Rookie Buyer. Rookie Question.


May 1, 2016
Hey, folks. As the title implies, I am a rookie buyer.

I'm looking into buying a diamond engagement ring. I've done all of the basic reading on this site, but I'm still pretty confused about things.

I've spoken w/ the spouse-to-be, and she's made it pretty clear that she wants a diamond even though I think the whole thing is a bit of a dated tradition (no offense). My budget is as high as $10k, but given my feelings on the matter, I'd love to spend less if I could.

I read the "what diamond to buy?" and went to and put in the exact parameters I wanted (1 ct, round cut, color I+, clarity SI2+), but the results are confusing me because the price ranges are so wide. Even after selecting only for diamonds with great HCA scores and with pictures that don't really indicate that the diamonds have massive flaws (and certainly not any visible to the naked eye), the price range stays extremely wide.

Should I just be getting the cheapest diamond possible after inputting the above? Some of the diamonds on the opposite end of the spectrum cost 3x as much and have poor HAC scores or are seemingly indistinguishable from the cheaper/-est diamonds. What's the difference between the cheapest and most expensive diamonds when all of the GIA ratings are the same?

My goal is: get the best diamond that meets my quality criteria at the best price possible.

Thanks in advance. I hope that my post isn't too confusing.

Edit: FWIW, I think her main motivation to have a diamond engagement ring is to fit in with the crowd. I think that as long as the ring doesn't have any glaring flaws, people will ask/note what size it is and make their judgments from there.


Aug 8, 2005
Okay well. I am not a fan of sports cars. The shocks are ridiculous and the gas consumption is offensive for me, especially since we live in traffic central. Plus the stick makes driving a miserable pain. They just aren't practical or responsible, IMO. My husband has one. And I supported the purchase. Why? Because it's not about me or for me. It's about and for him.

This is a present for her. So her opinions are the ones that matter. And it really doesn't matter WHY she wants one. She wants one, and you have the money to get her one, and it's a present. It doesn't have to be justified. I'm sure you have hobbies or things you like that cost money that she probably considers a waste. It's just part of marriage: respecting each other.

So, no you should not go for the cheapest decent one carat round in the most budget setting you can find.

Why? Because this tradition really isn't about the ring. It's about the effort and about understanding what she wants, and making sure you meet that to the extent it is reasonable and in budget. So I think you are on the right track posting here, and caring about the HCA score. Because you are putting in some time to get a nice stone for her. But you need more information.

So let's take a step back.

Are you POSITIVE she even WANTS a round? Did you research what she likes? Have you looked at rings with her, been to a nice store locally to have her try on rings and see what looks good on her hands? Had her fingers sized? Does she like solitiares? Three stones? Halos? Vintage? Modern? Classic? What are her metal preferences? Do you know what her color preferences and tolerances are? Do you know her preferences for priority of the 4 C's? Are you sure she wants just a carat? You can afford, easily, a 1.3 carat at I color. And she has to like the size of the stone on her hand (within reason and budget).

You have to go for some test drives together before dropping 10k on a ring. Does she have a pinterest board?


Aug 8, 2005
I can't answer your questions about the market-- mostly because there are too many moving parts and the question, which appears to be simple, is actually a really complicated one. And 'quality' is an undefined value. The market, for example, discounts fluorescent stones just because a very small percentage of them are over-blue. Are the stones that have fluorescence and are NOT over-blue lower 'quality' because of that discount? No. Not objectively. But the market is priced that way. The market is the market. It's based a lot of tradition and reputation. And it is slow to evolve. So no, it doesn't always reflect 'quality'. Or maybe it does. It really depends on whether your definition of 'quality' coincides or conflicts with the market.

I can tell you that price does not always reflect quality when it comes to CUT. I have seen many poorly performing stones I would not buy at prices that are higher than ones that perform much better. And I've seen vendors that DO price better performing stones higher, but its because they are AGS0 stones, and AGS demands a higher mark up. Does that mean that all AGS stones are better 'quality' stones than GIA stones. No. So it's not just the stone that sets the price. There are a lot of factors that go into it. That's why I said your questions are very broad and complicated ones, though they seem like simple ones.


Aug 8, 2005
Can you link us to her Pinterest board?

We can probably help you buy something in the next 48 hours if you can link us.


Aug 8, 2005
Okay so since you are sure she wants a round here's a round cut rundown.

