How To Buy The Best 1 Carat Diamond For US$5000 (Stone only)

by Thomas J Stevens GIA DG CSG - Last modified June 6, 2021
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 On 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.


I hope you can take a few minutes to read this article, but if you are really really in a rush, I have created a super easy short-cut. Jump to the bottom of this article to execute the search in just one click.

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. I will show you how to eliminate the duds, while also making sure you aren't overpaying for features that provide little if any benefit. With a price point of US$5000 we will be limited to middle of the range colors. But as long as we don't compromise on cut quality we will see that it's still possible to find a beautiful diamond. Sticking to $5000 and staying away from very included diamonds may seem difficult, but there should be enough VS1 and VS2 diamonds in the I,J,K range that are perfectly fine, so long as you don't mind a tiny bit of "warmth" in the diamond's color. Of course you may feel the opposite way about this as I do. Maybe you prefer a slightly included diamond with a better color grade. It's up to you to decide how much color you are comfortable with. I'm just not a huge fan of SI1 and lower diamonds, and to be honest I don't know many people who are. SI1 and lower diamonds invariably have problems that either affect their beauty or durability or both. If push comes to shove it's better to compromise on size than clarity.

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

  • Budget: US$5000 (diamond only)
  • Size: 1 carat +
  • Color: I-K
  • 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

The I-J color grades still bring us a nice selection without having to look at SI1 or lower clarity. If you really want a G-H then it may be necessary to look below 1 ct in the .80ct to .92 ct range.

Remember: an excellent cut can cause a diamond to shine bright enough to make the color less noticeable. This is why we are going to tweak the parameters to find ourselves the brightest diamond that will shine as a bright as we can find.

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

Go to:

select parameters at James Allen

Slide the color selector so that only I, J,K 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 and stick to the budget then we're most likely looking at I or J. But we'll include one lower color grade so we can see what turns up. The goldilocks area for round brilliant diamonds (not too deep, not too shallow) is 61.5% give or take 1%. I usually draw the line at 62.5% but James Allen only has whole percentage points on the slider so that's why it is showing 63% as a max.

Cut grades at James Allen are divided into four grades. Good, Very Good, Ideal, and TrueHearts™. What we are hoping to find is something with an excellent cut grade. From what I have seen the excellent cut diamonds at James Allen are classed as Ideal and TrueHearts™.

I won't go into the whole history of Excellent vs Ideal cut grades, but basically the term "Ideal" eventuated when the FTC ruled that the term "Perfect" was not to be used in relation to diamond cut quality. Since there is still a range of excellence within the "Excellent" cut grade, some vendors try to differentiate the better excellent cuts from the barely excellent diamonds.  There is no agreed upon definition what exactly constitutes an "ideal" cut diamond. So this means it is still necessary to understand which qualities cause a diamond to shine. The prameters I include in this article are only a starting point. To really understand everything involved it would be necessary to study diamond grading and the science of light in greater depth.

TrueHearts™ diamonds are of course tempting as it takes a lot of the footwork out of the search. But there are usually enough diamonds to choose from without needing to pay the premium that the TrueHearts™diamonds command.

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.

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. But it's definitely the most recognised lab around. AGS is also one I recommend. AGS performs additional tests when grading a diamond so definitely include AGS graded diamonds. Usually the diamonds that are going to benefit from the additional examination that AGS performs are diamonds which the manufacturer can already tell are a superior cut and want to make sure this gets noted on the diamond's grading report. So these 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 quitee often 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 I wouldn't necessarily recommend automatically rejecting all 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 54% to 56%. Larger tables are optimal for producing greater brilliance, that is, a brighter diamond. 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:

Here is a prefilled search query that will return a current list of James Allen diamonds sorted by cut grade with 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.

I have highlighted the one that stands out to me from a search conducted using the parameters I have just mentioned.

select parameters at James Allen

If you want me to do the search for you you are welcome to take advantace of my free diamond concierge service.

James Allen's True Hearts™

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What are True Hearts™ diamonds?

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.