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Buying diamonds is an exciting milestone, but can be overwhelming, but with knowledge and guidance, you can get the perfect piece that fits your budget. This guide will walk you through the diamond buying process, from understanding the language, the cut of diamonds available, to knowing the difference between lab grown and earth grown diamonds.
Carat (often abbreviated as 'ct') refers to the weight of a diamond and not its actual size. The larger the carat weight, the greater the diamond's value. Note, however, that two diamonds of the same carat weight can vastly differ in price due to the quality of their cut, colour and clarity.
What is a carat?
One carat is equal to a fifth of a gram. A carat is divided into 100 points so a 50 point diamond is the same as a 0.50 carat diamond, which is the same as a half carat diamond.
Does size matter?
Don't confuse carat weight with visual size. A deep stone can have a smaller spread but still weigh 0.50 carat. The shallow, wide diamond will appear larger to the eye than the deeper stone. Similarly, some diamond shapes maximise carat weight: elongated diamond shapes, such as the emerald cut, tend to appear larger than round diamonds of the equivalent carat weight and quality of cut. And some jewellery settings enhance the diamond giving it the illusion of being larger than it is.
What does total carat weight mean?
The carat weight stated for a piece of diamond jewellery with multiple stones is the total weight of all the diamonds in it. For example, in a pair of 0.25 carat diamond solitaire earrings, the two stones have a combined weight of 0.25 carat. If a diamond engagement ring has one central diamond surrounded by smaller stones, the carat weight quoted takes into account the entire collection of diamonds.
What carat weights are available?
Diamonds are often cut to popular standard diamond weights. In the UK, these are typically 0.25 carat (quarter carat), 0.33 carat (third carat), 0.50 carat (half carat), and 1.00 carat (one carat). Diamonds can be cut to just under these weights, such as 0.23 carat or 0.49 carat, if the cutter feels that this will maximise the rough stone's beauty. At Fraser Hart we state the minimum carat weight of a diamond ring or a piece of jewellery so that you know you'll be buying a diamond of at least this weight.
Colour actually refers to the degree to which a diamond is colourless. Diamonds are graded based on their color using a scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). The color of a diamond can significantly affect its value and appearance. Here's a brief overview of diamond color grades:
The cut of a diamond refers to how well the stone has been cut and shaped, including its proportions, symmetry, and polish. A well-cut diamond will reflect and refract light in a way that maximizes its brilliance, fire, and sparkle.
Here are the key elements that are evaluated when assessing a diamond's cut:
Clarity refers to the presence of tiny natural imperfections that occur in most diamonds. These imperfections are known as inclusions. The fewer and smaller the inclusions, the greater the clarity.
What are inclusions?
Inclusions are most commonly crystals of a foreign material or another diamond, pockets of air or structural cracks that formed within or on the outside of the diamond while it was beneath the earth’s surface. There are various types of inclusions, such as feathers, clouds, knots, needles or crystals. Inclusions are affectionately known as nature’s fingerprints or birthmarks, as these marks make each diamond unique. While most aren’t visible to the naked eye, inclusions and blemishes can affect the flow of light through a diamond, diminishing its brilliance.
How is clarity graded?
Clarity is determined by the size, number, location, orientation, nature and overall visibility of the inclusions. When gemologists inspect diamonds for clarity, they use a single lens 10x magnifying glass (a loupe), and judge the visibility of inclusions from the top of the diamond. At Fraser Hart we use the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) scale of clarity.
At Fraser Hart we only state clarity grade on our certificated diamonds.
Diamond shape is all-important when you're buying a piece of diamond jewellery and even more so when it comes to buying a diamond engagement ring in which the sparkling gem takes centre stage. Every diamond shape has its own story and you should choose the shape that’s right for you and your story. Shape refers to the outline of the gem when viewed from above. All diamond shapes that are not round brilliant are known as fancy shapes. Fancy diamond shapes were developed to make the most of rough diamonds that didn't suit the classic round brilliant diamond.
As the most traditional and popular diamond shape, the round brilliant accounts for almost half of diamonds bought today. The round brilliant diamond is cut to a round at the top and a cone at its bottom. Of all the diamond shapes available, it yields maximum return of light and therefore the most brilliance.
