The Complete Guide to Buying a 1 Carat Diamond: Purchasing Advice and Costs

1 carat VS1 clarity H color certified diamond engagement ring, size 7, in 14 karat white gold. Diamond is lab grown.

Are you looking to buy a beautiful 1 carat diamond ring? As a jeweler with over 20 years of experience, I’m often asked by customers how to find that perfect 1 carat sparkler. A 1 carat diamond is a popular choice for engagement and anniversary rings, but buying the right stone takes some savvy.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to buy a spectacular 1 carat diamond ring. We’ll cover:

  • How big a 1 carat diamond really is
  • Using the 4Cs – cut, clarity, color, and carat weight – to evaluate diamond quality
  • The price range for a 1 carat diamond and what impacts the cost
  • Choosing between a mined diamond or lab grown diamond
  • Picking the perfect ring setting
  • Where to shop for the best 1 carat ring
  • Decoding diamond certification reports

I’ll also share insider tips to help you get the most dazzling 1 carat diamond for your budget. Let’s get started!

How Big is a 1 Carat Diamond?

Here’s a table comparing the face-up sizes of popular diamond shapes for 1 carat diamonds:

Diamond ShapeApproximate Face-Up Size (mm)
Round6.5 mm
Princess5.5 mm – 6.0 mm
Cushion5.5 mm – 6.0 mm
Oval7.0 mm – 7.5 mm
Emerald6.0 mm – 7.0 mm
Marquise9.0 mm – 10.0 mm
Pear7.0 mm – 7.5 mm
Asscher5.5 mm – 6.0 mm
Radiant5.5 mm – 6.0 mm
Heart6.0 mm – 6.5 mm

*Please note that these sizes are approximate and can vary based on the specific proportions and cut of the diamond.

A 1 carat diamond may sound small, but it has a significant presence. Remember that a diamond’s carat weight refers to its mass, not physical size. A 1 carat diamond weighs 0.2 grams (about the same as a paperclip).

This is a beautiful 1 1/4 carat diamond solitaire ring set into a 4 prong setting. The diamond was weighed before it was set. The diamond is approx I1/I2 enhanced clarity and is E in color (colorless).This is a large diamond for a great price....but it is not perfect since it does have a slight haze to it. Diamond is bright white with no inclusions visible to naked eye.
Source: Carl A. Jones, GIA – Client Purchase (This is a beautiful 1 1/4 carat diamond solitaire ring set into a 4 prong setting. The diamond was weighed before it was set. The diamond is approx I1/I2 enhanced clarity and is E in color colorless. This is a large diamond for a great price, but it is not perfect since it does have a slight haze to it. Diamond is bright white with no inclusions visible to naked eye. )

Here are some visual comparisons to give you a sense of just how big a 1 carat diamond is:

  • Larger than the diameter of a dime
  • Slightly smaller than the diameter of a nickel
  • Approximately the size of a blueberry or large grape

For a round brilliant cut diamond – the most popular diamond shape – a 1 carat stone will measure about 6.5mm in diameter. Fancy shaped 1 carat diamonds like ovals or cushions can look even larger in some dimensions due to their elongated cuts.

The overall diameter is one way to understand diamond carat size, but it’s not the only factor. The quality of the cut and presence of inclusions also impact the visible size. A well-cut 1 carat diamond with fewer inclusions will face up larger than a poorly cut stone with imperfections. As you shop, judge diamond carat weight by how big the stone looks face-up, not just the absolute measurements on paper.

Using the 4Cs to Buy a 1 Carat Diamond

The 4Cs – cut, clarity, color, and carat weight – determine a diamond’s appearance and value. Mastering the 4Cs is key to finding a stunning 1 carat diamond.

Cut

Cut grade is the most important of the 4Cs. A diamond’s cut determines its sparkle and brilliance. The more precise the cut angles and facets, the more light performance and fire the diamond will have.

Ideally, you want a 1 carat diamond graded Very Good or Excellent for cut.

