Diamond Buying Guide

Diamond Guide

James Allen

General Important Guidelines:

In-Depth Analysis of Various Diamond Shapes

 Diamond Anatomy Information:

Please follow these instructions for guidelines and insights prior to purchasing an engagement ring or diamond. These are offered as our suggestions based on our experience and insights from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AGS), and the International Diamond Council, among others.  

Diamond Buying Guide - How to Buy a Diamond 

People buy diamonds for various reasons. You could be looking to add diamonds to your jewelry collection. Maybe you stumbled on a rare stone that you want to buy and keep for sentimental value. Or you’ve got a wedding coming up. A Diamond is also a great gift to give to someone special to you. Whatever the reason for making the purchase, you’ll need a bit of guidance. 

Diamonds have a lot of technical aspects to them than meets the eye. And that’s why a comprehensive diamond buying guide is essential. You must have an idea of the different types of diamonds available in the market. Or at least what to expect when you go searching.  

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses the 4Cs (color, clarity, cut grade, and carat weight) to analyze quality. They’re the primary and globally acknowledged diamond grading methodology.  It’s the first reference point in the classification of diamonds and the quality they have. The GIA approach forms the basis of this diamond buying guide. Here’s what you need to know; 

Do a Thorough Research on the Specifics of Diamond Quality 

Not much information about the quality of a diamond exists before its grading. Diamonds undergo an in-depth 4Cs evaluation process.  The color, clarity, metric carat, and cut are the standard language in the jewelry industry. As you fact-find, you’ll regularly come across this diamond jargon.

According to GIA standards, colorless diamonds generally have a high value. But you can also find and buy colored diamonds. A synthetic diamond, for instance, can be modified into a fancy colored diamond. Diamonds could also be natural but undergo several treatment stages and a degree of color changes. In real sense, full-fledged colorless diamonds are rare and highly sought after. What you’re likely to encounter online and at jewelry shops is a range between near colorless and colored stones.  The most common natural diamond colors are light-yellow and light-brown. GIA uses a color spectrum to tell how close a diamond is to colorlessness. 

Side note: the color you see on a pictorial illustration or digital image of a diamond could be deceiving. It may differ from the actual color observed under a microscope. Don’t trust your naked eye to judge color. Use a jeweler’s loupe to confirm the exact color. 

Diamond carat isn’t intricate. It’s a simple measure to gauge the weight of the diamond. A single carat translates to approximately 0.2 grams. Perhaps, the most important thing to note is that diamond prices spike up with an increase in carat weight. So as you investigate, don’t dwell too much on the aspect of carat because there isn’t much to it other than a metric. 

Instead, focus on clarity and cut. Is the diamond rated ‘flawless’ or ‘included’? It can be flawlessly clear with no external blemishes or have a level of imperfections. Diamonds are usually polished to remove such flaws and discoloration; however, watch out for such imperfections. 

Diamonds come in different shapes. Whether round, princess, cushion or oval, zoom in on the artistry. A professionally cut diamond should have perfectly angled facets on the crown and around the pavilion area — the two diamond surfaces position above and below the girdle/parameter of the diamond. When done right, they give the diamond an excellent symmetry and brilliance. The facets refract light to exude fire, sparkle, and luster. That’s a wrap on quality. You’re now 4Cs-educated, and it’s time to read the diamond certification report. 

Never, Under Any Circumstances, Buy a Non-Certified Diamond 

All industries have yardsticks that govern quality. GIA grading scales happen to be the best diamond evaluation benchmarks in the world. Adopted in the ‘40s, they’ve been reliable for nearly a hundred years, and nothing else comes close.  In connection to that, most jewelers and diamond dealers use GIA-style grading reports. It’s common for certification to be categorized as the 5th C. It’s also considered an inefficiency for jewelers to operate without diamond certificates. 

Birth certificates are issued at birth and used to identify specific and personal details of an individual. The same thing applies to diamonds. The document holds information on the 4Cs of a diamond. Detailed certificates or diamond reports contain additional data, characteristics such as treatment of the diamond, if any, inscriptions, and so on. You already know all about the four tenets of diamond quality. Following up on them in the certificate should be peaches and cream for you. 