Round Diamonds 101:

The entire purpose of faceting a diamond is to reflect light.
How well or how poorly a diamond does this determines how beautiful it is.
How well a diamond performs is determined by the angles and cutting. This is why we say cut is king.
No other factor: not color, not clarity has as much of an impact on the appearance of a diamond as its cut. An ideal H will out white a poorly cut F. With round diamonds even a GIA triple Excellent is not enough. And you must stick to GIA and AGS only (HPD in Europe is good as well). EGL is a bad option: [URL=''][/URL]
So how to we ensure that we have the right angles and cutting to get the light performance we want?
Well one method is to start with a GIA Ex, and then apply the HCA to it. YOU DO NOT USE HCA for AGS0 stones generally, though you can. In general, AGS0 trumps HCA though as one examines the actual stone and the other does not.
The HCA is a rejection tool. Not a selection tool. It uses 4 data points to make a rudimentary call on how the diamond may perform.
If the diamond passes then you know that you are in the right zone in terms of angles for light performance. Under 2 is a pass. Under 2.5-2.1 is a maybe. 2.6 and over is a no. No score 2 and under is better than any other.
Is that enough? Not really.

So what you need is a way to check actual light performance of your actual stone.
That's what an idealscope image does.
It shows you how and wear your diamond is reflecting light, how well it is going at it, and where you are losing light return. That is why you won't see us recommending Blue Nile, as they do not provide idealscope images for their diamonds. BGD,BE, James Allen, GOG, HPD, ERD and WF do.

The Idealscope is the 'selection tool'. Not the HCA.
So yes, with a GIA stone you need the idealscope images. Or you can buy an idealscope yourself and take it in to the jeweler you are working with to check the stones yourself. Or if you have a good return policy (full refund minimum 7 days) then you can buy the idealscope, buy the stone, and do it at home.

Now if you want to skip all that... stick to AGS0 stones and then all you have to do is pick color and clarity and you know you have a great performing diamond. Because AGS has already done the checking for you. That's why they trade at a premium. Some AGS0's are better than others though, so pay attention to any ASET or IS provided.

In general with rounds, you will want a table 60% or less. A depth between 59 and 62.4. Crown angle 33.5-35. Pavilion Angle: 40.6-40.8 (there is a little give on this). And the crown and pavilion angles must be complimentary which is what the HCA checks for you.


It is important to remember is that color is graded FACE DOWN. Where there is NO light return. Not face up where there is light return and refraction. You wear diamonds set. FACE UP.

Within one color grade, even the labs can't agree on the color grades of stones and something could be a "high" H or a "low" E. So... no. Not really. Within 2 color grades it is hard. Not impossible. But very hard. And it gets harder once set. If you are talking ideal rounds, or any stone with ideal light return and no sharp corners it gets harder still because the ideal light return masks body color.

Generally we say to be conservative stay above H in a round. But MANY people have happily bought white I or even J diamonds when trying to eek out a little more size.

This is how I think of it.

Ever gotten one of those HUGE paint fan decks? Where there are literally 100s of colors of whites? And when they are RIGHT next to each other you can TOTALLY tell that one is bluer/colder and one is a bit warmer and which one is one is TOTALLY warmer. One there's one that's slightly greener. One that's slightly pinker? But really. They are all white?

Then you pick one after agonizing over this white or that white and when it's on the walls and people are like: Oh. You painted again. And it's STILL white. Great.

And you're all... BUT it's BLUE white. Or it's a WARM white now. It used to be ____ white. It's TOTALLY different.

It's like that. You are talking about shades of white. D is colder... J is warmer. But it's all white.

YES. If you have an accurately graded F and an H THAT HAVE THE SAME PERFORMANCE you are going to be able to tell them apart when you compare them. Just like you would be able to tell if you painted your walls a warm white, but painted the crown molding a cold/straight white. But both are STILL white.

I want you notice all the qualifiers thought. I'm talking about stones with the SAME performance. An ideal H will out white an F that has compromised light performance from a poor cut.

NOTHING impacts the appearance of a diamond as much as cut. CUT is king.

You want the shinest whitest and brightest diamond out there: Cut is King. No other factor, not color or clarity or anything else impacts how white bright an shiny a stone is.

ON CLARITY: and Generally we say that eyeclean SI1 and VS2 are as high as you need to go with round brilliants, have your vendor check the diamond for this. VS1 will always be eyeclean, but they do cost more and an eyeclean SI1 and a VS1 will look the same to the unaided eye.


Nov 24, 2015
nodbig|1462158272|4026049 said:
I'm confused because there is an incredibly wide price range for diamonds even with all search criteria (carat, cut, clarity, color, fluorescence, symmetry) being equal, and I'm wondering why. Is a cheaper diamond always inferior to a more expensive diamond, or are there bargains to be had (diamonds in the rough, if you will)? Should I include a price filter to weed out the real garbage stones that I would never be interested in, and if so where it's that price floor set?

