Buying a Diamond: The Beginner’s Guide

Diamond expert Emily Tebbutt’s guide on how to purchase the perfect stone.

If you’re planning a Valentine’s Day proposal, getting the perfect diamond ring can be a daunting experience.  Diamond expert Emily Tebbutt, Jewellery Specialist at Ramsdens offers her insider tips when shopping for a rock:

Tip 1: Get to know the ‘Four Cs’:

Diamonds are categorised by Colour, Cut, Carat and Clarity, giving transparency over their quality and value.

Each ‘C’ grades a different aspect of the diamond, and the higher the grading, the more valuable the diamond is. Using the four Cs can be a great way to not only find the perfect diamond, but one that’s within budget. For example, if a large carat weight is most important, then to save a few pennies we would recommend choosing a lower colour grade. If, on the other hand, it’s the sparkle of the diamond that will impress your fiancée most, you can afford to skim a little on carat or colour. Whatever your preference is, understanding the four Cs is the key to success.  


Diamonds are weighed in ‘carats’. There are 100 ‘points’ in one carat, just like 100 pennies in a pound. The carat weight of a diamond usually reflects the diameter of a diamond as most diamonds are cut to exacting proportions to best reflect the light – this is particularly true of round shaped diamonds.


The cut grade refers to the geometric proportions of the gem. The cut affects a diamonds potential to reflect light around the stone and back out. A diamond with a ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ cut grade will display brightness (known as brilliance) and sparkle (known as fire). This C is the one which is usually forgotten or disregarded but it is hugely important if you want your diamond to shine brightly! The most common cut for an engagement ring is a round brilliant-cut. This cut, given a good cut grading, will reflect lots of light and display flashing colours of sparkle (fire). Although, if you are looking for something slightly different yet still on-trend, a cushion-shape diamond could be for you – they’re either square or rectangular in shape and have rounded corners to give a much softer appearance.


The diamond grading laboratory at GIA (Gemological Institute of America) grade colour on a scale from D (colourless) to Z (light yellow). Owning a D colour diamond may be something to aspire to because it has the best possible colour, however you can also compromise on grading here to fit your budget. In fact, to an untrained eye there will be no colour noticeable in a diamond until about a J colour (depending on diamond cut).  So, choosing from H-J colour gradings will give you a colourless appearing diamond without breaking the budget!


GIA’s clarity scale contains eleven grades, running from ‘Flawless’, where a diamond is completely free of inclusions and blemishes, to ‘Included 3’ where the diamond has significant inclusions (inclusions are naturally occurring minerals and small cracks, known as feathers). The grade given relates to how many and in what position a diamonds inclusions are when the diamond is viewed under 10x magnification. Most inclusions are not eye visible and therefore nothing to worry about but if you are looking for an ‘eye clean’ diamond then aim for an SI2 or higher grade. Inclusions can be particularly interesting; some diamonds even have ruby or garnet crystals trapped inside them!

Tip 2: The fifth C is often cost!

Not everyone’s budget can stretch to Lady Gaga’s $400,000 engagement ring.  You may hear that one to three months’ salary is the tradition but spend what you can realistically afford.

Tip 3: The setting

Often the setting is overlooked, but this sets the tone for the ring’s style.  If you’re looking for a ring design to match your partner’s personal style, consider the differences between a simple and chic solitaire compared to an opulent cluster setting. A solitaire will always be the safe bet for a traditional engagement ring style but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for something a little more adventurous. Halo style rings are currently very popular, particularly with a cushion-shape diamond. Or, if you are a lover of vintage, a two-stone ring, also known as a toi et moi ring (made famous by Napoleon and Josephine) could be perfect!

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