Round Engagement Rings
Everything you need to know about the most popular shape
Engagement rings with round diamonds are by far the most popular out of any type of ring – they make up around 75% of all diamond engagement rings sold.
In fact, the round ‘brilliant’ diamond shape is often what we think of when we think of a diamond.. I’ve even used on as the logo for this site as it is the default that people think of when they think of a cut diamond.
To help you get an incredible round engagement ring, this page is going look at:
- A bit of info about round brilliant engagement rings – what they are and why they have become so popular
- What’s good about round brilliant engagement rings
- What’s not so good about round engagement rings
- A selection of round engagement ring setting styles
- A guide to getting the best round brilliant diamond
- Recommended specs for your stone
Although it looks complicated, what you really need to know is that the closer to these ‘ideal’ proportions a diamond is, the more it will sparkle. The exact angles have been tweaked slightly over the years as diamond companies began to use lasers and computer modelling to calculate how to return the most light possible back to your eyes, but these are the proportions that diamond laboratories take into account when grading a diamond’s cut grade from ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’.
57 or 58 facets?
You may hear that a round brilliant diamond has either 57 or 58 facets, and both are technically right. While most round brilliant stones have a sharp pointy ‘culet’ at the bottom tip of the stone, some have it squared off to prevent it from getting damaged while the stone is being set. This squared off culet is sometimes counted as a 58th facet.
What’s good about round brilliant engagement rings?
No other diamond shape can compete with the fire, brilliance and scintillation of a well cut round brilliant stone and the ‘optical performance’ of the light being reflected can make a stone look larger, improve the colour, hide flaws and imperfections and generally make a ring look much more impressive.
So, if you know that you want to go for a 1.5 carat stone which excellent in cut but scores lower in color and clarity, you’ll be able to find it. Equally, if you want to go for a smaller stone that is the highest quality for cut, color and clarity, the perfect stone for you is out there too.
The cut grading, going from Poor to Excellent (with some retailers offering a cut above excellent also) is super important as it’s the biggest factor that determines how much your stone will sparkle and therefore how impressive it is. When buying any round brilliant stone online, retailers will enable you to sort by cut grade which means that you can discount any really poor stones that aren’t going to sparkle well straight away.
What’s bad about round brilliant engagement rings?
One big downside of round brilliant engagement rings is that the stone itself is almost always considerably more expensive than any other shape of diamond of the equivalent size and quality. This difference in price is for a few reasons:
Creating the round shape – chipping off the corners to make it a circle – results in a lot of the rough diamond hitting the cutting room floor and having to be thrown away. This means that for an equivalent 1 carat finished stone, a larger, and more expensive, piece of rough diamond is required to start with compared to, say, a Princess cut diamond.
I’m probably not going to win the nobel prize for economics by stating that the price of anything – oil, iPhones, McRibs – is driven by demand.
This principal is definitely true for round brilliant diamonds – they’re the most popular shape and retailers know that people will pay a premium for them.
Creating a well cut round brilliant diamond is more labour-intensive than other shapes. It requires a more skilled craftsman and takes longer than other cuts of diamonds to ensure that all of the facets are the right size and the angles between them are correct.
The two stones that sparkle the best are the oval, which is basically an elongated round brilliant, and the Princess cut, which takes the principles of the round brilliant and applies them to a square shaped stone.
The quality tested was:
- 1 carat
- Color F
- Clarity VS1
The actual difference will depend on the specs of the stone that you’re looking at, but it’s definitely always worth looking at alternative shapes to the round brilliant to see what you can get for your budget.
Round brilliant engagement ring settings
As the most popular shape of diamond, there are an almost infinite number of combination of ring setting style, ring setting metal, diamond size and diamond quality for round engagement rings.
In this section we’re going to look at some of the most popular styles out there, although it’s definitely not a definitive list. Each of the jewelers will also stock the majority of the styles listed, as well as many other variations as well.
Click through to any of the rings to find out more about it, or if you see a setting that you like but it’s not quite perfect then each retailer will have a large number of variations – one of which is likely to be perfect for you.
As well as being simple and elegant, the solitaire setting allows the most light possible to enter the stone, which allows it to sparkle to the maximum of its potential. Plus, with less previous metal used than in more complicated and ornate settings, the solitaire setting is among the most inexpensive.
Find out more about this beautifully simple solitaire engagement ring here.
The 6 prong setting can be a good choice for larger brilliant cut diamonds, usually those which are over 2 carats, as the extra prongs will give a little bit of extra security, without adding any extra cost or affecting the sparkle of the stone at all.
