How many carats should an engagement ring be?

How many carats should an engagement ring be?

For many people the size of the diamond is the first thing they notice on an engagement ring. An engagement ring symbolizes a person's commitment, dedication, and love to another person, so it's not something you want to get wrong. Although there is no official guideline on how many carats or how large an engagement ring should be, factors such as the design of the ring, personal preferences, and most importantly your budget play a huge role in the size of the diamond you choose.

Statistics show that not every woman wants a large diamond. Most South Africans spend between R30 000 – R40 000 on an engagement ring. This equates to a 0.5-carat ring, depending on the clarity, cut, and metal used in the setting. Diamond sizes vary from country to country.

For example, in the United States of America, the average size of a diamond is 1.00 carat with most people spending an average of R80 000 on a ring. When it comes to purchasing a diamond ring you will find people on either side of the spectrum, some buy diamonds as small as 0.25 carats and others go over the 2.0-carat mark. Buying a diamond ring can be an overwhelming process, follow these rules and you won't go wrong.

Let's start by understanding what a diamond is:

Diamonds are forever

The diamond industry as a whole is taking a bit of a knock. There are many reasons for this with the most prominent being the increasingly strained financial positions everyone all over the world is experiencing. People are also more aware of the dangers and exploitations that go with purchasing this special stone, that they often opt for cheaper alternatives.

Diamonds are extremely old, usually between 1 to 3 Billion years old and are made up of
99.95% pure crystallized carbon. They are formed beneath the earth's surface when crystals of diamond occur in volcano feed pipes. As a volcano erodes away it releases diamonds into layers of gravel which are then mined.

Diamond mines are only found in a few sites around the world. It is the sparkle and brilliance that emerges during the cutting process that transforms them into a girl's best friend.

The Four C's

Cut, colour, clarity, and carat. All of these must be considered when purchasing and comparing diamonds. Most jewelers will argue that the cut is the most defining characteristic of a diamond.

Cut :

The cut of a diamond is the only characteristic which involves human intervention, all other factors are influenced by nature. It is for this very reason that the cut is open to mistakes and bad practices. A diamond that is cut incorrectly will lose its sparkle. The cut refers to how the 57 or 58 facets, the minute planes cut on the surface of the diamond, are angled which determines how light reflects off the diamond.

Cuts that are too deep or even too shallow limit the brilliance of the diamond. The cut also controls the shape of the diamond. Diamond shapes include a round, emerald, princess, heart, or oval shape.

Colour :

Diamonds that are white, or colourless are the most valuable. These diamonds are graded with "D". Diamonds will display subtle undertones of colour.

As more colour is evident, the grade goes up. The scale moves all the way to "Z". Diamonds that exhibit a strong, distinct colour are called fancies.


For some clarity seems to be the most important characteristic in a diamond. When looking through a magnifying eyeglass you will notice small "inclusions" on the diamond. They can be described as small feathers that can be seen, but invisible to the naked eye.

These inclusions can affect the brilliance of the diamond; however, they make it unique too. Be sure not to worry about the inclusions on a diamond, as long as the stone has been graded it will be perfectly fine.


This refers to the weight and size of a diamond. A carat amounts to 0.2gm. A carat is divided into 100 smaller points for reference, for example, 1/2 a carat is referred to as 50 points. The average size of most engagement rings ranges between ½ a carat and 1 carat.

It is always a good idea to get a "cert stone", this is a diamond that has been assessed, graded, and coded with a laser by an independent laboratory. A cert stone also safeguards against diamonds made with substitutes such as white sapphires, topaz, or zircon. These are often sold as cheap alternatives to diamonds.

The right weight for your diamond

Choosing a diamond is such a personal decision on more than one level. Consider the following factors to help you choose the right carat weight:


Weight and Size of a carat

It is crucial to remember that a carat represents weight not size. Depending on the cut of the diamond, a 1.00-carat diamond may seem smaller or larger. A round cut diamond is generally 6.5mm in diameter, while a princess cut brings the diamond to 5.5mm in diameter.

Cuts vary from jeweler to jeweler and 1.00-carat diamonds come in a variety of sizes.


There will never be a set guideline on how much an engagement ring must cost. It is important to determine how much you can afford before you start shopping. Large carat diamonds are more expensive than smaller ones.

A great mantra to remember is that the number of carats an engagement ring should be is the number that fits into your budget.

Finger Size

A person that has delicate hands often look better with smaller gems, while a bride-to-be with a wider finger may look great with a larger carat ring.

The setting of the ring

Halos, side stones, and other design elements may also make a stone look larger. Many engagement ring settings are designed for certain size stones. Choosing a larger or smaller stone won't sit right in the setting of the ring.

Personal Preference

In the perfect world, it might seem beautiful to choose a large stone, but not everyone would agree. Some people often believe that less is more and would prefer the simplicity of a smaller diamond.

A diamond that is right for you

At the end of the day, the right size diamond is one that makes both you and your partner happy. While some people enjoy small diamonds others would love a huge rock. The engagement ring you opt for should be one that fits your budget, preference, and your lifestyle.

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