What size diamond should I look for in an engagement ring?

This guide will help you understand the following: Understanding the 4 diamond C’s (cut, clarity, color, carat); The average cost of an engagement ring; Whether size matters when it comes to diamonds; Where to buy an engagement ring.

Are you thinking of proposing but don’t know the first thing about diamonds?

That’s alright because plenty of people have been in the same shoes as you. When it comes to buying an engagement ring, there is no right or wrong but when you walk into a jewellery shop you might be overwhelmed by the options.

Buying an engagement ring can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be – although don’t forget that your partner is likely to show it off to everyone they know – no pressure! Don’t be alarmed though, as this article will teach you everything you need to know about choosing the right size diamond for an engagement ring.

This guide will help you understand the following:

  • Understanding the 4 diamond C’s (cut, clarity, color, carat)
  • The average cost of an engagement ring
  • Whether size matters when it comes to diamonds
  • Where to buy an engagement ring

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An oval diamond engagement ring from the Holdsworth Bros. Jewellers collection.

Understanding the 4 diamond C’s

Before you go browsing for engagement rings, you need to understand the different diamond quality measurements. You may have heard these words before when referring to diamonds: cut, clarity, color and carat of a diamond but you might not know what that refers to. Below we’ll give you a brief outline of what each one means.

#1: Cut

Most jewellers will tell you not to be stingy on cut and that’s because a well-cut diamond is what makes it sparkle. Cut refers to the angles and proportions of the stone, not the shape. While the other C’s are determined by nature, the jeweller decides the diamond’s cut.

The better the cut of a diamond, the larger it will look to the naked eye because of the additional brilliance and fire. Remember Doc from Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs cutting those nice, shiny diamonds? That’s why you want to opt for the best cut you can afford.

#2: Clarity

Clarity refers to the clearness or the purity of a diamond, meaning the fewer imperfections a diamond has, the more expensive it is. You may hear a jeweller discuss the diamond’s ‘inclusions’. These refer to other minerals or small deviations in the crystal of the diamond, so the fewer inclusions the better. It used to be the case that Si2 diamonds were considered ‘eye clean’, but the scale has slackened a little and so now we recommend SI1 clarity diamonds.

In this grade inclusions are so small that they are rarely seen by the naked eye. Avoid buying diamonds with inclusions visible from the top or the middle as this can impact the light dispersion, making it less brilliant.

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A well-cut diamond engagement ring from the Holdsworth Bros. Jewellers collection.

#3: Color

It may come as a surprise to some that diamonds come in a variety of colors. Colorless diamonds are prized for their icy white look and so are the most valuable (other than high quality fancy coloured diamonds). Diamond color runs on a rating system with D, E, and F being the best. The system runs all the way to Z (light yellow). Some people may prefer those fancy coloured diamonds though, so it comes down to personal preference.

#4: Carat

Contrary to popular belief, carat isn’t the size of the diamond but the measurement of weight. People often think this is the most important part of choosing a diamond, and while the carat shouldn’t be discounted, a good jeweller will find you the biggest diamond possible in your budget given your preference for colour and clarity.

The average cost of an engagement ring

So now you know the language of diamonds, but what about the cost? Proposing to a woman with a diamond engagement ring is a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, just before World War II broke out, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds, however, by the end of the 20th century that had increased to 80%.

There were adverts on television during the 1930s that suggested one month of a man’s salary should be spent on an engagement ring. Then in the 1980s it jumped to two months’ salary in the US. In Japan, it was as high as three months, so the demand in diamonds skyrocketed.

Nowadays, those rules have mostly gone out the window. Of course there are always celebrity engagements that make the news showing the bride-to-be sporting an enormous rock on her finger, but it really comes down to budget and how much your partner cares about the engagement ring.

A survey from a Birmingham-based jeweller found that the average spend on an engagement ring was USD $2,200. That’s less than the average monthly UK salary. In Australia, the average spend of an engagement ring has increased from AUD $2579 in 2009 to AUD $5297 in 2019, so the cost can vary depending on your income and where you live.

The most important question you should ask yourself before buying an engagement ring is – ‘will my partner like it?’

Does size matter in an engagement ring?

Remember when we talked about the four diamond C’s? It doesn’t all come down to size. If you only have a small budget, then there are lots of ways your jeweller can incorporate beautiful design to make that rock dazzle. Importantly and regardless of the diamond weight make sure you buy a well-cut diamond.

Are there ways to make a diamond appear larger?

Yes, there are many ways you can make a diamond appear bigger in size. The human eye loves diamonds because of the myriad of brightness and fire that diamonds create. Grouping smaller diamonds together to give the impression of a larger diamond works really well.

For example, you might consider getting a halo setting. The halo encircles the center stone (imagine smaller diamonds around a much bigger center diamond). Although the halo creates more sparkle, it draws the eye to the center stone.

A one-carat diamond is certainly huge when its worn in a ring on the finger, but if your budget won’t allow a one carat then don’t sacrifice quality, look for a smaller high quality diamond in a halo setting – you’ll find they look quite similar.

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A pear-shaped halo engagement ring from the Holdsworth Bros. Jewellers collection.

Another way of making your engagement ring look bigger is by choosing an oval cut diamond. For the same weight an oval cut diamond will have a larger top side surface area than a round, so it appears a lot larger than it is – about 10% bigger. For people on a tight budget, an oval cut diamond engagement ring is a great way to get more bang for your buck!

Your partner’s personality and style

Some people don’t enjoy showing off or might be embarrassed by a huge rock on their hand. For someone who is understated and quiet, a smaller ring might be more appropriate. On the other hand (no pun intended), if your partner is someone who would enjoy showing off what you bought them then you might need to spend more or be clever with the design to get something that’s more to their liking.

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Choosing the right diamond engagement ring depends on your partner’s personality and style.

Where to buy an engagement ring

Check out some local, family jewellers in your area to get an idea of what they offer and the price. Many jewellers offer custom-made engagement rings if you’re looking for something even more special for your loved one.

There are also many retailers that you can buy diamond engagement rings from online but going to see some in person first is recommended. Pictures will never tell you exactly what magic a diamond does to the eye.

About the author

Chris Holdsworth is a member of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers and has diplomas in Gemmology and Diamond Technology. His family started Holdsworth Bros. Jewellers in 1884 and Chris now runs the business with his brother Tim.

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