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 pricesAll 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 CaratFor 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 CaratsWhen 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 settingThere 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) come in.