Use the diamond certificate to consolidate the product description by the vendor to the real facts of the diamond. A vendor not having a diamond certificate or having an inconsistent one is a big red flag. You should probably ditch them immediately and find a genuine alternative. Dodging that bullet isn’t enough. The next dealer may be more organized and honest. But you still need to carry out an independent diamond evaluation to seal all the loopholes. 

Counter Sign the Diamond Certificate 

Look at this important document as a contract between you and the diamond vendor. Would you co-sign it before a keen perusal? Of course not. Reputable or not, you can't just blindly put your trust in a vendor. That would be the ultimate rookie mistake. Remember, you’re investigating and drawing conclusions that’ll gear up to a purchase. 

You’ve got two approaches to take here: 

1) Find out the identity of the rating agency. If the diamond is GIA rated, contact GIA and counter-check the details of the diamond’s certificate. Use the report number and diamond features such as an inscription for the confirmation. And 2) if you’re dealing with a lesser-known agency, contract GIA or AGS for an unbiased audit. Be rest assured they’ll point out any inconsistencies. A vendor that understands the value of customer satisfaction will relax their terms and conditions for this quality check.  

Play Your Role in Supporting Responsible Enterprise

When you look at the history of the diamond, you’ll realize that some of it’s dark. You may have watched the movie ‘Blood Diamonds.’ It’s set around the diamond mining industry. It dramatizes the tolerance of vices by influential individuals, corporations, and at times dictator governments. In the past, there have been cases of several violations in the extraction of natural diamonds. History documents this human rights abuse to be most prevalent in developing countries. The likes of Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Conflict diamonds involve the use of forced labor, or even worse, child labor. In most cases, mining practices include an adverse environmental impact. You’ll rarely see any product disclosures. So, most of the proceeds benefit a few of the natives while the rest funds selfish interest. How can you do something about this situation? 

Start by knowing the kind of vendor you’re dealing with at any given time. Responsible vendors and players in the diamond industry are members of the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC). The RJC has an international code of conduct. It acts as a watchdog to ensure sustainability in the exploitation of precious stones and metals: diamonds, gold, and platinum. RJC members give you a sense of comfort and empathy when shopping for diamonds. 

Equally efficient is the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The scheme does the daunting task of tracking diamonds. The aim is to identify the source mine and follow the stone to its final selling point. Such surveillance reduces the number of blood diamonds in the market. The Kimberley Process seems to be making headway. Current statistics estimate conflict diamonds in the global diamond supply chain to be less than 2 percent. Next time you visit a jeweler, check their membership status. See if they’re actively involved in this fight and appreciate them for the effort. 

Making the Actual Purchase

At this point, you’ve learned several diamond terminologies. You also know the basics of diamond quality and certificate analysis. You can go ahead and buy a diamond if you think you’ve found the right fit. But before you spend that money, have one more look at your budget. It doesn’t have to be a cheap deal. Neither does it have to be expensive. Just make sure you use all the information at your disposal thus far and buy smart. 

The first thing you need to do is consult your jeweler. Let them know of your ideal diamond so that they can give price recommendations. Have an optimum balance of the 4Cs for maximum value at a friendly cost. Be careful with carat weight intervals. For instance, a 1.00ct diamond costs more than a 0.90ct diamond despite the slight 10 percent weight difference. Also, a white diamond, near colorless diamond, attracts a higher bill in comparison to a colored one. 

The price is affected by the cut of the diamond. Round diamonds are costly. Princess cut diamonds follow at a close second in terms of expensiveness. If the price tag of round or princess cut diamonds poses an issue to you, go for an affordable alternative. Think oval cut or cushion diamonds. 

You might also want to buy a loose diamond as opposed to purchasing a mounted one. You can always set the diamond later. The logic behind that is cost reduction. It’s more like buying an everyday piece of land and developing it to your preference. You have greater control over the cost of the diamond. And you get to choose the material and the price of the mounting. Alternatively, check out small and mid-sized diamond retailers. Unlike their large-scale rivals, these are more likely to give you a bargain deal. Diamond prices at small retail dealers can be 12 to 21 percent lower than at large diamond stores. 

