What is Carat?
When shopping for a diamond, there are four things that you need to
understand in order to judge whether the price you are being offered is
commensurate to the quality of a stone; these are carat, cut, color,
and clarity, also commonly referred to as the four Cs.
Let’s begin by discussing carat, which tends to be misunderstood as
being interchangeable with diamond size. This misunderstanding is not
that farfetched, since the size of a diamond is usually the first
things that you notice about it before anything else. Precious gems
like diamonds, however, are actually sold by weight, and not by size.
Diamond weight is measured by a unit called “carat” (not to be
confused with the similar-sounding term karat which refers to the
purity of gold). One carat (ct.) is equal to 200 milligrams, or 0.2
grams; which means that if you purchase a 1-carat stone, your diamond
weighs exactly 200 mg. A carat is also equivalent to 100 points, just
like one dollar is equal to 100 cents. If you have a diamond that
weighs 100 mg, you refer to it as a half-carat stone, or a 50-point
stone. You may also see it described as ‘0.5 ct.’
Carat and diamond prices
All else held equal,the larger the carat weight, the more expensive
the stone will be. A .25 ct. diamond will be cheaper than a .40 ct.
one. But here is where it gets trickier: the price of a 1 ct. stone
will be much higher than the combined prices of two 0.5 ct. diamonds.
Fairly large chunks of raw diamonds are uncommon, and since diamonds
cannot be melted down like gold to eliminate impurities and to create
larger nuggets, larger stones of a carat are much rarer than smaller
ones. This is why a single diamond of one carat or more is more
valuable than several stones with a combined equal weight.
Diamond weight prices exponentially increase as you exceed the
half-and full-carat weight mark. This is how it works: a diamond that
weighs .49 ct. is going to be significantly cheaper than a similar
diamond that weighs .50 ct.; however, a diamond that weighs in at .60
ct. will not be significantly more expensive than that same half-carat
diamond, because they are both under the 1-carat mark. This is why it’s
not surprisingly to find a 2.5 ct. diamond marked 400% higher than a 2
ct. one of comparable cut, clarity, and color.
Tips on getting a better Value Out of a Carat
For the smart diamond hunter, there are two main ways to take
advantage of this peculiar relationship between diamond carat weight
and price: a) by buying diamonds that are just a little under the full-
and half-carat weight marks; and b) by going for jewelry designs that
display smaller diamonds to advantage.
Buy Just-Under Whole Carats
When shopping for a diamond, you can often find very good diamonds
that are just shy of a pricey half- and full-carat category; these
diamonds can be good bargains because a few points in weight does not
really make a big difference in size, especially when the smaller
diamond is cut wider at the top than the bigger one. Although exactly
half carat or whole number carats are the most popular, we recommend
you look into these “just under” sizes to possibly get a better value.
Complement your stone with the right setting
There are also jewelry settings that can help you make the most of
your diamond weight. A pave or halo design, which tightly places
smaller stones around a large center diamond, is the perfect example.
Other options include using more slender prongs to hold the stone
(as heavier prongs will cover more of the diamond and make it look
smaller); and choosing a reflective white gold or platinum
setting, which gives the illusion that your diamond is larger than it
actually is. For the best advice on choosing a complementary setting,
consult one of our trained jewelry experts.
All else being said, there is certainly more to choosing your
diamond than carat weight. For example, a smaller round diamond can be
more priced more expensively because of a superior cut that reflects
light more brightly. Some people find the smoky quality of yellowish
diamonds to be more beautiful and interesting compared to white ones.
For others, owning a very clear, near-perfect stone is more important
than a big one. This is where the other Cs (cut, color, and clarity)