What is Carat Weight (ct) And Carat Total Weight (ctw)?

what is total carat weight versus ct

If you had come across the terms “carat weight” and “carat total weight” when shopping for diamond jewelry and don’t know what they mean, you better stop and read this article in full.

The reason I’m highlighting this is that many consumers get misled by advertising claims and ambiguous jewelry descriptions. In the hands of an unethical jeweler, the use of “total carat weight” and marketing lingo can be used to dupe unsuspecting buyers.

So, What is What? Aren’t They The Same Thing?

Carat weight, denoted as “CT” or “CW” represents the metric weight of a single diamond. As you had learned earlier, one carat simply equals to two hundred milligrams and there is nothing complicated to it.

When you are dealing with solitaire diamond rings or any piece of jewelry featuring a single gemstone, any descriptions of carat weight simply refers to the weight of the individual diamond found in the jewelry piece.

You can also find an accurate value of the diamond’s carat weight in an accompanying lab grading report. As a reminder, you should only buy diamonds with proper grading reports from reliable labs like GIA or AGS only.

where the value of carat weight can be found in grading report

Grading report of a recently purchased DIY engagement ring. Carat weight is circled in red.

What is Carat Total Weight And Why Is It Used?

When a piece of jewelry is set with multiple diamonds, things start to get a little more complicated. That’s where you start to see the term “carat total weight” being thrown around in jewelry descriptions.

In a nutshell, total diamond weight or carat total weight refers to the weight summation of all the diamonds found in the piece of jewelry. It is usually abbreviated as “CTW”, “CWT”, “TW” or “TDW” and they all refer to the same thing.

When you come across jewelry using CTW in their description, make sure that you double check details of the diamond sizes used. It’s important that you don’t skip this step and I will explain why in a moment.

In the trade, there are 2 main reasons behind using the CTW nomenclature. The first is for convenience and the second is to make a piece of jewelry sound impressive. Now, let’s do a quick test.

Imagine you are reading a classified ad; which of the following descriptions would sound better to you?

1) Get more for less! For a limited time, buy this whopping 3 carats engagement ring (TW) for only $8,000!

2) Get more for less! Buy this engagement ring featuring 5 diamonds weighing 0.6 carats each. Only $8,000!

Prices for Larger Diamonds Are Astronomical Compared to Melees

excellent cut round brilliant h vs1
3 carat h vs1 color

Due to the pricing mechanisms, a single large diamond would cost a lot more than the equivalent weight made up of smaller diamonds.

As you can see, five 0.60 carat diamonds bought individually would only cost a total of $2,320 * 5 = $11,600. In contrast, the single 3 carat stone costs almost 5 times more with a price tag of $58,030.

The thing is, most consumers prefer buying bigger diamonds (regardless of whether their budget is realistic or not) and jewelers know it. For this reason, most businesses market their jewelry using total carat weight because it sounds very impressive and the low prices provide a false impression of a good deal.

Under intense pressure selling by unethical salespeople, consumers who aren’t familiar with terminologies often get tricked into thinking they are getting a great deal when they are actually not.

If you want to get a feel of prices for different carat weights, check out Blue Nile and James Allen. Both vendors offer superb search tools and highly competitive prices in the market.

Let’s Do Some Math to Understand “Total Carat Weight”

parcel of melees
2 carat f vs2 diamond round gia

A parcel of melee diamonds (left) versus a single 2 carat diamond (right).

The total carat weight of a 100 small diamonds (aka melees) each weighing two points (0.02 carats) is the same as the weight of a single 2 carat diamond.

Here’s a simple equation that shows this: 100 * 0.02 carats = 1 * 2.00 carats

Even though the idea of owning a hundred diamonds might seem attractive to some people, the single large stone is more valuable due to rarity factors.

In fact, a parcel of 100 two-pointer F color VS clarity melees would only cost around $1,200. In contrast, a well cut 2 carat F VS2 diamond would cost upwards of $25,000.

1 Important Question to Ask When Buying Jewelry With Multiple Stones

carat total weight for halo setting 190 points

2.00 CTW halo ring – center diamond weighs 1.50 carat.

If you are buying preset rings consisting of multiple diamonds and there is a center stone (usually the largest), make sure you ask for full details of that diamond. That’s because the center diamond typically accounts for the bulk of the ring’s cost.

This would enable you to estimate the price of the ring and consequently, allow you to size up the deal properly.

With that said, I know most jewelers do not want to mislead consumers with malicious intent. Most of them simply want to offer consumers a choice of buying something that sounds grandiose without having to break the bank.

