Want to know how much a 1 carat diamond costs?
You're in the right place! In this Learning Jewelry guide, I'll go over topics like:
- The 4 main factors of diamond cost
- How diamond shape affects cost
- Tips to save on a 1 carat diamond
Factors That Affect Diamond Cost
There's a lot of things that can affect the cost of a 1 carat diamond, and most of them fall under the 4Cs of diamond quality. It's a system that measures diamond quality based on 4 pillars: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat.
The 4Cs was established by the Gemological Institute of America in the early 1940s. Today, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the world's leading resource on all things jewelry and gemology.
#1 Diamond Cut Quality
There's a lot of info when it comes to diamond cut quality, so here's the need to know info that directly affects cost. The cut of a diamond is the singular, most important factor of all the 4Cs.
The cut quality of a diamond is the foundation of the diamond. Diamonds have 5 cut grades: Ideal/Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
Excellent cut diamonds and ideal cut diamonds are the top tier diamond cut grade. They are essentially the same quality as one another, but GIA-certified diamonds don't use the term "ideal cut."
Even though some stores brand ideal cut princess and cushion cut diamond shapes, only round cut diamonds are perfectly symmetrical and ideal.
Fancy cut diamond shapes (anything other than a round brilliant) don't have official cut grades. Some stores do separate them, usually in Very Good or Good categories. In this case, you'd follow proper proportion guidelines for that shape.
Never buy a poorly cut graded diamond, though you should have a very tough time finding one because no one sells them.
How to Save on 1 Carat Diamond Cut Cost
Diamond cut is the one thing I don't recommend cutting corners with. That should be where the heart of your wallet goes, into the cut quality of your diamond.
I will always recommend ideal or excellent cut grades for round diamonds. Still, there are some of them that cost a whole lot more money than others, with little benefits.
Branded diamonds will always cost more. Blue Nile's Astor Collection is one of them. There isn't much of a difference between those and their regular ideal cut diamonds. Both have a GIA grading report, but the Astor collections comes with a GemEx report. This report breaks down the light performance of your diamond, but doesn't increase the value and it's really not necessary. But it costs more.
The same goes for super ideal cut diamonds. They have more facets than ideal cut diamonds, but no one really notices the difference, except when they're staring at the shopping cart.
Just stay away from gimmicky diamonds like those and always pay attention to the recommended proportions for that shape. You could find yourself paying for more carat weight than you can actually see.
Read also: What you need to know about carat weight
#2 Diamond Clarity
Diamond clarity is basically how clear your diamond or gemstone is. All gemstones have what we call natural inclusions. In jewelry stores, you'll hear it fluffed up a bit as "diamond characteristics" or references to your "diamond's fingerprint".
They'll say that all diamonds have inclusions, which is true. But they say this because most jewelry stores like Jared or Kays only sell heavily included I diamond clarity engagement rings in store (and charge a lot more).
Clarity is one of the 4Cs that you can mess around with. I'll tell you a secret: you don't need to pay the price of a flawless, internally flawless, or VVS diamond to get an eye clean diamond.
Honestly, these diamond grades are really unnecessary unless you're going for rarity. There are far less diamonds in the world that are flawless, so if you have the money, go for it.
But for those of us that have lower price ranges and still want an eye clean diamond, there's a few different tips to help save you money on diamonds.
A simple one is to get a brilliant cut diamond. Diamonds are usually cut into two styles, but some are combination as well. Brilliant cut diamonds are your round diamonds, princess cut, pear, marquise, radiant, and cushion cut diamonds.
These diamonds have been designed to reflect light through a ton of tiny facets, giving off a glittering effect. Step cut diamonds like Asscher and emerald cut diamonds give off long, dramatic flashes of light.
Brilliant cut diamonds hide inclusions better than step cut diamonds. Choose brilliant cut diamond shapes if you want to save cost of buying higher clarity.
We've pulled diamond costs of a 1 carat I1, SI1, VS1, VVS1, and IF diamonds with the similar grades below to give you an idea of the price difference in 1 carat clarity grades.
#3 Diamond Color
Diamond color is another one of the 4Cs that can fluctuate when picking out a diamond. Diamonds can be completely "white" or clear, or they can have yellow tints. They can even have brownish tints.
The GIA's diamond color grades are: Colorless DEF, Near Colorless (GHIJ), and Faint Yellow (K-Z).
Faint yellow diamonds are less valuable and less appealing to most diamond buyers. This is different from Canary diamonds or fancy yellow diamonds, which are intended to be yellow. But that doesn't mean you necessarily need to pay for a colorless diamond either. Here are the price differences between different color grades.
