Tips and Tricks

Cheap Diamonds: Good or Bad? | Rare Carat

Cheap diamonds aren't always the best choice

Back in my single days, I did my fair share of internet dating. When setting up my first profile, I was prompted to pop in some essential criteria for weeding out my future husband. Seemed suspiciously straightforward to me. Sometimes a list of criteria that seems like it can help find what you are looking for, might not always bring up the best option for you.

Me with actual husband

Me with Actual Husband I found Online

Let’s apply this little lesson to your diamond search.

So, you’ve read every educational article on diamonds ever written. You’ve stalked Pinterest. You’ve asked your cousin Kelly what type of ring she got, so that you can avoid it. You want a 1 carat J color SI1 round diamond with a triple excellent cut from GIA. Great!

You pop in those details into the magic Rare Carat search engine and you get 176 results back. “Oh, look at those cheap ones at the top of the list!” you innocently cry.

Cheap diamonds - why not?

You know when you find a designer sweater on the end-of-sale rack and it looks too good to be true, but you try it on anyway only to find pen marks on the cuff and the seam is pulling apart on the collar? Yeah, that sweater was on that rack for a reason.

Same rules apply with some of the cheapest diamonds in any given category in your online search. Some things are just too good to be true - if you have found a J SI1 for $1,500, chances are it’s a dud.

This can be a tough one to wrap your head around and it’s understandable. You may be looking at two diamonds that seem exactly the same in terms of their criteria. Both 1 carat J color SI1’s. Both triple excellent GIA graded. But one is $3,500 and the other is $4,500. It seems like a no-brainer to go for the least expensive diamond as it’s probably going to look exactly the same, right?

The cheaper diamond in this case might have bad angles (poor depth or a bad crown angle for instance), which will make the diamond look smaller and even rather dull. That $4,500 stone though, well that’s probably gonna have some better angle.

Why's this diamond less expensive?

Of course, there are lots of other reasons why the diamond is less expensive. There might be a nasty inclusion somewhere that is not super obvious on the certificate attached to the stone. What's worse, is that these particular inclusions might really affect the integrity of the diamond itself.

For instance, there could be nasty little cavities or feathers that could cause a crack or a chip further down the line.

And it's not just inclusions that might be the cause of that suspiciously cheap diamond. It might have very strong fluorescence (which isn’t always bad, see here for more). It might be that the ‘tone’ or ‘hue’ of the diamond is brownish rather than yellowish (see here for more on color undertones).

The bottom line here folks, is that you should never blindly choose the cheapest diamond in the list. There’s a reason it’s the cheapest, and that reason won’t always be easy to spot. In fact, never choose to buy any diamond based solely on the initial information provided in the description of the stone.

Avoiding a diamond dud

So, you’ve heeded my warning, excellent. You are a wise soul. Here are some tips that will help you weed out the Bobs bad quality stones.

1. Don’t Get Pigeon-Holed: You think you want a 1ct J SI2? Instead of picking the cheapest out of that bunch, why not have a sneak peek at the top ranking 1ct K SI1 diamonds instead? You might surprise yourself and find a 1.15ct K SI1 that is far better value for that hard-earned cash.

2. Don’t Think All Diamond Grades Are Created Equal: It’s not all apples ‘n apples here people. Five diamond certificates with identical graded will not mean that IRL the five diamonds will look identical. Move beyond the diamond grading certificate and take a look at some magnified photos and videos of the stone itself. Don’t be afraid to ask the retailer! Let’s face it, they want your money. Let’s them work for it.

3. Don’t Get Too Hung Up on Proportions – People can get really, really hung up on proportions. Yes, we want you to buy a diamond that’s not too cut too deep, not too shallow. But there are so many tiny little nuanced extras that come into play when it comes to identifying a great stone, that people can sometimes get stuck with a diamond that is sub-par because they were fixated on certain dimensions. Don’t pick a diamond based solely on the numbers, as you might end up being sorry. See pictures. See videos. Get to know the stone.

  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More Details: I spent a lot of time getting to know Husband above before I decided I wanted to look at him for the rest of my life. I did the same with my diamond. So, I suggest you learn as much as you can about the diamond you are thinking about buying. Filter your search to only include diamonds that come with pictures and/or videos.

If you found a stone you really like but it doesn’t have magnified pictures/videos, ask for them. If a retailer is reluctant to show you real life close-ups, then get to jog along quick time as some suspicious stuff is going down.

5. Ask Us! Not to toot our own horn here (#toot), but our in-house gemology team is pretty outstanding. Did you know that if you have narrowed your search down to a few diamonds, they can help you decide which one is the best deal? And the best thing about our team is that we really, really, don’t care which one of our retailers you buy from. Nope. Not even a little bit. Even if it’s from your local jeweler. All we care about is that you pick the diamond that is right for you in every way. So don’t be shy, ask us our opinion on a diamond!

Dr. Rian Mulcahy
Dr. Rian Mulcahy
Rian is officially a Diamond PhD - just ping us if you’d like to read her fascinating 200-page thesis, titled Facets of Value: An Investigation into the Formation of Worth in the Diamond Market. She has consulted various firms all along the pipeline, from the rough diamond market to the recycled diamond industry. She holds an MA in Globalisation and Development from University College Cork and a PhD in the Sociology of Diamond Valuation from the London School of Economics.