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Do Diamonds Look Bigger Once Set?

Do Diamonds Look Bigger Once Set?

Everybody that has seen diamonds on jewelry (or alone) has probably noticed that if you put a diamond on a table on its own, and if you put that same diamond in a ring, on a watch, or even on a necklace – that the same diamond somehow looks bigger!

If you didn’t know, well, now you do. You’ve probably asked yourself do diamonds look bigger once set, and if they do, why? Well, that’s why we’re here today: 

To tell you the mystery behind the same diamond looking larger once embedded in a piece of jewelry. It might seem strange, but trust us when we say – if you look for a difference in size in these situations, you’ll see it!

Getting to the bottom of this was a real challenge, but we didn’t want to give up since we knew that many people asked this same question, and we found ourselves without a concrete answer.

Visual phenomenons like this one are common with materials heavily influenced by light, so this is not the only fascinating thing that might happen with diamonds in some particular cases.

Without any further delay, let’s jump straight in and see why this illusion happens in the first place.

How Big Are Diamonds Usually?

First, let’s look at how big diamonds usually are so you know what size diamonds we’re talking about when we get to the main topic.

The diamonds you usually see in a jewelry store are one-carat diamonds, meaning they weigh 0.2 grams. These are the diamonds used in most rings, necklaces, watches, bracelets – jewelry in general.

Any bigger diamonds are much rarer, so we won’t talk about them here. The diamonds you’ll probably have a chance to see are more than likely one-carat diamonds.

If you do have a diamond ring or any kind of jewelry that contains diamonds, take a look at it. It’s probably a “regular-sized” diamond meaning that it looks a lot like every other diamond you see, size-wise.

That’s exactly why we’re going to talk about diamonds that weigh one carat – and not focus on some big or monstrous diamonds that are over five or ten carats in size.

Even if you do get an opportunity to see a diamond larger than a one-carat one, it will definitely look more prominent than any other gem around.

Therefore, let’s see what the measurements of a standard (one-carat) diamond are.

Approximately 6.5 millimeters is the size of a standard diamond, and the size of a 1.25-carat diamond – which is also quite common – is exactly 6.8 millimeters.

As you can see, these measurements are pretty fine, and the differences are hardly noticeable.

Well, that’s part of the reason why jewelers put diamonds in other jewelry pieces – to make their diamonds look bigger and make a one-carat diamond potentially look like a 1.25-carat diamond or even more prominent.

Now that you know why this is done, let’s get onto the main topic and see do diamonds actually look bigger once set.

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Do Diamonds Really Look Bigger Once Set?

The truth is that diamonds do look bigger once set in jewelry and that jewelers do this to cause an optic illusion.

Why? Well, think about it: 

The diamonds you’re about to purchase will appear bigger when set in a piece of jewelry, so you’ll feel like spending your hard-earned money is more justified. Well, at least in your mind.

That is an old trick, but there’s more to it than just an optical illusion used to sell gems quicker and more efficiently.

Diamonds have been put in jewelry pieces for a long time – even before this fact was known to anyone – so it’s possible that the optical illusion was recognized long after people started doing it.

Techniques like this have been used from ancient times, so it’s really not a big surprise that people still put diamonds in jewelry to make them look larger and more prominent.

Related Read: Why Are American Engagement Rings So Big?

Why Is This Done?

People speculate that putting diamonds in other jewelry pieces is done for a different reason – and the fact that they appear larger is nothing but a coincidence.

When people started making various jewelry pieces – including ones with diamonds in them – it was purely for aesthetic purposes. People began doing so to decorate their gold and silver jewelry to make it stand out from the others in their surroundings.

That is just an initial reason for doing so – but the other reasons have evolved throughout time.

For example, diamond rings have been used for engagement for a very long time, and the fact that there is a diamond on that ring proves that it must have cost a lot.

The bigger the diamond, the bigger the price tag. So, the fact that the diamond that’s embedded in the ring looks more prominent than it would’ve without the surrounding gold or silver is quite a good thing.

The same goes for necklaces, bracelets, watches, and the like.

Every piece of jewelry enhances the looks of the diamonds and vice versa – diamonds enhance the looks of that piece of jewelry.

The fact that this is happening is only a side effect since we’re almost 100% sure that diamonds were being put in jewelry long before the fact that they look bigger that way became apparent to anybody.

Also, if a piece of jewelry contains more than one diamond, and one of the diamonds is slightly bigger than the rest, the smaller diamonds will naturally look more prominent. Even more so, it will also give an impression that the largest diamond is way bigger than it is.

