The Carat Before the Horse – Selecting the Perfect Diamond

Does a man wear his emotions and reputation on his sleeve? Perhaps, but he will certainly wear these on the hand of his future bride-to-be. As a modern-day dowry, the engagement ring signifies love and commitment and serves as the unspoken measure of economic prowess and understanding of diamond quality. With all eyes on this prize, many grooms will fret over the “rock” that ultimately makes and more importantly seals the deal. Every bride deserves a diamond that dazzles, and grooms must find a way to meet or exceed this challenge.

What is the true measure of diamond quality? Although size does matter, is it always the bottom line? Many grooms put The Carat before the Horse, without finding a true balance between price and quality. To determine what is of value to you, liken the four Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat weight) to a pie cut into quarters. Each slice represents one facet of quality; but there is no mandate that each be represented equally.

While taking into account the jewelry preferences of your bride, a review of the following will be most helpful before making your final decision.


The cut is responsible for the brilliance, sparkle, and shimmer of the diamond. Not to be confused with shape, the cut reveals the intricacies necessary for the diamond to be luminous and to display its reflective qualities. The more intricate the cut, with angles and finish, the more dazzling the diamond will appear. A diamond’s cut can be ideal, premium, very good, good, fair, and poor. As with all things, preferences may differ, but the “ideal cut” is reserved for round diamonds.


The clarity of the diamond refers to imperfections on the exterior of the stone known as blemishes, and imperfections within the stone known as inclusions; collectively referred to as “flaws.”  Inclusions represent cracks, air bubbles, and non-diamond minerals, found within the stone, while blemishes represent chips, scratches, and pits, on the stone’s surface. Diamond clarity grades range from the rare F (completely flawless both externally and internally) to I3 (having inclusions that are very visible to the naked eye). It should be noted that the differences in clarity grades F – S1 only represent value, and have no bearing on the unmagnified appearance of the stone. It is not until the scale reaches an “I” grade that the diamonds visible appearance can no longer be classified as “eye-clean.”


The color of a diamond can be a matter of preference; however the more colorless the stone, the more valuable it will be. By virtue of the natural formation process, only a few rare diamonds are truly colorless. With a color scale ranging from D (colorless) through Z, a diamond’s color can be likened to that of a window. A greater volume of light will pass through a clearer stone, which in turn will sparkle more brilliantly.

By contrast, the value of a rare “fancy” diamond is derived by its color, which can come in a variety of hues including pink, blue, yellow, green, and many shades in between.

Carat Weight

This should not to be confused with a karat which is the measurement used for gold. The weight of a diamond is measured in carats, and one carat is the equivalent of 200 milligrams (0.2 grams). While it is true that the value of a diamond increases exponentially in relation to its size, this no way represents a measure of your love. By using the pie analogy from above, one budget can be allocated to focus on which of the four Cs is most important to you. For example, a smaller round-cut colorless diamond with limited flaws is often equal in value to or more expensive than a larger diamond with more visible flaws.

Now that you have a better understanding of the four Cs, it’s time to buy the biggest diamond your money can afford – even as you stay focused on quality.

While money can be an obstacle for many grooms, get the biggest bang for your buck by purchasing your diamond(s) online. An online dealer’s markup is typically 10 – 20% compared to the more than 50% markup of a brick and mortar merchant.  Further, don’t grapple over differences that are non-visible to the naked eye of the non-expert. For example, colorless and near colorless diamonds have clarity grades of D – J. Why not consider the purchase of a J color diamond, which will allow you to allocate more money towards the carat weight (size)? Of course, the final determination will be up to you.

Best of luck to you and your bride!


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