, in these cases, the price can be marked up 2-3%. But the great news for you is that you can buy a diamond with fluorescence in a lower color grade (which is a significant discount) and have it appear whiter.

Though there is usually no negative effect, you should know that for diamonds with a very high color grade (D-F), a strong-very strong fluorescence could cause a hazy appearance. But we wouldn't recommend that you purchase a diamond in the colorless range anyway!

For an in-depth guide at diamond fluorescence, please read this article.

How to use all this information for a 1-carat diamond

Now that you understand a bit about diamond characteristics and the best value points, let's look at it in practice.

Here is a price chart we put together for a 1-carat diamond. This is for an ideal cut round diamond.

IFVVS1VVS2VS1VS2SI1SI2
D$13-$16k$10-$13k$8k-$11k$7-$10k$6.5-$9k$5.5-$8k$4.5-$7k
E$11k$9-$11.5k$7.5-$10k$6.5-$9k$6-$8k$5-$7k$4.3-$6k
F$10-$11k$9-$10k$7.5-$9k$6-$9k$6-$8k$5-6.5k$4-$5.5k
G$8-$9.5k$6.5-$9k$6.5-$8k$6-$8k$5.5-$7.5k$5-$6k$4-$5k
H$6.3-$7.3k$6-$8k$5.5-$7k$5.5-$7k$5.3-$6.5k$4.7-$6k$4-$5k
I$5.7-$6.3k$5.2-$6.3k$5-$6k$5-$6k$4.7-$6k$4-$5.5k$3.5-$4.3k
J$5k$4.5-$5.5k$4-$5k$4-$5.3k$4-$5.3k$3.7-$4.7k$3.3-$4.3k

The highlighted boxes show our recommendations for best value. Color H and clarity of VS2 will get you a white-looking diamond that's eye-clean. If you can find an eye-clean diamond at the SI1 clarity level, even better. And remember, for yellow gold or rose gold bands, you can go down in color to J and save even more.

Read our more detailed articles about buying a 1-carat diamond, 2-carat diamond, and 3-carat diamond.

Bottom Line

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Here's a quick cheat sheet for diamond buying:

  • Go just below the 1 carat mark (or half carats) for a big drop in price.

  • Color and clarity do not affect the brilliance of the stone. Cut is what determines how sparkly it is, so don't cheap out on this. Put whatever money you have into this area.

  • You can safely go down to an H in color for a white gold/platinum band and a J or K for a yellow gold or rose gold band.

  • A clarity of VS2 offers the most value for the money because most people won't be able to see the small inclusions.

  • Round diamonds are the priciest but also the shiniest. Consider a fancy shape for a more unique, yet budget friendly ring.

  • Look for a diamond lower in color grade with medium-strong fluorescence for a significant price drop and a whiter appearance at the same time.

  • Only buy a diamond graded by GIA and AGS to ensure you receive the quality advertised.

Do you feel ready to shop for a diamond now? Picking a diamond is part emotion and part science. It's about hitting that balance of all 4Cs so that you get a stone that satisfies all your preferences while staying within your budget. We hope this guide has given you a good starting point to understand diamonds and what to look for. Please read our more detailed articles for more information.

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

    Shop for diamonds at James Allen, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best online experience.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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