Planning a proposal is hard. From logistics to secrecy, photographers to – I don’t know…the flash mob(?) – there is a lot of ground to cover, and that’s before you can even begin to create the mental space necessary for figuring out the words you’ll say. When it comes to making your beloved starry-eyed with the romance of it all, we can’t offer much help beyond moral support, but we are firm believers in the old adage that if you can’t say it with words, say it with diamonds.
And, if you’re going to say it with diamonds – and you’ve got the budget behind you – why not say it with the biggest diamond possible? While a large rock isn’t a prerequisite for a happy marriage, there’s no denying the fact that bigger diamonds have some serious power.
A 4 carat diamond is a serious investment. The fascination shoppers and collectors feel for large, beautiful diamonds guarantees that, to get your hands on one, you’re going to have to pay some serious bucks.
There’s no universal cost for a 4 carat diamond, and what you pay will depend on a long list of variables. When you’re spending this much, you need to make sure that every little detail is right – and there are a lot of details to see to. We’ll walk you through everything below.
For a Round Brilliant 4 carat diamond cut to ideal proportions, the average diameter is approximately 10.2mm.
That measurement will differ significantly depending on the diamond’s shape, since different cuts require weight to be distributed differently across the stone. Some shapes feature more weight above the girdle – for instance, the length of a 4 carat Oval diamond is around 12.8mm which gives the illusion of a weightier diamond – while others feature more weight below the girdle, where it won’t be seen once set within a ring.
The Cushion cut is a good example of this. At 4 carats, a Cushion will generally measure just over 9mm square, making it noticeably smaller than a Round Brilliant of the same weight.
When you’re homing in on 4 carat diamonds – or, for that matter, any size of diamond – you need to be very aware of the fact that ‘4 carat’ does not give any guarantees in terms of size. Yes, a 4 carat Cushion and a 4 Carat Oval represent the same amount of diamond, but that amount is distributed very differently between one shape and the next.
What’s more, poor quality cuts will distribute weight all wrong. An Oval that is cut too deep will appear a lot smaller when you look at its face-up appearance, whereas an Oval that is cut too shallow will appear a lot larger than the rest. If you think that sounds like a good trick, it’s not – you can read our guide to spready diamonds to find out why you absolutely, categorically don’t want one.
The average range goes from around $30,000, all the way up to $250,000 – or, in the case of a particularly sought-after and prestigious diamond, they could wind up going a lot higher.
The major difference in price between one 4 carat diamond and the next is down to quality. As we mentioned above, there are a lot of variables and details to see to when you’re choosing a diamond, and those variables are exactly what spells the difference between a five figure price tag and a six figure price tag.
The biggest mistake you could possibly make right now, however, is deciding that you’ll be able to find the perfect diamond at that lowest price point. These diamonds are priced significantly below what people are willing to pay for a reason, and, if you buy one, you will have to sacrifice some of the most important features and traits a beautiful diamond needs to have.
Theses diamonds do end up selling, primarily because some people set so much store by diamond size that they force themselves to overlook everything else – all those details we mentioned above.
For that reason, we’re going to walk you through each variable, how they drive the price up – how you can drive that price back down to a more comfortable level – and, ultimately, how you can make sure that the 4 carat diamond you walk away with is a true showstopper, worth every penny you spend on it.
Compared with your typical diamond engagement ring, yes! The average diamond purchased in the US for a proposal is a quarter of the weight at 1 carat – although, compared with the largest diamonds out there, 4 carats is still on the small side.
These super large, super rare diamonds are in the minority though, and nobody is going to look at your 4 carat engagement ring and say, ‘Yes it’s beautiful, but it’s not exactly the Cullinan, is it?’ If they do, we’d recommend making new friends.
The average size of a 1 carat Round Brilliant is 6.5mm, meaning a 4 carat Round Brilliant is just under 1.6 times the size of what ‘most people’ are wearing. It is, put simply, unmissably large. Even for onlookers who know very little about diamonds, it’ll be clear to see how much your choice surpassed expectations.
So, while a 4 carat diamond isn’t a rare marvel of nature, it is a real sight to behold – particularly on the finger of the love of your life.
Only if your partner would prefer a more understated engagement ring. Otherwise, there’s no such thing as ‘too big’ – it’s all about preference.
Listen. A 4 carat diamond engagement ring is going to stand out. It’s going to attract a lot of attention and admiration, and it’s going to be incredibly obvious, even from across a crowded room. It’s also going to take some time to get used to, and your future bride will probably find that the tasks she barely noticed doing before – searching through her handbag for her keys, putting on a sweater, running her fingers through her hair – all get a lot harder.
But, fortunately for her, this adjustment period will be temporary. So, in terms of wearability, a 4 carat diamond will only feel ‘too big’ for as long as it takes for her to adapt to it.
In terms of looks, there really is no such thing as too big. Celebrities wear diamonds much bigger than 4 carats and, if they can pull it off, so can your partner.
