You and your partner are getting serious, and you start shopping for engagement rings. Sure, it's fun (who doesn't love looking at rows of sparkling jewelry?), but it's also daunting. How do you know which size diamond to get? You may have questions including, "What is considered too big or too small?" or, "Which carat size will look best on my hand?" and, "What size carat will I feel most comfortable wearing every day?" It's hard enough buying any expensive jewelry, let alone an item so important. You are supposed to wear this forever, after all!
To answer all your questions, we consulted diamond expert Anna Jay. Ahead, discover the average diamond size for engagement rings and what to know when choosing yours.
Meet the Expert
Anna Jay is a diamond expert and the owner of Anna P Jay, a jewelry company in Nantucket. She also has a graduate degree in diamonds from the Gemological Institute of America.
What Is the Average Carat Size for Engagement Rings?
"The average carat size for a diamond changes dramatically based on location and demographics," shares Jay. In the United States, for example, the national average for an engagement ring is around one carat. In the United Kingdom, it's 0.6 carats, and in Europe it's even smaller, hovering at 0.5 carats.
Age also matters. Jay's younger clients, people in their twenties or early thirties, typically choose diamonds that are one to two carats. "The older my clients get, the larger the diamonds typically become," she says. That is most likely because older people have had more time to save and are farther along in their careers, giving them more money to spend on jewelry.
What Is Considered a "Big" Engagement Ring?
When shopping for an engagement ring it is easy to become obsessed with buying a "big" diamond. There is this notion that bigger is better, something that social media has exacerbated, explains Jay. "Due to social media, I am seeing a desire to have larger carat weight diamonds."
But even the notion of a "big" engagement ring is subjective. "A 'big' diamond is really relative to each person's hand," she reveals. "A one carat diamond on a size four finger can look very large, while a one carat diamond on a size eight finger could look smaller."
That's not even the only factor that determines how big a ring looks. "Shape is also a contributing factor in how large a diamond looks. A one-carat elongated diamond, think oval or pear, will face up to the human eye larger than a square shape would like Asscher or princess cut."
Because of this reality, she encourages her clients not to focus on a carat number or what others might think is a "big" engagement ring diamond. "Rather than being hung up on what the number is I suggest focusing on what you like, what looks best on your hand, and working with a jeweler that can help you find a beautifully cut diamond," says Jay.
How to Find the Right Carat Size for You
"The most important thing to consider when purchasing a diamond is your budget," she says. "There is an old adage that your partner should spend three months of their salary to buy your engagement ring, but in reality, the number should be what your partner and you are comfortable spending." If you go into debt over your engagement ring, you might feel so much anxiety every time you look at it!
Once you've decided on a budget, you can get to the fun part: choosing your diamond shape. "Each diamond shows its carat weight slightly differently, so the shape is an important factor to consider," adds Jay. "Some people love the classic elegance of a round brilliant, while others admire the hall of mirrors effect of a step-cut diamond like an emerald cut."
It's also important to factor in your culture and lifestyle. And don't forget to think about where and how you will be wearing the ring. If you work with your hands, but you want to wear your ring every day, you might need to keep it on the smaller side.
How to Change Your Diamond's Carat Size
If you get your ring and you don't like the diamond size, don't panic. There are ways to make it better. Some people think their diamond is too small. "If it's not the size you originally imagined, there are a few things that you can do to enhance it," offers Jay. She's seen clients add fun, stackable rings that can be layered to make the ring stand out more and even look bigger.
Jewelers can reset your ring to add side stones or swap the center stone for something larger. "The wonderful thing about diamonds, gemstones, and jewelry is that it can be repurposed and reset to give it new life." Many people also "upgrade" the diamond on their engagement rings later in life, sometimes to mark a special occasion like an anniversary or the birth of a child.
Others might get their ring and think the diamond looks too big or clunky. "If you feel that your diamond is too big initially I would encourage you to give it time," she says. "As you wear your ring, and jewelry in general, you tend to get used to it, and it 'shrinks' over time. Not actually, but in your mind."
No matter what size carat you go with, the most important part is what it symbolizes: true love and partnership. As Jay puts it, "it's important to remember the meaning behind it and why you received it."