How To Buy The Best 1 Carat Diamond For US$5000

by Thomas J Stevens GIA DG CSG - Last modified January 14, 2020
Reading time: 11 minutes

a solitaire diamond ring on a pink background. Image courtesy of James Allen®

How To Find the Best 1 Carat Diamond With a $5000 budget

So you've decided to make the jump and get that diamond ring? If you've found yourself doing non-stop research poring over blogs and on-line diamond stores but still wouldn't mind a gentle nudge in the right direction then you've come to the right place.

James Allen offers us a great deal of choice. Of course the sheer amount of diamonds to choose from can seem a little overwhelming. But as you'll see in a moment we will quickly whittle down the list to just a few contenders. The wide range of choices means we it's only a matter of choosing which area we want to compromise in. We will narrow down our search to a handful and from those we will choose the one we want. With a price point of US$5000 it's going to be a little hard to find a decent one from the TrueHearts™ selection, but we will keep that selected anyway, just in case. This search, as it will be limited to $5000 will most likely only bring up TrueHearts™ SI2 diamonds. It's up to you to judge whether these will be eye-clean or not.

For this article I will be writing with the following specs in mind:

  • Budget: US$5000 (diamond only)
  • Size: 1 carat
  • Color: G-H
  • Clarity: eye clean
  • Cut (shape): round brilliant

A Buying Guide When Shopping Engagement Rings at James Allen

If you want to know how to choose the best 1 carat diamond for under US$5000 then you have found the right place.

How To Find a Beautiful 1 Carat Diamond

In North America the sweet spot for color in round brilliant diamonds is considered to range in the G-H color grades. These color grades are considered to be not too dark while not being too expensive. There are plenty of great diamonds to be found outside this color range, however if you prefer not to bother with lower than diamonds in the H color grade then this article is for you.

The first step is to go to the diamond search page:

Go to:

select the color range: H-G

Slide the color selector so that only H-G color diamonds show. Higher color grades are, of course, nice, but the price jumps with each higher color grade. If we want to find a diamond that is eye clean or nearly eye clean and stick to this budget then we'll have to stick with H. But we'll include G, just in case something turns up. Most likely the G diamonds that this particular search will return will have a clarity grade of SI1 or worse and few, if any, of those will be eye clean. So H-G color grades are what we'll be looking at.

select the clarity range: SI1-VS2

Next we will set the Clarity range to SI1-VS2. Sure we can play with higher and lower clarity grades, but for the most part it's a waste of time. SI1 clarity diamonds are sometimes eye-clean so we will include them. VS2 diamonds are really the most likely ones to provide us with the final candidate. Occasionally an SI2 diamond will appear eye clean, but on close inspection the type of inclusions can affect the appearance of the diamond. SI2 diamonds are best bought after seeing them in person rather than on a screen, even in high definition. That way you can tell if they look OK or not. Anyway, to keep it simple, we'll stick to SI1-VS2 clarity graded diamonds.

Ok, now that we have set the Clarity range to SI1-VS2 we'll move to the next set of parameters: the cut grade.

select the two top cut grades

Cut grades at James Allen are divided into four grades. Good, Very Good, Ideal, and TrueHearts™. What we are hoping to find is something that has received an excellent cut grade. James Allen hasn't specified which of the 4 grades is where excellent cut grades begin. From what I have seen the excellent cut diamonds at James Allen are all found in the Ideal and TrueHearts™ categories. Something that may come as a surprise is that there is a range of diamond proportions that fall within what a laboratory will consider to be excellent cuts. The definition of excellent cut could be said to be that of a diamond that looks better than other diamonds. GIA created its excellent cut grade based on thousands of surveys to find out what people like. AGS used this in its research but also measures light return and accounts for this in the AGS cut grading system. AGS calculates the rate of light return and models this computationally. As we will see below we will be choosing which lab we want our diamond to have been graded by. TrueHearts™ diamonds will show up in searches with either or both GIA and AGL lab selected. As I was explaining earlier excellent cut diamonds come in a range of qualities within the excellent grade. As TrueHearts™ diamonds are a premium brand at James Allen we won't see very many that I consider worthwhile among the ones under $5000. Having said that I did see some that were just below my chosen clarity grades. The two SI2 TrueHearts™ diamonds that my search turned up were ones I believe to be nearly eye-clean. I'm personally not a huge fan of SI2 diamonds but if you want to have a play with the different settings in order to get a TrueHearts™ diamond then the best option is to look among the SI2 diamonds if the other parameters are to remain the same as the rest that I am using.

select the desired carat size

Here you can see that the carat size selected is between 1 carat and 30 carats. Once we set the budget at $4500 - $5000 the search will only return diamonds around 1.XX carats. But we can leave the right handle on the slider at its maximum to see what is returned. Mind you the best quality diamonds are going to be the ones closer to 1 carat anyway since quality of the cut, color and clarity are all factored into the pricing.

choose the price range

Set the price range. Type in 4500 and 5000 in the respective boxes. At this point it may seem that your job is done, but there are some important settings in the Advanced Options that shouldn't be ignored. Let's have a look to see what they are.

