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Ask a Diamond Pro: Choosing a Diamond for a Baguette Setting for $11,000

By Mike Fried,

We often receive emails from readers inquiring about affordable alternatives to engagement ring settings from well-known luxury jewelry brands, such as Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co. 

Recently, a reader emailed us asking for help creating something similar to a gorgeous baguette side-stone ring from Harry Winston. The original setting wasn’t appropriate for their budget, and they were curious if it was possible to make something equally beautiful for less. 

Here’s an abridged version of the reader’s first few emails:

“Hello Diamond Pro, I am currently looking for an engagement ring. So far, this emerald cut ring with tapered baguette side stones from Harry Winston stands out among the rest.

But it is expensive and completely out of my budget. So I am considering buying the stone and making the diamond setting separately.

Is this a good idea? If so, can you give me some recommendations on the how-to’s? And do I stand a chance to get it done exactly as the one in Harry Winston?

I’m looking for a diamond with a D/E/F color, FL/IF/VVS1/VVS2 clarity, and carat weight of between 1.00-1.60 carat. Well, it really depends on the value of the ring as a whole, but I would say my budget is somewhere between 8,000$-11,000$.

I am completely open to suggestions, please let me know what you think.”

Harry Winston Emerald-Cut Engagement Ring
Harry Winston Emerald-Cut Engagement Ring (Photo: Harry Winston)

As we discussed in our Harry Winston review, Harry Winston engagement rings are truly some of the finest around. 

However, like with other luxury brands, you can buy an equally gorgeous, high-quality diamond engagement ring for far less from an online vendor, provided you care more about the quality of the ring itself and less about being able to mention an exclusive brand name. 

The key is to spend your budget wisely on a stunning diamond, then pair it with a setting that’s similar in style to your desired brand name jewelry. Thankfully, online vendors like James Allen and Blue Nile make this process easy by stocking a huge variety of engagement ring settings.

We’ve covered this in more detail below and explained how you can get the Harry Winston (or Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels or any other brand name) look for your engagement ring, all while spending a fraction as much.

We’ve also shared several example emerald cut diamonds that would be great choices for this reader’s tastes and budget. 

Are Designer Engagement Rings Worth It?

We have nothing against high-end designer products, and if you’ve read our reviews of luxury jewelry brands such as Tiffany & Co. or Harry Winston, you’ll know that we acknowledge their jewelry is outstanding in terms of both quality and brand recognition.

By buying a diamond ring from one of these brands, you’re guaranteed exceptional quality, as well as outstanding customer service. 

However, diamonds differ from other luxury goods such as watches and handbags in the sense that they are, at least in part, a commodity. 

This means that when you remove the setting and packaging from the equation, a 1.20 carat, F color, VS1 clarity diamond from Harry Winston is ultimately much the same as a diamond of the same cut quality, color and clarity from any other reliable vendor. 

Diamond prices are determined based on market prices, with the Rapaport Diamond Price List the major international benchmark used by diamond dealers to establish prices in different markets. There isn’t any difference in the “Rap price” between a diamond sold by Tiffany & Co. and the equivalent diamond sold by an online vendor, nor does the brand name pass any kind of premium value onto the diamond itself.

The difference in price, however, is often immense. For example, when we compared diamond rings from Harry Winston to those available from Brian Gavin, we found a difference in price of around 50 percent. 

As we’ve discussed in our guide to selling a diamond, this premium is often the first thing to go should you decide to sell your diamond ring in the future. 

This is a huge premium to pay for a setting and a brand name, especially when similar settings — with some exceptions, such as the Tiffany Setting (which has a trademarked prong design) — are widely available from other diamond jewelry vendors. 

For example, this tapered baguette setting from James Allen is almost identical to the reader’s desired setting from Harry Winston. It’s available for less than $2,000 — a fraction of what you would pay for the Harry Winston setting. 

Emerald Cut Tapered Baguette Diamond Engagement Ring
Emerald Cut Tapered Baguette Diamond Engagement Ring from James Allen

For an even closer match (or for something that’s truly unique), many online diamond vendors even offer custom design services. For example, James Allen provides custom setting design, as does Brian Gavin Diamonds

Blue Nile also allows special orders based on your specifications, allowing you to design a ring that’s a perfect match for your tastes and vision. 

In general, unless you have a budget of $500,000 or more, you’ll almost always end up with a higher quality engagement ring at a more affordable price by ordering a custom ring or picking an existing setting from an online vendor than by opting for an exclusive brand.

With this reader’s budget of approximately $11,000, picking an online vendor rather than Harry Winston is a no-brainer that allows for much better value for money. 

Choosing the Right Emerald Cut Diamond

Now, let’s move on to the choice of diamond. In their email, this reader says that they’re looking for an emerald cut diamond in the 1.00 to 1.60 carat range, a color grade between F and D, and clarity in the VVS2 to FL range.

In a follow-up email, they also asked for advice on the best combination of characteristics for an emerald cut diamond.

As we’ve covered in our guide to the diamond 4 Cs, we always suggest prioritizing cut, then selecting a diamond that’s eye-clean (meaning it doesn’t show inclusions) and colorless in relation to its setting. 

When it comes to an emerald cut diamond, picking a clarity grade in the VVS2 to FL range and a color grade in the D to F range isn’t optimal. These choices will result in a lot of money being wasted on clarity and color that are only visible with bright lighting and magnification. 

Emerald cut diamomdn basic info

Instead, it’s better to opt for VS clarity. Going below this level could result in a diamond with visible inclusions, as the large table and straight, linear facets of the emerald cut can make inclusions relatively easy to see at lower clarity grades. 

As for color, spending extra for a diamond with a grade in the perfectly colorless range is also a subpar choice. Yes, an emerald diamond with a D color grade will look perfectly clear. However, a diamond with a G, H or I grade will look virtually identical and cost far less per carat.

We recommended this 1.52 carat, H color, VS1 clarity diamond and this 1.54 carat, G color, VS2 clarity diamond to the reader. Both are emerald cut diamonds that look gorgeous and provide far better value for money than diamonds with flawless color or clarity.

This extra value for money allows for a larger diamond — something that’s far more noticeable to the human eye than a slight step up in clarity.

Our Recommendation

Luxury brands like Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston offer some of the best engagement rings on the market, but you can find identical quality diamonds and settings elsewhere without the same price premium.

If you’re like this reader and want an exceptional engagement ring without the premium of most well-known luxury brands, designing your own ring online is an option worth considering. 

As we mentioned above, we recommend James Allen, Blue Nile and Brian Gavin Diamonds, all of whom offer custom jewelry. Another option is to simply pick a premade setting that’s similar to what’s offered by your preferred brand name jeweler. 

Going this route gives you all of the benefits — a stunning diamond and a beautiful setting — with more of your budget to put towards extra carat weight

If you need help comparing diamonds, picking a setting or with any other aspect of the diamond buying process, feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help you compare your options and find the best engagement ring for 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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