Click here to find out more about this 6 prong ‘Tiffany style’ solitaire engagement ring.
The entire edge of the stone is wrapped in metal, which offers excellent protection for the delicate edge of the diamond. This is especially useful if the wearer has an active lifestyle, or is just a bit of a klutz.
The bezel does, however, slightly reduce the amount of light that can enter the stone from the side, which may reduce the sparkle slightly.
Find out more information about this bezel engagement ring here.
Although they may look quite fragile, with the diamond suspended in mid-air, they’re actually extremely secure as the sides of the stone are sunk into slots on either side of the setting that are custom-cut for each individual stone.
Click here to learn more about this round diamond tension engagement ring.
The advantage of them is that you can get a higher total carat weight of diamond for your ring at a reduced price to buying one large center stone. Three 1/3 of a carat stones on a ring is much cheaper than a one carat solitaire.
The side stones don’t need to be the same shape or even the same stone as the center – rubies, sapphires or emeralds can all be great choices for the stones.
See more info on this three stone ring here.
Halo settings feature a ring of smaller stones around the center stone. There are some big advantages to this – it adds considerable bling to the ring, without the large associated increase in price that a dramatically larger center stone would add.
That’s not to say that they are an inexpensive option though – the extra diamonds and the craftsmanship required to produce the halo setting does add up. However, what it does mean is that the high number of smaller, supporting diamonds will catch the light in addition to the center stone, meaning that your ring will sparkle brilliantly from any angle.
Find out more about this halo setting here.
See more info on this ring here
Round brilliant diamond buying guide
Getting the right center stone for your engagement ring is the difference between an absolutely dazzling ring and one that is merely OK.
This section will talk you through three of the 4Cs for round brilliant diamonds so you can ensure you get an incredible stone. We’re going to look at:
Once you’ve got this information dialled in, you’ll be in a great position to match your diamond to a setting and you’ll have an incredible engagement ring.
Diamonds come out of the ground as rough chunks of carbon that are often pretty dull to look at. The cut is a grading of how well a diamond has been cut and polished from this rough state to the ideal proportions that were at the top of the page.
I can’t stress enough that cut is the most important of the 4Cs – it has by far the biggest effect on how impressive a round engagement ring is. Always buy the very best cut that you can afford, even if you have to make some sacrifices on other attributes like color and carat to be able to buy a stone with a higher cut grade.
The Cut scale
The cut scale was originally developed by the Gemological Institute of American (GIA) but is now used by pretty much everyone.
The scale runs from Excellent to Poor, with diamonds getting further from the ideal shape as you go down the grades:
To know why the cut grade is so important, you need to understand what happens when diamonds differ from the ideal proportions.
Recommendation: Jewelers play on people’s obsession with diamond size and ignorance of the importance of cut to maximise profit, but if you don’t want to get stuck with one of the larger but poorly cut diamonds that just doesn’t sparkle, make sure you go for the highest cut grade you can.
I recommend ‘excellent’ or ‘ideal’ (the terminology sometimes changes depending on the retailer), to make sure that you get a dazzling diamond that will do your engagement ring justice.
OK, onto the second C – color. Diamond colors range from pure white through to yellow. White diamonds are rarer and more desired than yellow stones, but also more expensive.
The difference between diamonds that are close to each other on the scale is very small, to the extent that even a trained gemologist can struggle to tell the difference between, say, a D color and an E color diamond.
The full color scale runs like this:
As you can see, the change in color is quite slight between grades that sit close to each other one the scale.
And once a diamond is placed in a ring setting, the differences are even less obvious. Ring settings limit the amount of light that can enter the diamond, evening out the color across the different grades.
Recommendation: My recommendation for color for a round brilliant is color grade H. It will still look extremely white, but will be significantly less expensive than the highest color grades.
Color H: Great mix of color and value:
Color J: Darker tones clearly visible
The third C, clarity is a measure of the number of flaws that a diamond contains. The flaws are also known as ‘inclusions’ and are tiny impurities that snuck in when the diamond was being formed.
Clarity is the least important of the 4Cs, but it’s often the one that jewelers pay the most attention to when showcasing diamonds as it’s easy to demonstrate the different clarities using a microscope. However, when the diamonds are viewed with the naked eye, all but the bottom few grades will be ‘eye clean’: they will appear absolutely perfect.
