by Suzanne Sachs • 5 min read
THE BASICS --
A 1-carat diamond can be a beautiful gem, but what does it mean when a diamond is labeled as one carat? A better understanding of this critical measure of a diamond’s weight can help you be better prepared to choose the perfect diamond for an engagement ring, wedding band, anniversary ring, pendant, or any type of diamond jewelry.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW--
Defining a One Carat Diamond
A carat is the standardized international unit of measurement for diamond and gemstone weight. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams, or one-fifth of a gram.
• What is a One Carat Diamond Ring ?
Carat measures were first standardized in the 1570s, but not to the precision of today’s 200 milligram measurement. Instead, carat weight was first associated with the weight of carob seeds – an edible seed from a flowering tree widespread throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. These seeds are quite uniform in shape and size, and therefore were often used as counterbalances when gemstones were weighed.
In 1907, the precise modern measurement was adopted, and many countries use this measurement today. Carat measurements are also described in points, with a full 1-carat diamond being described as 100 points. A 25-point diamond, then, weighs one-quarter of a carat, a 50-point diamond is half a carat, and so forth.
What Weighs One Carat?
While knowing the technical measurement of one carat is helpful, what does that weight really mean? A weight of 200 milligrams may sound like a lot, and for such a rare substance as a precious gem, it is significant.
In comparison, a 200-milligram pill – a standard dosage of basic aspirin, for example – is also equal to one carat. Few other items are as light, but a one-carat diamond is also the same weight as one-fifth of a United States dollar bill, one-fifth of a business card, one-fifth of a standard paper clip, or one-quarter of
a raisin. Despite their small size, however, diamonds have big, incomparable beauty.
To bring a carat’s size into perspective, it would take approximately 2,250 one-carat diamonds to weigh a full pound!
Variations on One Carat
Not all 1-carat diamonds rings look the same. The shape of the diamond, as well as the proportions of its cut, can dramatically influence how visually large or small the stone may appear. Longer shapes such as oval, emerald, marquise, and pear tend to emphasize carat size and look bigger, while deeper shapes such as heart, cushion, and princess tend to look smaller even if the weight measurements of the stones are identical.
The cut of a diamond, as well as the stone’s clarity and color, also impacts how visually large a stone may seem to be. A higher quality stone with a precise cut will refract more light, increasing its sparkle and interior fire for a larger appearance. Similarly, the more colorless the stone may be, the better it will internally refract light for better fire and a larger look.
One Carat Diamond Ring Cost
There is a great price range in the cost of a 1-carat diamond ring. Depending on the stone’s overall quality – all four C’s, not just carat – the cost may be as little as $1,000 or as high as $25,000 or more. Couples on a budget can investigate some cost-saving options to purchase a good 1-carat diamond by choosing a
stone with slightly less precision in its cut, a lower quality color, or internal flaws to its clarity that reduce the price.
Another way to affect the price of a 1-carat diamond is to get a nearly, but not quite, 1-carat stone. There is virtually no difference in size between a .95-carat diamond and a 1-carat diamond to the casual eye, yet the price difference between the two sizes can be significant, even when the stones are comparable in other quality assessments.
One Carat Diamond Ring Setting
A ring’s setting can also impact the appearance of a diamond’s overall carat weight. A 1-carat diamond set in an elevated, open setting such as a cathedral prong style or a sleek modern tension setting will have more light enter the stone for greater refraction, making the stone appear larger. A closed, confined setting such as a bezel or channel setting, on the other hand, keeps more light out of the stone and limits refraction, therefore making the stone appear somewhat smaller.
Understanding Total Carat Weight
Another measure buyers need to be aware of is the difference between an individual diamond’s carat weight and the total carat weight of a piece of jewelry. An individual stone’s carat weight measures just that one stone, no matter what type of jewelry it is part of, how it is shaped or cut, or what quality the diamond may be.
Total carat weight (TCW) refers to the combined, collective weight of all diamonds in a single piece of jewelry or matched jewelry set, such as a pair of earrings or a bridal wedding ring set that includes an engagement ring and an accented wedding band. This measurement does not take into account the individual weights of stones, but only the total weight when all stones are added together. A 1-carat solitaire diamond, then, is certainly larger than a 1-carat TCW three-stone diamond ring, which splits that weight among all three stones rather than concentrating it into a single gem.
Total carat weight will include every diamond of any size in a particular piece, from a larger center stone to accents, side stones, halos, clusters, and even small chips that may make up a pave design. This can make TCW quite misleading, but it is still a valuable measure for a piece of jewelry overall.
Is Bigger Always Better for a One Carat Diamond Ring?
A larger carat weight for a diamond isn’t necessarily a “better” stone by every measure. While a full carat is one of the most popular weights for diamond jewelry, particularly engagement rings, smaller stones of better color, clarity, and cut can be more attractive and valuable than full carat stones with other poor qualities or excessive flaws. Many of these qualities, however, are subjective, and the stone that appears perfect to one individual may not be quite so attractive to another.
To properly value a diamond, it is critical to assess all four quality C’s – carat, color, clarity, and cut. This will provide a thorough overview of the stone and a way to compare it objectively with similar diamonds. Ultimately, however, the beauty of a diamond is a personal preference, and any 1-carat diamond can be a stunning focal point for a piece of meaningful and mesmerizing jewelry.
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