How to Use the Advanced Options at James Allen

how to use the advanced options at James Allen

The aim of this article is to help you find a good looking diamond so we absolutely must look at the advanced options.

Check the following options:

  • Polish: Excellent
  • Symmetry: Excellent
  • Lab: GIA
  • Depth 60-63
  • Table 56-58
  • Fluorescence: None - Faint


An excellent polish is extremely important. Polishing a diamond give it its luster. Without excellent polish you are really missing out.


Excellent symmetry is also very important.


Now I'm not going to say that GIA is the only lab that you should use. AGS performs additional tests when grading a diamond so it's perfectly fine to include AGS graded diamonds. Usually the diamonds that are going to benefit from this advanced examination are the ones sent to AGS because the manufacturer can already tell that they are a superior cut. So they are more likely to be the diamonds in the higher end of the price range we have set. IGI diamonds can also be included in the search, though I would try first looking among the GIA graded diamonds and then including the other labs if nothing suitable turns up. It's not a bad idea, when selecting the other labs to leave the GIA ticked as you can actually compare the colors and clarity grades on screen. You will see that IGI graded diamonds are no worse than GIA graded diamonds. But many people choose GIA diamonds as GIA is globally recognized and has been the preferred grading lab for countless manufacturers. For the most part I find an IGI certificate to be perfectly acceptable. In past years the complaint was that IGI color grades were not comparable to GIA color grades. This is why I suggest displaying both GIA and IGI graded diamonds side by side at some point during your search as you will see that the color difference is not as disparate as some people make it out to be. The cost to the manufacturer of having a grading certificate issued by IGI may be a few dollars cheaper and this is reflected in the price of the diamonds listed at James Allen. For this reason it's usually a good idea to not ignore the IGI graded diamonds. If on the other hand you definitely want a TrueHearts™ diamond then you should include the GIA and AGS options.


There used to be a vague rule of thumb that a suggested that a diamond with a 60% depth and a 60% table would somehow magically be the best diamond. Today we know that it's a lot more nuanced than that. However since we have the option of specifying the depth we may as well make 60% depth the lower number. Many ideal cut diamonds you will find are around 61.5% depth and rarely more than 62.5% depth. For this reason I am suggesting the search results only contain diamonds that have a depth between 60% and 63%. A 63% depth does result in a slightly deep cut but a very deep diamond will rarely get an excellent cut grade anyway so it's not a huge concern.


A smaller table often results in a better balance of fire and brilliance. Small tables are 55% to 56%. Larger tables often result in greater brilliance brighter. Larger tables are 58% to 60%. Many ideal cut diamonds feature a table of 56% to 58%. For this reason I suggest sticking to an average of 56% to 58%. As nice contrast in a diamond is one of the traits that has been identified as a desireable trait it makes sense to go for a diamond that has good contrast. I find that there is better contrast in diamonds with a table size between 56% to 58%.


Fluorescence is another big topic. It's much simpler to avoid fluorescence unless you can examine the diamond first. Some fluorescent diamonds look a little cloudy or milky in sunlight, or any UV light for that matter. Reports vary as to how many diamonds have this problem. Some say 3% of fluorescent diamonds look milky under UV light others say it's 80%. If you are willing to risk it you can go ahead and try a fluorescent diamond. You can then take advantage of James Allen's return policy. This way you can get it exchanged for another diamond if it doesn't live up to your expectations. I don't know about you, but I think that's a little too much hassle for my liking. After all, you'll pretty much be back to square one and will have to go through the selection process all over again.

Want a shortcut?

Here is a prefilled search query I created that will return a current list of James Allen diamonds sorted by cut grade within all of the parameters I mentioned above:

Ok, that's it.

Now to analyze the results and make a choice. I recommend looking for diamonds that look bright with a lot of contrast and appear symmetrical in their patterning. If you are still not sure I am happy to lend you a hand as I offer a free diamond concierge service.

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Why James Allen?

If you are new to James Allen here's a quick rundown about who they are and what they do: James Allen gives you access to 200,000 diamonds held by manufacturers. The difference between James Allen and a drop shipper is that James Allen actually has one of their people inspect each and every diamond that they list for sale. As such James Allen is able to create uniform photography. This means that every diamond they list is photographed in precisely the same conditions. The lighting, lens, depth of field, distance to lens, and specific environment is always precisely the same, down to the smallest detail. This allows us as consumers to compare diamonds side by side and get an accurate sense as to the difference between two diamonds. This attention to detail is no accident. It was the vision of one of the founders Oded Edelman for the on-line inspection of diamonds to be as good if not better than you'd get in store. His family, for generations, was known for having the best eye for diamonds in the business. To create an on-line platform that would satisfy that kind of attention to detail was a fairly ambitious undertaking. But they pulled it off and now over 150,000 happy couples own a James Allen diamond. James Allen's quality control department inspects every shipment to ensure care and satisfaction. So while the business model has many similarities to drop shipping, there is a level of care and quality maintained that allows James Allen to provide the generous return policy and other guarantees that they offer. I have written a longer more extensive review of what James Allen offers which I recommend reading to get an idea as to why James Allen is so popular.