A princess cut diamond is a type of diamond cut that is square or rectangular in shape and has pointed corners. It is a relatively modern diamond cut, first created in the 1960s. The princess cut diamond has become one of the most popular diamond cuts for engagement rings and other jewellery.
An emerald cut diamond is a type of diamond cut that is characterised by it's rectangular or square shape with truncated corners. This cut is named after the emerald gemstone, as it was originally used for emeralds, but it is now commonly used for diamonds as well.
Like the round brilliant cut, the oval diamond usually has 58 facets in a symmetrical cut that maximises the stone's brilliance. An oval diamond is therefore a fabulous choice if you want all the sparkle of the round brilliant diamond in a more unusual style.
Also known as teardrop, the pear diamond has a brilliant cut which optimises light reflection, and combines the shape of an oval and marquise diamond. Made famous by Elizabeth Taylor, the pear is a popular shape for diamond pendants and diamond earrings.
This diamond cut that is characterised by its unique boat-like shape, with pointed ends and a curved body. It is also sometimes called a navette cut, which means "little boat" in French. This diamond was named after the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.
Radiant diamonds can be square or rectangular, and are distinguishable by cropped corners and 70 facets. They combine the brilliance of the round brilliant diamond and the depth of the emerald cut and princess cut diamond.
A cushion diamond is a type of diamond cut that is known for its square or rectangular shape with rounded corners, similar to a pillow or cushion. This cut is also sometimes referred to as a pillow cut.
The heart shaped diamond is pear shaped with a cleft cut into its top. Relatively unusual, it is a complex cut with 56 to 58 facets and demands a great amount of skill to ensure maximum brilliance.
At Fraser Hart we choose the settings for our diamonds to maximise each stone's beauty while ensuring it stays securely in place. With an array of diamond settings available, here's a quick guide to some of our favourites.
A classic setting for diamonds, also known as a prong setting, claw settings allow light to enter the stone, showcasing it to its breathtaking best. Four claw settings offer a contemporary look, while six and eight claw settings are more traditional. Larger diamonds, however, may require a six or eight claw setting in order to be held securely. Suitable for most diamond shapes, claw settings are particularly popular for round brilliant solitaires, creating diamond engagement ring and jewellery with timeless appeal. A channel setting allows for multiple diamonds to be set closely together within a "channel" of precious metal, creating a seemingly continuous glistening row. Suitable mainly for round brilliant, emerald cut, princess cut and baguette diamonds, a channel setting is a popular way of setting diamonds into a ring's shoulders and also makes for beautifully scintillating diamond eternity rings and wedding rings.
Also known as a bezel setting, the rubover setting uses a collar of precious metal which wraps over the edge of the diamond. An extremely secure setting that also protects the diamond, a bezel setting can create a bold, modern look in diamond jewellery.
Named for the French for paved, in pavé settings multiple small diamonds are set closely together and close to the surface of jewellery to create an unbroken expanse of shine and brilliance. The jewellery uses small metal beads to set the diamonds with the aim of showing as little of the metal as possible for a true diamond-encrusted look. Most suitable for round brilliant diamonds and particularly popular in diamond dress rings and pendants, a pavé setting often results in jewellery with a vintage feel.
In tension settings, the diamond is held in place by the pressure of the metal so that the stone appears to gracefully float. Requiring a thicker band than for other diamond settings, the metal is spring-loaded to exert pressure on the diamond while teeny grooves create a shelf on which it rests. Creating a striking look, a tension setting allows the maximum light to pass through the stone and offers a stunning backdrop for diamond rings and jewellery.
Choosing between a lab grown diamond and a mined diamond is a personal decision that depends on your values, preferences, and budget. Some factors to take into consideration are price, rarity and certification. To find out all about lab grown diamonds read our full guide.
At Fraser Hart we're passionate about diamonds, and every piece of diamond jewellery we offer has been selected with love and care. We understand that diamond jewellery is a significant purchase - emotionally and financially. Buying a diamond should be a magical, truly special experience and that's exactly what we want you to have.