Is it Better to Buy a Pre-Mounted Diamond Ring or a Loose Diamond Separately From a Setting?

mounting a diamond into a setting

Jeweler preparing a loose diamond for mounting into a ring setting.

When it comes to buying an engagement ring, there are many decisions that can affect the outcome and cost of the diamond ring. In fact, I often get asked questions like this: “Is it better to buy the diamond and setting separately or should I buy a pre mounted engagement ring?”.

Interestingly, many first time shoppers who started their search at local jewelry stores wrongly assume that preset diamond rings (diamond already mounted in ring setting) are the only options available.

But is it worth it to go through the hassle to customize your own diamond ring when you could simply shop in a cash and carry manner? In this write up, we will review the advantages and disadvantages of both shopping methods.

Let’s jump right in…

Pros And Cons of Buying Preset Diamond Rings

At the end of the day, it boils down to a difference between flexibility and convenience. A preset ring offers a cash-and-carry mode of purchase which is straightforward and faster. If you like what you see, you make a payment for it and that’s the end of the story. It’s a perfect option for people who need a ring in a hurry.

However, it does make it harder for you to properly assess a diamond’s quality. Why do I say this? Very often, diamonds are set in such a manner where flaws are intentionally concealed by the prongs or away from sight. Since most consumers don’t know what to look out for, it can be easy to get duped by an unethical seller.

A pre-mounted diamond ring also makes it harder for you to assess the cut quality of the diamond. For example, if you were buying a hearts and arrows diamond, it would be impossible to examine the hearts patterning image to check its cut precision.

hearts and arrows comparison near and perfect

This hearts patterning image can only be captured with a loose diamond from its pavilion view.

Another issue with mounted diamond rings the limited selections and choices available. If you are shopping in a local brick and mortar jewelry store, chances are there will be very limited options for you to choose from.

For example, if you are looking for a 1.0 carat D color diamond with IF clarity rating and the store only has a 1.4ct D/VVS2 available in a preset ring, you may have to compromise and even end up overspending if you decide to buy the preset ring. If you don’t settle and still insist on looking for a preset ring, you can expect to spend a lot of time and effort searching for a ring and even so, it may not even yield any successful results.

Pros & Cons of Picking Out a Loose Diamond and a Setting Yourself

Without a doubt, it might take a little more work to purchase a loose stone and to select a mounting for it separately. However, I personally believe that it is the safer and wiser choice to do so. There are 4 main advantages over a preset diamond ring are many:

1) It allows you to focus on the stone’s quality for the best selection possible. You get to see and inspect the details of the diamond before it gets mounted. This allows you to check for any potential problems and to verify any issues beforehand. There are no hidden surprises.

2) It is easier for you to make a purchase within your stipulated budget. Most jewelers carry limited preset rings and you might not always be able to find one that fits your budget or criteria. You would likely be forced to raise your budget or to make a compromise to settle for less.

3) You can either design the ring to your liking or allow her to choose the setting herself. From experience, choosing a ring design is one of the toughest dilemmas I personally faced and I think this is a common problem for most guys too. What better way to get around this issue than to let her pick a design she loves? If the ring is meant as a surprise, being able to choose a design and a diamond of your choice would be better than settling for a preset ring where there’s little room for customization.

4) Better price transparency and lower costs. Many people have the misconception that customizing your own ring will be more expensive. The truth is far from that. Building your own ring gives you better transparency because you can see the granular price of each component and this helps you understand exactly what you are paying for.

When it comes to buying loose diamonds and engagement rings, James Allen and White Flash are 2 of the best vendors in the world with a great selection of GIA/AGS certified diamonds for you to choose from. Make sure you check them out!

How I Bought a Stunning Diamond Ring By Picking a Diamond and Setting

Over the years, I’ve purchased multiple diamond rings (for my wife, friends and relatives) from various online vendors. The shopping process was always the same. I started out with a predetermined budget and made diamond selections based on tangible data like videos and scope images.

