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Diamond Carat: With Diamonds, Size Matters

Size certainly does matter in diamonds, but perhaps not as much as you'd think. While many people are impressed with a high-carat diamond, other factors, including cut, clarity, and color, can sometimes have a bigger effect on its value–and often a greater impact on its beauty. That said, the carat weight of a diamond will affect how much you pay for it–so here are the basics.

Generally speaking, a diamond's carat weight refers to its mass, measured in milligrams. One carat is equivalent to one fifth of a gram, 200 milligrams, or .007 ounces. Many diamonds are less than one carat in size, and their carat sizes are often expressed in points derived from decimals. For example, a half-carat diamond is .50 of a carat, and is therefore a 50-point diamond; a 1/4 carat diamond will be approximately .25 of a carat, and is a 25-point diamond; a single-carat diamond is a 100-point diamond. Diamond engagement rings tend to start at around 1/4 carat, and can be as much as 5 carats.

Many people expect a 2-carat diamond to look twice as big as a 1-carat diamond. This won't be the case–remember, carats are a measurement of weight, not diameter. A 2-carat diamond will be wider, but also longer, than a 1-carat diamond, so it will not have twice the diameter. The length, or "depth," strongly affects the brilliance of a diamond, and jewelers have to cut the diamonds to certain proportions in order to maximize brilliance. This means a 2-carat diamond won't look twice as big as a 1-carat jewel when compared side-by-side–although it will look bigger.

When it comes to price, the amount you'll pay per carat doesn't increase regularly with size. This is because demand for a 1-carat diamond, for example, is much greater than for one slightly under 1 carat. This means that for a .95-carat diamond, you might pay thousands less than for a 1.01-carat diamond of similar color, clarity, and cut–and a difference of just .06 of a carat. This is why, when shopping for a diamond, you may find two that look almost exactly alike–but one is a great deal more expensive than the other.

Many men believe that bigger is better when it comes to diamonds–there's that old cliche that says women love big diamonds in their engagement rings, and the ads tend to hint that the bigger the diamond, the greater your love. But a big diamond isn't right for every woman–for some, a smaller diamond is a much better choice. For an active woman, for example, you should probably look for a smaller size diamond that doesn't protrude too much. These rings can get caught on things, knock against surfaces, and generally get in her way. The same goes for a woman not used to wearing big jewelry. In addition, consider the size of your fiancee's hands. If she has small hands, a smaller diamond will look bigger on her–and a large diamond could overwhelm her.

In general, when you're buying a diamond, carat size is only one factor out of many that determines a gem's value. If size is important to you, you may have to compromise on something like color, clarity, or brilliance to stay within budget. If the beauty of the stone is more important to you, choose a stone with a high cut, clarity, or color–or a solid combination of all three–and pick a smaller size. There are lots of ways you can balance color, clarity, cut, and carat to get the right diamond at the right price as you can learn about in this information on selecting an engagement ring.

Discover more about Diamonds: History, Diamond Jewelry, Engagement Rings, Quality, Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut and Shape.

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