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Ask a Diamond Pro: Finding a Stunning Round Diamond for $20,000

By Mike Fried,

We often receive emails from readers seeking expert help buying large diamonds in the 2+ carat range. Recently, a reader contacted us asking for our recommendations buying a round brilliant cut diamond and a white pavé setting with a total budget of $20,000.

Here’s their original email:


Looking to buy an engagement ring and would benefit from some help. I’m looking for something in the 10-20k range. What would be the next steps?

I think for the style setting it would be a pave. In terms of metal something white. Not sure what’s better between platinum or white gold. For diamond shape, I think probably round.

Is this helpful?”

This presents a great opportunity to talk about two key topics: choosing a round diamond for a budget of $20,000 and selecting a beautiful white gold or platinum engagement ring setting to match it.

When it comes to choosing a diamond, we always recommend prioritizing cut. We suggested a range of options for this reader, including this impressive 2.24 carat diamond from James Allen and this stunning 1.75 carat diamond from Brian Gavin Diamonds.

Both of these diamonds are beautifully cut — a factor that provides exceptional brilliance and a great degree of presence on the wearer’s finger. 

For this reader, we recommended a 14K white gold pavé setting thanks to its durability and low cost when compared to other metals.

We’ve covered both of these topics in more detail below and provide some examples of round diamonds to consider if you have a similar budget and tastes to this reader.

Choosing a Round Brilliant Cut Diamond for $20,000

The round brilliant cut is by far the most popular diamond shape, and for plenty of reasons. Not only is it elegant and timeless, but its perfectly symmetrical design and facet pattern mean that it’s excellent at refracting light, giving it exceptional brilliance and fire.

Because of these unique features, round cut diamonds account for about 75% of all diamonds sold, and approximately 60% of all engagement rings. In fact, according to the American Gem Society, the round brilliant cut has been the most popular diamond shape “for years,” comfortably outselling every other diamond shape by a large margin.

As the GIA explains here, round brilliant cut diamonds have 57 or 58 facets, which are cut and arranged for optimal light performance. The top facet, the table, “gathers light from above the diamond and directs it into the diamond’s interior,” in which the crown facets disperse this light to create the round brilliant cut’s trademark brilliance and fire.

Like with all diamonds, round brilliants are graded using the 4 Cs of diamonds — cut, clarity, color and carat weight. Of these characteristics, it’s the diamond cut quality that has the biggest impact on a round cut’s beauty and overall appearance.

2ct round cut diamond pavé engagement rings
Examples of 2ct round cut diamond pavé engagement rings from Blue Nile

While a well cut round diamond will look absolutely stunning, a poorly cut diamond will appear dull, lifeless and oddly proportioned. 

Diamond cut is usually graded from Poor to Excellent (or Ideal, if the diamond is graded by the AGS laboratory). While it’s okay to compromise on diamond clarity and color (something we’ve talked about below), we highly recommend choosing a round diamond with an Excellent or Ideal cut grade.

We also recommend sticking to diamonds that are graded and certified by the GIA or AGS, as these grading entities have the most accurate, reliable processes. 

With a budget in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, it’s possible to select a stunning round brilliant cut diamond with an excellent cut quality in the 1.50 to 2.50 carat range. This gives our reader plenty of options to choose from.

Ringo Approved Eye Clean Diamonds

What is Ringo?

When it comes to clarity and color, we generally recommend choosing the lowest grades that provide an eye-clean diamond that appears colorless in relation to its setting.

For a round cut diamond, this typically means a diamond with a clarity grade in the SI (slightly included) or VS (very slightly included) range.

Since the round cut is excellent at hiding color, a color grade in the H or I range will generally provide a diamond that appears colorless in its setting. If you opt for a colored metal, such as yellow or white gold, a lower color grade in the J or K range is also fine.

Good choices for this reader’s tastes and price range include this 2.01 carat, I color, SI1 clarity stone from James Allen, as well as this stunning 1.55 carat, I color, VVS1 clarity diamond from Brian Gavin Diamonds

Both of these diamonds are beautifully cut and will look gorgeous when set inside a white gold or platinum pavé ring. 

Which White Metal is the Best Choice?

When it comes to white engagement ring metals, there are two main options available: white gold and platinum.

Each metal has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, platinum is often viewed as a symbol of prestige. It’s also a hypoallergenic metal (meaning it’s highly unlikely to trigger a skin allergy) and has a heavier feel and greater durability than gold.

White gold, on the other hand, is a far more affordable metal that’s created by mixing pure gold with nickel, zinc and copper. 

difference between a white gold and platinum engagement ring
The visual difference between a white gold and platinum engagement ring – graphic

We almost always recommend white gold over platinum. The reason for this is that both metals are visually identical and require similar amounts of care and upkeep, but white gold is far more affordable than platinum. 

For this reader, a 14K white gold setting (which offers better durability than 18K gold) is the best choice. By selecting gold over platinum, they can put a larger amount of their budget towards a beautifully cut, larger diamond. 

As for settings, options are abundant. This classic French pavé engagement ring from Blue Nile is available for less than $1,500, while this white gold petite pavé engagement ring from James Allen offers excellent value for money at just $1,230. 

Both settings will beautifully complement a round brilliant cut diamond in the 1.50 to 2.50 carat range. 

Our Recommendation

A budget of $10,000 to $20,000 will allow you to buy a stunning round brilliant cut diamond, but it’s still vital to pay attention to the basics. This means prioritizing cut quality, picking a diamond that’s eye-clean and choosing something that’s colorless in relation to its setting.

If you’re interested in buying a diamond and have a similar budget to this reader, you can learn more about the process — including what to look for and recommended vendors — in our guide to buying an engagement ring for $20,000

You can also contact us for personalized help. Our expert team helps hundreds of readers buy their engagement rings every month, and we’re happy to help you compare diamonds and find the best option for your preferences 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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