What Is Total Carat Weight (TCW)? Pricing and Things to Consider

As the gemstone industry continues to recover following the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for diamonds is rising.

With the sheer number of precious gems and metals available, deciding on a particular piece of jewelry can be challenging. You may notice unfamiliar descriptions on an item—such as total carat weight (TCW).

TCW is one of the comprehensive measures for evaluating the value of multiple stones on a ring or other piece of jewelry—and understanding this metric can help you make the right choice when contemplating a gift for yourself or a loved one.👍🏻

Read on to learn everything you need to know about total carat weight.

Multi-Stone Diamond Ring in Yellow Gold

What is the total carat weight (TCW)?

You’ve probably heard of carat weight.

Carat weight refers to the weight of a particular gem and is commonly used to assess the value or preciousness of one stone. The term “carat” comes from the ancient Greek use of carob beans to measure weight.

👉🏻Total carat weight, however, is the total weight of every stone on a particular piece of jewelry. To find the TCW of an item, you would determine the carat weight of each stone and add them together.

Although many people associate carat weight with the size of a gemstone, the term refers to the weight of the stone. Remember that size typically increases with weight, but not predictably or linearly.

How to find total carat weight

To find the total carat weight of a piece, simply add the individual weight of each gemstone to the total.

For example, if you have a multiple-stone ring with five diamonds, and the center stone weighs 1.75, but the side stones are .10 each, you would have a total carat weight of 2.15.

If you plan to buy a piece of jewelry and want to know its total weight, you can find the TCW on a price tag in the store or from the item specs on the online vendor. If you can’t, simply ask the assistant to help you.

Lastly, sometimes you can find individual carat weights on lab grading reports (if applicable) and add them together.

How is total carat weight measured?

To find carats, gemologists typically weigh gems on specialized scales.

Since one carat equals 0.2 grams, they can easily convert this figure to find the carat weight. Then, they add the weight of each stone together to see the TCW.

TCW and pricing: Does a higher TCW mean a higher price?

In the gemstone industry, pricing is very closely related to rarity.⚠️

For example, rarer gemstones tend to have higher prices than those that aren’t, which is why you would pay more for a sapphire than a pearl or agate.

In terms of weight, large stones are rarely found in nature, so when a multi-carat diamond or ruby emerges, it is likely to be worth far more than a much smaller stone. For example, an enormous pink diamond found in Botswana made the news in July as it weighed around 170 carats.

There are more rare stones under one carat than stones of multiple carats. Because of the rarity of larger carat stones, they are generally exponentially more expensive. For example, a single-carat diamond may cost only $2000, while a two-carat diamond can cost $10,000.

Oddly enough, numerical superstitions are reflected in the gemstone industry as in others. If the gem weighs at "magic sizes," such as 0.25 ct, 0.50 ct and 1.00 ct, the price can jump even further.

However, the pricing of gemstones can be more complicated...

Two gemstones of the same variety with the same carat weight can cost two different amounts. That’s because, in addition to the rarity and weight of a particular stone, jewelers must also consider its other quality factors. When it comes to diamonds, the value or pricing is ultimately determined upon the comprehensive evaluation of the 4Cs of the stone. For colored gemstones, color and color effects would play a vital role in their value.

TCW may involve gemstones of different varieties, weights and qualities. Take diamond jewelry as an example; the stones on two pieces of multi-stone jewelry can have different numbers of stones, weights, as well as cut, color and clarity grades. That's why a diamond ring has a TCW of 3.50 carats can be much more expensive than the other with the same TCW; because the former includes one or several larger diamonds while the latter is set with smaller accent stones that all are under 1 carat and/or in relatively lower qualities.

Confirming the TCW on a gem

It’s important to confirm the total carat weight of multi-stone jewelry since it can be misleading.

⚠️Some people may confuse TCW with the carat weight of the center stone, which can lead them to believe they are purchasing a piece that is more valuable than it is.

Alternatively, jewelers may use the TCW figure, which is higher than the carat weight of individual stones, to determine the item's price, thus inflating its cost.

You can prevent a misunderstanding by following these steps:

  1. Pay careful attention to details and look for specific measurements.
  2. Ask for individual carat weights for all stones if possible, and ask to see the TCW.
  3. Ask about the jewelry’s pricing methodology.
  4. Obtain a gemstone report from an accredited lab like GIA to look at the results. This will be able to confirm or disprove the TCW and other metrics.

TCW and diamond earrings

A crucial value evaluation for diamond earrings is total carat weight.

There is a wide range of styles in the world of diamond earrings, from the classic solitaire diamond stud earrings to drop earrings, huggie earrings, cluster earrings and more.

Since earrings are sold as a pair, TCW is used to calculate the weight of all stones on a pair. The pricing of diamond earrings follow similar criteria and scenarios as multi-stone diamond rings. In addition to the cost of the earring setting, diamonds on the earrings come in different numbers and quality facts. There could be dramatic price difference between two pairs with the same TCW. You will often see that a pair of solitaire diamond earrings with each solitaire weighing a large amount can be several times pricier than a pair of cluster earrings with small accent diamonds embedded.

🙅🏻Unfortunately, some jewelers may use total carat weight instead of carat weight for weight description, as the larger figure sounds more impressive yet it can give the illusion of a great deal.

Don't be misled, remember to compare between the TCW and weights of individual significant stones next time you buy a pair of earrings!

Jewelry shopper’s guide to TCW

If you’re planning on shopping for jewelry with multiple gemstones, make sure you have a clear understanding of the TCW, and carat weights of specific stones.

You can also request to see official grading reports or documentation to verify the figures, or you can do so later.

If you’re deciding between one or multiple stones on your selected piece of jewelry, consider the following:

  • A multi-stone piece generally has a higher carat weight than a single-stone or solitaire piece.
  • A multi-stone jewelry piece allows you to maximize your budget without overspending while obtaining excellent brilliance.
  • Single-stone rings are typically more straightforward and timeless, while multi-stone rings are generally more creative designs and may follow specific trends.🤓

Ultimately, no matter which you choose, remember to recognize the relationship between total carat weight (TCW), carat weight and pricing methodology.

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