These top cut grades have the perfect proportions to maximize brilliance. The difference in sparkle between a Very Good and Excellent cut 1 carat diamond is small, while the price gap is significant. I typically recommend choosing a Very Good cut to get ideal light performance while remaining within budget.

Avoid Poor, Fair, or even Good cut grades for a 1 carat diamond.

These stones will lack the radiance you expect in a diamond engagement ring due to their improper facet angles and depth percentages. Light leaks out rather than reflecting back to the eye. No amount of carat weight can compensate for the dullness of a poorly cut diamond.

Clarity

A diamond’s clarity grade refers to the size, number, and placement of internal flaws called inclusions and external ones called blemishes. Clarity is graded on a scale from Flawless (no inclusions) to Included (obvious inclusions).

I recommend focusing on stones graded Very Slightly Included (VS 2) or better.

These have minute inclusions that are difficult to spot with the naked eye. Under 10x magnification, a VS 2 diamond will show a couple small imperfections. Excellent cut quality helps minimize the visibility of slight inclusions.

While Flawless sounds ideal, most 1 carat diamonds graded Flawless or Internally Flawless have microscopic imperfections only visible under high magnification. Yet the price skyrockets once you reach these top clarity grades. You pay exponentially more for negligible difference in appearance.

Slightly Included and Included diamonds have eye-visible flaws that can be distracting in a 1 carat diamond meant as the focal point of an engagement ring. Lower clarity grades represent better value in diamonds under 1 carat as the inclusions are less obvious.

Color

Diamond color refers to the presence of yellow and brown hues. Colorless diamonds are the most rare and valued. Differences between color grades are subtle and nearing imperceptible to the naked eye until you get to grades K and below.

Stick with stones graded G to J on the color scale.

These near colorless diamonds look brilliant white and icy. Unless you compare side by side with a better grade, you won’t see the faint warm tint. If your budget allows, go for G or H color for an optimally icy white appearance.

Anything below K color will start to show noticeable yellowishness in a 1 carat diamond, especially in certain lighting.

Diamonds graded M and below are classified as fancy yellow or brown diamonds. These hues will be obvious and detract from the stone’s sparkle. Traditionally, diamonds J or better are recommended to avoid any visible color.

Carat Weight

Lastly, the diamond carat weight determines literal size. One carat equals 0.2 grams or 200 milligrams. Carat weight has the largest impact on a diamond’s price per the fundamental law of supply and demand – larger rough diamonds are exponentially more rare in nature.

A 1 carat diamond with a lower clarity or cut can actually face up smaller than a well-cut 0.9 carat diamond!

As you search, judge size based on how big the diamond looks from the top, rather than becoming fixated on the carat weight number.

1 Carat Diamond Price

Here’s an estimated price range table for 1 carat diamonds based on different quality factors:

Quality FactorPrice Range ($)
Excellent Cut$4,000 – $9,000+
Very Good Cut$3,500 – $8,000+
VVS1-VVS2 Clarity$7,000 – $12,000+
VS1-VS2 Clarity$5,500 – $10,000+
G-J Color$4,500 – $9,000+
Lab Grown$3,000 – $6,000+
Premium Brand$9,000 – $15,000+
Online Retailer$3,500 – $9,000+

*Please note that these are estimated price ranges, and actual prices can vary based on various factors such as market conditions, brand reputation, and individual diamond characteristics. Prices may also change over time.

On average, expect to pay between $4,000 to $9,000+ for a 1 carat diamond solitaire in a simple setting. The price varies based on the combination of the 4Cs plus the following factors:

  • Diamond Cut:
    A Very Good cut will be 20-30% less than an Excellent cut. Go for a Very Good to maximize sparkle without overspending.
  • Diamond Clarity:
    You can save 30-40% by dropping from IF to VVSI, an imperceptible difference to the naked eye.
  • Diamond Color:
    Near colorless grades G-J are an ideal balance of appearance and price.
  • Fluorescence:
    Faint or medium fluorescence can slightly reduce the cost with no impact on beauty.
  • Lab Grown vs. Mined:
    Identical lab grown 1 carat diamonds cost 30-40% less than their mined counterparts.
  • Brand:
    Designer brands carry prestige premiums, sometimes surpassing 50% for comparable specs.
  • Certificates:
    GIA and AGS graded diamonds command higher pricing than generic or uncertified options.
  • Settings:
    Elaborate, handcrafted settings are pricier than simple solitaire mountings.
  • Retailer:
    Local jewelers generally charge higher pricing compared to online retailers.

