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How much is that 1 carat diamond in the window?

How much is that 1 carat diamond in the window?

One of the questions we get asked the most (an FAQ, if you will) is: What’s the price of a 1 carat diamond? To which we always answer:

It depends!

We’re not being evasive. It just really does depend on a number of factors. Lucky for you we’re diamond professionals, so we’re not going to leave it at that. Read on to find out more.

(Psst…if you want the short answer, scroll down to the bottom of this article!)

Why one carat?

It’s perhaps important to first consider why so many people want a 1-carat diamond. Diamonds come in all shapes and sizes and the majority of them don’t conveniently weigh a nice round carat. So what’s the big appeal?

Our theory, based on over a decade in the diamond industry and an amateurish study of human nature, is this: Humans don’t like to have ‘bits’ of things. We’re designed to appreciate things in their entirety. We don’t like missing the start of our favourite TV shows. We object to being handed half a biscuit. We get very put out if we don’t get to finish a cup of tea.

It’s simple to see how this extends to diamonds. There’s something satisfyingly ‘complete’ about a one-carat diamond compared to a 0.85-carat diamond.

And why one carat, instead of two, or twelve? That’s easy. Carats aren’t cheap. Unless you’ve got a celebrity-sized budget, one-carat is complete enough for most of us.

Ah, but did you know?

It’s exactly because of this demand for whole carats that full and half-carat weight diamonds command higher prices. Opting for a 0.98-carat diamond instead of 1-carat diamond, for example, could save you hundreds, if not, thousands of pounds.

Moving on…

One stone or many?

Watch any shopping channel or browse any catalogue, and you’re bound to come across a 6-carat diamond necklace or an 8-carat diamond ring at a truly unbelievable price. You might even start to think those 12-carat celebrity engagement rings aren’t so hot anymore.

However, the reason those pieces of jewellery are so cheap is that they’re made up of lots and lots of tiny diamonds and what you’re being sold is the combined carat weight.

The truth is, tiny diamonds are a lot easier to come by than bigger diamonds, for the simple fact that it’s much harder to find large diamonds in the rough. A one-carat diamond ring with a single stone is a completely different kettle of fish to one with twenty or thirty stones (i.e. it’s better).

The Shape Factor

Does the shape of a diamond affect its price? Yeessssss, it does. However, there’s no simple formula. Often it’s simply a case of supply and demand, with the most popular shapes (currently Round Brilliant and Princess Cut) commanding higher prices. Then again, if a shape is markedly unpopular, the price might go up because fewer are made.

Yield is another factor. Some shapes require that more of the rough diamond is cut away (Round Brilliant, I’m looking at you) and that extra waste on the cutting room floor equals more cost. Other shapes, such as the slender Marquise, are much more obliging and allow the cutter to preserve more of the rough stone, which means the cost is lower.

So yes, the shape of a diamond can affect its price but not so much that you should really worry about it. Indeed, there are other, much more important factors…

The Four C’s

I’m not going to bang on about the Four C’s massively. You either know about them or you don’t (in which case, read this).

The Four C’s are CutColourClarity and Carat weight. For the purposes of this article, it’s enough to know that the Four C’s determine the quality of a diamond and it’s quality - not shape, size, origin or celebrity-endorsement – that ultimately determines the price of a one-carat diamond.

The bottom line? The better the quality, the more beautiful and valuable the diamond.

So how much DOES a 1-carat diamond cost?

Okay, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Here are two Round Brilliant 1-carat GIA certified diamonds picked at random (on January 7th 2021): one priced at the lower end of the scale and one way up there in the clouds where all the very expensive snobby diamonds hang out.

Diamond ‘A’

  • Cut: Excellent
  • Colour: H (has a faint colour tint)
  • Clarity: SI2 (contains tiny inclusions visible to the naked eye)

Diamond ‘B’

  • Cut: Excellent
  • Colour: D (absolutely colourless)
  • Clarity: IF (internally flawless)

There is a £14,000 price difference between these two diamonds. Yes, I said £14,000. (Remember, they both weigh one carat!) Diamond ‘A’ costs £2,790 and Diamond ‘B’ costs £16,890.

In the case of Diamond ‘B’, colour and clarity have the greatest influence on the price. Absolutely colourless, internally flawless diamonds are extremely rare. So rare, in fact, that if we change just one of those grades – dropping the D Cut grade to an E, for example – then we see a significant drop-off in the price:

Diamond ‘C’

  • Cut: Excellent
  • Colour: E
  • Clarity: IF

Price: £10,320

The Four C’s aren't the only measure of a diamond’s quality and there are other finer points taken into consideration (polish, symmetry, table and depth percentages, ratio, certifying laboratory, etc.) Hopefully, though, these examples give you some idea of how a small change in quality can affect the price.

So how much SHOULD you pay?

Well, for starters, you don’t have to pay £14,000+ for a quality 1-carat diamond!

  • Go a little lower, or a bit higher than exactly one carat and you'll save yourself a bit of dosh!
  • Absolutely Colourless is nice if you can get it, but an ‘F’ or ‘G’ colour-grade diamond will look colourless to the unaided eye and will knock several grand off the price (anything ‘H’ or higher is perfectly lovely).
  • Pick a clarity of SI1 or high for a GIA certified diamond, and you won't see any inclusions either.
  • There's more demand for Round Brilliant diamonds, so you can save a bit by choosing a different shape... Oval diamonds are becoming a popular alternative to Round.

The great thing about buying a diamond is there are so many variables – you can tweak until your heart and budget are content.

Realistically, buying a good quality 1-carat diamond will cost you in the low thousands (if it doesn’t, I’d ask serious questions about the quality). But ultimately, whatever price you pay:

  • Buy the best QUALITY you can afford
  • Remember, CUT is the most important factor
  • Always buy certified

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