How to pick a diamond: 10 steps

With a multitude of options, knowing how to pick a diamond ring that perfectly represents your unique story may seem impossible. We’re here to help. Below is our simple step-by-step guide on how to pick a diamond.

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Step 1: Choose a diamond shape.

While there are numerous diamond shapes, consider a round cut or princess cut diamond if you are uncertain of the recipient's personal taste. Classic in shape and style, round diamonds have been consistently loved throughout the years. In contrast, princess diamonds are a more contemporary—but equally popular--alternative. Other popular shapes include: cushion, marquise, emerald, radiant, pear, oval, and asscher.

If you are selecting a diamond below ¾ ct, consider a marquise cut. Due to its elongated shape, marquise cut diamonds often appear larger than other diamond shapes of equal carat weight.

Step 2: Research retailers.

While more traditional shoppers tend to stick with brick and mortar retailers, our growing digital era provides a multitude of options. If you are unsatisfied with your local jewelry store, research other physical and digital retailers for a store that suits your needs.

Step 3: Determine a carat weight minimum.

Although most engagement ring diamonds fall between one and two carats, take the time to determine your recipient's minimum carat preference. If they have their heart set on a one carat diamond, even the most stunning half carat diamond may fall short of their expectations.

Step 4: Consider your budget.

If your budget can accommodate the highest quality diamond that meets the first three steps, continue to step 10. If not, continue to step 4 to begin making concessions in our recommended order. Once you have reached your desired budget, skip to step 10.

Step 5: Reach your budget by adjusting in the following order: clarity, color, cut.

Once diamond carat has been determined, you can reach your desired budget by making concessions on the remaining four c’s: clarity, color, and cut. Diamond clarity can be lowered to VS2 before moving to other areas. Diamond color can go as low as H. Diamond cut can go to Very Good for round diamonds and Good for fancy shapes.

For more detailed information on the four c’s, visit our education section on carat, clarity, color, and cut.

Step 6: Re-consider the carat weight.

If you are near your target price, consider lowering the first of your four c’s: carat. While many shoppers want to hold fast to their carat minimum, a carat difference of 10% or less is not easily detectable to the human eye. In addition, keep in mind that diamonds that fall just under the popular carat weights—1/2 ct, ¾ ct, 1 ct, etc.—are often sold at a slight price-per-carat discount. Thus, a small difference just below a target carat weight may cause no discernable visual difference.

Step 7: Re-evaluate once more.

If you are still outside your price range, re-evaluate the remaining four c’s with new minimums. First, diamond clarity can be reduced to SI1. Next, diamond color can be reduced to J, or for wedding bands of yellow gold, to K. Finally, cut can be reduced to Good in round diamonds and Fair for fancy diamonds.

Step 8: Final concessions.

If you are still outside your price range, consider some of the following steps depending on your personal preferences. If you are considering a diamond less than one carat, you can go to a SI2 clarity. If your sought-after diamond is a brilliant cut, under 1.50 carats, and has a a yellow gold wedding band setting, an L-M diamond color may be acceptable. If diamond size is the recipient’s top priority, consider diamonds in shapes Fair cut round or fancy.

Step 9: Personal considerations.

If you are still outside of your price range, you may need to re-evaluate your budget or reduce your minimum carat weight.

Step 10: Enjoy your choice.

Learning how to pick out a diamond may be stressful, but remember what—or who—this is for. Take the time to marvel in the dazzling beauty of your selection and enjoy this momentous occasion.