With the fluctuation in the diamond market in recent years, I have seen prices for 1 carat diamonds around $5,000 on average for a good commercial quality diamond certified by GIA/AGS with Very Good cut, VVSI clarity, G-J color range.

Luxury buyers spending upwards of $10,000+ on a 1 carat diamond want top grades of Excellent cut, IF clarity, D-F colorless color, sold by a premium brand.

At the lower end, more budget-conscious shoppers can find eye-clean 1 carat diamonds for as little as $3,000-4,000 by selecting I-J colors and SI clarity.

How to Set Your 1 Carat Diamond Budget

Determining your budget upfront will help guide your 1 carat diamond search, so you don’t overspend. As you budget, consider:

  • What you can afford to pay in cash vs. finance.
  • The total carat size that fits your lifestyle and savings. If a 1 carat diamond is out of reach, a 0.9 carat looks nearly as large.
  • Your priorities among the 4Cs and style preferences. Are you flexible on size, color, or brand to get the highest cut quality?
  • Whether you are comfortable with a lab grown diamond or prefer natural.
  • The setting and metal type you desire. Elaborate settings cost more. Platinum is pricier than gold.

The Knot’s Jewelry & Engagement Study found that couples spent an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring in 2021, a 25% increase compared to pre-pandemic spending in 2019. But no rule dictates how much you must spend. Focus on finding your dream ring within your budget.

If a 1 carat diamond strains your finances, drop clarity a grade or consider an oval/cushion shape to get a larger-looking diamond under 1 carat. No one looking at the ring will know the carat weight!

Should I Buy a Lab Grown or Mined Diamond?

The emergence of lab grown diamonds has been a game-changer in the industry. Grown by advanced technology that recreates natural diamond formation, lab diamonds have identical physical, chemical, and optical qualities as their mined counterparts. With environmentally-conscious Gen Z/Millennial shoppers, lab grown 1 carat diamonds now account for 15-20% of diamond sales.

Here’s a pros and cons table for buying either a lab-grown or mined diamond:

AspectLab-Grown DiamondMined Diamond
Pros  
Environmental ImpactMore eco-friendly as they require less land and water, and produce fewer emissions.Natural diamonds are a finite resource.
PriceTypically 30-40% more affordable than mined diamonds of similar quality.Can hold or increase in value over time.
EthicsNo association with conflict diamonds (blood diamonds).Supports communities in diamond mining regions.
Quality ControlControlled environment leads to fewer impurities and potential for higher quality.Offers a wide range of unique natural characteristics.
AvailabilityMore predictable supply and availability due to controlled production.Variety of rare and unique diamonds found in nature.
Cons  
RarityMay lack the inherent rarity and uniqueness of natural diamonds.Limited availability of certain rare colors and characteristics.
PerceptionSome may view them as less valuable or romantic than natural diamonds.May be associated with ethical concerns.
Resale ValueHistorically, lab-grown diamonds have not held their value as well as natural diamonds.Can be difficult to resell natural diamonds at a favorable price.
Emotional AttachmentMay not carry the same emotional significance as a natural diamond.Ethical concerns may impact personal attachment.
Investment PotentialLab-grown diamonds may not appreciate in value like some natural diamonds.Investment value varies widely based on diamond quality and market trends.

The main difference between lab grown and mined diamonds is rarity and price.

While mined diamonds come from a finite natural supply, lab diamonds can be produced in potentially unlimited quantities and sizes. This translates to 30-40% savings for lab grown diamonds versus natural.

A comparable quality 1 carat lab diamond with GIA Excellent cut, VS clarity, and D color will retail around $4,500 while the equivalent mined diamond would be around $7,000. At smaller budgets under $3,000, lab grown is a great way to get a beautiful, large 1 carat diamond with sparkle that rivals mined.

