How to Buy Natural Diamonds: The Guy’s Guide

Answers to your eight most burning diamond buying questions.

By |
Melissa Kaye

By: Stuart McGurk, Associate Editor British GQ
Expert Guidance by Jennifer Csengody-Novetsky

First things first: don’t be that guy. The people who work in diamond jewelry shops know exactly what he looks like: bustling in, sweating on February 13, with a look in his eye that’s halfway between panic and fear; the one eager to just point at something, lay down his credit card and make a quick getaway.

This guy won’t have thought about anything in advance—his ideal price point, the type of jewelry his partner generally favors, the type of natural diamond, the setting, cut, carat or quality. And by the way, all of these factors are just as—if not more—important than the amount you end up spending.

Nikos Koulis

We’re here to help!

Without further ado, here are the answers to the eight most burning questions guys have when shopping for natural diamond jewelry. Studied before you set foot out the door, the advice below is bound to save time, money and major face. Plus we’ve got you totally covered by sharing a male and expert female’s perspective on each. (You’re welcome.) 

Necklace: Messika, Earring: Melissa Kaye, Ring: Melissa Kaye, Bracelet: Selim Mouzannar

Burning Question #1:

How Much Should I Spend?

Yes, they are diamonds. But with the bevvy of natural diamond jewelry options available today, there’s bound to be a piece that accommodates even the tightest of budgets. It’s important to remember: this is a gift for a lifetime; pretty much all diamonds are timeless—hell, they take anything between a billion and three billion years to form. As the joke goes, they’re not making any more. So simply monitor your expectations accordingly;  lower price points typically yield smaller or less brilliant diamonds, and vice versa. That said, when it comes to natural diamond jewelry less can very much be more.

A perfect gift, you may ask? A beautiful pair of diamond stud earrings is the perfect entree into diamond gifting. 

Left to Right: KatKim, Repossi, Ondyn

Expert Tip:  When it comes to natural diamonds, the concept of “budget” is anything but negative; in actuality, one’s budget is the start to understanding what is possible (in the world of natural diamond jewelry, the sky’s the limit). Don’t walk into a store five minutes before closing not having a clue what you want to buy or spend, as most likely you’ll always end up spending more on a gift that’s just not right. When it comes to gifting natural diamond jewelry, especially if you haven’t before, a well-understood budget is everything—even if it may afford you royal crown jewels. A healthy starting point will help you hone in on what you can purchase. To help, we’ve rounded up the best designer diamond gifts under $3000 right here. 

Anita Ko

Burning Question #2:

Do I Need to Match My Partner’s Style?

Frankly, this is also one of the very first things you need to understand before you set foot in a diamond jewelry shop. Take notice of how your partner dresses, and their current favorite pieces of jewelry. While you may think a natural diamond ring with a halo of smaller stones around it looks breathtaking, if your partner’s style is more minimal, it’s unlikely to be the gift for her. If your partner prefers a more vintage look, a modern bling-ring is likely to receive a faux grin on your special day, rather than unbridled joy. Natural diamonds are like any gift in this way: the thought you put into it matters more than the number of zeros on the price tag. 


Expert Tip:  To avoid that dreaded post-gift “talk”, answer these questions before you shop:
– Start to really observe your partner’s style. Are they more minimal? Maximal? Art Deco or Vintage style?
– Do they currently wear any specific diamond jewelry designers (if so take note of those designer names!)?
– Do they like to stack lots of diamond rings, necklaces and bracelets?
– What metal color do they prefer? Do they wear yellow gold, rose gold or white gold?
– Do they like to mix metals? 

– What is their aesthetic?


Burning Question #3:

When Should I Start Looking? 

Put simply: now. Shopping for natural diamonds is not like shopping for a bag—you can’t just swing by a department store and pick up the latest Louis Vuitton. At a minimum, you should be visiting three jewelers, and peruse countless options until you narrow it down. Think of it more like buying a property: prepare for several viewings to ensure you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.

