Carat weight is a measure of a diamond's size. The word "carat" comes from the ancient method of weighing diamonds: by balancing them on a scale with carob seeds! Of course, technology has become much more sophisticated, and measurements more precise; yet the terminology is a reminder of the long history of these gems.
Carat weight is the most significant factor in determining the price of a diamond. As you might expect, the larger the diamond, the higher the price. The increase in price with size, however, is a bit more complicated. A one carat diamond is not simply double the price of a half carat diamond. The price of a diamond rises exponentially, rather than linearly, with size. Mother Nature gives us many more smaller diamonds than larger ones; if a thousand rough diamonds are dug from a mine, only one or two may be large enough to yield a one carat finished stone. Since larger diamonds are much rarer, they are much more expensive.
Budget is not the only factor to consider when choosing your diamond's carat weight; the tastes and lifestyle of the wearer are also important. Everyone assumes that a woman wants the biggest diamond possible; however, this is not always true. Some women feel more comfortable wearing a smaller diamond, as it may be more suitable to their personality, or their workplace. Others who are very active, or use their hands a lot (like nurses), often prefer engagement rings with smaller diamonds for a very practical reason: smaller stones do not project outward from the ring as much, and are therefore less likely to catch on things during the day.
Selecting a carat weight involves striking a balance between size and quality. The largest stone available at a certain price (say $2000) will usually have the poorest color and clarity; for that same $2000, you can purchase a smaller stone of better color and clarity. It's a matter of deciding what characteristics are important to you, and then finding the best combination that fits your budget.
Our next article is about Clarity >>