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Buying a Diamond? Here’s Your Guide to Savvy Shopping

By Stephanie Dore

We’ll be the first to admit it. Buying a diamond has never been a task for the faint of heart. It’s an industry notorious for taking advantage of love-sick consumers with confusing grading systems and scandalous markups, not to mention the marketing ploys that would put a used car salesman to shame. And the internet? Don’t even get us started, darling. Sure, you can learn the 4 Cs, check the grading certificates, and follow the old wives tales. But if you’re head over heels and only finding frustration, you’ve come to the right place. 

Finding the perfect diamond can seem like a daunting process, which is why we recommend starting simple by deciding on your dream shape first!

Hit the Diamond Books

Whether you’ve been googling around for a while or this is the first toe you’re dipping into the diamond buying pool, doing your research is always a smart idea. Now, you don’t have to go full gem geek (like us) to get the job done, but starting with some basics will help you wrap your head around the big picture. Explore the 4Cs for sure, as these Cs — cut, color, clarity, and carat weight — are the industry standard for determining not only the quality but the price of a diamond. Once you have the 4Cs under your belt, it’ll be a bit easier to understand how you can use these four factors as levers in your diamond search.

GIA Report Check

Diamond grading reports or grading certificates (different grading labs call them different things) are great. Like, super duper helpful pieces of laminated paper that tell you nearly everything you need to know about a particular diamond. Check out a few (many places list them online with the diamond) so you know what you’re looking at, and learn which labs are the industry leaders. 

And then forget all about them. Ok, well maybe that’s a bit extreme. But you know the phrase “good on paper”, right? Well grading reports are great but they can’t tell you everything, especially for fancy shaped diamonds (which do not get cut grades like rounds do). So ultimately, they should be a tool in your chest but not the sole determining factor behind your diamond purchase.

You should also not completely rule out an uncertified stone. Just because a diamond hasn’t been certified doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means you need to really examine it yourself and preferably with a trained and trusted gemologist helping you out. 

If you are a GIA stickler, you’ll get the most detailed report from a round brilliant!
Getting you the best quality diamond for your budget is what makes us tick, and turning it into the perfect custom ring is what makes us thrive!

Speaking of Diamond Buying Trust

Choosing a jeweler is a big part of buying a diamond. Think of it like buying a car, except this might be the only car you’ll ever own…for the rest of your life. You probably want to buy it from someone you trust, that you can build a longstanding relationship with, and someone who will be there to help take care of you (oh, and your ring) along the way. Because jewelry needs service. Yep. Every year. And maybe you want to buy additional pieces that match, or upgrade your stone down the road. We have a Diamond Concierge service that is here to help you find the perfect gem and jewelry for your love story. With no commission, no fees, and no funny business. Just a friend. You know. In the diamond business.

Buying a Diamond Budget Basics

Once you’ve stuffed your brain full of diamond facts it’s time to get serious about some figures. And setting your budget should be one of the earliest steps in the diamond buying process. Now, before you even ask, there are no rules here. No two months of salary, no life savings, just you taking a realistic look at what you can afford. Setting your budget up front (or at least having a reasonable ballpark in your brain) will make it much easier to decide where you can compromise. 

For instance, if you know you want a halo diamond engagement ring, you’ll want to account for the cost of that in your total ring price, instead of, say, spending your whole budget on the center diamond and only being able to afford a simple solitaire. Or, if you know you want a 2 carat diamond, and nothing smaller, maybe you’re willing to go with a champagne hued stone to save some cash. If you don’t have a clear picture of your budget, these decisions will be much harder to make.

Everyone’s dream ring looks a little different, which is why you should be able to customize to your preferences with no restrictions!
radiant diamond and pear toi et moi diamond ring
Radiant cuts are quickly rising in popularity, which means they’re availability is more and more limited!