Expert Tip: The most important thing to arm yourself with before you’re really ready to shop is knowledge. Start exploring—whether it’s online via the website of a diamond jewelry brand or reputable diamond jewelry retailer, or popping into a few different diamond jewelry stores to browse around. This will give you an idea of what’s out there and what may be most suitable for your partner’s aesthetic, while also paying attention to your budget while you’re looking.

Selim Mouzannar

Burning Question #4:

What Questions Should I Ask? 

Any diamond retailer worth their salt should be able to explain the four 4 Cs to you, which, defined by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) half a century ago, are the key definitions of natural diamond quality: color, cut, clarity and carat. Ask your jeweler to show you examples of the difference in look (and price!) of each, showing you the best examples of the different characteristics. It also goes without saying it’s helpful at this point to have a clear idea of the item of jewelry you wish to buy.

Expert Tip: Diamond experts are increasingly talking of a fifth C: certification. That translates into a  grading report from an independent laboratory (GIA and AGS—American Gem Society—are the best) to give you peace of mind that you’re getting what you pay for. Don’t buy any diamonds without it. 

Ashley Zhang 
Melissa Kaye

Burning Question #5:

What Size of Natural Diamond Should I Get Aka, Does Size Matter?

Unless you’re shopping for Kim Kardashian, more isn’t necessarily more. Rather than size, you should focus on quality, and buy the best your budget will stretch to. And besides, a huge savings-swallowing natural diamond might produce the biggest gasp upon opening, but it’s no good if it can’t practically be worn on an evening out without the nagging notion you’re wearing a sizable mortgage on your finger. Not to mention, a huge high-spec diamond will be the hardest to resell, should the need ever arise. If you’re unsure of shape—or “cut”, to use the proper term—you can’t go wrong with a round brilliant diamond; these make up three-quarters of all diamonds sold, are ideal for first-time buyers and are essentially the little black dress of the jewelry world. In other words, they are simple, sure and devastatingly effective. 

Suzanne Kalan

Expert Tip: Remember proportion! The proportion of the diamonds on the hand, wrist or neck as related to your partner’s build (i.e., are they petite, tall? Do they have long fingers or short fingers?) definitely matters!

Left: Spinelli Kilcollin, Top: Deborah Pagani, Bottom: Melissa Kaye

Burning Question #6:

What’s the Difference Between Carat Size?

First things first: carat is a measure of weight, not simply size. (And please guys, spell it correctly! It’s a unit of mass, not something Bugs Bunny snacks on.) But there are many other factors that go into a natural diamond’s quality—namely the aforementioned color, cut and clarity. What this means in the real diamond jewelry shopping world is that two diamonds of the exact same carat can be of wildly different values. Don’t obsess about carat alone, and instead go for quality. You’re not comparing the size of car engines here…

Expert Tip: While your budget will greatly dictate carat weight, quality always reigns no matter if you’re purchasing THE ring, a beautiful tennis bracelet or demure necklace.  

Tara Hirshberg

Burning Question #7:

Should I Invest in Horoscope Jewelry? 

You sure can, and please park any skepticism you might have at the door. The rise in interest in astrology may not be your bag, but if your partner is into it, there are few more thoughtful things you could do than take that into consideration and buy a piece of jewelry that matches with her particular star sign. Need inspiration? Check out The Natural Diamond Council’s Diamonds in the Sky series, featuring a range of zodiac-themed pieces made by independent designers.  

Expert Tip: From David Webb’s  diamond and gold necklace to Tara Hirshberg’s diamond star sign earring, diamond horoscope jewelry it’s a great gift, especially when your partner is into astrology.  


Burning Question #8:

Are the Big Brands Always Best? 

If you’re shopping for diamonds for the first time, and are unsure what you’re looking for, a big brand can act as a market of notoriety and reliability. However, do your research. There are so many incredible small designer jewelry brands with outstanding craftsmanship, design innovation, unique style and cool factor with beautiful diamond gifts at all price ranges.

Expert Tip: Take the time to get to know the market. Chances are, you’ll find something amazing from a jewelry name you’ve just learned about.