While pricing and supply differ, I don’t consider one diamond origin inherently better. Mined diamonds work well for those desiring a completely natural product or willing to pay a premium for rarity.

But if your priority is size and sparkle for budget, lab grown 1 carat diamonds offer tremendous value. Review return policies since lab pricing can vary widely.

Choosing a Setting for Your 1 Carat Diamond

Here’s a table comparing various ring settings and their impact on the appearance of a 1 carat diamond:

Setting StyleImpact on Diamond SizeDescription
SolitaireMaximizes SizeSingle diamond, classic and elegant.
HaloEnhances SizeSmaller diamonds surround the center stone, making it appear larger.
Three-StoneAdds BalanceThree diamonds on the band, providing visual balance and symbolism.
InfinityModerate EnhancementA continuous line of diamonds around the band, providing a delicate look.
BypassModerate EnhancementTwo strands or rows of diamonds that bypass each other, unique and stylish.
BezelMinimal Size ImpactMetal surrounds the entire diamond, providing extra security and a sleek look.
PaveEnhances SparkleTiny diamonds are set close together on the band, creating a dazzling effect.
TensionUnique and ModernThe diamond appears to float between two ends of the band, very contemporary.
ChannelModerate EnhancementDiamonds are set within a channel along the band, adding sparkle.
VintageClassic and OrnateIntricate details and vintage-inspired designs, adding a touch of nostalgia.
CathedralLifts the DiamondThe band rises to meet the diamond, emphasizing its height and presence.

Choosing the right setting is key to maximizing a 1 carat diamond’s sparkle and visual size.

Ladies Yg 1 Carat 14kt Diamond Ring.

Popular setting styles include:

Solitaire

A single diamond stands alone in a minimalist four- or six-prong mounting that accentuates the stone. Traditional and elegant, ideal for 1-carat diamonds.

Halo

A center diamond surrounded by a ring of smaller accent diamonds to make the center stone look larger. Perfect for maximizing 1 carat diamond size.

Three-Stone

A 1 carat diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds on the band sides. The accent stones provide balance.

Infinity

A line of diamonds weaving in a continuous line around the band, with a 1 carat solitaire set separately.

Bypass

Two strands or rows of diamonds that bypass each other at the sides of the 1 carat center stone.

The prong or rail setting you select also impacts sparkle. Low chunky prongs allow more light into the diamond, while delicate prongs render a floating effect.

My top tips on selecting a setting:

  • For 1 carat round diamonds, a simple 4- or 6-prong solitaire setting has timeless elegance that maximizes sparkle.
  • V-shaped prongs open up the diamond face compared to rounded prongs.
  • For fancy shapes, choose settings with delicate prongs or rail sides to not obstruct the diamond silhouette with bulky metal.
  • Opt for platinum if budget allows – it is more durable than gold and creates perfect contrast with a white diamond.
  • Accent stones in a halo or three-stone style can make a 1 carat diamond look up to 20% larger!

Where Should I Buy a 1 Carat Diamond Ring?

Pros and Cons Table for Buying Options:

Buying OptionProsCons
Local JewelersIn-person experienceHigher pricing
Online RetailersWide selection. Better PricingCan’t see diamonds in person
Jewelry ChainsBrand recognition Retail markups

You can find a stunning 1 carat diamond at local jewelers, national chains, or online retailers. Here are the pros and cons of each option:

Local Jewelers

Benefit from seeing diamonds in person and working with an expert jeweler. Custom design options. Established reputation and relationships. Higher pricing and limited vendor inventory.

Online Retailers

Unparalleled selection and 24/7 access from home. Lower prices with middleman cost savings. Third party return policies. Can’t see diamonds in real life. Validate credentials.

Jewelry Chains

In between boutique jewelers and online options. Widespread locations to visit and try on rings. Larger inventories than local stores. Brand name recognition. Higher retail markups.

I recommend deciding your priorities – custom design vs unique inventory, shopping experience vs price, trusting relationships vs broader selection. For 1 carat lab grown especially, online retailers like Brilliant Earth offer phenomenal value. Local jewelers are ideal if you prefer a custom ring or hands-on experience.