Hey mate :wavey: - diamonds aren't a commodity, so the prices are not homogeneous - - pricing is wayyyy more complicated than just basing it simply on the 4Cs. But for now, and sticking with the 4Cs, here is an example:

1.00ct G SI1 with a cut grade of excellent
Carat weight - there is a premium at various carat weights (including hitting 1ct)...this will affect the price.
Colour G - colour is a range - so you can have high end (closer to F) and you can have low end (closer to H) - - then also factor in the hue of the stone (yellow / brown / etc)...this will affect the price
Clarity SI1 - clarity is a range - again you can have top end / lower end - - but then you also factor in the inclusion position / nature / size / number / colour / does it reach the surface / does it reflect / is it eye visible or eye clean / etc...this will all affect the price.
Cut grade excellent - depending on where you are in the world, this can mean very different things to different people/markets (PS preference is a very good example of this)...this will affect the price.
Diamond cutters have different selling costs...this will affect the price.
Retailers (both online and off) have different margins / costs / overheads / etc...this will affect the price - -- it's not a matter of 'the cheapest is the worst or the most expensive is the best'...just walk into any shop belonging to a top end jewellery 'brand' and you'll see that their goods aren't any better (and are often worse) than you can find elsewhere at a better price.
And keep in mind that when buying online, you are often seeing goods that are from multiple sources (not owned by the vendor), even though they are on the same website - - so for the reasons above, there can be a big variation in price even on the same website.
Hope this helps


Mar 28, 2015
Hi nodbig.

First off, I'll point out that I was in a very similar position. I'm not an expert here nor am I in the the diamond trade; I'm just a consumer, like you, but with a tad more time spent on these forums. I'm also a guy, if that makes any difference. So I'll say that I completely understand where you're coming from. I believe one of my first posts here was quite similar, asking why I wouldn't just use the PriceScope search, set my criteria, then buy the cheapest diamond on the list. However, when I first read your post, I did think that some people might take some offense to it. Afterall, to many, this is their hobby, passion and/or career.

Knowing where you come from, I realize what you wrote may not have come out/interpreted as you had expected. You are, afterall, willing to drop 10K on this ring and you've educated yourself about the 4C's and HCA.

To answer your question (again, I'm not an expert, so I'll let experts correct me), yes, there is a lot of variation in price. Some of it makes no apparent sense - a poorer spec'd diamond can list for more than a better spec'd diamond. I believe this is due to the different suppliers setting their prices and not necessarily the vendors who sell the diamond. And the exact same diamond (same GIA#) on a virtual inventory can list for hugely different prices on different online stores. This gives you the potential to snag a really good value on a diamond, but also create significant price ranges.

But some of it does make sense. As you'll learn the longer you spend your time here, despite identical GIA specs, there can big significant differences in the diamond's light performance. Because a GIA "Excellent" cut still includes a ton of different cut proportions. One that has ideal light performance can be priced significantly higher, despite both being GIA Excellent cut. So, there are differences that can justify the price difference.

This might not be what you want to hear, but when I set out to buy a diamond, I wanted to go way lower than my budget. In the end, I'm actually slightly over budget. How you end up justifying it is a personal thing.

For you, I think the first step is to be certain that she wants it to be a surprise. Some women want to choose their ring/diamond, but want the proposal to be a surprise. If it's not a surprise, it would be a lot easier for you and, in all likelihood, cheaper for you too. Next, if it is to be a surprise, determine the criteria (shape, 4C's, fluoro, setting, price) that would most likely make her happy. Then, rank that criteria with what's important to you (perhaps price, then shape, then cut...), your lower limits and your preferred set of criteria.


Aug 8, 2005
So personally, I'd be shooting for 6.8-7.0mm with your budget in a solitiare. Shooting for 8k for the stone or less. H Si1, or thereabout, with a great idealscope or ASET to verify the performance. Leaves you a nice setting budget.

Something like this: (this is a nice stone)

If your lady wants a halo or three stone setting, then, I would go for something in the low 6k range instead (also a nice stone, but get an IS or an ASET to confirm performance).


Aug 8, 2005
Setting options:
(In platinum, if you lady wants yellow or pink metal the prices will be less. But if she wants white metal, platinum is generally the best metal).

Classic solitaires:
6 prong:
4 prong cathedral:
4 prong not-cathedral:

Solitaires, pave:
Not cathedral:

Three stones:

Halo (all in the 4k range):
Without pave shank: (Steven's site is all wonktastic right now):
With pave shank, round outline:
With pave shank, cushion outline:

Now those are the most "classic" versions of those styles. If your lady likes more modern sleek styles, or more vintage styles, either or, there are a lot of variations. That's why linking us to her Pinterest board is so important.
Be a part of the community Get 3 HCA Results