Buying an engagement ring is an exciting thing, but it comes with its share of stress. With all of the questions that come with engagement ring shopping, there is one that always seems to rise above the rest: how big should the diamond be?

The sentiment that bigger is better is often seen when it comes to engagement rings. But the exciting thing with diamonds is that size is only part of the equation. The diamond’s cut’s depth and shape also play a role in just how big the stone looks. Modern engagement rings are available in a wide variety of cuts, some of which enhance a diamond’s glow, while others focus on the stone’s perceived size.

One of the first things you learn about diamonds is that they are sold by weight rather than size. Carats count!

Of course, most one-carat round diamonds will be pretty similar in size, although variations vary depending on proportions. Ideal cut diamonds, which are cut for sparkle rather than height, are slightly smaller in diameter than less-brilliant “spread” diamonds (which are intentionally cut a bit shallower so they can appear wider.)

However, what might surprise you is that fancy shapes have different ideal proportions than rounds. Each shape has a slightly different depth, so the diameter is different too. If you have a swimming pool that’s 10 feet deep, it’s going to be smaller across than a collection with the same amount of water that’s only 8 feet deep.

That means that some fancy shapes look more extensive than a round brilliant of the same weight, and some look smaller. A two-carat round brilliant is about 8.1mm across. A two-carat Asscher cut is about 7mm square, so it doesn’t look quite as large. In contrast, a two-carat oval is about 10.5x7mm. Most people say that it seems much larger than the other two shapes than you’d expect.

Why? The overall shallower depth of the oval cut is exaggerated by the tendency we all have to assume that taller shapes are larger. This visual trick makes the elongated silhouette of many fancy shapes look even more extensive than their surface area might suggest.

Which Cut of Diamond Looks the Biggest?

Here’s the scoop on which diamond cut shapes look the largest:

Oval-Cut Diamonds

While the round cut diamond is the most popular cut, elongated shapes like oval appear larger. But before you opt for the shape that looks the biggest, you should understand other aspects you’re compromising. While elongated shapes look more extensive, they don’t have an ideal facet pattern like a round brilliant. This means they won’t have the superb sparkle that a round emits. If this doesn’t bother you—as any shape will still look stunning—then opt for an elongated stone to get more diamond for your dollar. 

Oval cut diamonds have a similar cut to round stones. Like round diamonds, they can be exceptionally sparkly, which helps them appear larger than they are. However, oval cut diamonds have another advantage: their elongated shape that helps create the illusion of size. Engagement rings set with an oval stone don’t just make the stone look more extensive, either. The diamond’s shape creates the illusion of longer lines, making your bride-to-be’s finger appear longer and thinner, too! This stone makes an excellent choice for solitaire rings.

Princess-Cut Diamonds

Princess cut diamonds are another popular choice for engagement rings. The princess cut is a more modern, edgier cut. Unlike the round cut, the princess cut is square. However, of the non-round cuts, this cut has the greatest brilliance and shine. This is because the princess cut has a close to ideal facet pattern. However, another critical thing to keep in mind when considering a princess cut is that there are corners, making the stone susceptible to chipping depending on the durability of the setting you choose.

Round Cut Diamond

The round cut is a trendy style for engagement rings and has been for many years. This type of diamond is shaped into a circle with 58 facets, each designed to reflect light and give the diamond its fire or sparkle. Round cut diamonds tend to be cut more shallow than other stones. This contributes to their intense flash, which helps the diamond look more prominent. Aa round cut diamond can make a big statement with the right setting, regardless of its size!

Emerald-Cut Diamond

The emerald cut has a very different look than the other diamonds on this list. The “stair-step” cut of the facets creates a subtle, understated shine—more “hall of mirrors” than “twinkling star.” This stone best suits ladies who love old-fashioned glamour.  The rectangular shape and the large table help an emerald cut diamond appear larger. This style also tends to be less expensive, making it an excellent choice for a beautiful ring on a budget.

Marquise-Cut Diamond

The marquise cut has been sold since King Louis XV’s days, but it isn’t a style you see every day. This particular diamond cut resembles a football, with a thin and elongated shape that meets in a point on either end. Like some of the other reductions listed here, the marquise’s long shape makes the stone appear more significant and your finger more slender. It is a diamond that looks lovely in solitaire settings, but you can also add accent stones to up the sparkle even more!

Which One is Bigger?

Figuring out whether an oval-cut or princess-cut is more significant is a bit complicated. It will depend on a few different things, like other accent stones and the setting you choose. When comparing side-by-side, an oval-cut diamond will look bigger than a princess or round-cut diamond.

One point to keep in mind is that oval-cut diamonds are typically more cost-effective as they are less prevalent than princess-cut diamonds and further away from an Ideal facet pattern. But, if popularity and facet patterns aren’t at the top of your list, then an oval centre stone might be the best and most budget-friendly shape to opt for.

Expert Tips on How to Make an Engagement Ring Look Bigger

Wondering how to make an engagement ring look bigger? If you’re all about the bling and desire a ring that could rival Beyoncé’s, you’ll be happy to know there are quite a few ways to maximise the appearance of your rock.

Regardless of budget, you can make your diamond look bigger than it is—without the cost associated with going up in carat size. From strategically choosing cuts, shapes, and settings to opting for thin bands and fewer prongs, we’ve gathered up the best tricks of the trade. Greg Kwiat, partner at Kwiat Diamonds and CEO of Fred Leighton, and Michelle Adorjan, the style director of Tacori Jewelry, share fourteen tips to make an engagement ring look larger than life.

