A Guide to Diamond Ratings and Quality

Buying a diamond ring can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn, and if you've never made a purchase this big before, here are five factors to keep in mind.

By Anni Irish

A Guide to Diamond Ratings and Quality
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Doing your research on diamonds and working with a reputable jeweler are really important.
  • As you shop for your diamond, try to have a budget, remember to ask questions, and try to be flexible and not rush the decision.
  • This is a piece of jewelry you will have forever, so making the right decision for you and your partner matters.

Diamonds are forever and when it comes to picking the exact one you want for your ring there are factors to keep in mind. It's not just about the cut—it's about the carats (how big it is), as well as the diamond quality, and also larger considerations as to how it was mined.

According to the Gemology Institute of America, when you’re in the market for a diamond, there are four things you should prioritize: cut, color grade, clarity grade, and carat weight. This can help you better understand the quality of the diamond you're after and give you more insight into the value and price of this big-ticket item. It's also important to find a professional jeweler that can provide you with the correct information, so you can make sure your ring is authentic.

Here are five tips to help with your big purchase, so you can find the exact gem you're after.

History of Engagement Rings

A Guide to Diamond Ratings and Quality Photo Credit // Shutterstock

Rings as a sign of commitment have been used for centuries. The earliest rings can be traced back to the Romans, who historically used a piece of twisted copper or braided hair.

Rings back then weren't only just used as a symbol of marriage but were also used as a token of friendship and more. However, the history of the engagement ring first emerged in 1215 with Pope Innocent III. He declared a waiting period between asking for someone's hand in marriage and the actual ceremony, and the ring was used as a way to signify this. It was also a status symbol because only people of the upper class would have rings with precious stones or had a fancy design were allowed to wear them.

Still, the first historical documentation of an engagement ring wasn’t until 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed marriage to Mary of Burgundy and presented her with one. From there, the engagement ring has become a very common thing across the world.

Have a Budget in Mind and Be Flexible

When you’re looking at buying a diamond ring, sticker shock is common. Research costs ahead of time, so you know what to expect. Once you have an idea of the current market rate, you can determine your budget.

To ensure you don’t blow your budget, try to be flexible. Maybe you decide on smaller carat size, so you can get a better quality diamond overall. Don't compromise the size for quality. Remember the old phrase substance over style? That’s a good rule of thumb when searching for your perfect ring. Also remember: If something seems too good to be true, odds are it is. If a large diamond is priced lower than the rest, there is a reason—be sure to do your due diligence.

Work With a Reputable Jeweler

Choose your jeweler carefully. You should put just as much time and care into finding the right distributor as you do the right doctor. You want to make sure they are licensed and reputable and also that you are getting the best quality at a fair price. Try to get recommendations from friends and family who have a preexisting relationship with a jeweler.

And always remember to look at the diamond in person before you buy it. It's important to see what you’re buying. Make sure you also see it under at least 10x magnification from different angles, so you can also see what the jeweler sees. Also ask to see the diamond grading report, because it is filled with important information you can use to make your decision.

Find a Style That Matches Your Personality

A Guide to Diamond Ratings and Quality Photo Credit // Felicia Marti Photography

The style of the band, the color of the setting (gold, silver, rose gold, etc), and the overall design are what makes a diamond ring special. It’s important to have a special design that matches you and your partner's aesthetic.

Perhaps you want something simple and understated showcasing just one diamond? Or maybe you want a diamond-encrusted band with a bigger gem in the middle? Whatever you choose, you want to love it. It’s a piece of jewelry you will wear every day for the rest of your life.

The 4 Cs


Diamonds can be made into any kind of shape (pear, oval, heart, round, etc), and when a person refers to a diamond’s cut, this is the first thing that comes to mind. However, when your jeweler is talking about cut, they mean something a little different. In the jewelry industry, the cut refers to how well the diamond's features interact with the light. The proportions of the different parts of the diamond and the diamond shape also affect its cut and factor into how it’s graded.

Diamond Color

While it may seem a little counterproductive, when talking about a diamond’s color, you are referring to its lack of color. The less color present, the more valuable it. While you may not be able to spot the difference, a trained professional jeweler and or/gemologist can help you find the best diamond. There are sometimes subtle things you may not notice about the stone that a jeweler can point out. It's also important to note that these flaws in the diamond will affect the price.

Diamond Clarity

When someone is discussing diamond clarity, they are usually discussing measuring the amount, size, and placement of internal inclusions and external blemishes. These are the kinds of faults that can run the price of a diamond up or down. Like human skin, diamonds have their unique exterior, resulting in a variety of blemishes or external characteristics. As a result, they can sometimes have a hazy appearance, lines leftover from polishing the stone (polishing lines), or even something called lizard skin (a bumpy area on your polished diamond). There are a variety of diamond exteriors you may encounter, so here is a link to the kinds you may come across.

When it comes to inclusions these are just the overall internal imperfections a diamond may have. Diamonds that have the fewest inclusions and blemishes are given the highest grades, resulting in higher prices.

Carat Weight

Carat weight is the unit of mass that’s used to measure gemstones and pearls. Today, it’s the standardized way to measure any gemstone around the world—including diamonds. Generally speaking, the higher the weight, the higher the market price for the diamond.

Cut Is Everything

When you’re looking at the diamond overall, the cut is the most important aspect of the four Cs. If a diamond is cut well, other visible things, like the color and clarity, won't be as much of a factor. And if a stone is cut well, it can also make the diamond look bigger.

Consider Where It’s Being Mined

Some diamonds are mined from all over the world. However, sometimes they are not cultivated most ethically. Research where you’re buying your diamond from, and be sure to ask questions if you have any concerns. Another option is a lab-grown diamond. This can help limit any potential moral dilemma and can also give you more control over what kind of diamond you’re purchasing.

Picking out a diamond ring is a big deal. It’s a piece of jewelry that will last a lifetime, so it’s important to make the right decision for you. Try to be flexible, think about what you want in a ring, and don't break the bank in the process.

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