How to Save on 1 Carat Diamond Color Cost
For most, a 1 carat diamond engagement ring is the minimum desired carat weight. The necessity for a higher color grade is most often linked to carat weight.
No matter which color grade you choose, it won't compromise the durability or integrity of a diamond. Diamond clarity is like that to an extent, but there can be potentially harmful blemishes.
So, if color grades are really up to the eye of the beholder, what are some ways we can still have a colorless diamond without having to pay the cost of a diamond graded DEF?
Smaller diamonds don't need a higher color grade because the color isn't usually all that evident unless under magnification. A 1 carat round diamond can have a color grade of JKL and still look great. But a 2 carat diamond with a JKL color grade will look more yellow.
Even though J color grades are technically near colorless, some color sensitive people like myself can easily see the faint yellow.
Shape can be a factor. A 1 carat round diamond is going to appear much smaller than a one carat emerald cut diamond. Both of these loose diamonds have a K color grade, but the emerald cut diamond looks more yellow.
If you want to save on diamond color cost, choose a diamond shape with less surface area. You should also consider what cutting style your shape is. Remember when we talked about brilliant cut diamonds and step cut diamonds? Like clarity, step cut diamonds also exhibit more color.
But keep in mind, even though round diamonds are both smaller surface area and brilliant cut, they are also the most expensive diamond shape. We'll explain why a little later.
Those short glittering flashes in brilliant cut diamond shapes reflect a ton of white light and rainbow light that the color isn't really all that noticeable amongst all the sparkly.
The last tip on cutting color cost down is to consider the ring setting you're buying. Even though diamond color grades J-Z are considered faint yellow, you can make them appear near colorless or even colorless by changing a ring setting.
Even though white gold is the most popular metal for a 1 carat diamond ring, you should consider choosing yellow gold or rose gold for your ring setting. This tip is great for those who are choosing engagement ring styles that have more shine than sparkle, or more metal than stones.
In color grades JKL, there's a faint yellow tint to pretty much all different kinds of lighting. But when you look at a yellow gold ring, it's really yellow.
When you mount a faintly tinted diamond on a yellow gold solitaire setting, the stone appears whiter. Visually, the only yellow you or anyone else is seeing is coming from the metal, not the tinted stone. The same concept applies to rose gold ring settings because of its copper tone, but it works best with yellow gold.
#4 Diamond Carat Weight
Too often, diamond carat weight is thought of as "carat size", even though it clearly states "weight" in the name. But as consumers, we're more concerned with the visual aspect, not how heavy it is.
At a jewelry store, they'll usually show you the difference in carat weights using round diamonds. This is how we get to know the general size of a 1 carat round diamond. But like we mentioned in diamond color, a 1 carat round diamond is going to look smaller than a 1 carat princess cut diamond.
Carat weight is probably the most talked about one of the 4Cs, but it's really the least important. This is why so many skip the other Cs and go for the large one. But the more you go up in diamond carat weight, the better your clarity and color grades will need to be. You can pretty much guarantee that a higher carat weight will increase your diamond price faster than any of the others.
See, it's a lot easier for gem cutters to cut smaller diamond carat weights because they don't need a lot of eye-clean rough. As you go up in carat weight, it's a lot harder to find and cut an eye-clean piece of rough. That's why 2 half carat loose diamonds won't equal out to the cost of a 1 carat diamond. Much harder to find a bigger piece with less inclusions.
Another big misconception is the difference between center stone carat weight and total diamond weight. If you have a solitaire engagement ring with no other stones, obviously your total weight is going to be the same as your center diamond.
But for a ring that is advertised as 1 carat TDW and has other stones, it doesn't necessarily mean the center stone is a 1 carat diamond. It means the center stone plus all the other melee stones adds up to 1 carat. These two engagement rings are classified as 1 carat TDW but the center stone on the second ring is actually a half carat. Pay attention to diamond specifics to avoid these traps.
How to Save Cost on a 1 Carat Diamond
Since we know we want a 1 carat diamond, we won't try any tricks by making a lower carat weight appear to be as large as a 1 carat diamond. For some, a 1 carat round diamond looks small, but sometimes the buyer can only afford the cost of an eye clean 1 carat diamond.
If you want a 1 carat diamond to appear larger, there are a couple different ways. Consider your ring setting. Halo settings add a ring of melee diamonds set close together around your center stone.
In a halo, the stones are set closely together with minimal metal. To someone who has never had your hand in their face, it can look bigger to those further away.
Some ring settings have what we call illusion plates. You'll find this in a lot of fine jewelry from Kay's and Zales. Essentially, a ring of metal is put around a smaller diamond to give off the illusion of a larger diamond.
