The nature of an engagement ring and diamond purchase is that of an experience that most people have little experience in because it's their first time doing it. The question that frequently arises is the selection of an appropriate sized center stone for their engagement ring. We’d like to share some practical advice in choosing the Carat weight of their diamond.
Start with a Budget
We always recommend that potential clients start their engagement ring search by setting a maximum budget for their project.
Carat contributes the most to the value of a diamond, more so than the other Four Cs such as Color, Clarity or Cut. A maximum budget will typically dictate the general Carat weight that can be reasonably accommodated within a set budget. The challenge for the shopper then becomes the balancing of the Carat of a stone (along with a reasonable Color and Clarity) within a budget. The correlation between Carat and value can be exemplified with a 2ct diamond which can be four times the cost of a 1ct. This exponential increase is driven by the rarity and limited supply of larger stones. Even an increase of a quarter of a carat can contribute multiples of thousands of dollars to the value of a diamond.
We further recommend that purchasers prioritize two of the other Four Cs, Color and Clarity in the order of importance to them but to never compromise on the most important C; Cut. Our philosophy is to never compromise in Cut or the craftsmanship of a diamond. The Cut of a stone is what produces the dazzling brilliance and fire that diamonds are known for. A diamond that is lower in Color can be just as brilliant as a colorless stone and an eye clean VS2 gem can also perform equally as well as one having the highest Flawless Clarity. This philosophy of uncompromising craftsmanship is borne out with our Signature Cut Diamonds such as the Canera Ideal Hearts - Super Ideal Hearts & Arrows Diamond, the Canera Antique Cushion and Canera European Round diamonds that are ideally paired with our Hand Forged Jewelry.
Focusing on diameter rather than strictly Carat can also be an excellent strategy that can allow a shopper to accommodate a particular diameter to their budget. At times, going slightly below the major diameter thresholds such as 7.8mm instead of the 8.0mm of a typical 2ct Round Brilliant diamond can net large savings to the purchaser with only a minimal loss of diameter between the two stones. It’s important to not get stuck on points of a carat such as 1.25 vs 1.30ct because there might be no diameter difference between these two stones or one that would not be discernible to the naked eye.
The Finger Size Counts
A critical aspect when choosing a center stone size is the finger size of the wearer of the stone. This is important because of the sense of “scale” that comes into play with different finger sizes. A 1ct Round Brilliant diamond set in a solitaire engagement ring, for example, will have more “finger coverage” on a delicate size 3 finger but cover less of the finger on a size 9. Taking into account the wearer’s finger size in a center stone purchase (with the intended setting) will result in an engagement ring that is proportionate in size for the wearer.
The Setting and its Role
An equally important aspect to consider when choosing the size of a center stone is the setting that the diamond is intended for. Halos for example, typically cause a diamond to appear larger by adding a “frame” of pave set diamonds around the center stone. Clients wanting a halo may choose to shift their budget more towards Color or Clarity by selecting a slightly lower Carat with a higher Color and\or Clarity. On the other hand, ring designs such as solitaire or trilogy engagement rings add no additional diameter to a center stone and a purchaser may want to maximize Carat weight and spread that would produce an engagement ring with more “presence” and proportionality.
Proportionality also comes into play in other parts of a ring such as with pave set prongs in solitaire designs. Craftsmen are limited as to how thin they can make prongs once those prongs are to be set with melee diamonds. Pave set prongs can look beautiful when paired with 1.7ct and larger round diamond yet seem conspicuous with a smaller 1ct stone, appearing to have too much “prongs” for the diamond. We typically recommend thinner, claw prongs for diamonds that are 1.4 carat and below.
Creative and unique ring profiles such as with filigree or ajour can also be difficult to implement with smaller center stones. This difficulty is due to the amount of “canvas space” available to a craftsman when creating a ring. A larger center stone will have a larger ring profile with the needed “canvas space” for a designer to work in that creative profile design. With a smaller center stone, the same profile might be impossible to implement or may appear to be “cramped”. Engagement rings with unique profiles usually aren’t for the budget conscious shopper not because they’re costly in and of themselves but because visually look best with large diamonds that provide the needed spacing to implement them into a ring design.
In some instances, Color can become a less pressing concern allowing the budget to be shifted more towards Carat and\or Clarity. Lower colored diamonds can more safely be paired in ring designs that are crafted in yellow or rose gold as opposed to white metals such as platinum or white gold. The long held logic is that the yellow or pinkish color of these metals will be imbued into the Color of the center diamond. This logic though, is less applicable to diamonds having Ideal Light performance with minimal light leakage. Ideal Light performing diamonds source light mainly from the top of a stone, 45° - 75° hemispheres (ASET Red) and not from underneath or the sides of a stone therefore the color of the metal will mix less into the body color of the diamond.
Cultural or Societal Considerations
Cultural or societal factors can also come into to play and lead to a choice of a specific carat weight of a center diamond. Some European and Asian cultures highly prize a smaller, high Color and Clarity diamond as opposed to strictly a large stone. Consumers from these societies typically prioritize Color and Clarity above Carat and choose colorless diamonds in the D-F Color ranges and VS1 and higher clarities.
Some purchasers may choose to investigate the size diamond worn by their partner’s friends or family and factor this observation into the selection of a center stone. For some, wearing a diamond that is substantially larger or smaller than that worn by their friends or family might be a cause of concern.
Summing it all up
At the end of the day, there is no absolute right or wrong answer in the size diamond you choose. It's ok to want a 1ct E-VVS1 quality diamond as opposed to a 1.5ct I-Si1 stone. Both stones can be beautiful and impressive for their own traits and characteristics. It's important for the shopper to tailor the diamond's carat weight to their preferences, their budget and ultimately what they consider to be beautiful.