By shopping online at reliable retailers, I could view and scrutinize the smallest details and cherry pick the best diamond for any given budget. I use a proven process to handpick an eyeclean diamond which is cut to the best possible light performance and you can do the same using the guidelines here.

The most recent diamond ring I purchased was a pave set diamond engagement ring with a princess cut center stone using a budget of $2000. You can view the full details of what I bought below and how the ring looks like in real life.

14k white gold petite pave engagement ring

princess cut diamond loose 1000 dollars

Being able to choose the setting and diamond based on what I want (instead of what’s available in a preset ring) meant that I had full control of the diamond specifications and costs. More importantly, it’s close to impossible to find a preset ring with a diamond of such caliber for this price point.

Watch the video below to look at the craftsmanship of the pave setting and the light performance of the diamond.

 
 

Should You Buy a Diamond & Setting Separately From Different Places?

In general, I would recommend against doing that. Buying a loose diamond from one place and getting it set in another place will complicate things unnecessarily.

First of all, going to separate merchants may result in additional costs to be incurred. Some jewelers may charge an additional fee to set a ring if the diamond wasn’t purchased from them. You may also have to pay extra for insurance and shipping.

Secondly, it’s a hassle. You will have to spend time to vet a vendor and trust them to set your diamond. What happens if something goes wrong? For example, if the diamond gets chipped during the setting, who would be responsible for it?

Unless there’s a special reason for you to buy the loose diamond and ring setting separately, buying everything together at a single place will be a better idea and lead to a more enjoyable experience.

Loose Diamonds And Proposals

Ok. Here’s a question that I get asked a couple of times by Beyond4Cs’s readers. If the engagement ring is meant as a surprise, how do you ensure that the setting you chose is one that she likes? One of the ways to do this is to buy a loose diamond to propose first. After having success with the proposal, you could shop for a new setting together with your loved one.

Now, proposing with a loose diamond doesn’t sound like a romantic idea and you probably want her to have a ring to slip onto her fingers when you get down on your knees. But don’t worry, there are creative ways to make the proposal picture-perfect.

You could get the diamond set in a simple temporary setting so that it is secured and looks presentable during your proposal. Some jewelers might provide a special presentation box made specifically for loose diamonds upon request. Others may be able to provide you with a free clasp-foe ring or something similar to the one seen below.

clasp foe setting

side view of temporary setting

looks like a solitaire ring from top

Diamonds as an Investment – Loose vs. Mounted

I want to quickly touch on this aspect because there is a certain group of people who are looking to invest their money into diamonds. First of all, you have to understand that diamonds have a different trading model and they still cannot be treated the way public shares are.

When you are considering diamonds as a form of investment, you probably do not want to buy a preset ring or a setting. This is because loose diamonds have more liquidity and are easier to be evaluated by buyers for their value.

There are exceptions though.

In some rare cases, the integrity of a jewelry piece that features a mounted diamond might be more valuable than selling the setting and the stone separately. For example, when a piece of diamond jewelry possesses a rich history of being worn by someone famous, it could be a valuable collector’s item that would be worth more in its original state.

Let’s Wrap Things Up – How Should You Buy a Diamond Ring?

micro pave setting with engravings

The answer is there isn’t a “better” or “worse” method and it really depends on the type of person you are.

For people who can’t deal with having too many choices or can’t be bothered to put in some effort for your purchase, pre-set diamond rings would offer an easy way of shopping. All you need to do is to ask the jeweler to give you a set of options and choose one that best fits your criterion.

On the other hand, if you are someone who wants better control of what you are buying and appreciates the ability to put together a sentimental purchase, selecting a diamond and a setting of your choice would be ideal for you. This means you don’t have to make compromises on cut quality or budget and be able to manage the specifications of your ring from start to finish.

Personally speaking, I belong to the latter camp and I encourage you to pick your own diamond and setting when buying an engagement ring. It really isn’t that hard. More importantly, it ensures you get a ring design you like, a high quality diamond of your choosing and at a budget that is largely determined by you.

