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From time to time, we receive emails from readers looking to upgrade their engagement ring to commemorate a special occasion, such as a wedding anniversary.
Upgrading a ring can be a fantastic way to mark an important date and give your partner a ring that’s even more special than before. Over the last few years, ring upgrading has become more popular and commonplace, with several options available for trading in existing diamonds.
In fact, as this recent article from Rapaport notes, one of the hottest trends in custom jewelry at the moment involves upgrading jewelry that was purchased earlier in a person’s life and has sentimental value, or family jewelry that’s been passed down from relatives.
Recently, a reader contacted us asking for expert help upgrading their engagement ring before their 5th wedding anniversary. They had a budget of $10,000 to $12,500 and wanted to end up with a round or cushion cut diamond in the 1.25 to 1.50 carat range.
Here’s their original email:
“I’m looking at upgrading my ring for our 5th anniversary and have set aside a budget of 10-12.5K. It would be great if I can trade in my current ring towards the new purchase but, it’s not necessary. Here is the setting I am interested in: Blue Nile Petite Cathedral Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring
This to me would be an investment and I am concerned about going down on clarity or color because I am concerned about resale value. I was ideally looking at VVS2 and above, color G and above with ideal cut.
They added some extra information in a second email, noting that they were ideally looking for a diamond of at least 1.35 carats, preferred high clarity and color grades because of resale value, and wanted to know if we thought a cushion cut diamond could be worth considering.
There’s quite a lot to cover here, so let’s start with their first concern — purchasing a 1.25 to 1.50 carat diamond with a budget of $12,500. This is very possible, but it requires being flexible when it comes to clarity and color.
Their second concern, about resale value, is a little harder to answer. Generally speaking, clarity and color grades don’t have that much of an impact on diamond resale value. Regardless of the type of diamond you’re buying, you should always expect to lose money if you sell it.
As for whether a cushion cut diamond is worth considering, absolutely. In fact, picking a cushion cut over a round cut diamond will offer better value for money, making it easier to find a diamond in the 1.25 to 1.50 carat range that’s priced to match this reader’s budget.
We’ve gone into more detail about all three of these topics — finding the right diamond within this price range, understanding diamond resale value, and choosing a cushion cut diamond — below.
As we’ve covered in our guide to buying a diamond, we suggest following a multi-step process when you purchase a diamond. This process starts by choosing your preferred diamond shape, working out a carat weight range, then choosing a diamond with Excellent or Ideal cut quality.
After this, we recommend choosing the lowest clarity and color grades that provide a diamond that’s eye-clean (meaning it doesn’t have any inclusions that are visible to the naked eye) and colorless in relation to its setting.
The reason we recommend this approach is that it puts most of your diamond budget towards the features you do see — such as cut quality and carat weight — and less towards the features of the diamond that can’t be seen, such as flawless clarity.
This reader mentioned choosing a diamond with high clarity and color grades in order to keep as much resale value as possible.
There’s a common misconception when it comes to diamonds that a “perfect” or “near-perfect” diamond — essentially, one with good clarity and color grades — retains its value better than a diamond with less optimal clarity and color grading.
Like many pop culture beliefs about diamonds, this isn’t quite true. While a diamond with good clarity and color grades will generally be worth more than one with poor ones, the belief that a diamond “holds value” well because of its GIA or AGS certificate isn’t accurate.
In our guide to selling a diamond ring, we mentioned that you will always lose money when you sell a diamond. This is because outside of the wholesale world, almost all diamonds are sold at a significant markup.
While major defects and obvious inclusions can affect a diamond’s resale value, a diamond with good clarity or color grades isn’t necessarily a better “store of value” than one with less perfect clarity and color.
This type of diamond may sell for a slightly higher price than an equivalent diamond with poorer clarity and color, but it will also cost more to purchase in the first place. The end result is little, if any, major difference in the total amount of value retained over the long term.
In general, we suggest worrying less about diamond resale value and focusing more on getting the best quality diamond for you when you first purchase it.
With that discussion out of the way, let’s move on to the reader’s next question: our opinion on cushion cut diamonds.
Cushion cut diamonds can look absolutely stunning, and they offer several unique advantages over other diamond shapes. First, they’re exceptionally brilliant as a result of their facet pattern, which combines a round brilliant cut with elements of the classic old mine cut.
Second, the unique shape of a cushion cut diamond makes it stand out from the crowd. Thanks to its rounded edges, this shape of diamond is also less likely to crack or become chipped than purely square or oblong diamonds, such as the princess cut or emerald cut.
Finally, the cushion cut involves far less waste during the cutting and polishing process — a key advantage that makes it more affordable per carat than the round brilliant cut.
Because of these advantages (and others), the cushion cut diamond has become one of the most popular diamond shapes in recent years. As the GIA notes, it’s become a particular favorite of celebrities looking for a quietly refined and attractive alternative to the round brilliant cut.
With this said, the cushion cut does have some downsides. One of these is that its large, open table makes inclusions easier to see than with a round diamond. Because of this, we generally suggest sticking to a clarity grade of SI2 or better when shopping for a cushion cut diamond.
These clarity grades will usually provide an eye-clean cushion cut diamond, all at a lower price per carat than the “VVS2 and above” range specified by this reader.
The second is that the cushion cut displays slightly more color than the round brilliant cut. As a result of this, it’s generally best to stick to an H color grade or higher.
Now, let’s find some diamonds that match this reader’s preferences and budget. This 1.52 carat, H color, VS2 clarity cushion cut diamond from James Allen is available for $9,510 and exceeds the reader’s desired 1.35 carats by a significant amount.
As a cushion cut diamond, it’s also nicely priced, potentially leaving over $2,000 available for the setting.
This 1.51 carat, G color, VS2 clarity cushion cut diamond is also comfortably within the reader’s budget at $9,730.
To provide an example of how much extra value the cushion cut offers, compare the diamonds above to this 1.31 carat, H color, SI1 clarity round cut diamond. For roughly the same price, it’s 0.21ct smaller in terms of carat weight and have lower clarity grade.
All of these diamonds can look gorgeous when paired with the right pavé setting, making them worth considering if you have a similar budget and tastes to this reader.
Upgrading your engagement ring is becoming increasingly popular, and a major anniversary or other milestone is the perfect opportunity to do it.
Contrary to popular belief, choosing a diamond with a great color or clarity grade won’t provide any additional resale value, at least in percentage terms. Instead, we recommend choosing the diamond you like, not the one you think will retain the most value.
In this case, a beautiful cushion cut or round brilliant cut diamond can both look stunning with a petite pavé setting, with the cushion cut offering better value for money and the ability to choose a slightly larger diamond for the price.
When choosing diamonds, we recommend carefully looking at the high-resolution, 360° images provided by James Allen and Blue Nile to check for inclusions. This is especially important with the cushion cut, due to its larger table and more visible inclusions and blemishes.
If you need help with the process, feel free to contact us. Our diamond experts help hundreds of readers compare and choose diamonds every month, and we’re happy to help you find the ideal diamond engagement ring and other jewelry for your tastes and budget.
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