As a consumer, the onus is often on you to pay attention to details when you are reading a product description. You don’t want to make the wrong assumptions and inadvertently “mislead” yourself.

To wrap things up, you shouldn’t be afraid of the term “carat total weight” because it can be useful information once you know what it stands for.

snapshot video

If you are shopping for a diamond ring, I recommend JamesAllen.com. They have a great selection of beautiful settings and offer you the ability to see and interact with diamonds like never before.

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  1. Karil-
    March 1, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    My name is Karil (pronounced Carol) Gierum. My husband Karl (coincidence) and I live in Cary, I’ll , which is roughly 40 miles north west of Chicago.

    We’ve been married 35 years.

    My original engagement ring was bought from Zales and is a small diamond surrounded by sapphires in yellow gold.

    (I didn’t want to “conform” ha ha)

    We had a local jeweler make a yellow gold wedding band to fit alongside it and then a A few years later had them soldered together.
    For my 10 year anniversary my husband bought me a lovely set of diamonique rings (from QVC) which I loved but over time they got cloudy and I was not happy with CZ.

    So for our 25th anniversary we went back to Zales and purchased a princess shape 3 stone ring in white gold. Each “stone” is actually made up of a group of 4 small stones to give the illusion of a ring with three middle stones symbolizing “past present future” that cost $1299.00 And although we had not planned on buying a “wedding band” to go next to it that day I happen to be browsing in the heirloom – used ring section and found a lovely little 1/2 CTW 11 stone Chanel set platinum ring for only $298.00 that looked nice alongside my new anniversary band.

    We also purchased the Zales protection plan and I have a brought them back every six months for cleaning and checking and rhodium replating and a three stone ring when it needed it.

    Okay I apologize for the length of the email but thought I should give you the background.

    When we bought the anniversary band I knew that was the style I wanted I just settled on the multi stone cluster ring because of the cost and also the illusion of the size it gave. but in reality I was always a little bit disappointed in the fact that I still have not received “my diamond” .

    So here we are and we have some money and my husband would like me to have something that I truly want.

    Some variables that come into play are of course that I have this set that I can upgrade meaning I have to buy through Zales – purchase something at costs at minimum $2598.00 Or $3194.00 if I turn in both rings.

    Another variable that got us thinking along these lines is my husband has inherited a ring that his father had made to hold his mothers and grandmothers wedding diamonds.

    He is not sure what type of diamond or anything about the stones other than that they are diamonds. But I thought we could use the large center stone for my ring. And save some money as well as using something that would otherwise just sit in a drawer until the day our son inherited it. He’s not keen on that idea # 1.he knows I would prefer an oval stone and #2. He has the sentiment that the ring is how his dad had it made.

    So here we are finally The purpose of this email .my big question is do I use my trade up value at Zales with my three stone ring – Buy some kind of oval Diamond (at least .75 tcw.) for at least $2598.00 which would mean at least $1300 out of our pocket. Or am I better off all things considered in trying to purchase a ring online without trading in/up my zales ring.

    I am willing to spend out of pocket total of say $2600.00 when all is said and done.

    Do you think I’m better off spending that online at another jeweler and still have my 25 anniversary rings or trading those in -still spending up to possibly $2600 but now also having another $1299.00 credit to go in to the equation (and then not keeping the 25 yr ring) Which I’m ok with.
    Does this make sense?

    When we first began this discussion, I thought I’d keep my wedding platinum band and trade up to get some type of white gold or platinum oval ring possibly with pave side stones possibly not. Since then I’ve kind of been tween with the idea of going to replacing both with A nice one carat total weight anniversary band (not Chanel set) and then just getting an oval minimum three-quarter Ctw. solitaire setting diamond.

    Which brings me to question number two -do you have any recommendations on buying 5, 7, 9, or 11 stone anniversary or wedding bands? I’ve searched the site and I see a ton of information about diamonds (THANK YOU THANK YOU) but not on anniversary wedding bands.

    A particular online seller? Or a particular designer? The best bang for the buck type of thing.

    Okay i’m going to try and attach some pictures of the rings for you to give me your opinion thank you very much!

  2. Paul Gian-
    March 2, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    The problem with Zales is that their prices are marked up excessively high and the diamonds are generally of poor quality. I’ve wrote a review about Zales here. Trading up for something that is significantly overpriced will mean you are going to spend unnecessary money.

    You are far better off with spending a 2.6k on an online ring (will get you better mileage than a 3.9k ring from zales with everything traded in). If you want to get the best bang for your buck, there are much better vendors. Here’s a list you want to check out for half eternity rings.

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