James Allen and White Flash are the best retailers to shop for a diamond engagement ring. Their innovative 360° magnified videos and transparent business practices provide indepth details to help you make better choices.

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14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Janine Salwin-
    May 22, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Informative blog regarding loose diamond and mounted diamonds. Thanks for sharing. It is really helpful in buying a loose diamond for an engagement ring. My sister’s engagement is in the upcoming month so I want to order a diamond ring from an online shopping site through one of my cousin’s suggestion. Hopefully, I will get a small, beautiful ring as per my choice.

  2. Avatar
    HK-
    October 31, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing information about mounted diamonds and loose diamonds. I wasn’t aware that I can buy a loose diamond and can ask a jeweller to make the ring as I want. Purchasing loose diamond would be a great idea when budget and design of the diamond is more focused.

  3. Avatar
    Joel-
    December 1, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Thanks for all the great information on your website. I was hoping to get your opinion on the following diamonds, specifically what is more/less desirable in terms of inclusions and their positions.

    #1 has 4 short needles in the center of the diamond
    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.025-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104094526025

    #2 has 3 clouds, 2 pinpoints, and a short needle, along the lines/vertexes (?) of the diamond
    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.065-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104093730008

    #3 has a crystal and 4 short needles around the edges of the diamond
    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.240-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104093730010

    #4 has nothing on the top side, but one long feather on the underside
    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.283-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104096763005

    These 4 diamonds are all from Brian Gavin’s Black line, cost about $10,000 per carat, all G and VS1 rated by AGS, so pretty much equivalent on the metrics. Could you help me better understand whether any kinds of these inclusions and their placements are regarded as more or less favorable as to the performance of the diamond?

  4. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    December 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Let me clarify something because you are understanding clarity the wrong way. Clarity is not judged based on the ”numerous inclusions” alone. It is judged based on a combination of factors like positioning, quantity, durability etc…

    A loose diamond could have a single crystal only and it could receive an SI2 rating due to it being black and super obvious in the center of the table. This could just show up inconspicuously in a grading report and yet a magnified image could reveal the seriousness of the inclusion.

    I looked at all 4 diamonds and inspected them. Now, all 5 diamonds are 100% eyeclean and inclusions are NOT an issue in each of these diamonds. Cutwise, they are top notch and on par. Really, all 4 are winners and if you blindly picked any, it wouldn’t have mattered because you will get the best cut quality diamond in the world.

    The difference in these diamonds really lies in carat weight only. In terms of getting good value for money, these would be my 2 final picks and if budget is not an issue, go for the 2nd stone for the bigger size.

    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.065-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104093730008

    https://www.briangavindiamonds.com/diamonds/diamond-details/1.283-g-vs1-round-diamond-bkags-104096763005

  5. Avatar
    Yen Nee-
    June 19, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I’m looking at both of these loose diamonds from White Flash for my engagement ring.

    https://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3954422.htm
    https://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3929373.htm

    Just wondering, on the hearts image for the bigger 0.83 stone seems to show ‘scratches’. Will it affect the light performance? Or are they actually the inclusions?

    But I still chose it because I felt it’s a good value for that size. I am ready to compromise on colour as long as the cut is great as I feel the cut can to certain extent compensate for colour. My pref is carat > colour in this case. To keep within budget as well.

    On another note, I am also looking at Lazare diamonds. They look amazing with naked eyes in real, and I have seen one on my friend from far. It was gorgeous and was surprised when I asked, it was just a 0.33 c stone! I have never seen an ACA diamond in real life and so I am a bit skeptical.

    Question 1) Price is way higher for a Lazare. But is it worth it? Are all Lazare diamonds really as good as they claim? Or the ACA will perform just as good as a Lazare?

    Question 2) Or is it that Lazare and ACA are two different cuttings even though both are ideal, and therefore are not directly comparable even though they perform equally?

