Diamond Education

A tweezer holds up a diamond

Diamonds–bright, beautiful, valuable, and always in style. Let’s go over all of the factors that impact diamond pricing. You have probably heard of the “4C’s”. That stands for carat, cut, color, and clarity. The more flawless and colorless a diamond is–the higher the price. That fact is true no matter where you buy a diamond. However, your diamond doesn’t need to be the highest grade and best color to be an excellent stone with fantastic eye appeal. If you know the sweet spot for a great diamond you are going to save a lot of money and have a stone that looks the same as the one that costs two, three, or four times as much. 

Let’s start with carat. This just refers to the size of the stone. Diamonds get set into rings from sizes as small as 0.01ct to as much as several carats. The bigger the stone, usually, the higher the price. There are places where diamonds really jump in price and a crucial one is at the 0.99ct to 1.00ct mark. A diamond that weighs 0.99ct of a decent grade can retail for $5600.00. That exact same grade of diamond that weighs 1.00ct, just ever so slightly bigger (0.01), retails closer to $7200.00. That’s a $1600.00 swing in the price for an imperceivable difference. Is it worth it? Maybe.

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Next comes the cut. The “cut”, as it sounds, just refers mainly to the style in which the diamond is cut.  Round brilliant-cut diamonds are always the most expensive relative to different style cuts of the same grade. Always. Princess cut (square) diamonds are another very popular style. They aren’t worth as much as round cuts, but they are the closest by comparison.

What about color? This section and the next are the most crucial part of getting the most value for your money. A diamond’s color is a huge part of eye appeal! The grading for color starts at “D”. This is the highest color grade a diamond can get and the diamond is considered “colorless”. After this, grading will go all the way down to “M” and ever lower. Most stones you will see for sale are between “G” and “K”. A grade of “G” would be an excellent bright stone that is considered “near-colorless”. Once you work your way down to a grade of “K” there will be a clear yellow tint in the stone. As the grade goes lower the stone becomes more and more tinted and eventually, it is opaque. An opaque diamond will be black. Black diamonds have become stylish in their own right and you will see them frequently in unique settings, but they won’t command the same value as the higher grades. Diamond color is a great place for you to save money. Try and buy a stone close to “G” color because even an experienced jeweler would need to compare it to other higher grade stones to see a difference. That difference for someone un-trained is completely imperceivable. Why pay a lot more money for a slightly higher color grade for your stone when nobody that sees it will actually be able to tell the difference between yours and the highest grade money can buy? Save your money here and spend it on the final and most crucial aspect of your stone. Clarity.

An infographic detailing the 4C's of diamonds

The clarity of your stone is the single most important aspect of your purchase. No matter what style of cut you like.. you need good clarity in your stone. If you have to sacrifice some color grades to get better clarity, do it. The absolute highest grade of clarity you can get in a diamond is IF, or in other words, Internally Flawless. Perfectly flawless diamonds are so rare that most jewelers never get to see one. I actually don’t recommend getting a stone of this clarity anyways. Mostly, because they are extraordinarily expensive in almost any size, but also because unless money is no object to you there are other lower grades that look identical to the naked eye. More on that later. The lowest grade of stone you can buy is I3. An I3 stone has many, and glaring, what are called inclusions. Inclusions are small (or sometimes large) imperfections within a diamond that are created due to the same extreme pressure and heat that diamonds experience when they form. Clarity grading starts at IF. One step lower is VVS (Very Very Slight inclusion). The next step is VS (Very Slight inclusion). After that comes SI1, SI2, and SI3 (slight inclusion). Lastly, we have I1, I2, and I3. We want to stay away from buying stones with I gradings, be they 1, 2, or 3. The I grading basically means that the inclusions are bad enough that you can see them with your naked eye. If you can see them, so can everyone else. VS stones and VVS stones have no inclusions that you can see with the naked eye and they also have no inclusions that a jeweler using a magnification loupe of 10x power to inspect the stone can see either. A true VS or greater grade stone has been inspected with a stereomicroscope to find the very slight flaws. If a store tries to tell you a stone is graded VS or higher–ask to see the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certification. If they don’t have that, it isn’t VS, period. The place we want to be is right at a clarity grade of SI1, 2, or 3. This is our sweet spot. SI graded stones have flaws, but they are not able to be seen by the naked eye. So that means that an SI graded stone looks the same to the naked eye as a VVS stone. They look to you and me the exact same. A 1.00ct, “G” color stone, with clarity of VVS retails around $10,000. A 1.00ct, “G” color stone, with a clarity of SI3, retail closer to $5000. That’s a HUGE difference and the stones look identical. Why pay double when all you want is a beautiful diamond everyone will notice? You will get that very stone right in between SI1 and SI3 clarity. When you want to buy a beautiful diamond at the best value for your money try and get one with a color grade between G and J, and with clarity between SI1 and SI3. That’s the ticket. 

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A place most people don’t think to look for a great price on diamonds is a pawn shop. A pawn shop buys and makes loans against diamonds based on their wholesale value and sells them the same way. A $10,000 jewelry store diamond will probably cost you $5000 or less at a pawn shop. If you want to save money, give one of our pawn shops in Virginia a shot.


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Jamie F. - Pawn Shop Manager in Northern VA
Jamie Furman
Manager at The Vault Jewelry & Loan | Website | + posts

James (Jamie) F., is the manager of our Centerpointe Way location in Woodbridge, VA. With over 14 years in the pawn business, he is an expert in Diamonds, Gold, and Luxury Watches. He is fluent in Spanish and English and enjoys helping customers’ find the item they want at a great deal. Banks and Big Box stores have convinced many that new and expensive is the only way to buy. He aims to change that paradigm and provide exceptional service and quality products at a bargain price to every person who walks through our doors.

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