When you typically buy a diamond, it is in a piece of jewelry. The diamond selection has been taken care of by the designer who created the piece. 

If you, however, want to design your own piece of jewelry containing a diamond, you'll need to buy a loose diamond which is a whole different ball game. 

Loose diamonds are very accessible. You can go to an online jeweler or a jewelry store that offers loose diamonds or you can go to an online diamond vendor or the store of a diamond merchant. 

There are thousands of diamonds for sale even if it doesn't feel usual for members of the public to buy rough diamonds. When you buy a loose stone, it will already have been through the hands of diamond cutters. It will have been cut and polished into one of the recognized diamond shapes. It will have been graded and the carat weight will be known. You will have the choice between natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds. There will be a massive range of sizes and a wide range of prices.

So how do you ensure you get the best quality diamond for your money? Here are some tips and tricks from diamond experts to keep in mind when you are searching for the perfect diamond. 

Make Sure The Diamond Is Certified

two diamond studded silver rings

You should never buy a loose diamond without checking that it has a certificate. 

Certificates are issued by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). These are the two labs that command the most respect among diamond customers all over the world. The GIA is the world standard as they invented the 4Cs that we rely on for grading, and the AGS is the pioneer of diamond cut grading, being the first to issue gold stand ideal cut grades.

There are other labs but these are regarded as being less accurate and less strict with their standards, which can lead to buying stones that aren't quite as high quality as you would like for the price you are paying.

Every stone will have a grading report that details the qualities of the diamond in respect of the four Cs.

The 4Cs are cut, carat, color, and clarity. 

  • Cut - the diamond shape. Every stone is cut into a recognized shape of which there are 12: round, princess, cushion, oval, emerald, pear, marquise, radiant, square radiant, Asscher, heart, and trillion. 
  • Carat - the weight of a diamond. Not to be confused with karat which is a statement of the purity of gold. A carat is defined as 200 milligrams and each diamond's weight is specifically very precisely to the hundredth decimal place. 
  • Color - there are  23 colors on the grading chart (D to Z) but to make it easier they are sectioned into five groups: colorless (D-F); near colorless (G-J); faint (K-M); very light (N-R); and light (S-Z).
  • Clarity - a statement of the purity and rarity of the stone. Each stone is awarded a clarity grade on a scale with S1 being the lowest quality, usually with visible inclusions, and Fl the highest being awarded only to flawless stones. Flawless (perfect) diamonds are extremely rare. 

The grading will influence diamond prices but the individual features will also offset each other. 

For example, you may buy a large carat weight with a lower clarity for a cheaper price than a smaller stone with a higher clarity grade. 

Certification is a general tip but also crucial. It however will not influence your choice of stone but rather confirm it. To pick a beautiful diamond, you need to consider the 4Cs. 

Tips for Choosing a Diamond Shape

The GIA considers the cut to be the most crucial of the 4Cs. But, no one cut is better than another. 

The most common cut is the round brilliant but it is most important to choose the shape you want. 

If you are buying a loose diamond, you will have a use for it in mind. Maybe you are looking for a center stone for a diamond engagement ring or you want a heart-shaped diamond for a special pendant. 

If you have a design in mind, talk to the vendor. They will be extremely knowledgeable about diamond qualities and can advise on which diamond shape might fit best. They will also be able to explain diamond ring settings. If you choose a jeweler that offers a design service, they will guide you on every aspect from concept to the manufacturing of the finished jewelry item. 

The most important thing is to choose a diamond you love. The shape you've chosen will then determine the parameters for cut quality, color, and clarity.

Tips for Selecting a Carat Weight

two diamonds sitting on top of a pile of crushed glass

Very often, the size of your diamond purchase will depend on your budget. Of course, as carat weight increases, so does the price. 

Some simple tips to help you stick to a budget are:

  • Round brilliants are more expensive than fancy shapes
  • Lab-created diamonds are 40-60% cheaper than natural diamonds but are equally beautiful
  • Choose a carat weight range rather than limiting it to a specific size

Tips for Assessing Cut Quality

The GIA has the following grading scale for diamond cut quality:

  • Excellent (the best grade)
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor (the worst grade)

An AGS diamond certificate uses the same grading scale except excellent is divided into ideal and excellent. 