    Thanks!

  6. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    June 21, 2018 at 4:05 am

    Well, I can tell you for a fact that Lazare diamonds are overhyped and EXTREMELY expensive. Their quality control is no good. (i.e. you will see a lot of variance across Lazare diamonds. I have seen and examined many of these in person. Granted there are some nice ones but there is also a high proportion of mediocre stones.

    1) Let me put it bluntly. ACA stones will be better than the Lazare diamonds. The best Lazare diamonds would be on par with a typical ACA.

    2) If you want to buy a branded stone and don’t mind paying 2 times more, the best one (costing the same as Lazare) would be Hearts on Fire. They are much more consistent than Lazare. I have a written review here: https://beyond4cs.com/reviews/hearts-on-fire/

    The 2 White Flash diamonds are extremely well cut. It is as good as it can physically get for round brilliant diamonds.

    Paul

  7. Avatar
    Jon-
    August 1, 2018 at 2:45 am

    I started my engagement ring shopping at a few local stores and the rings that they have are either out of my budget or too far away from what I have in mind. I didn’t know that customizing a ring was an option until I read your article.

    If I were buy a loose diamond for engagement ring that is made on a later date, what would you recommend I use for my proposal? Should I buy a faux ring or propose with the loose diamond?

  8. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    August 4, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    To be honest, I’ve got to admit that the thought of customizing my own ring never came across my mind when I first started doing research for my own purchase. After all, if you started off your search in local stores, that’s probably what you would see and expect.

    As for your next question, it really is up to you. Proposing with a loose diamond is fine in most cultures but your situation could be different.

  9. Avatar
    Tony-
    January 2, 2019 at 2:54 am

    What is the etiquette to buying a ring setting from a jewellery store without buying a diamond from them? I want to buy the empty setting and bring it to the jeweller who is selling me the diamond to mount the diamond.

  10. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    January 3, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    You can just ask directly to see if they are willing to sell the semi mount to you. I know that stores like Tiffany and Cartier will not sell you an empty setting unless you buy a diamond from them. This happens in the online world as well with Brilliant Earth and you should be mindful of store policies.

    I’m not sure what your circumstances are. Having read this article, I supposed you already know that I prefer readers to buy everything in one place unless there’s a specific ring design that can’t be fulfilled by the seller. In your case, you should be better off buying the loose diamond and bringing it to the ring setting seller to mount the diamond. You are doing it in the opposite manner.

  11. Avatar
    Jose-
    April 17, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Is it cheaper to buy loose diamonds for engagement rings as compared to buying a premade diamond ring? I’m close to buying one from a reputable vendor but am having difficulty finding a band of my liking. In my case, would you recommend a custom made ring and how much more would that cost?

  12. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    April 18, 2019 at 4:55 am

    In general, yes. It should be cheaper because most preset rings sold by brick and mortar stores require additional overheads like storage, insurance and just the cost of capital being tied up in the inventory.

    If you really can’t find a design similar to what you have in mind and have exhausted ring design options at White Flash and Brian Gavin, getting a custom made ring and buying the diamond separate from the ring would be your best course of action.

  13. Avatar
    randy-
    October 9, 2019 at 8:15 am

    Do you know what’s the cost of having a loose diamond mounted to a setting? Will tiffany set a loose diamond that I purchased elsewhere as the diamonds they sell are extremely overpriced.

  14. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    October 10, 2019 at 2:06 am

    Paying a jeweler to mount a loose diamond on a ring setting would vary depending on where and the size/type of diamond you are trying to set. In general, I would say it costs around $100 to $250.

    If you are buying a brand new setting, some jewelers may offer to waive the setting fee off.

    Tiffany doesn’t set a diamond that isn’t sold by them. Big brands like these will want to sell you the diamond and ring combined in a single purchase. That said, if you are looking for a Tiffany style ring design, there are plenty of options in the market to choose from without the blue box price premium.

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