Whichever you choose, ensure they have GIA/AGS certifications, excellent return policies, secure payment systems, and strong online reputation. Warrantees of at least lifetime polishing/cleaning and 1 year manufacturing defects provide peace of mind.

Decoding a GIA Diamond Certificate

To understand the quality specifics of a 1 carat diamond, refer to its GIA or AGS certificate from an independent grading lab. Don’t rely on any dealer’s grading even if promised to be as stringent. Your diamond certificate will outline the 4Cs and provide an overall analysis of the stone.

GIA Certificate

Here are the key sections to understand on a 1 carat GIA report:

Shape and Cut Grade
Lists the diamond shape and overall cut grade on a 5-point scale: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor. 1 carat diamonds should have Very Good or Excellent cut.

Dimensions
Provides measurements of the diamond in millimeters, such as the 6.55 x 6.49 x 3.95mm dimensions for a 1 carat round brilliant.

Carat Weight
Exact total carat weight to the hundredth (such as 1 carat = 1.00 ct)

Color Grade
Describes the overall whiteness on a letter scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow/brown). Near colorless G-J is ideal for 1 carat.

Clarity Grade
Describes internal imperfections on a scale from Flawless (F) to Included (I) with categories like VVS1 or SI2. VVS-VS clarity is best for a 1 ct diamond.

Polish/Symmetry
The quality of the overall craftsmanship, rated Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. Should be Very Good or Excellent.

Fluorescence
Whether the diamond emits a glow under UV light, graded None, Faint, Medium, Strong, Very Strong. Typically no impact on beauty but can slightly affect price.

Key to Symbols
Illustrates the diamond’s inclusions and their size and locations.

Details the full quality characteristics of the 1 carat diamond being evaluated.

Summary of Key Takeaways on Buying a 1 Carat Engagement Ring

After reading this guide, you are now equipped with expert knowledge for buying your perfect 1 carat diamond!

Here are the key tips to remember:

  • Select a GIA/AGS graded 1 ct diamond with Excellent/Very Good cut, VVS-VS clarity, near colorless G-J color grade.
  • Set your budget using the average 1 carat price range of $5K as a starting point. Adjust size and quality as needed to your budget and priorities.
  • Judge diamond carat weight face-up rather than absolute MM size. A well-cut 0.9 ct diamond can look as big as some 1 carats!
  • Halo settings and fancy shapes like ovals/pears can make a 1 carat diamond appear even larger.
  • Lab grown diamonds have identical beauty for 30-40% savings, a smart option for maximizing size and sparkle on a budget.
  • Decode the GIA or AGS report details to understand the quality of a 1 ct diamond.
  • Focus on getting the highest cut quality within your budget. Compromise a bit more on clarity/color over cut.

I wish you the very best as you embark on your exciting 1 carat diamond ring journey! Feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions.

FAQs on Buying a 1 Carat Diamond Ring

Is a 1 carat diamond too small?

Not at all! One carat has significant presence and sparkle, especially if the diamond is well-cut. A 1 carat diamond will look lovely and eye-catching as an engagement ring or other diamond ring.

With a halo setting, it can appear even larger. While some may opt for a larger stone, 1 carat is a versatile size that fits many budgets.

Is a 1 carat diamond worth it?

If your priority is size and you love the look of a 1 carat diamond, then it is absolutely worth it! Stick within your budget and select a stone with quality cut and clarity to maximize the sparkle.

If you desire 2 carats or more, another option is buying a 1 carat lab grown diamond which can offer tremendous value and beauty.

Should I buy online or in-store?

Either can be great options. Online retailers offer huge selections and low pricing. Local jewelers provide personalized service and the ability to see diamonds in person. Review return policies and warranties either way, and check online reviews for any retailer.

What setting makes a 1 carat diamond look bigger?

Solitaire and halo settings best maximize a 1 carat diamond’s size. V-prongs and delicate rail sides open up the diamond face vs thicker prongs. Elongated shapes like oval and pear

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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