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How to Buy a Diamond on a Budget?

By Danielle

Highly experienced diamond consultant; standing by to provide personal advice. She knows exactly what you are looking for while keeping your budget in mind.

June 19, 2020

Buying a diamond is a special occasion. Of course, you always want the best possible diamond for your money. But especially when you’re on a budget you want to be sure to get the deal of a lifetime. There are various things to keep in mind to achieve this. Keep the following checklist in mind and you are a couple of steps closer to find your dream diamond.

Determine whether to save on carat, color clarity or cut

Before you make a decision, on which “C” you want to save, let us go back to the basics first. A diamond gets its value based on the 4 C’s: carat, color, clarity, and cut.

Carat

Carat is the weight of a diamond and tells us something about its size. We have a chart that helps you see the carats in millimeters. In general, we can say that the bigger the diamond, the more expensive it is.

diamond on carat scale

Color

The color of a diamond actually tells us about the absence of it. The best color of a diamond, apart from fancy colors, is colorless. Instead of colorless, we usually call this white. Colorless diamonds are the most expensive diamonds color-wise. When you go down the diamond color scale, the stone gets a more yellow-ish hue.

diamond colors explained with old and current names

Clarity

Clarity refers to the type of inclusions and the amount of inclusions inside a diamond. Almost every natural diamond has (small) spots, cavities, pinpoint, or other imperfections. Sometimes, these imperfections are highly noticeable. Others are very hard to see even for experienced diamond polishers. We call a diamond without inclusions ‘flawless’. As you can imagine, these are the most expensive diamonds.

rough diamond with inclusions You can clearly see the inclusions in this rough diamond

Cut

A diamond’s cut refers to the quality of its shape. The cut is the only C that is influenced by humans. A skilled craftsman can polish a brilliant perfectly. For example, he or she aligns the hearts and arrows perfectly and makes sure the stone is well-proportioned. Diamond polisher that hasn’t completely mastered the skill of diamond polishing (yet) can make tiny mistakes. This means the cut is not optimal. Don’t get me wrong, it can still be good, just not excellent.

Diamond cut quality A diamond’s cut can be shallow, ideal or deep. Image source: yourdiamondteacher.com 

A diamond’s cut also refers to the stone’s shape. There are various diamond cuts such as brilliant, oval, princess, emerald, pear, marquise, cushion, radiant, Asscher, and the Royal 201. The round brilliant is the most common one. About 95% of all diamonds have a brilliant cut. However, the other cuts I mentioned are also quite popular.

different diamond cuts

How to determine on which C to save money?

Unfortunately, there is no one right answer to this question. It all depends on your wishes. Let me give you an example. If you want a diamond that is at least 1.00 carat, you need to make concessions on the color, clarity and/or cut. But if you want to have an absolutely flawless diamond, without any inclusions, you probably need to cut back on carat, color or cut. I am aware this may sound quite abstract. That’s why I have a couple of guidelines for you of the minimal requirements of all C’s so you can find your best diamond on a budget.

Tips to save based on carat

Especially for solitaires, you want to show (a bit) of a substantial diamond. That’s why I always recommend to buy a diamond that is at least 0.25 carat. When you go smaller, it can take away its details and that would be a shame.

0.25 carat diamond

Tips to save based on color

On the diamond color scale, you see the color of a diamond runs from D (white) all the way to Z (yellow). D is the most colorless option. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to choose that one. If you want to save on color, but still want your stone to be pretty colorless, I recommend an H-color. We call this color a Top Wesselton. Diamonds with a color between D and H, all look colorless. You can only see the difference when you compare them closely on a white piece of paper. But to the naked eye, they all look the same.

diamond color scale from Royal Coster Diamonds

Tips to save based on clarity

The clarity scale runs from FL (flawless) to Piqué 3 (very included). Naturally, flawless diamonds (without any inclusions) are the most expensive ones. But inclusions are a tricky thing because there are multiple factors you have to take into account. Diamonds with an SI-clarity are the ones we find most often in common diamond jewelry. SI stands for Slightly Included of Small Inclusions. Especially when the diamonds are small and/or serve as side stones, this is not a big deal. But when you buy a solitaire or another jewel with a (larger) main stone, I recommend opting at least for a VS-clarity. VS, or VSI, stands for Very Slightly Included. The difference between SI and VS is that slight inclusions can be seen with the naked eye. To see the VS inclusions, you will need a diamond loupe.