The Four Cs are the pillars of diamond quality. You need to understand each one, how it impacts a diamond’s appearance and performance, and how it impacts the overall cost of the diamond, before you start to seriously think about investing in any stone.
The Four Cs system was devised by the GIA almost a century ago, and we still recommend that anyone shopping for a diamond only considers those that are accompanied by a full report from the GIA or AGS and not any other lab.
100%, yes. The Four Cs are the first things you should consider whenever you’re looking at a diamond. They’re easy to understand even if you have no prior knowledge of diamonds, and knowing how to use them spells the difference between a great investment and a waste of time and money.
While the Four Cs do not cover every aspect of diamond quality, they do cover the aspects that have the most bearing on a diamond’s appearance. Alongside Carat, they include Cut, Color, and Clarity.
If you want your diamond to sparkle, then you’ll want to absorb everything you can about the Four Cs – particularly Cut. If you want your diamond to look bright, clear, and vibrant, then you will want to get your head around the subjects of Clarity and Color.
A good and reputable jeweler will be more than happy to help walk you through the process of picking out a worthwhile diamond, but it helps a lot if you’ve already gotten to know the basics. Knowing how to read a GIA report, how to look at your diamond for signs of poor quality, and how to walk away from a diamond that sounds like a good deal but just isn’t right for your proposal are all key to making a good choice that you won’t regret later.
Cut. Whatever your diamond’s weight or size, Cut is the most important aspect to get right – and it’s not something you want to try to save money on.
A diamond’s shape is not the same as a diamond’s Cut. When we talk about the Four Cs, Cut is about the quality of its proportions, ratios, weight distribution, polish, and symmetry. As we mentioned above, a diamond could look significantly bigger or smaller than other diamonds of the same shape and carat weight, simply because the weight was distributed poorly and, resulting in the proportions being thrown off.
Cutting diamonds is a complex process. Cutters want to find those perfect shapes within the rough stone, and, in the process, minimize the amount of ‘wastage’ they generate as they cut and file pieces off. In an ideal world, every rough diamond would be worked into a perfectly proportioned shape but, sometimes, it is more profitable for diamond cutters to work to the wrong proportions. Why? Because big diamonds will always sell, even if they’re far from perfect. They scream wealth and luxury, and some people will buy into that at the sacrifice of quality.
But it’s not just about the proportions themselves. A wonky, shallow, or deep diamond will look off, but it wouldn’t necessarily be too difficult to look past that – that is, if it weren’t for the fact that improperly proportioned diamonds miss out on sparkle.
Rough diamonds are unique and beautiful – so beautiful, in fact, that un-cut polki diamonds are gaining popularity at the moment – but they’re not sparkly. The sparkle comes from the facets cut into the diamond’s surface, and the shape of the pavilion (which helps to refract light through the stone and send it back out the table). If the Cut isn’t right, neither is the sparkle.
Don’t consider investing in any diamond that isn’t graded Excellent or Very Good by the GIA.
The GIA has an incredibly stringent process for checking diamonds, and their reports reflect that. While we wouldn’t recommend you go for a ‘Very Good’ diamond if it has been graded by another, less reputable lab, the GIA’s high standards mean that these two grades are ‘safe’ to look at when you’re shopping.
Ideally, you’ll go for an Excellent cut, but if a ‘Very Good’ graded diamond is otherwise perfect and has an incredible light performance, there’s no reason not to go for it.
Keep in mind that the GIA only offers Cut grades for some diamond shapes, whereas some shapes only have grades for Polish and Symmetry. In either case, you’ll want to back up the information those grades are giving you by looking at the measurements and proportions given within the report.
Each diamond shape has its own ‘ideal cut proportions’. You can find out what these ideal ranges are by reading our guides to the different diamond shapes.
Color is very important. While getting a high color grade is nowhere near as important as it is for Cut, you still want to pay close attention to the grade you choose – and how your diamond looks.
Color is a difficult subject, because a lot of first-time diamond buyers presume that, since they’re looking at white diamonds and not ‘fancy colored’ diamonds in shades of red, pink, blue, green, or black, they don’t need to waste their time learning about it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and this particular diamond Color Scale is actually only applicable to white diamonds. Fancy color diamonds have their own scale.
During their development underground, diamonds can easily take on a slight (or extreme) yellow tint, thanks to the presence of nitrogen that can get ‘trapped’ permanently inside the diamond. This yellow tint can ruin a diamond’s beauty; it can look cheap and old (despite the fact that diamonds don’t actually yellow over time).
While the presence of color doesn’t impact a diamond’s light performance, it will still be very obvious – even once the diamond is set within the ring. To this extent, it’s vital that you don’t invest in a diamond with visible color.
But color exists on a spectrum, and just because a diamond isn’t at the very top end of that spectrum doesn’t mean your eye will be able to pick up on that color. This issue is graded under special conditions, and what the grader at the GIA’s lab sees will not be the same as what you see.
