1. Is a 14k ok? Or 18k? Or is the splurge to platinum worth it? What do you have? 14k is fine for most types of setting. Most american white gold will have nickel (banned in the UK, mostly they use palladium white gold). I personally love platinum. But, platinum is dense and squishy. Gold is less dense and hard. If you are talking pave in the ring — go platinum. If you are talking non-pave, most of the time gold is fine. Platinum does not want to stay shiny and will develop a ‘patina’ over time.
2. For the diamond color, can you visually see the color in like an H grade…Diamond color is a subjective matter. I personally can see rather fine color differences, but they just don’t bother me for a good performing stone. I look at the whole package with cut, cut and cut being first. For the average person for a round or cushion…you can drop to an I. You will only see tint from the side for a well-cut stone. I’ve seen K’s from HighPerformanceDiamonds that face-up white. Why? CUT. Buying from a brick and morter will be about 20% more for the diamond than online from a reputable vendor (Whiteflash, JamesAllen, GoodOldGold, HighPerformanceDiamonds, B2C Jewels, ID Jewelry…). I’ve seen G’s that are poorly cut and can see the color.
As a starting point, stick with diamonds with GIA or AGS certification…no IGI, no store graded, not joe’s diamond grading, not EGL. With GIA and AGS, they are quite strick in grading, so you can compare apples to apples.
3. You want eye-clean at 6-8 inches. I’ve seen that in SI2 stones hand-selected by a gemologist that meet this standard. Not all inclusions are the same (clouds, specs, twinning whisps, etc.). Depending on their location, color and density…they can have no or huge impact on performance. For a modern diamond, I want eye-clean. Period. For an OEC, I’m more flexible. My first e-ring diamond was an Old European Cut (OEC) 2+ carat and inherited. It was a VS2. I have a ring in progress with two OECs as side stones…a VVS and a SI1…but they are perfect match. The cloud in the SI1 has no impact on performance, but it was nearly half the price of the VVS. It just took me time and having a good eye.
4. Size on your finger is your aesthetic. My mom is a 6.25 and wears a 5+ carat blue diamond. I have a size 10.25 finger and like a 2-2.5 carat on me — but I like 3-stone over solitaires. But, in the US, I’d say 1-1.5 would be typical. With a 15k budget, I’d put 2-2.5K into a setting. That leaves you with $12.5k-13k for the diamond. 1-1.5 c is within your range…but, drop size before you drop cut quality. If your really want an exquisite setting and can pay 5k, look at Loen Mege and Steven Kirsch. But, my advice is spend most of your budget on the stone. Get a simpler setting if necessary. You can always upgrade the setting, but that diamond will be staring at you for much longer. A high-performing round will look better and bigger than an average one.
5. Cushions will have a smaller spread (length & width in mm) than a round. So, a round 1 carat diamond is around 6.5 mm. A 1 carat cushion will be about 5.8 mm. Don’t compare diamonds by carats (weight) compare by size (spread in mm). All diamonds are the same to keep clean. The setting will impact how easy it will be to keep the stone clean. Cushions and rounds have totally different looks, but if you like both, I’d stick with a round. You can buy a round by the numbers (cut, quality, angles, depth, etc.). You can’t do this with any other shape.
6. Brand has little to do with quality in the setting. What matters is the workmanship. Do you care if the ring is Tacori branded or not? Do you need the name? If not, look elsewhere. That said, if you get something made, be respectful of the difference between a setting inspired by a branded one vs. directly copied. I’ve bought stock rings, done semi-custom and full custom. For a novice, stick with stock or semi-custom (you slightly change an existing setting). Custom is hard even for the very experienced. I’ve been working with a jeweler for a custom ring for 3 months now.
DIAMOND BUYING 101
Run any diamond under consideration through the HCA Tool. Anything scoring a 2.0 or larger are eliminated from the running (but a .8 is not better than a 1.7). http://www.pricescope.com/tools/hca
You can use this chart as a cheat sheet in order to help you find a well cut round diamond.
depth – 60 – 62% – although my personal preference is to allow up to 62.4%
table – 54- 57%
crown angle – 34- 35 degrees
pavilion angle – 40.6- 41 degrees
girdle – avoid extremes, look for thin to slightly thick, thin to medium etc
polish and symmetry – very good and above
note – with crown and pavilion angles at the shallower ends ( CA 34- PA 40.6) and steeper ( CA 35- PA 41) check to make sure these angles complement in that particular diamond – eyeballs, Idealscope, trusted vendor input – check as appropriate!
From expert John Pollard.
“As the above implies, configurations depend on each other. A little give here can still work with a little take there.
With that said, here”s a “Cliff”s Notes” for staying near Tolkowsky/ideal angles with GIA reports (their numbers are rounded): A crown angle of 34.0, 34.5 or 35.0 is usually safe with a 40.8 pavilion angle. If pavilion angle = 40.6 lean toward a 34.5-35.0 crown. If pavilion angle = 41 lean toward a 34.0-34.5 crown.
GIA “EX” in cut is great at its heart, but it ranges a bit wider than some people prefer, particularly in deep combinations (pavilion > 41 with crown > 35).”