Total Carat Weight

Total weight includes every diamond in a piece of jewelry.

Total carat weight is a number used to describe diamond jewelry, whether it is for an elaborate engagement ring, a stunning diamond necklace, or a pair of diamond stud earrings. Couples interested in buying a multi-stone engagement ring should thoroughly understand the details about total weight to ensure they make a wise purchase.

Defining Total Carat Weight

A carat is the measure of mass for an individual diamond or gemstone. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams, and carats are often referred to by point value - one carat equals 100 points, therefore a diamond of 50 points is a half-carat stone. The term "carat" originated from the ancient Greek practice of weighing gems in relation to tiny grain-like carob beans, which were thought to have a uniform weight (modern measurement techniques have disproved this), and today, the weight of a jewelry carat is standardized.

Carat Weight Ranges
For Total Weight Figures
Weight Range Stated Total
.21-.29 1/4 Carat
.30-.36 1/3 Carat
.45-.59 1/2 Carat
.70-.84 3/4 Carat

Total carat weight, then, is the sum of all the same stones' carat weights in a single piece of jewelry. A three stone diamond engagement ring with a half-carat center stone flanked by two quarter-carat companion stones, then, would have a total weight of a full carat. On the other hand, a diamond and sapphire ring with a half-carat central diamond accented by two quarter-carat sapphires would have a total diamond weight of only a half-carat because only the same type of gems are added when computing the total. When many stones are used together in an elaborate piece, the final figure may be quoted as the minimum total weight, and the federal government regulates the range of sizes jewelers may estimate (shown at right).

Problems with Multiple Accent Stones

When the term total carat weight is used, consumers must examine the ring or piece of jewelry carefully to determine if it suits their style and preferences. While a one carat total engagement ring may sound impressive, it is less stunning when seen as a fifth-carat center stone surrounded by a dozen or smaller accent stones. While some brides-to-be prefer these elaborate arrangements, at the same time the term total weight may be used to inflate the price on rings using only tiny, lower quality stones. Furthermore, excessive accent stones may overpower a small center stone, diluting the focal point of the ring and making it seem like less of an engagement ring and more of a fashion or right hand ring.

Maximizing Total Carat Weight

There are several ways to maximize the total carats of a diamond ring, however, that can allow couples to enjoy a combined weight and multiple stones without diminishing the beauty of a center stone or elaborate setting.

Too many accents are overpowering.

Choosing an elongated diamond shape such as a marquise, emerald, or oval cut maximizes the surface area of the stone without adding weight. A quarter-carat marquise stone, for example, is longer and more prominent than a quarter-carat round stone, though they both have the same mass. Minimizing the setting by opting for a tension or tiffany ring also creates the illusion of a larger ring because it is not surrounded by as much metal as a more enclosed setting.

Selective use of accent stones can also seemingly enlarge a ring without adding gemstone mass. Instead of a quarter-carat solitaire that focuses the eye on a single stone, a couple could choose a bridal set that uses a fifth-carat marquise stone with a few accents. The total carat weights of the rings are the same, but the appearances are vastly different. At the same time, couples should always be aware that too elaborate of a setting may lessen the overall appeal of the ring, particularly on thin, delicate fingers or if the center stone is too small to balance the number of accents.

T.C.W. Cost

The overall carat weight of a ring is one factor in its cost. Larger single stones are often a higher quality and harder to procure, increasing their cost. Despite a more elaborate setting utilizing multiple accent stones, multi-stone rings are often less expensive because the smaller stones are of lower quality and smaller carat sizes are more abundant. For example, a Zales Jewelry half-carat round solitaire set in white gold costs approximately $1,000, while a half-carat total weight marquise bridal set with 16 small accent stones in white gold is only $900. In the bridal set, however, the center diamond is barely one-sixth of a carat - only only one-third of the total diamond weight.

When comparing a solitaire with a total weight ring set, however, couples need to consider more that simply price and weight. Buying a bridal set means purchasing two rings, the engagement ring and the wedding band, making it even more affordable.

Understanding Your Engagement Ring

The key to understanding total carat weight is to know which stones are being added together and to compare the total figure with the weight of the center stone. Reputable jewelers should be able to supply all the necessary carat information for couples to make an informed decision about whether they are interested in a solitaire ring with the carat weight concentrated in a single stone, or whether they prefer a multi-stone ring with a similar total carat weight.

Total weight can be a confusing measurement for engagement rings, but understanding its implications on cost, diamond quality, and appearance is critical for couples choosing such a significant purchase. Regardless of their preferences, being knowledgeable consumers will help them select a perfect ring to symbolize their relationship.

Total Carat Weight