December 11, 2016

Diamond Size Chart: Carat of Diamond Illustrated

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Just how big do different carats look? See our diamond size charts. Also learn how carat affects pricing and tips on getting the biggest diamond on a budget.

Here’s the truth when it comes to engagement ring shopping:

Most people prioritize carat.

After all, the first question from admirers is often “how big is it?”

Most people have a goal or “requirement” they want to reach (such as the coveted 1-carat mark). And when faced with a budget, they often sacrifice other areas.

While we don’t agree that carat should be top priority, we do understand it's important. This article will give you a sense of diamond sizes and tips for shopping on a budget. Also, you’ll learn why your biggest emphasis shouldn’t be carat weight.

In this guide:

What Is Carat / Size Charts

Carat actually refers to the weight of the diamond. A carat is equal to about 0.2 grams, which is roughly the weight of a paperclip. The larger the carat weight, the larger the diamond.

Here’s a fun fact: Carat comes from "carob," which is a tree whose seeds were found to have a very uniform weight. In the ancient days in Europe and Middle East, they were used as a weight reference for traders – especially for gemstones to determine very slight differences in weight. A diamond carat is the same weight as a carob seed.

It’s hard for people to visualize how a certain carat size will look on their finger. To help you out, we put together this diamond size chart of popular carat sizes and shapes.

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Round Diamond Carat Size Chart
Round Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Princess Diamond Carat Size Chart
Princess Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Oval Diamond Carat Size Chart
Oval Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Marquise Diamond Carat Size Chart
Marquise Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Cushion Diamond Carat Size Chart
Cushion Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Radiant Diamond Carat Size Chart
Radiant Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Asscher Diamond Carat Size Chart
Asscher Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Emerald Diamond Carat Size Chart
Emerald Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

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Heart Diamond Carat Size Chart
Heart Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Pear Diamond Carat Size Chart
Pear Diamond Carat Size Chart © CreditDonkey

Note that these charts only represent an approximate dimension. For example, some emerald-shaped diamonds will be shorter and fatter, while some are longer and skinnier.

How Carat Affects Price

Because diamonds are priced on a per-carat basis, carat has the largest impact on price.

The price increases exponentially; a 2-carat diamond is not just double the price of a 1-carat diamond. This is because it becomes harder and harder to find rough material good enough to be cut into a single, larger-sized diamond.

Let's look at how carat affects price. These diamonds all have a color of H, clarity of VS2, and an excellent cut. The only difference is the carat size.

Screenshot from James Allen Website

In the diamond industry, there are “magic numbers” for carat weight: 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and every half carat thereafter. These are the points at which there is a significant jump in the price. You can see that at each point, the price approximately doubles.

Of course, the other 3C’s (cut, color, and clarity) all factor in to determine the final diamond price. We’ve got a good beginner’s guide to show how each of the 4C’s affect diamond prices and how to get the best value.

Why Carat Shouldn't Be Your Top Priority

We know that many of you are really hoping to hit a certain carat number. But we always say that this shouldn’t be your top priority. Instead, focus on getting the best cut possible.

An excellent cut will make the diamond more brilliant – so much so that it hides flaws and masks color. Not only that, but it also makes a diamond larger (or rather, the size it should be).

We’ve got a detailed article explaining everything about diamond cut. We STRONGLY suggest you read it before making a diamond purchase.

If you don’t have time to read it at this moment, here’s the best example of why carat is not the most important:

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.

In other words, the two diamonds have the same surface area. Face-up, they are both the EXACT same size. But because of the poorer cut of the first one, about 10% of the carat weight is wasted on the deep cut. It hits the coveted 1-carat mark, but it’s not going to sparkle as much.

For about $500 less, the 0.92-carat diamond on the right is a much better buy.

This is why you should not place so much importance on carat weight. What’s the use of having weight where you can’t even see it? And no one wants a lackluster diamond.

Be Careful of Carat Weight vs Total Carat Weight

This is just a quick warning to be careful. Especially when you’re buying a pre-set ring. A lot of first-time ring shoppers may not catch this little sneaky term.

Total Carat Weight (TW or CWT or CTW) refers to the weight of ALL diamonds on the ring. This includes the little melee diamonds used in a halo or pavé band and any side stones. On the other hand, carat weight is the weight of the single center diamond.

Don’t worry, when you see this, you’re not getting ripped off. This is just a trick that jewelers use to make their rings sound more impressive. Just be careful and read the fine lines.

Tips for When You Don’t Have a Large Budget

Let’s face it, few people are able to afford a 2-carat stone. Heck, most people even struggle to reach the 1-carat mark.

So what can you do when you’re on a tight budget? Here are some options:

  • Use settings to make the diamond appear larger. I love this trick. One of the most popular settings is the halo, which has a ring of small diamonds around the center diamond. This setting gives off serious bling and makes it look as if the diamond is huge.

    Another good setting to go with is a thin pavé band. Setting it in a band of small diamonds will make the center stone pop. Keep in mind that the thinner the band, the larger the center diamond will appear.

    Screenshot from James Allen Website

    Watch out: The worst settings for making a diamond appear larger is the 3-stone or side stones. Thick heavy bands also kill a smaller diamond.

  • Look for a diamond slightly under the magic numbers. The magic numbers are every 0.5 carats. At these weights, diamond sellers can fetch significantly more. If you go just below a magic number, you can pick up a diamond for as much as 25% less.

    For example, a VS2 H Excellent cut diamond that is 1 full carat costs around $5,800. But keeping all other C’s the same and dropping the carat weight down to 0.9 will also drop the price down to $4,800. And nobody is going to be able to see the size difference.

  • Consider a fancy-shaped diamond. One of our favorite suggestions is to go for another shape. Not only do fancy-cut diamonds often appear larger than they are, they're cheaper than round too. And plus, they are more unique and will appeal to girls who like to stand out in a crowd.

  • Go down in color and clarity. We’ve already made it clear that cut should never be sacrificed. But you can go lower in color and clarity to drop the price. As long as the cut is still excellent, the diamond will still appear brilliant, even if there is slight color or flaws.

    We usually recommend a color of H and clarity of VS2. But you can go down to a color of J if you don’t mind a warmer look. And you can find amazing value in SI2 diamonds if you find one that’s eye-clean.

Bottom Line

Carat is the most difficult of the 4C’s to advise because it’s such a personal choice. And we totally understand if there’s a goal you want to hit. So all we can suggest is that you don’t make it your absolute top priority at the expense of beauty.

Focus on getting the best cut you can on your budget instead. A better cut diamond will sparkle more, and after all, isn’t it much better to have a beautiful diamond instead of just a larger diamond?

    James Allen

    James Allen: Search for Diamonds

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

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.

More from CreditDonkey:


Diamond Prices


Diamond Shapes


Diamond Cuts

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