Get the Best Cut You Can

A cut determines how well the diamond will reflect light based on how its angles and facets were cut. The Gemological Institute of America grades a diamond’s cut as excellent, very good, good, and fair. The better the cut, the more light the diamond will reflect, and the larger it will look. “Make sure that your diamond is very well cut,” Kwiat says. “A well-cut diamond with proper angles and facets will not only be beautiful and brilliant but look larger. The carat weight will be in its proper place where it adds to the visual dimension of the stone.”

So how can you tell if a diamond is cut well? For round diamonds, Kwiat recommends only considering stones with an “excellent” cut grade as issued by the GIA. There isn’t a cut grade for all other shapes, so you should seek the guidance of a trained gemologist. Ultimately, you should also trust yourself: A well-cut diamond is brilliant and full of sparkle—something you can undoubtedly judge.

Round Diamonds Give the Illusion of a Larger Stone

Which diamond shape looks biggest? “In terms of shape, round diamonds look larger for their carat weight than many other cuts,” Kwiat says. “The circular cut is not as deep, so much of the weight is reflected in its size appearance.”

Oblong, Elongated Diamond Cuts Also Make Your Stone Look Larger

Ovals also tend to appear larger since they’re elongated and take up a lot of real estate on your ring finger. Similarly, the oblong shape of a marquise shape or an emerald shape also makes for a larger looking stone. All three of these cuts look more prominent than their actual carat weight.

Avoid Cushion Cut Diamonds

Just as some shapes will appear larger, others will appear smaller. Cushion cut diamonds are deep-set, so many of their carat weight is below the surface where it can’t be seen. Relative to carat size, this is one of the most expensive diamond cuts you could choose.

Choose Slender Prongs That Allow the Jewel to Take Center Stage

One smart way of maximising the appearance of your centre stone is to minimise the appearance of something else: “Look for a setting that has more discreet prongs,” Adorjan says. “You’ll see more of the diamond’s surface area rather than having the prongs cover the stone.”

Opt for Less Prongs

In addition to choosing slim prongs, you should also look for rings that have fewer prongs. Round cut diamonds, for example, are typically set with four, five, or six prongs. If you’re looking to maximise your diamond’s size, opt for fewer prongs that will distract the eye from the bling.

Choose a Bright White Metal Band

“The pure white metal of a platinum setting will act as a mirror to reflect the diamond’s colourlessness for maximum brilliance and shine. This creates the optical illusion of a bigger stone,” Adorjan says. “It’s the same reason that interior designers add a wall of mirrors into a small room—to make it look larger.”

Be Open to Colored Stones

Coloured gems pop and appear more extensive than a traditional diamond. Opt for pale hues of pink, yellow, green, or blue that will trick the eye and appear more prominent.

Be Flexible With Diamond’s Color and Clarity

Every diamond is rated for clarity and colour. If the size is truly what you want, you can maximise your ring budget by choosing a larger carat stone with a lower clarity or colour. The diamond will still be dazzling.

Choose a Thin, Delicate Band

A tiny, delicate band will make the stone (or stones) appear hefty in comparison. Besides choosing a small band, look for one that tapers in as it nears the centre. This type of band is called a pinched shank and will emphasise the centre stone.

Look for a Halo or Cluster Settings

Our advice: Choose your setting strategically. Halo settings, for example, feature a centre stone surrounded by a halo of smaller pavé stones. Using a halo setting, you can increase your ring’s carat size without increasing the price tag as much as you would get a single diamond of the same total carat weight. Cluster settings, which feature a mixture of stones (usually of equal or nearly equal size) grouped, can also give you an enormous overall carat weight at a less high price.

Or Choose a Three-Stone Setting With Smaller Side Stones

If you’re looking at three-stone settings, keep the side stones on the smaller side to compete for attention with the central stone.

Keep Your Engagement Ring on One Hand and Your Wedding Band on Another

If your engagement ring is on the smaller side, it might get overshadowed by the addition of a wedding band. In this case, you can wear your wedding band on your left hand as you usually would, but move the engagement ring over to the ring finger on your right hand. It’s not traditional, but it’s unique, makes a statement, and ensures your engagement ring will stand out and shine bright.

Get Your Ring Cleaned Regularly

Keeping your diamond polished and debris-free will maximise the stone’s sparkle. The shinier and more eye-catching the diamond, the more magnificent it will appear. On the other hand, if it’s dirty, it will look dull and small. As a general rule, you should have your ring professionally cleaned by a jeweller every six months. In the meantime, you can clean your ring at home whenever it could use a sprucing up. For at-home cleanings, combine a few drops of dishwashing soap with warm water and let your ring soak for 20 to 40 minutes. Then, brush the ring gently with a soft toothbrush and rinse it off. Let it air dry or use a soft cloth (avoid paper towels that could scratch the ring). Doing so will remove everyday debris like lotion and makeup.

Average Carat Size For An Engagement Ring

While the movies and magazines tend to exaggerate the size of engagement rings, the reality is that the average engagement ring holds a 1-carat stone. Moderate doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best. While there are high-quality 1-carat diamonds on the market, stressing to get a diamond that meets the average size while staying within your budget may require compromising in other aspects of quality such as colour and clarity.

How Big Of An Engagement Ring Should I Buy?

When you buy a diamond engagement ring, you want to get something that you both love. Stressing about hitting the average size of 1-carat or more is an added stress that is unnecessary. If it fits your budget and you find a stone that suits your personality, then choose a stone that is 1-carat or bigger. However, if your budget does not allow a bigger stone, getting a smaller stone with better clarity and selecting a setting to help your diamond shine can make just as big of an impact.

In short, you want to buy an engagement ring that you can afford but still adore, even if that means your ring falls short of the average 1-carat.

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