The scale runs from ‘Flawless’ at the top, to ‘Included’ at the bottom:
The key thing that you are looking for for your diamond is that it is ‘eye-clean’ ie. that the inclusions can’t be seen when viewed with the naked eye, rather than being inspected with a microscope.
Any of the grades down to VS2 – VS2 included – will definitely be eye-clean. Some stones at SI2 and SI1 may be eye-clean, but to be sure you would need to examine the individual stone.
To see this in action, click here to check out a selection of SI1 clarity round brilliant diamonds at James Allen. You should be able to see that most of them do not have any visible flaws, even at the high magnification that they’re shown at. Some may have small flaws easily visible though, and those are the ones to avoid.
One thing to note is that you’re looking at the diamonds at 20x magnification, which is higher than gemologists use when they examine diamonds. So, if you can see some tiny imperfections that are sort of hard to see at this magnification, then don’t worry about them – they won’t be visible in real life once the diamond is set in a ring.
If you’re not sure about that, move the zoom function on the right of the image to 1x, rather than 20x to make the diamond actual size. Can you still see the inclusions?
Recommendation: VS2 clarity is the grade to go for from any jeweler to ensure that the stones will definitely be eye-clean. If you want to see whether you can find an Slightly Included stoen to fit in your budget, then ensure that you use a jeweler that provides magnified images of every stone. My recommendations are:
Stones without any inclusions are much rarer than those with flaws, which makes them more expensive.
To demonstrate the different in price that clarity can make, I looked at the prices of a round brilliant diamond on one of my recommended retailers, and just changed the clarity.
The other specs for the diamond were:
- Cut: Ideal
- Carat: 1 carat
- Color G
As you can see, changing the clarity of the stone makes a huge difference to the price, and a SI1 is 46% less expensive than a flawless stone.
The exact difference in the cost of your stone will depend on the size and the other characteristics that you’re looking for, but by choosing VS2 or SI1 you will save a considerable amount of money while your stone will still look perfect.
Price difference (AU$)
Price difference (%)
Carat weight is something that people often get overly hung-up on. They want to choose a stone with a certain carat weight, even if it means that they end up making sacrifices on other, more important attributes of the ring.
The relationship between a diamond’s carat weight and its visible size isn’t always a direct one. When we judge a diamond’s size, we look at it from the top – known as the ‘face up’ position in the jewelry trade. However, much of the weight of a diamond is actually carried on the bottom half of the stone, where it can’t be seen.
The images below show the difference in size for round cut diamonds at a range of carat weights:
Hopefully you can see that increasing the carat weight doesn’t necessarily translate into a much visibly larger diamond. Changing the size from 0.8 carat to 1 carat is an increase in width of less than 0.5mm – less than 10%. However, the difference in price will be much more significant – about a 70% increase:
Click here to check out today’s prices for a 0.8 carat round brilliant diamond
Compare to prices for a 1 carat round brilliant diamond here
The priority that you place on diamond carat weight and how bit you want to go is totally up to you. However, my recommendation is that you definitely don’t make it the most important attribute when choosing your engagement ring. Get the setting you love, find a diamond with a great cut that is going to sparkle brilliantly, make sure that it is eye-clean and has a good color and then see what carat weight you can fit into your budget.
A well-rounded diamond with excellent sparkle will much much more impressive than a big stone with obvious flaws.
Each certificate has a unique report number and detailed information about the stone, covering the four Cs, the height, depth and other info. As well as providing assurance that the stone that you’re buying is the quality that you are paying for, a certificate also proves what you’re buying is not a substitute.
The lab to trust and to look for certification from is the non-profit Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It’s the most internationally recognised and generally seen as the most impartial of all of the gem labs.
The reason that the GIA is so well respected is because most others labs are part of trade bodies that contain jewelry retailers, or are ‘for profit’. While the GIA is very consistent with its gradings, the others have a reputation for being overly generous. What the GIA say is merely a diamond with a ‘good’ cut, maybe be graded ‘excellent’ by another lab, with an excellently large price to match.
Diamond certificates are what makes buying online safe and the best way to get a fantastic diamond at the lowest price. Knowing that each diamond you’re considering has been measured and graded by independent experts allows you to make an informed decision. You can take your time to consider the differences between diamonds and make sure you choose what experts have graded as the best stone, meaning that you get your perfect engagement ring at the best possible price.
You can of course go higher than these specs, if your budget allows, but for many of the characteristics you are paying for improvements that are very difficult, if not impossible, to see by the naked eye, especially when mounted in a ring setting.
If you’re unsure about what any of these terms mean, check out this page which talks you through them all.
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