How many carats should an engagement ring be?

When you start the search for the perfect engagement ring, one of the questions you may ask yourself is, “How many carats should an engagement ring be?” And this question has many facets (pun intended). The total carat weight of any item of jewelry is made up of both the weight of the center stone as well as the side diamonds. If your ring is a solitaire, then you only need to consider the weight of your one center stone. But if you plan to have accent diamonds on your ring, you must add together the weight of both the center stone and the accent diamonds. 

The good news is that there is no right answer to the original question, as it’s all based upon personal preference. You have to ask yourself, what is most important to both you and the person receiving the ring. Size vs. quality. Carat weight vs. ring design. Let’s dissect both of these topics a bit.

Size vs. quality: For many people, size is the most important aspect of the center diamond. The bigger the better, and the quality (cut, color, and clarity) is not important to them. If this is your preference, you can likely get a very large diamond that is lower on the color and clarity scale for a fairly decent price.

On the other hand, some people want a specific color and clarity diamond, and don’t care much about the size. In this case, you’ll end up with a diamond very high on the color and clarity scale, but a bit smaller in carat weight.

Before you start searching for a diamond, it's definitely important to know your preferences. It will be difficult to find a large diamond with the perfect color and clarity if you have a tight budget, so knowing what your limitations are will assist your jeweler in finding a stone that will be perfect for your ring.

Carat weight vs. ring design: Some people want the center stone to be the star of the ring and prefer a solitaire design with a minimalistic band. This leaves you with the ability to spend the majority of your budget on the center stone alone. But if the ring design is very important to you (something custom or unique–or with a lot of accent stones), you will need to determine the cost of the ring mounting and factor that into your budget. That way you know what you can afford to spend on the center stone. This will essentially determine the overall carat weight of your ring. 

Another factor that would influence the desired carat weight is comparing the size of the stone to the size of the finger of the wearer. A 1.00 carat diamond will look different on someone with a size 4 finger vs. someone with a size 10 finger. You will want to choose a stone that will look in proportion to the person wearing it. A 3.00 carat diamond might look too large on someone with very small fingers, whereas it may look perfect on someone with a size 8 finger. Again, this is just something to consider, but it is also about personal preference, so there is no right answer. 

The average person searching for an engagement ring typically has a goal of a 1.00 carat diamond, but the truth is that if you purchase a stone just under 1.00 carat, the price will be more economical. If your goal is to have a total of 1.00 carat, we recommend purchasing a slightly smaller stone and using the savings to add accent diamonds, which will bring you over the 1.00 carat total weight.

Additionally, measurements of a stone will vary depending upon the shape. A round diamond of approximately 1.00 carat will be around 6.5mm wide, but a princess cut diamond of the same dimensions is approximately 1.50 carat. This is another reason to take into consideration how large the stone will look on the wearer’s finger, especially if you are considering alternative diamond shapes. Some stones are cut deeper than others, so they may look small from the top because the majority of their weight is hidden by the ring mounting. This is a reason to choose a diamond with an excellent cut. Most diamond grading certificates will have this outlined, including the percentages of the different parts of the stone for you to compare. 

What is your partner’s personality and expectation? Does she like very toned down fashion, or is she very on trend? Does she already wear a lot of jewelry? (If so, you can probably take some cues from what she already owns.)

If she has given you hints or you’ve gone shopping for diamonds together, our best advice would be this: listen (within your budget). And if she hasn’t given you any direction on the carat weight, then do plenty of research and have a goal in mind before you start shopping. 

One last thing to keep in mind is lab grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds. They are identical in chemical makeup, physical appearance, and are both real diamonds. Some people desire lab grown diamonds because they are more eco-friendly, given that they are grown above ground. They are also approximately 30 to 40% less expensive than diamonds mined from the earth. Because of this, you’re able to get a larger lab grown diamond (more carat weight) for the same price as the mined counterpart. This may be something to keep in mind if you are on a tight budget, or simply want a larger stone. 

While we can’t give you a definite answer to how many carats an engagement ring should be, hopefully you now have the tools to do the necessary research and ask the important questions, thereby allowing you to determine how many carats your engagement ring will be.