The general rule of thumb is that if you are looking for a round brilliant, go for an excellent or ideal cut diamond.   If you want a fancy shape, it is not so easy to be specific as many jewelers don’t report fancy shape cut grades. The best thing is to ask about the cut quality for each diamond you examine. 

Tips for Choosing a Diamond Color

Free Diamond Precious photo and picture

When we say diamond color, we are referring to its "whiteness" or "colorlessness" on a scale rather than colored diamonds. There are plenty of other colored diamonds which may be from yellow to pink, blue and green, and even black diamonds. 

As previously mentioned, diamonds are graded D-Z with D being colorless and Z being light color. The more they approach colorless, the more value they will attract.

When you buy a loose diamond, you should aim to get as close to as colorless a stone as possible but you will find that most diamonds in jewelry stores are graded D to J - colorless to near colorless.

Diamonds graded G to I are a good buy because they appear colorless to the naked eye but cost less than D - F grades. 

Do note that color is reflected at different strengths in diamond shapes so you will be balancing appearance and price according to the shape you have chosen.

Something else to note: If you are looking at lab-grown diamonds, the color grading is done on a different scale by the GIA. Lab-grown diamonds are graded as colorless, near colorless, faint, very light, and light.

Tips for Selecting Clarity Grade

Probably the most complicated of the 4Cs, the GIA clarity scale is based on a skilled grader looking at the diamond under 10x magnification.

The grades are:

  • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible
  • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult to see
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy to see
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious and may affect transparency and brilliance

When you talk to a jeweler about clarity, they will advise you to look for a diamond that is "eye-clean". This means any inclusions or blemishes are not visible to the naked eye. 

This might point you to conclude that you should only buy diamonds from a store and not an online vendor because you can't examine online stones. Technology however has progressed to enable online vendors to offer not only extremely high-resolution photography but also virtual loupes. 

 Most experts will say to opt for the cheapest eye-clean diamond you can find once you have chosen the shape, cut, and color. 

As you can see, if you are going to take buying a loose diamond seriously, to get the most beautiful diamond for your money, you need to know a little about what you're looking for. Apart from the physical characteristics of the stone, there are a couple of other considerations.

Stick to a Budget

Settle on a figure you are going to be comfortable spending.

Meeting your budget and getting a stone you think is perfect for your jewelry project will often involve making concessions in some areas of the 4Cs and prioritizing what element is most important to you. It could be dropping down a color grade, it could be a smaller carat weight or it could be opting for a shape that isn't a brilliant cut diamond. 

There are plenty of loose diamond options that can be snapped up for smaller amounts of money that still look sensational, so don't make the mistake of thinking that you have to pick the one with the highest grades on the certificate in order to make it worth it.

Consider the Ethics

Free Diamonds Gem photo and picture

Many consumers today are looking to be more ethical in their purchases. Sadly, the diamond mining industry has a legacy of poor ethics and illegal practices. 

There is responsible sourcing and the GIA certificate should mention the country of origin of the diamond. 

If you want to make the most ethical choice, decide to opt for a lab-grown diamond. Not only does this mean you choose a stone that is more environmentally friendly and of guaranteed ethical origin, but you can also get a larger diamond for your money. 

Making the Purchase

Make sure you have thoroughly compared a number of diamonds before settling on one. It is only by examining different stones that the 4Cs come to life and you get some idea of the points on the various grading scales.

At 1-800 Loose Diamonds, we provide a wide range of loose, certified diamonds, both natural stones and lab diamonds in all sizes and in ten of the most popular shapes across a wide price range.

If you want to buy online, there are search options for you to set your specifications and each diamond listing is very fulsome in its detail. You can choose a center diamond and also an engagement ring setting during the same transaction. 

If you want to buy in person, call or mail to book an appointment.