Diamond Buying Guide

BY: Editors |Sep 21, 2018

Can you tell the difference between two different diamonds of the same size? The average person cannot. So how do you know that you're getting what you pay for? Our diamond buying guide can teach you what you need to know before you make such a big investment. 

It might seem overwhelming to pick out a diamond engagement ring, diamond tennis bracelet, or pair of diamond earrings, but the essential characteristics that affect the value and appearance of a diamond are pretty straightforward. They're known as The Five Cs: cut, color, clarity, carat weight, and certification. Here's what you should know about each.

Cut of the Diamond

What it is

A grade that measures the diamond's reflective qualities, or what consumers generally perceive as brilliance. It's considered the most important C as a good cut can make a diamond look bigger and more brilliant.

How you'll notice it

If light returns out of the diamond's top, that means it's cut with correct proportions. If light escapes through the bottom or sides, that means it's cut too shallow or deep.


Cut Grades
Grade Description
Ideal Reflects nearly all of the light that enters the diamond. A rare cut that results in exquisite brilliance and sparkle
Very Good Reflects most all of the light that enters the diamond, resulting in superior brilliance and sparkle
Good Reflects a large amount of light that enters the diamond, resulting in average brilliance and sparkle
Fair Allows only some of the light to escape out of the sides or bottom, resulting in a reduced perception of brilliance
Poor Cut is deep and narrow or shallow and wide, resulting in most of the light escaping out of the sides or bottom. Appearance of the stone may seem dull.

Diamond cut illustration

Color of the Diamond

What it is

Refers to a diamond's lack of color, with grades signifying the whiteness of a diamond. The less color there is in a diamond, the more light passes through. More light means more brilliance.

How you'll notice it

Probably the easiest of the diamond qualities to quickly assess, color is usually spotted in faint yellows in the stone.


Color Grades
Grade Description
D–F Colorless
G–H Nearly colorless
I–J White in color
K–M Somewhat noticeable very faint yellow color
N–R Noticeable faint yellow color
S–Z Noticeable light yellow color

Diamond Color illustration

Clarity of the Diamond

What it is

A measure of the size, number, and position of a diamond's tiny imperfections, AKA "inclusions."

Fun fact: Because every diamond has its own unique inclusions, a grader can use 10X magnification to create a diamond plot, which can be used to identify the diamond.

How you'll notice it

Realistically, the only way to actually see the level of a diamond's clarity is with a microscope. Most inclusions are so tiny that they don't make much—or any—difference on how it looks on sight.


Clarity Grades
Grade Description
Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1–VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
Very Slightly Included (VS1–VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor
Slightly Included (SI1–SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
Included (I1, I2, I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification, which may affect transparency and brilliance

Diamond clarity chart

Carat Weight of the Diamond

What it is

Put simply, the weight of a diamond—one carat equals 0.2 grams. Each carat is divided into 100 points and corresponds to 0.2 grams. So a diamond with 50 points, for example, would equate to a ½-carat stone.

How you'll notice it

Generally, the bigger the diamond, the higher the carat count. However, the cut of a stone can also affect how big it appears to be, so don't assume the largest diamonds will always have the highest carat counts.


Carat Weights
Fraction Carat Weight Fraction Carat Weight
1/10 0.09–0.11 1 1/4 1.20–1.35
1/8 0.12–0.14 1 1/3 1.36–1.44
1/6 0.15–0.17 1 1/2 1.45–1.57
1/5 0.18–0.22 1 5/8 1.58–1.69
1/4 0.23–0.29 1 3/4 1.70–1.82
1/3 0.30–0.36 1 7/8 1.83–1.94
3/8 0.37–0.44 2 1.95–2.15
1/2 0.45–0.57 2 1/4 2.20–2.35
5/8 0.58–0.69 2 1/3 2.36–2.44
3/4 0.70–0.79 2 1/2 2.45–2.57
7/8 0.80–0.94 2 3/4 2.70–2.82
1 0.95–1.10 3 2.95–3.10

Diamond carat chart

Certification of the Diamond

What it is

A comprehensive report for a diamond that details its weight, cut, clarity, and overall quality, and gives buyers confidence by serving as proof of the diamond's quality

How you'll notice it

This one's easy! It'll be included with your piece of jewelry.

Reputable grading laboratories that provide reports and documentation include GSI, GIA, IGL, IGI, and AGSL.

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