How to Choose a Diamond

your guide to picking the perfect diamond

Diamonds In White Gold Setting

Choosing a diamond has been likened to choosing a life partner: one must tread with care. It’s true that most guys sweat over the task of selecting a perfect proposal ring. However, it can be a fun and enjoyable process if you take the correct approach.

First and foremost, getting educated is the key to choosing diamonds rationally. Now, I am sure most people have heard of the 4 Cs while doing their research or during a casual visit to a jewelry store.

Sadly, the majority of the people who think they fully understand the 4 Cs after an hour’s research or via a 5 minutes presentation in a jewelry store are WRONG. Likewise, if you think that you are able to choose a great looking diamond online just by looking at a GIA or AGS certificate, you better keep your fingers crossed when the package arrives.

You see, buying diamonds is easy. Anybody can buy diamonds as long as they have the money to afford it. However, if you want to select the best diamond possible for a given budget, you need to go beyond the 4Cs and start looking at indepth details.

To get the best value out of your engagement ring purchase, I highly recommend online vendors like James Allen, White Flash and Brian Gavin. Not only do they offer an impeccable shopping experience, they also provide in-depth details of their listings to help you make educated decisions.

A Short Introduction of Myself And Why I’m Qualified to Offer You Advice

My name is Paul. I used be to a research officer in a top government manufacturing research institute. During my 2 years stint of being a researcher, I developed scientific and analytic skills that enables me to examine any given data with a critical viewpoint.

While I am not a professional jeweler by trade, I became an avid gem collector by accident. The passion for diamonds ignited when I had to purchase a proposal ring for my girlfriend. And like most guys shopping for an engagement ring, I started out with zero knowledge. I begun my diamond buying journey at the local stores and did my own research online.

Very quickly, the desire for knowledge grew. Before long, I found myself immersed in gemological textbooks purchased from GIA and even took up professional courses to enhance my knowledge. In early 2013, I completed GIA’s Graduate Diamonds diploma program and topped the class in the practical examination module. This came as a surprise to many people since the course was attended by professionals who had years of experience in the trade.

Now, I’m not telling you all this to brag about my accomplishments. Instead, the point I want to bring across is that I have the credentials and background knowledge to offer advice from both gemological and consumer perspectives.

how to choose a diamond with best value and optics

I’ll show you how to pick the best diamond within your budget!

Whenever I examine diamonds, my analytical skills would always be put to use by questioning and dissecting information that was presented to me. There is really so much more that jewelers never reveal to you when it comes to making such an important purchase.

It doesn’t matter if you had never step foot into a jewelry store before or whether you had some prior experience in purchasing jewelry. The information that I am going to share with you on the following pages will definitely be an eye opener.

The Essential 4Cs – How to Choose a Diamond

Before I continue, you need to have a basic grasp of the 4Cs in order to understand some concepts found on later pages. If you have no idea what they are, click the links below and read up on the corresponding topics before returning here again.

 

While the basic definitions of the 4 Cs are pretty straightforward and clearly indicated in a diamond’s grading report, most consumers fail to realize one thing:

   
  • The grading report alone Does Not tell you the full story of a diamond’s physical beauty without doing some further analysis…

    Paul Gian
    Founder, Beyond4Cs.com

  •    

    So, how do you bring all of these factors together and utilize them in your decision making? The good news is that it isn’t rocket science. I’m going to arm you with the necessary knowledge to help you make the best of your diamond shopping experience.

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    43 Comments

    1. Peter-
      March 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Thank you for this post. It is very useful and taught me a lot of pointers to take not of when choosing a engagement ring. Do you have recommendations on where I can get my diamond without getting scammed?

      Would you know anything about the diamond district? Are their pricing fair and the quality of goods decent? Do I have leeway in negotiating prices? Any advice would be very much appreciated.

    2. Paul Gian-
      March 18, 2015 at 2:38 am

      Yes. You can refer to this article for a list of vendors I highly recommend: http://beyond4cs.com/best-place-to-buy-engagement-ring/

      In terms of shopping at the NYC district, I urge you to exercise extreme caution and do your research first before heading out. It’s a shark tank there and a place where many consumers get ripped off. In fact, I wrote an article about this last month: http://beyond4cs.com/2015/02/nyc-diamond-district-shoppers-trap/

    3. Robert-
      March 19, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you for this detailed page about the 5 c’s of diamonds. I was on the Internet for almost the entire day and doing intensive research on what is a good quality diamond. The info here has enlightened me and an easier time in understanding diamonds.

