Originally Posted by Beckwith
+1. You will get decent quality from Tiffany, but not quantity. The earrings will be on the small unimpressive size. Blue nile or the like for a decent quality, bigger size is the way to go. My friend is in the business and made earring for my wife, and he even states you don't need the best quality for the ear, but size makes a difference.
Actually, with diamonds, it's all about the cut. IMO, for a given price, I'd make sure you get best cut diamonds you can afford, i.e. ideal, and THEN worry about size, color, and clarity. A well cut stone won't just sparkle more than a stone that's cut like shit, but it will also "look" bigger than a comparably sized stone that isn't cut as well. You're right though, for earrings, color/clarity isn't much of a concern.
BlueNile has great prices, as does WhiteFlash. Much better value than a mall jeweler, i.e. Tiffanys. Here's an example: http://www.whiteflash.com/diamond-ea...-to-go-595.htm
You can get a pair of white gold or platinum 3-prong .50ctw studs, that will be very well cut, squarely within your price range. Hell, if you could stretch your budget a bit, you can spring for the .75ctw studs set in 14k white gold. A somewhat comparable pair at Tiffany's (.62ctw set in platinum) runs $5,400 (granted, they're lower in color and higher in clarity, but for that size stone, who gives a shit).
As a final consideration, do you think your gf will ever want to "trade" these earrings up later on down the road? For instance, trade in her .50ctw earrings for 1ctw? If so, some vendors (although not BlueNile or WhiteFlash, I believe) offer a trade-up policy, where they'll credit you as much as the full purchase price of the earrings (less the cost of the setting) towards an upgrade.