For that reason, you don’t need to shoot for the very top end of the spectrum. These top grades are known as the ‘Colorless’ grades, but there’s very little noticeable difference between them and the diamonds in the next range down: the Near Colorless grades.
Look at the grades G and H for 4 carat diamonds. While shoppers looking at smaller diamonds can get away with I and J color diamonds, bigger diamonds are less effective at masking that slight trace of color.
The VS grades are probably going to be your best bet. VVS1 and VVS2 comes at a premium you don’t need to pay, but larger diamonds can rarely go lower than VS2.
For smaller diamonds, we often recommend shoppers start off looking as low as the SI1, SI2 and, at times, the I1 grade. But, as you start to look at bigger and bigger diamonds, you’ll find that the same clarity grades that worked before no longer offer the best results. The larger the diamond, the larger the table – and, unfortunately, the larger the table, the more chances there are that you’ll spot an inclusion.
But, whatever the size of your diamond, the rule is always the same: focus your search on eye clean diamonds, instead of a particular clarity grade. A single clarity grade can yield diamonds with very different appearances, since clarity is graded under 10x magnification.
It would be very easy for us to tell you, ‘Buy a VS1 diamond’, but saying that would overlook the major differences in quality and value between one grade and the next. You could easily find a diamond that looks just as good (and for significantly less money) at the VS2 grade.
It’s possible that you could find a great 4 carat diamond at the SI1 grade, too, but definitely less likely given the size of the diamond.
This is why you can’t go off a report alone. You need to use the GIA’s clarity grade as a guide, but reaffirm what’s written within the report with an in-person, up close and personal appraisal of the diamond.
Our guide to checking eye cleanliness in diamonds will give you all the pointers you need.
The Four Cs are central, but they’re not everything. There’s a lot more to think about when you’re putting together a 4 carat engagement ring than Cut, Clarity, and Color alone.
A good jeweler will be able to make most settings work just fine for bigger diamonds. Just because they look fragile and delicate, doesn’t mean they are. Your diamond will be kept securely in place.
The most secure setting for a 4 carat diamond is the bezel, but it’s not one of the most popular choices for diamond rings due to the amount of light it blocks from entering the stone. If you want the added security of the bezel but don’t want to sacrifice too much sparkle, then combine it with a halo for some extra brilliance and fire.
Prong settings are incredibly secure – much more secure than they look – particularly if you go for a double claw. You can take a look at our full guide to the different types of prong settings here.
It’s definitely still possible for bigger diamonds to be used in floating engagement rings. Remember that a 4 carat diamond, while it’s high above the average weight, is still only the equivalent of 0.8 grams (or 0.02 ounces). True, making that diamond appear to float may be more of a challenge to the jeweler, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility.
It’s a great choice, but it’s not inherently ‘better’ than gold.
Not only does platinum look incredible alongside a white diamond, but it’s an incredibly strong and durable metal perfect for keeping your diamond safe. If you love the bright, luminous shine it emits, then it’s an excellent choice. And, if you’ve got the budget to cover the extra cost, we’d definitely recommend platinum over white gold, which looks similar but needs to be regularly recoated to avoid gold’s yellow tones peeping through.
But, if you know your partner prefers warmer hues like yellow and rose gold, there’s no point in paying for platinum just because it’s stronger. 14K and 18K gold are both strong enough to hold your diamond in place, and they create a gorgeous contrast with the bright, clear stone.
A beautiful ring setting can cost anywhere from $1,000 up. Designer settings can run up an extremely high bill, but, if you ask us, they’re just not worth it.
For shoppers looking at 1 carat diamonds (or thereabouts), we generally advice that 20% of the budget is reserved for cost of the ring setting. But, as your budget grows, it’s just not necessary to budget more and more money for the setting.
Luxury jewelers like Tiffany & Co. can charge a lot just for their branding, but once the ring is on your partner’s finger that branding will be out of sight and out of mind. It’s better to create your ideal ring setting with your jeweler and pay a reasonable price for it, than to go for the most expensive option just because you can. Spend the majority of your budget on the diamond itself.
A 4 carat engagement ring is a true crowd pleaser. The extra investment required to get one of these diamonds on your partner’s finger will definitely pay off, and no one will be able to deny that that is a big and impressive rock on her finger.
Remember that, while big diamonds enjoy a very high status, they’re not the easiest things to wear (particularly at first), and some people find a more streamlined ring to be the more practical option for everyday life. It all depends on your partner, and you know better than us whether she will be thrilled by a big diamond, or by something a little less conspicuous.
As always, the key to making a good choice is to take your time, to pick out a reputable jeweler who will lend their insight to the process, and to do your research before you head in for your consultation. It really pays to know what you’re looking for (and what you’re not), and the best advice we can give you is to wait until you’re confident in your knowledge of the Four Cs, proportion and ratio, fluorescence, and eye cleanliness.
If you can get those subjects straight in your mind, then finding a 4 carat diamond will be a great experience for you, and for your future bride.