Doing the research, consultation, and price comparisons are the easy part. Having the cash for the purchase takes time. You’ll probably have to save up beforehand or find a vendor who has a gradual purchase plan — a hire purchase arrangement. But given the intrinsic value of diamonds, that’s either unlikely or an expensive purchase option. Especially if you’re dealing with an offline vendor, who incurs more overhead costs. Compare pricing options before ripping off your bill strap. 

Have you considered financing your purchase? You could talk to your bank or other financier and make the purchase stress-free. Of course, the downside is that you incur debt and will have to settle it down the road. So only take the plunge if and only if your credit score and financial position allow financing. Make the most of cost-saving payment options.  Use online payment systems and wire transfers for online vendors: checks and cash for offline vendors. 

Other Cs of Diamonds 

The 4Cs, as you know them, are the primary quality checks of any given diamond. But there is a new school of thought that has come out to include three additional Cs. Centre stone, customization, and creativity. When you buy a loose diamond sooner or later, you’ll have to think of a setting. Assuming you’ve decided to use a double-halo type of setting as a mounting for your diamond. The loose diamond forms the center stone on this halo mounting.  The accent stones that surround the center stone only serve to add aesthetic value and style. But the center stone is the focal point of such a piece of jewelry. It’s the main attraction and where most of the money goes. 

Customization is pretty much self-explanatory. Top jewelers offer a personalized experience where you get to build your diamond and setting. Through this special privilege, you can work with a jeweler to create a wedding ring, for instance. The custom-built look gives a deeper meaning to the bond between you and your soulmate. It doubles up as your dream jewelry piece. 

Creativity has more to do with nuance practices in the diamond industry. For example, jewelers are specializing in producing fancy colored diamonds. Apparently, there’s a whole market category that has an appetite for artificially colored diamonds. As far as mounting goes, jewelers are moving from the traditional gold, platinum, and silver mountings. They’ve shifted their attention to rose gold, titanium, and palladium settings, which are popular in the market right now.  Stones need not match the mount. Feel free to play around with the available options. You can even mix up different color stones and mount-types to create your one-of-a-kind blend. 

Grading Establishes Quality While Appraisal Quotes Value 

To get a final verdict on quality, verify the contents of the certificate. The most certain way to do that is conducting a self-reliant 4Cs examination. After quality comes appraisal. Appraisal places a real value on your diamond. Evaluation is vital for risk management, too. Done by an accredited appraiser, it covers a 3600 assessment. It takes into consideration the center stone, the setting, and any other components on the jewelry. That’s how appraisers arrive at a wholesome valuation figure. 

The appraisal is also crucial for insurance. You can approach an insurance company to cover threats such as loss through theft, fire, natural calamities, etc. Insurance coverage protects the diamond against a wide range of perils at a premium. Much better than taking your chances with unorthodox methods like using a safe at home. Safe-keeping is excellent, but even the toughest of safes is vulnerable. A bank can also get robbed and your stone in the safety deposit box stolen. Unless you have insurance, you’ve no recourse. That would be a loss you have to live with for the rest of your life.  

And Finally, Have a Clear Idea of What the Recipient Wants 

As simple as that may sound, it’s essential if you’re looking to gift someone the diamond. A good example is buying a commitment ring for your girlfriend, who you’ve dated for close to a year. 

Don’t you think it would help to know her taste? Her likes and dislikes? 

Know the exact ring size. Aim to exceed expectations by going a little bit overboard because anything is achievable. Especially with all this crazy technology today. Get the ideal diamond cut grade. Preferably one that matches her style and persona.   

What’s her favorite color? 

Try and get a center stone in that color. Modify one if you have to. Have the stone inscribed with her initials to make it even more special. Such an awareness of your partner makes the diamond sourcing struggle worth it. 

As you can see in this guide, there’s a lot that you need to learn and grasp. Due to frequent changes in technology, there’ll probably be more to learn in the future. First-time diamond buyers are advised to use this guide at the point of purchase. The information will be fresh in their minds and chances of getting ripped off are slim. 

Find a trusted jeweler to help you interpret any diamond industry lingo you  may be unsure of. Having an exceptional eye for detail is good, but you also need to explore different buying experiences. Visit both online and brick-and-mortar shops. Be sure to search for the best buy and customer relationship. Build trust for future diamond purchases. And don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it.


Good luck!