Whether online or in-person, picking the perfect diamond can feel super overwhelming. It’s a big investment (and one you’ll likely have forever) so you want to get it right. We hear you and we’re here to help!
We sat down with Gem Breakfast Founder, Catherine to get her pro-tips on every aspect of diamond buying to help you find the most gorgeous, shimmering, sizeable diamond for your dollar!
1. Start with Shape
Whether you’re buying for yourself or someone else, diamond shape is a good place to start – do you love round, princess, cushion, emerald, marquis, oval, asscher, pear, radiant, or heart-shaped diamonds? All these diamond shapes fall into one of two categories:
Brilliant cut diamonds:These shapes have the most faceting and sparkle factor. Think round, oval, pear, cushion, and princess cut diamonds.
Step cut diamonds:These shapes have a more art-deco, hall-of-mirrors vibe to them. Think asscher, emerald, and hexagon-cut diamonds.
- Brilliant cut diamonds are the more popular option, and for ladies who love glitter and sparkle – a brilliant cut diamond is the answer.
- Elongated shapes look bigger for the money and can make your finger look slimmer.
- Step cut diamonds show inclusions more so you’ll want to invest in a higher clarity grade if you choose a step-cut diamond. An SI1 or SI2 brilliant cut diamond can still look eye-clean, whereas the inclusions would really show in the same grade of step-cut.
- Sometimes you can get away with a lower color grade when you choose a brilliant cut diamond.
2. Carat Weight
Carat weight refers to the weightof a diamond rather than the size of the diamond as many people believe.
You can put two one-carat diamonds side-by-side and one can look noticeably bigger depending on the cut and proportions of each diamond.
Jewelers base their designs off the mm measurement of a stone, not the carat weight.
When considering carat weight, start with a general range you’d like to be in, and then pick the best cut diamond to optimize the actual face-up size!
Cut: Our Favorite 'C'
The most important of the 4 Cs by far, ‘cut’ is what truly determines a brilliant cut diamond’s sparkle, shimmer, face-up size, and overall beauty. A well-cut diamond is luminous – it radiates brilliance, fire, and scintillation. A poorly cut diamond, on the other hand, doesn’t reflect light properly and appears dull. Even if a ring has excellent color and clarity, if the cut is poor, the stone will appear drab and lifeless.
We have a whole blog on this topic, so head over there for more on our favorite C!
Well-cut diamonds can camouflage lower color and clarity grades. So, if you're looking for great value in a good diamond, I recommend you optimize for cut and be willing to compromise on the other two C's (color & clarity) to hit a specific budget.
In terms of grading, choose only ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ diamond cuts as a starting point for the most beautiful brilliant cut diamond!
When I’m showing white diamonds to people, I sometimes we don't share the grading right away.
It’s kind of a fun game - I let them pick the stones that are most visually appealing to them. And almost always, they end up picking the stone with the highest cut grade. And that’s because it is always the most shimmering, sparkly stone in the pile.
Picking a diamond can be intimidating but I often see that while people may lack the vocabulary to describe what they are seeing they often known it in their gut. I think everyone should trust their gut a little bit when picking out a diamond.
Image: Misfit Diamonds
Speaking of cut, if you prefer lustre over sparkle, unique over classic, and size over shimmer, you may want to consider a rose cut diamond! You get more diamond for your dollar, and a distinctive rose petal look that really stands out.
‘Color’ refers to how a diamond appears. Color is graded from D (colorless) to Z (noticeable brown or yellow tint) by the GIA.
- A diamond does not need to be graded colorless to appear white – you can easily find diamonds from G to H that look completely colorless! A lot of jewelers highly recommend the GH range for being a good value but still looking very colorless.
- Funnily enough, I don’t love D color diamonds. They’re almost too shiny and white – they can look more like a cubic zirconia! F and G is my favorite diamond color grade – it’s gorgeously colorless but has a grounded, more realistic quality to it.
- Diamonds are reflective and will pick up color from their setting. White gold makes diamonds look whiter, so setting in white gold or platinum can help brighten a lower color grade diamond.
- Yellow gold provides greater contrast for diamonds, which many people love, however those warmer yellow gold tones may be reflected through the diamond. In the end, it’s up to you whether you love that icy, classic look of white gold or the golden warmth of yellow gold.
- The GIA grades color from the bottom, so a diamond’s color grade might not reflect how it looks from the top! Sometimes the bottom color grade doesn’t show through to the top, so the letter can be very deceiving. This is very nuanced but something a diamond expert can usually spot.
- Color is very much personal preference. Let go of what you’ve heard you’re supposed to like, and be open to what you’re actually drawn to. Champagne diamonds, for example, are very low color grade diamonds but they’re stunning and many people love them over white diamonds!
Clarity refers to the level of blemishes or inclusions in a diamond. The GIA rates diamond clarity from FL (flawless) to I3 (noticeable inclusions to the naked eye). I2 or I3 diamonds are often called Salt & Pepper Diamonds.
The ultimate goal here is to find an “eye clean” diamond – with no visible inclusions to the naked eye. And you do not need a flawless rated diamond to achieve that! You can sacrifice on clarity when you’ve bought an excellent cut diamond.
Depending on the shape, you can usually find an eye-clean diamond in the VS1–VS2 range. And with brilliant cuts, you can sometimes even find eye-clean diamonds in the SI range. Keep in mind though, grading is done by humans and varies between labs – the look is more important than the grade. So take every grading report with a grain of salt.
A good trick if you’re using a loupe: look at the diamond from the bottom. The bottom has less facets making it easier to identify if you are looking at one inclusions or the reflection of an inclusion.
Also, don’t get too panicked about the loupe view – you’re not going to be seeing your diamond through a heavily magnified lens in your daily life.
If you’re looking for a Salt & Pepper diamond, then we’re celebrating the inclusions!
The goal now is to find an inclusion pattern that you love. Salt & Pepper diamonds don’t usually come with a report so choose what you find beautiful and soul stirring.
6. Beyond the 4 Cs
While the 4c’s are a great start, they’re not the end-all-be-all. Many diamonds can look amazing on paper, but are a letdown in real-life – kinda like that great-on-paper guy you want to like but just can’t find the magic with!
Without physically inspecting a diamond, it’s very hard to tell its fire and brilliance – basically how sparkly and light-reflective it looks. This you need to see in-person!
Also, the GIA does not put every single inclusion in the diamond on the report. They only plot a diamond's based on ‘character-defining’ characteristics of a stone. That means smaller inclusions, pinpoints, or cloudiness might not be factored into the grading if they aren’t considered character defining. This is important to note if you are buying a diamond just off a report - it doesn't encompass 100% of what's happening inside the diamond to affect the clarity grade.
My overall advice: inspect the stone in person or request photos and videos in a variety of different light situations and from every angle.
7. Look at the Additional Grading Section
There’s a small section at the bottom of every GIA report that outlines extra information about the stone. It goes over polish, symmetry, fluorescence, and there may be more details on additional pinpoints or coloration in the diamond.
8. Work with an Expert
If all this seems a bit overwhelming, we’re here for you! And truthfully, working with a jeweler right from the start is the best way to ensure you get the diamond of your dreams without any doubts!
We offer free virtual consultations.