Good Rocks Take Time

We live in an age of instant gratification, for sure. And you can absolutely find ready-to-ship diamonds and engagement rings from countless retailers. But if getting it in your hand like, yesterday, is your top priority, you’ll definitely be limited in choice and maybe not able to find a diamond to perfectly suit your specifications. That’s all well and good. But if you want to really choose your diamond or have a ring custom made, you’ll want to think well in advance of when you’re planning to pop the question. If you’re searching for a super specific diamond or gemstone shape, size, or quality, then give yourself a few weeks to work with a diamond consultant on sourcing. If you’re going for a custom engagement ring, a minimum of 4-6 weeks will be needed.

Explore Diamond Alternatives

These days, buying a diamond means also considering diamond alternatives, especially if you’re on a tight budget or looking for stones with a smaller environmental impact. Lab created diamonds (which are chemically, physically, and optically the same as mined diamonds) are a popular option that can save you up to 40%, which is nothing to sneeze at. There’s also moissanite, a lab-created gem that is suitable for everyday wear, has intense sparkle, and will save you even more cash. Or go with an entirely different colored gemstone like sapphire, emerald, or morganite! 

Lab created diamonds are chemically and optically identical to natural diamonds for about 1/2 the price, so why not get bigger for your budget?
five stone bezel engagement ring buying guide
Thinking custom multi-stone for your ring? You’ll want to factor preferences for each stone into your budget!

Get in Shape

One of the biggest decisions in diamond buying is choosing the diamond shape. Sometimes this is referred to as “cut” in the industry, which can be confusing, but stick with us. Diamonds come in lots of different cuts (shapes), not just round or square. And none of them are better or worse than the others. The shape of the diamond you choose is entirely personal preference. But getting the low-down on the options, how they’re priced (rounds are significantly more expensive as they’re the most popular), and the pros and cons of each is a good starting point. If you’re not sure what you like, get our free try at home kit and compare stones shapes, stone sizes and setting features at home, with your partner.

Get Your Diamond Buying Priorities in Order

Ok this is where those 4Cs come in. Remember we said that they can act like little levers? Let us explain. Diamond pricing is based on the 4Cs (plus shape), and each of those Cs accounts for a certain percentage of price. To keep things simple, let’s say each C is 25% of the total price (it’s not, but humor us). Now, with that in mind, if you’re super set on having a flawless clarity diamond, then you’ll probably want to spend more money on that (moving the lever up) and go with, say, a lower color grade diamond (moving the lever down) to stay within your budget. All of these levers can be raised or lowered to find your own perfect balance.

And that’s why you need to decide what’s most important to you? Is it clarity? Is it having a specific size diamond (carat weight)? Is it having a super clear white diamond (colorless)? Some folks have very strong thoughts on this, so if you or your partner does have preferences, you can keep these in mind while you shop and it will help narrow your choices.

Preference is key! Want all-over sparkle with no light interference? You may want to steer clear of an oval diamond due to its’ infamous bow tie.
round diamond three stone ring diamond buying guide
Cut is important for every shape, but on paper you will only get a definitive cut grade for round brilliant diamonds!

Remember Cut is King

All that said, please do yourself a favor and remember that cut is the most important of the 4Cs when it comes to the literal visual beauty of your diamond. Why? Well, cut (more than any other factor) determines the sparkle of your diamond. But here’s where things get a bit tricky. Only round diamonds have industry standard cut grades. Yikes. Don’t worry though, most retailers have come up with parameters of cut for fancy shapes (and most retailers are pretty similar on these parameters) to help you zero in. So, regardless of any of the other 4Cs, having a well cut stone is where we recommend spending more of your budget. After all, no one wants a big dull rock on their hand, right?

It’s All About Balance. And the Buying a Diamond Buddy System.

Ultimately, buying a diamond comes down to knowing your personal preferences and diving in. When you’re ready to jump, check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds and don’t forget to zoom out (because size can be deceiving), or book an appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person. 


Not finding what you’re looking for? We love hunting down the perfect diamond for your dream ring. Email us with what you’re looking for (and a bit about your budget) at hello@frankdarling.com. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.