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Ask a Diamond Pro: Finding a Diamond Pendant on a $5,000 Budget

By Mike Fried,

A diamond pendant can be a stunning and highly meaningful gift, whether it’s to commemorate a wedding anniversary or a milestone birthday. 

We’re often contacted by readers looking for help choosing the right diamond for a pendant or other diamond necklace. Recently, a reader sent us an email asking for our advice on buying a round brilliant cut diamond pendant in the $5,000 range. 

Here’s the reader’s original email:


I’m in the process of looking for a diamond for a pendant necklace to give to my fiance on our wedding day.

This is the setting I think I’ll go with (18K White Gold 4 prong basket):


I’m looking at round diamonds. I’ve been looking at only “True Hearts” cut diamonds. Which leads me to question

1). Do I gain a lot going from “Ideal” cut to “True Hearts” on James Allen website. Based on my research in the past, I know cut is at the top of importance, so I’m thinking the answer is yes, but want to make sure.

As far as Color, I’ve narrowed down to G,H,I,J based on past research for the engagement ring with the top cut quality.

For Clarity, I’m looking at anything SI2 and above. My big thing here is that I want it to be clear to the naked eye and have less noticeable inclusions.

For carat, I’m looking at rings around 1.0 Carats, but not any lower than 0.8 carats.

I would like to keep the budget for the diamond to under 5K, and if I can get a great diamond to meet my criteria and closer to 3K or 4K, I’m all for it.

I truly appreciate your help with this, and all the help your site and your team have been.”

These are all great questions that we often get from people comparing diamonds for pendants, engagement rings and other jewelry. 

An example of a diamond pendant on woman's neck
An example of a diamond pendant on woman’s neck

We’ll go into more detail in the section below, but here are our quick and simple answers to this reader’s questions.

When it comes to cut quality, the True Hearts collection from James Allen contains some stunning diamonds. With this said, you can often find “regular” Excellent or Ideal cut diamonds that are just as impressive as True Hearts diamonds, all with a significantly lower price per carat. 

Choosing one of these diamonds over a True Hearts diamond can significantly reduce the total amount you pay per carat, letting you either save money or opt for a larger diamond. 

As for color and clarity, a diamond with a color grade of I can look great in a pendant while offering excellent value for money, provided it’s eye-clean. We recommend focusing on an I color stone, then carefully checking for inclusions using the images provided by James Allen or Blue Nile

Choosing a 1.0 Carat Diamond Pendant for $5,000

As we’ve discussed in our diamond education guides, buying a high-quality diamond is all about understanding the diamond 4 Cs: cut, clarity, color and carat weight.

Each of the four Cs plays a significant role in a diamond’s appearance, as well as the price that you’ll pay for the diamond. Being a smart, informed shopper involves understanding the unique roles that each of the four Cs plays, then prioritizing the ones that have the biggest impact.

This reader already has a solid understanding of the four Cs, starting with the most important for a diamond’s appearance and beauty: cut.

A diamond’s cut quality refers to how well it’s cut and polished. A well-cut diamond has great polish, depth and symmetry, giving it exceptional brilliance and fire — the ability to reflect colored and white light when it’s exposed to a light source.

As the GIA puts it, “cut quality is the factor that fuels a diamond’s fire, sparkle and brilliance. The allure and beauty of a particular diamond depends more on cut quality than anything else.” In other words, cut quality is the factor that you’ll want to prioritize most when choosing a diamond to ensure it looks exceptionally beautiful.

4Cs infographic

We strongly recommend buying a diamond with an Excellent cut grade (if it’s graded by the GIA) or Ideal (if it’s graded by the AGS). Well-cut diamonds look stunning and have significantly more presence on the wearer’s finger than a poorly cut diamond, which will appear dull and lifeless. 

Many diamond vendors, including James Allen, offer their own line of diamonds with a very high level of cut quality. In the case of James Allen, this is the True Hearts™ range.

The idea behind True Hearts is that James Allen sorts their very finest diamonds (less than one percent of total world diamond production) into this collection to distinguish them thanks to their perfect internal symmetry and proportions, which create a starburst-like facet pattern.

We’re big proponents of James Allen (you can read our review here) and it’s absolutely true that the True Hearts collection contains some amazing diamonds. 

However, the True Hearts designation is completely subjective, and it’s solely up to James Allen to determine which diamonds are included in the collection and which are not. 

The reality is that by carefully reviewing diamonds with an Excellent or Ideal cut grade, you can find diamonds that are equally as brilliant as those in the True Hearts collection, all without any premium price tag attached.

A halo pendant on a woman's neck
A halo pendant on a woman’s neck (photo: James Allen)

For example, this 0.90 carat, I color, SI1 clarity diamond and this 0.90 carat, I color, SI1 clarity diamond both have excellent cut quality, but aren’t part of the True Hearts range. As a result of this, they’re significantly more affordable on a per-carat basis. 

This difference in pricing has a real impact, as it can potentially result in a diamond with a 10 to 20 percent greater carat weight — a feature that you’re far more likely to notice.

When it comes to color, this reader’s choice to look for a diamond in the G, H, I or J color range is a sensible decision. We suggest looking for a diamond with an I color grade, as the round cut is excellent at concealing internal color.

This means that an I color diamond will appear colorless, even when it’s paired with a white gold or platinum pendant. 

Diamond Color Graph

While the round brilliant cut is fantastic at concealing inclusions, it’s especially important to look for an eye-clean diamond (meaning a diamond that doesn’t have any inclusions that are visible to the human eye) for a diamond pendant.

This is because a pendant is worn directly in people’s line of sight, making any blemishes easier to identify.

For a round cut diamond of 1.00 carat or less, a clarity grade of VS2 or SI1 will typically provide an eye-clean diamond. However, it’s still important to carefully inspect the diamond yourself with the high-resolution images provided by James Allen or Blue Nile.

By sticking within these parameters, you can find some gorgeous diamonds in the 0.80 to 1.00 carat range, all for less than $5,000. 

For example, this 0.90 carat, I color, VS1 clarity diamond will look stunning, while still providing for a reasonable budget to be put towards a pendant setting.

Our Recommendation

Diamond pendants can be fantastic gifts, whether for birthdays, anniversaries or just to mark an important personal accomplishment. Like with other diamond jewelry, being selective during the purchasing process can help you to identify value and get a stunning diamond for less.

In this reader’s case, this means foregoing the True Hearts branding and instead using objective criteria to select a beautifully cut diamond at a better price. 

As always, it’s about prioritizing the things you can see, such as a gorgeous cut or an eye-clean level of clarity, then paying less attention to the subjective factors that have little to no impact on a diamond’s appearance. 

If you’d like help selecting a diamond for a pendant, engagement ring or other jewelry, feel free to contact us. We help hundreds of our readers compare and purchase diamonds every month, and our experts are happy to help you find a diamond that suits 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. Save 25% on settings at Blue Nile!

Please enter your email address to receive your 25% off coupon code:

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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