These tricks are often used and shouldn’t surprise you, but you shouldn’t be bothered by this. It’s not a matter of deceiving you – or anyone else buying a piece of jewelry. It’s merely a well-known optical illusion. 

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How Are Diamonds Made To Look Bigger?

Diamonds that are set and look bigger are not just the matter of placing an ordinary diamond into a piece of jewelry such as a necklace or a bracelet.

That diamond will be cut differently than a diamond that will be sold separately and without any precious metals surrounding it.

Also, light and how it travels through a diamond play a big – some would say crucial – role in the diamond seemingly being bigger than it is in reality.

Getting to the point where a diamond is put into a ring or any kind of jewelry is the last step and one that requires the least thinking and work put into it.

Let’s start from the beginning, though.

The first thing you need to understand to grasp the concept of diamonds looking bigger once set is the refraction of light.

It might seem complicated, but trust us – this is fundamental physics that is relatively easy to understand and learn. Also, once you learn it, you’ll understand some other concepts related to this exact topic.

The refraction of light is a basic concept in physics – a phenomenon that allows light to change the trajectory and travel in an unconventional direction suddenly.

First of all, the refractive index of a diamond is 2.42, which means that the speed of light in a diamond will drop by a factor of 2.42 compared to its speed in air.

That is quite important since this is a good portion of why diamonds look bigger once set.

Light is traveling slower through diamonds, which means it spends more time in them, making diamonds shine. A diamond that’s shining always looks bigger than a diamond that receives a low portion of light.

This feature is crucial – and here’s why: Since if the position of a diamond in any piece of jewelry is good and gets a lot of exposure to light, it will look bigger and brighter all around. A feature such as this is essential and should not be overlooked since it plays a significant role in this occurrence.

Another big thing when it comes to how big diamonds look is the way the diamond is cut before it’s embedded into a piece of jewelry.

That means that not all diamonds appear bigger once they get placed into the piece of jewelry they’re made for; that’s not always the case.

Diamonds that are cut into a spherical shape, roughly speaking, have a much better chance of appearing more prominent than they are. That is due to the curvature of the diamond and the light traveling through that shape.

We say “spherical,” but we don’t actually mean that a diamond is cut to look completely round.

The easily recognizable diamond shape is still there – but instead of its proportions being more square, they are more spherical, meaning it looks a bit more round once it’s put into a ring, for example.

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That means some geometrical calculations are included when cutting and polishing diamonds for jewelry pieces – and they can’t be skipped or overlooked.

That brings us to the third important thing – polishing the diamond. Many people tend to forget that diamonds need to be polished to have the clear surface that they’re known for and loved.

Nicely polishing a diamond can make a world of difference, even for diamonds sold individually, meaning they’re sold as stand-alone pieces outside of any jewelry.

So you can imagine how big of a difference can a good polishing job do when it comes to gems that are made for any piece of jewelry.

The last important thing when it comes to a diamond’s appearance once set is the positioning.

Positioning plays a huge role in making a diamond look bigger once set. That generally means that the diamond needs to be on the top (or the front of) a jewelry piece to get enough exposure to light – while also being fully exposed.

A diamond shouldn’t be covered with any other part of the jewelry that it’s on, and it shouldn’t be hidden in a place where it’s hardly visible.


We believe that we’ve told you everything about this subject and answered the question “Do diamonds look bigger once set” – on top of explaining everything that influences that illusion.

Now, for those that still need a definitive answer, the answer is yes.

Depending on their placement, diamonds look bigger once set in a piece of jewelry for a number of reasons:

  • Light exposure
  • Refraction of light
  • Way of cutting
  • Polishing method
  • Positioning

All of these heavily impact how a diamond looks in jewelry and whether it looks bigger or not. It’s entirely possible for a diamond not to look bigger in a piece of jewelry, but many things have to go wrong – from cutting to setting – in order for that to happen.

Taking that into consideration, it’s safe to say that the majority of diamonds will look bigger once set in almost any piece of jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, watches, or rings.

Keep this in mind when buying diamonds since this occurrence can alter your way of thinking – and diamond shopping. You may end up telling yourself a gem is worth more than it is because it looks larger than it really is.

Having said that, we believe that that’s all there is to this topic. We wish you good luck in your diamond-related adventures!

Learn More: Types Of Diamond Settings: A Guide To Setting Styles