diamond loupe and brilliant

However, there is also a side note on this one. If you choose a so-called “step cut” diamond such as the emerald cut or the Asscher cut, my advice on clarity is different. Step cuts have a large surface you can easily see through. Therefore, inclusions are way more visible than in other diamond cuts, for example, brilliants. If you want an emerald or Asscher cut, I would recommend a clarity of at least VVS (very, very slightly included).

emerald and princess cut In certain diamond cuts, inclusions are way more visible. For example, the emerald cut (left) compared to the princess cut (right). 

The most difficult thing about inclusions is that it also has to do with craftsmanship. A skilled diamond polisher can put the inclusions in different locations. In some locations, the inclusions are hardly noticeable. They are there, but they do not affect the diamond’s sparkle. But when the polisher does not take the inclusions into account, it can affect the sparkle. This way, two ostensible similar diamonds with the same clarity can be worlds apart. That’s why I always recommend seeing the diamond with your own eyes before purchasing it.

Tips to save based on cut

The cut quality directly impacts the diamond’s beauty and brilliance. An ideal cut diamond reflects the light in the most optimal way. If the diamond is cut to shallow or too deep, a part of the light and therefore the sparkle, is lost forever. The diamond cut grade chart runs from Excellent to Poor:

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

diamond cut qualities Diamond cut quality. Image source: beautylab.com 

As you can imagine, excellent is the best but also the most expensive one. If you want to buy a diamond on a budget and want to save (a bit) on cut, I would recommend at least a ‘Good’. Good Cut Diamonds showcase brilliance and sparkle. Much of the light reflects through the table to the viewer’s eye. Therefore, it is not really noticeable (except for diamond experts) that the cut is not excellent. Good Cut Diamonds provide beauty at a lower price point. If you go further down the chart, you will end up with a diamond with less to almost no sparkle.

Summary of the tips to buy a diamond on a budget

If you keep the above-mentioned things in mind, you can save quite some cash. Buy a diamond with the following characteristics and you’ll have yourself a diamond that is actually really good. I recommend that choosing a diamond on a budget has these four characteristics:

  • Carat: at least 0.25 carat
  • Color: at least H/Top Wesselton
  • Clarity: at least VS (but keep the cut in mind)
  • Cut: at least Good quality

example of diamond certificate

It is always possible to find a diamond that meets these four requirements but still is outside your budget. In that case, you can determine for yourself which one of these characteristics you are willing to cut short. For example, you can choose a smaller carat and use your jewel as growing brilliant.

More tips to buy a diamond on a budget

Finally, there are a few more tips I can share with you. These will also save you some money when you want to buy a diamond on a budget.

  • Shop outside the season
  • Cut out the middle man
  • Avoid large jewelry chains

1. Shop outside the season

This may seem like stating the obvious. Yet many people forget it. Many diamond houses and jewelers raise prices or reduce discounts when they know they will sell a lot. A well-known moment is right before Valentine’s Day when prices seem to rise exponentially. Another example is (right before) Christmas. When you shop outside the season, for example, after Christmas in January, the prices are in general a bit lower.

christmas town with diamond ring

2. Cut out the middle man

There is a reason we always urge to purchase directly from a diamond polisher such as ourselves. This way, you cut out the middle man which equals lesser costs for you. That’s also one of the reasons why I mention point 3.

3. Avoid large jewelry chains

Big international chains generally buy diamonds in bulk. You may think this would make them less expensive. However, this is not necessarily the case. Large (international) chains may have the benefit of buying in bulk. Yet a bigger chain also means there is no way you can negotiate about the price. After all, everyone has to pay the exact same price for the exact same product. Moreover, the sales staff of general jewelry chains often have little to no experience with diamonds. Sure, they know about jewelry. But diamonds are a profession in its own right. Finally, they often do not have an extensive (lifelong) warranty such as an upgrade program.

diamond consultant

If you are looking for a specific diamond or would like some help with it, my colleagues and I are standing by. As a diamond consultant, I always strive to provide you with the best possible stone. My goal is to have you leave our store with a smile on your face as bright as your diamond.

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