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Ask a Diamond Pro: Buying an Emerald Cut Diamond for $3,000

By Mike Fried,

Recently, a reader contacted us asking for advice on buying an emerald cut diamond with a total budget of $3,000. He’d seen a few diamonds in this price range in local stores, but none of them came with a GIA certificate. 

It’s definitely possible to find a beautiful emerald cut diamond in this price range. In this case, we helped the reader understand how important a reliable diamond certificate is, then found several excellent emerald cut diamonds within his budget online. 

Here’s the reader’s full message:

“I’m looking to purchase an emerald cut with solitaire mounting. I’ve visited a couple of the local jewelers and have found a couple of diamonds that fit my budget ($3000 including mounting). 

The first is a .88 ct, H, SI1 emerald cut with the diamond priced at $2300. The second is a .52 ct, D, SI1 emerald cut with the diamond priced at $2000. 

In your opinion, with a solitaire mounting, would it be worth it to go with the .88 ct diamond, even though the color grade is lower, or would it be better to stick with the .52 ct with a higher grade color? Thank you for your advice!”

We asked if the diamonds were GIA certified. He replied to mention that the first diamond wasn’t certified, but that both came from trusted local jewelers that were known to offer good service.

There are a few things to cover here, but let’s get started with the “trusted jeweler” aspect of this reader’s email first.

As we’ve explained in our guide to buying a diamond online, we strongly advise against buying a loose diamond or engagement ring from a local, brick-and-mortar jewelry store. 

There are several reasons for this, but the biggest ones are that buying online gives you better value, a larger selection of diamonds and the ability to shop at your own pace without having to deal with pushy, misleading sales tactics or low quality diamonds.

Seriously, just about every horror story we get from readers includes the words “trusted jeweler” at least somewhere. 

Emerald Cut Diamond Ring

With that out of the way, let’s get into the problem this reader is facing: he’s found diamonds that match his requirements (at least on paper) and are within his budget, but they don’t come with a GIA certificate.

In case you haven’t read our guide to diamond certification, the large majority of diamonds sold both online and in jewelry stores come with a certificate — a third-party document that describes  the diamond’s appearance and characteristics.

A certificate lists information such as a diamond’s cut quality, color, clarity and carat weight (the four Cs), as well as its length and width, how fluorescent it is and other characteristics.

A diamond’s certificate is supposed to be an objective analysis of its characteristics. If you find a diamond that’s sold without a certificate, avoid it. The certificate is essential for verifying that the diamond is what its seller claims it is, and no good quality diamond would be sold without one. 

The problem is that not all diamond certificates are equally reliable. Some grading entities have strict standards that allow them to assess diamonds objectively, while others have much looser standards that result in inflated cut, color and clarity grades for diamonds.

This means that two diamonds with identical characteristics on paper could vary wildly in terms of their actual quality and value if their certificates are from different grading labs. 

Since most consumers aren’t familiar with the intricacies of diamond certification, this can result in situations where a person thinks they’re getting an excellent deal on a diamond, when they’re really overpaying for a poor quality stone that’s been graded by an unreliable lab. 

In general, we recommend only buying diamonds that are certified by the GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) or the AGS (the American Gem Society). 

GIA certificate

The reason we recommend these lab entities is that they’re much more rigorous in their grading methods than others. Vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile both provide GIA certificates for many of their diamonds. 

Part of this is simply a result of history. The GIA has been around since the early 1930s and has, over its many years of operations, established a reputation as an unbiased source of objective information about diamonds.

As the organization’s about page states, it’s a “public benefit, nonprofit institute” that operates to “protect the gem and jewelry buying public by setting global quality standards.”

Other diamond certificates, such as those from IGI (International Gemological Institute) or EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) are nowhere near as reliable. These labs often inflate their quality claims, resulting in diamonds that look great on paper but not in reality.

Diamond experts are well aware of this. For example, in 2014, RapNet, a platform for diamond and jewelry trading, removed EGL diamond grading reports, noting concerns about “the misrepresentation of diamond quality” and inconsistency in the company’s grading standards.

The same quality issues are true for other less reliable grading organizations, such as HRD (Hoge Raad voor Diamant) and GSI (Gemological Science International). If you see a diamond with one of these certificates, we don’t recommend buying it.

Now, let’s get into what this reader was looking for — an emerald cut diamond in a solitaire ring for less than $3,000. 

Emerald cut diamonds can look fantastic, especially in a solitaire setting, which lets a lot of light hit the diamond. As well as complementing this type of diamond nicely, a solitaire setting (which is usually quite affordable) allows us to get a lot of diamond for a $3,000 total budget

One great benefit of the emerald cut is that it’s more affordable than other diamond shapes, as more of the rough diamond can be used for a finished stone in this shape. 

There are a few things to keep in mind with the emerald cut. The first is that its large table gives a clear view into the diamond. This means that inclusions are more visible than with brilliant cut diamonds of the same clarity grade.

Eye-Clean Emerald Cut Diamond

For this reason, we suggest avoiding the SI1 or SI2 clarity grades for this shape of diamond. It’s possible to find eye-clean SI1 emerald diamonds, but they’re rare. Instead, it’s far better to stick with VS2 clarity diamonds, then manually check that they’re eye-clean.

The second factor to keep in mind is that emerald cut diamonds tend to show their natural color more clearly than other diamonds. We recommend choosing a diamond with an I color grade or better if you’re planning to pair an emerald cut diamond with a white gold or platinum setting. 

Based on our advice, the reader picked out a gorgeous 0.80 carat, H color, VVS1 clarity emerald cut diamond from James Allen. It was a great looking diamond, and a huge improvement over the uncertified diamonds that were available locally.

Our Recommendation

When it comes to buying a diamond in any shape, certification from a reputable grading entity, such as the GIA or AGS, is essential. 

These labs have high standards and rigorous grading criteria, meaning you won’t need to deal with any unwanted surprises after you buy a diamond. 

As for buying an emerald cut diamond in this price range, our advice is generally the same as always: shop online, stick to our recommended clarity and color grades, and prioritize cut over the other four Cs (assuming the diamond is eye-clean). 

If you’re in a similar situation to this reader and want help choosing the right diamond, feel free to contact us for personalized recommendations based on your tastes and budget.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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