    4. Ash-
      March 23, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Do you know where is the best place to get a lab grown diamond at affordable prices?

    5. Paul Gian-
      March 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      Yes, I do. Read this: http://beyond4cs.com/2015/05/lab-created-diamonds/

      *comment updated to reflect newly published content in our blog.

    6. Lisa-
      April 8, 2015 at 9:25 am

      I think a mix of shopping online and also visiting a few stores when buying a ring is a pretty good way to shop. You get the best of both worlds by seeing and trying some rings as we did with my partner. It’s nice to try a few rings and look at the diamonds close up. We were quite new to all this so we studied up online first about diamonds and the properties, features to look out for, the free eBook was helpful for learning the ins and outs of diamonds too.

    7. Zack-
      May 19, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      I’m not looking for the best diamond clarity for my engagement ring but one of the jewelers I visited showed me an SI3 diamond that looked stunning to me. This is my first time buying an item that is so expensive and I am getting the jitters.

      Is there any red flags or tips on what to look for in a diamond? I value your opinions and comments and I want to learn how to buy a diamond ring without getting duped.

    8. Alex-
      June 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks for writing this “diamond 101” article, Paul! I’ve been searching for a engagement ring, so I can propose to my girlfriend. Do you think it’s a good idea to take her shopping with me? I just want to make sure that I’m getting something that she likes.

    9. Estelle Mainard-
      July 30, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Beyond4Cs.com contains what you need to know about diamonds! Picking an engagement ring can be so overwhelming but you made it so much easier. Thanks!

      My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting engaged, so obviously we’ve gone ring shopping quite a bit. I just want to make sure he picks one that’ll fit my hand perfectly.

      I’ll have him follow your tip about making sure he follows the “4Cs”; color is especially important to me.

    10. jeff shingre-
      August 5, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Thank you for the sharing these useful guidelines. This is ‘Diamond 101’ at its best contains everything you need to know about diamonds.

    11. Joel-
      January 13, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      I like your analogy of the 4 C’s. Cut, carat, color and clarity are bound to be the important things to watch for in a diamond. My wife has a diamond ring. Do you know how to tell if it’s a real diamond or if it’s a knockoff?

    12. Paul Gian-
      January 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      The safest and most straightforward way is to bring it to your local jeweler.

    13. Monica-
      April 1, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Paul,

      I found your website extremely helpful, and it’s also made me more comfortable with the idea of shopping for a diamond online. I’ve visited quite a few website, and have found that Ritani has great diamonds (GIA certified), as well as competitive prices. I’m looking for a 2 carat diamond, and the prices on Ritani actually seem too good to be true.

      https://www.ritani.com/diamonds/round-diamond-2-00-Carat-L-color-GIA-certified/D-JPY3HY

      The carat and cut are exactly what I’m looking for, but the clarity and color and on the opposite spectrum. I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are on this one in particular.

      Thanks!

    14. Paul Gian-
      April 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm
    15. kiyel williams-
      April 14, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      I know about the 4 C’s but i did not know what they were. I feel like now after reading the article I can better determine the diamond i want. I will pass this on to my friends as well so they can choose for themselves. Thank you for the information!

    16. Ricky-
      April 15, 2016 at 1:56 am

      Great information on your site! Given just these numbers, do you think a 41.0 degree pavillion is too far on the steep side? I’m looking at a diamond with these measures.

      table 58.0
      depth 61.3
      crown 34.0
      pavillion 42.0

    17. Paul Gian-
      April 15, 2016 at 3:30 am

      41 is OK. 42.0 is a sure fire recipe for light leakage.

      That said, numbers don’t reveal everything.

      http://beyond4cs.com/buying-diamonds-blind/

    18. Kyle-
      April 19, 2016 at 4:41 am

      Hey Paul. First off, you are a wizard and have made my diamond buying experience a lot less stressful than I could have ever imagined.

