Lol. It sounds like we have similar tastes when it comes to diamonds! I totally agree with you on cut and wouldn’t want to sacrifice much of the cut quality (ie I would prefer ideal or very good cut). Next is the color. Who wouldn’t love to have a colorless diamond? That said, colorless diamonds have a rather high price premium, and I’ve noticed that anything above an H looks good to my eye. So I don’t discriminate. . .as long as it looks good to my eye that’s all I would care about. Plus, G-H diamonds are considered near colorless, and very few people can tell the difference between a colorless and near colorless diamond.
SI stones can present a great bargain, and with a bit of searching, you can definitely find a beautiful SI diamond that looks totally eye-clean. Just a word of advice. . .if you are ordering diamonds from an online vendor, be sure to verify that the diamonds are eye-clean by having a gemologist on their staff verify that for you. If that isn’t possible, be sure they have a good return policy, invest in a jewelers loupe to inspect the diamond yourself (can be purchased online for a very reasonable price), and be prepared to pay for return shipping with insurance if the stone doesn’t meet your standards.
Also keep in mind that a stone will look completely different set as opposed to when it’s loose. There may be flaws that you can see from the back that will be almost impossible to see when it is set. It is much more difficult for a jeweler to sell a lose stone as opposed to one that is already mounted because of that. Keep in mind too, that when you see a stone in a jewelry store, the lights are meant to enhance the beauty of the stone. Consider looking at loose diamonds in different lighting to see how they look. Remember that if you look at a stone at home, it may not appear as “sparkly” as in the show room. Just mentioning this in case you go the online route.
If it’s well cut, eye-clean, and near colorless, you will UNDOUBTEDLY have a GORGEOUS ring that you will enjoy and love! It sounds like you’re really doing your homework when it comes to stones, and you should definitely be able to stay within (or VERY close to!) your budget.
Personally, I would never want a “mind-clean” (ie ideal cut, flawless, colorless) diamond. . .I’d rather get a great deal on something that might not be perfect on paper when analyzed under 10X, 30X, etc. but is pretty darn perfect to my eye!
Anyway, I could talk diamonds day or night, but I’ll be quiet now. Lol. Best of luck with your diamond search, and please keep us posted! (P.S. . .I would love, love, love to see pics of the finished product when it arrives! I love seeing custom designed e-rings.)