Personally, I don't care for illusion plates because I rarely ever see them done well. When done well, it looks great. But, it's a matter of opinion. I definitely recommend either seeing it in person or buying from someone with a great return policy just in case you feel the same way.
If you go to Zales' Build A Ring online, you get to choose from set carat weights. That's how those retailers get you. What they don't tell you is that by choosing your exact carat weight, you can save yourself a couple hundred. But you can't do that if they choose the weight.
If you don't know diamonds, you might only be familiar with carat weight in fractions. But carat weight is also measured in carat points. 100 carat points is the same as 1 carat diamond.
It might also surprised you to know that when you buy a diamond from bigger retailers that's labeled as a 1 carat diamond, it might not be the full 100 carat points, or it could be over.
In jewelry, a 1 carat diamond can be .93-1.07 carat points. And there's a price difference.
Buying a 1 carat labeled diamond is more expensive than a diamond that weighs .93. But when set down side by side, there is virtually no visual difference. The points extra points could be in the bottom part, where you don't even see.
This little tip doesn't work as well when you get into higher carat weights like 2+ because there are less too choose from and work with, so keep that in mind.
Read also: 51 Ways to save on buying diamonds
Outside of the 4Cs, there's a couple factors that help impact the price of a one carat diamond. These won't account for large portions of the cost, but could save you a couple hundred.
We talked a little about how round diamond shapes are the most expensive of the diamond shapes, even though they appear smaller than other 1 carat shapes like emerald cuts, cushion cuts, or radiant cuts. The reason why is because when gem cutters are cutting a round diamond, a lot of the diamond rough is cut away and wasted. In other shapes, sometimes less diamond rough is discarded.
For instance, a 1 carat princess cut diamond retains 80% of the rough when being cut, while a round brilliant diamond will only retain 60%. When more rough is wasted, the diamond price goes up.
When we talk about diamond fluorescence, we're getting into the nitty gritty of diamond specifics, alongside polish, symmetry, and length to width ratio. Basically, fluorescence is how much your diamond glows under UV light. The grading for diamond fluorescence goes from None, Faint, Strong, Very Strong. If you have a diamond that has strong fluorescence, you might notice blue light. It won't glow blue in the sun or anything, but it's more like when you see cars with the bluish white headlights.
This diamond below from James Allen has a Very Strong fluorescence:
Like said in the video, fluorescence doesn't damage your diamond, just merely control the color of the stone when UV or black light hits it. However, diamonds are valued higher with pure white light, not blue.
So, it's more likely that diamonds with no fluorescence will be slightly more expensive than one with a strong grading. So if you don't mind the look, you're in luck because it could be slightly cheaper.
Diamond Grading Report
The last contributing factor I want to mention is grading reports, also known as diamond certification. You can get many different diamond certifications in the diamond industry, but we only recommend buying from two different labs. The labs we recommend are both GIA and AGS certification. You'll find popular retail chain jewelers selling diamonds with IGI or GSI certifications. While these diamonds are commonly sold, they can have looser guidelines.
It's possible to take an IGI or GSI certified diamond to be graded by the GIA or AGS and have the diamond grades come out differently than what you paid for. Grading labs like IGI and GSI have a lower tier of grading than the GIA or AGS. With grading reports from these labs, you can ensure you have a high quality diamond in every circle.
That being said, because these labs are the best, they're going to have a higher price tag. I don't recommend buying a GIA certified diamond ring from Jared or Kays, as they'll charge almost double what you'd pay for a GIA diamond from an online retailer like James Allen.
Bottom Line: How Much Does a 1 Carat Diamond Cost?
Diamond pricing is a bit fickle, I'm afraid. As you can see, there are many factors that make up the cost of a 1 carat diamond, and most of it has little to do with the carat weight itself. The price of a diamond depends most heavily on the 4Cs.
There are smaller contributing factors that account for some of the cost such as the shape of the diamond, whether or not its certified, and diamond specific details like fluorescence or length to width ratio.
The good news is, you don't need to buy top quality of each of these pillars, and there are many ways to compare and contrast different clarity and color grades to help you save when when picking out the perfect diamond. .
Now, that being said, I'm going to leave you with one last tip when saving the cost of a 1 carat diamond. If you want to save 40% or more when buying a 1 carat diamond, you should consider buying a lab grown diamond, also known as synthetic diamonds.
There are real diamonds, just formed in a lab instead of years in the ground. Synthetic diamonds are 100% real diamonds in every way. However, they have no trade in value because prices are continuously dropping with lab diamonds.
But if you're not interested in selling, it's an excellent way to save money and still have a gorgeous diamond at half the cost of a mined diamond with the same grades.