      However, I’m in a dilemma. I have abided by your strict proportions guidelines for buying round brilliant cut diamonds and have narrowed down my selection to the 3 diamonds in the link below.

      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IazVcme_pS88njyd1B3PHLV-2iE6fHYnEY7FNFuesj8/pub

      I have two questions…

      1. Which clarity characteristics are the most detrimental and should be avoided?

      2. Which of these 3 would you say has the best VALUE?

      Thanks!

    19. Paul Gian-
      April 19, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      It would be better for you to email me in private and include the direct urls of the diamonds in it.

    20. Judy Wilson-
      May 23, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks for these tips for choosing a diamond for my engagement ring. My boyfriend proposed yesterday, so we’re going to choose my engagement ring really soon. You’re right about how I should look into the cut, carat, color, and clarity of a diamond. Usually, I look for cut and carat for diamond rings, but I’ll also pay attention to color and clarity to choose a quality ring. Thanks for the tips!

    21. Rob-
      May 30, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Paul, I know you don’t care for Bluenile, but I wonder if you could have a look at this diamond please and tell me what you think. The HCA score is solid, the price seems competitive, and the GCAL looks good to my untrained eye…

      Thanks!

      http://www.bluenile.com/ca/build-your-own-ring/diamond-details/LD06465885

    22. Paul Gian-
      May 31, 2016 at 8:15 am

      It’s a decent stone. Not the best and not one that passes my standards to be purchase worthy though.

    23. Annecatherine-
      August 19, 2016 at 2:12 am

      Thank you for your for all the information you’ve provided, I need to choose a diamond of 8.3 mm, that’s about 2.3 ct to replace a lost diamond from a platinum ring. I have checked James Allen, can you recommend a diamond from JA ? A quality diamond that really sparkles and cost no more than $20,000, less would be better ! This is the most expensive purchase I am going make and I’m very nervous.

    24. dan-
      September 11, 2016 at 12:56 am
    25. Paul Gian-
      September 11, 2016 at 2:35 am

      You did well!

    26. Kate Hansen-
      September 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      I am helping my brother pick out an engagement ring for his girlfriend, but we both don’t know what we’re looking for in diamonds. Remembering your advice on the 4 C’s will help us in knowing what’s important and what to ask the jeweler. I wonder if this is the case for other stones as well besides diamonds. Thanks for your help!

    27. Paul Gian-
      September 17, 2016 at 4:57 am

      For other types of gemstones, there are other things to take note of. So, it isn’t exactly the same.

    28. trini-
      October 8, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      If you don’t mind could you please tell me what were the 4c’s you had chosen for your proposal?

    29. Paul Gian-
      October 9, 2016 at 2:03 am
    30. Vinay-
      October 29, 2016 at 3:26 am

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for this website. I almost decided to go to Tiffany’s and buy a piece of stone when I told myself a little research into diamonds wouldn’t do any harm.

      It was then a little research turned into hours thanks to your website. I have a little more information about diamonds now but I am still a newbie.

      Per your recommendation I have been comparing diamonds relentlessly on whiteflash.

      I have narrowed down my search to 3 diamonds (0.7,0.8 & 0.9 carat ) category. Below are their IDs if you could give me a brief review of these diamonds I would be ever grateful.

      My budget for a diamond is upto $5.5k

      AGS-104085071011
      AGS-104084596028
      AGS-104089443010( My personal favorite )

      Thank you eagerly waiting for your response

    31. Paul Gian-
      October 29, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Do you have the direct url links to the diamonds?

    32. Vinay-
      October 29, 2016 at 6:18 am
    33. Paul Gian-
      October 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Cutwise, all 3 diamonds are fantastic. Obviously, the price varies according to clarity/color/carat ratings. You can’t go wrong with any of the diamonds here. If I were to make a selection, this would be the diamond I would buy for best value and because I do prioritize color as well.

    34. Vinay-
      October 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you so much Paul, initially I was not looking for Above cut category as I thought those would be expensive.

      What are your thoughts about above cut vs Expert selection ? Are the tradeoffs negligible or significant and not worth.

      Also since I haven’t physically seen diamonds that much, I am a bit confused on carats. Is 0.7 too small ? What are your thoughts on Carat sizes.

      Thank you again for this wonderful blog and helping me do the most important decision of my life.

    35. Paul Gian-
      October 30, 2016 at 7:03 am
    36. vinay-
      November 1, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you for the link Paul. I almost decided on buying the 3rd ring from whiteflash but then I just for the sake of it decided to check james allen.

      I found a very similar diamond for about $500 less but I can’t seem to find ideal scope , ASET etc images. Below is the link for james allen diamond. Could you please review it and suggest which one to buy between james allen and whiteflash

      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.91-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2139564

      vs

      http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3738437.htm

      The only positive of James allen is their free return (In case I need to resize it).

      Thank you so much again.

      Regards,
      Vinay

    37. Paul Gian-
      November 2, 2016 at 9:09 am

      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/0.91-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2139564 is a decent stone but you can see the poorer optical symmetry (h&a) with the scope images.

      This stone is the better cut diamond.

    38. Elsa Anderson-
      November 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      My boyfriend and I have talked about getting married, so of course I’ve been doing my research on diamond rings for when we get engaged! I really appreciate you sharing the point about using the four C’s when choosing a diamond. I never realized that color was something to take into consideration when choosing the perfect diamond, so I’ll have to make sure that the ring I like follows these standards. Thanks!

    39. Dustin-
      November 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Hello. I have scoured your website, and the information was SO helpful. This time of year, I find that the really excellent diamonds (at least in my budget) are is shorter supply — all of the holidays proposals gearing up, I guess.

      So, I think that I’ve maintained most of the criteria that you’ve specified, with the exception of a couple of numbers.

      I realize that “perfect” is not an option, but what are your thoughts on these dimensions? Specifically, is the L/W ratio too far off, and is the depth too deep? I know that girdle affects the importance of depth, but this diamond doesn’t specify the girdle size.

      Thank you for your help! I’m ready to pull the trigger on this purchase, but I’m a bit nervous!

      SHAPE: Round
      CARAT WEIGHT: 1.40
      COLOR: H
      CLARITY: VS1
      CUT: Excellent
      POLISH: Excellent
      SYMMETRY: Excellent
      FLUORESCENCE: None
      L/W/D (MM): 7.11*7.19*4.43

      L/W RATIO: 1.01
      DEPTH %: 62.10
      TABLE %: 57.00
      CERTIFICATE: IGI
      CROWN %: 15.50
      PAVILION %: 42.50

      URL: https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.40-carat-h-color-vs1-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2165148

    40. Paul Gian-
      November 29, 2016 at 3:08 am

      Personally, I would not even go anywhere close with an IGI graded diamond when there are so many other options available.

    41. Dustin-
      November 29, 2016 at 5:19 am

      Thank you for your quick reply. So, I am scrapping the IGI diamonds, as you’ve suggested.

      If you don’t mind, I need some more advice. I’ve read about the importance of cut above (almost) all else. I also know that I am going to have the diamond set in a Halo, so I don’t want to drop below H color. So, I’ve come up with a few options. ‘

      The two that have the best cuts have the worst flaws — at least it appears that way from looking at the photos, one of them is cloudy and one of them has a flaw right on the face of it:

      Diamond 1 – Ideal Cut but Cloudy
      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.30-carat-h-color-vs1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-872700

      Diamond 2 – True Hearts Ideal but Face Inclusion
      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.35-carat-h-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-1118173

      These also looked very good (to me) and fall within the guidelines, but I’m not sure if I’m missing overlooking some other component.

      Diamond 3 – Wavy Girdle ?
      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.31-carat-h-color-vvs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2202029

      Diamond 4 – Inclusions, but not central
      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.32-carat-h-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2127073

      Diamond 5 – Clear but not perfect L/W ratio
      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.33-carat-h-color-vs2-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2241860

      So, the big question: which are the best choices and why?

      THANK YOU! This is an amazing service that you offer!

    42. Paul Gian-
      November 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.35-carat-h-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-1118173 would be the best diamond I would choose. Hands down.

      Cut quality (sparkle and brilliance) are the key factors for the decision.

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