Diamond 4Cs Info & Tips

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Oohh, what a big diamond! But is bigger always better? Before you go for the biggest rock, here's the basic 4C's, (carat, clarity, color and cut) and more to consider. Looking for discount diamond jewelry is a sure way get ripped off. There is no such thing as a discount diamond. Diamonds have different qualities which determine their higher or lower value. Take a few minutes and learn a few basic diamond buying tips.

Jump to Clarity | Color | Cut

Diamond Carat

A carat is a measurement of a diamond's weight, not its size. A standardized system is used, and one carat equals 0.2 grams, or 100 points. A half carat is 50 points, weighs 0.1 gram and you'll see it also written as .50ct. There are many in between weights, such as .20, .33, .40, .45, .70. Expect to pay a bit less for weights that fall short of the standard size carats. Off weights are a good place to save a few dollars on a diamond. There's a good chance that an off-size diamond may have a better cut as the cutter isn't cutting to match a standard weight.

While carat is the feature that most focus on first, take into consideration a diamond's other qualities. For instance, it's cut can make it appear larger or smaller than its actual weight, and a lesser cut can stilll produce an impressive dazzler.

When you purchase a diamond ring or necklace with a large middle stone and several smaller side stones, don't settle for a price based on "total" carat weight, commonly written as ctw. Find out the specific weight of the largest stone as this is on what the cost should be based. This is a good bargaining point for any piece of diamond jewelry with multiple stones.

Diamond Clarity

The clarity, or purity, of a diamond refers to a rating based on the presence or absence of cracks, cleavages or inclusions under 10x magnification. These flaws appear naturally or occur during the stress put on the stone when mined. Clarity refers to the free passage of light without obstruction or absorption in a diamond. Not all inclusions, which are miniscule fragments, tiny crystals, clouds or feathers, are visible to the naked eye. The following ratings are by GIA standards.

Clarity Number and Size 10x Loupe
IF Noinclusions,internallyflawless Nothing
VVS1 Very, very slight inclusions, pin pricks Very difficult
VVS2 Very, very slight inclusions, pin pricks Very difficult
VS1 Very slight, minute inclusions Difficult
VS2 Very slight, minute inclusions Difficult
SI1 Slight, tiny inclusions Easily seen
SI2 Slight, tiny inclusions Easily seen
I1 Small inclusions Recognizable
I2 Noticeable inclusions Obvious
I3 Very noticeable inclusions Obvious

The naked eye can't see flaws in grades IF through SI1. At grade SI2, you won't be able to see flaws from the top. The I (Imperfect) grades range from "difficult to recognize" to "very easily recognized." Watch out for SI3 grades, this is a new grade that allows some I1 diamonds to be rated higher. Only EGL reports allow this grade.

Diamond Color

Diamonds are either white or fancy natural colored diamonds. The grading scale D–Z is used to rate only white diamonds and show how pure white its color is.

Even when unmounted, many would find it difficult to differentiate colors between diamonds from grades D–G and when mounted, even H and I can appear colorless. However, your own color perception ability affects whether or not you will see fine shade differences. Even down to grade K, small mounted stones will appear colorless to most, but larger diamonds may have slight color visibility. Further down the scale, color is easily visible.

Two diamond jewelry tips: if you want to purchase a more inexpensive diamond that has a little color, you can "pump up" the color by a grade or two by getting the stone set in a white gold or a platinum head. And if you have your stone set in a yellow gold setting, very few could tell if your diamond was better than a G or H in color. The chart below will help give you a relative idea of diamond color on a scale.

D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Colorless Near Colorless Faint Yellow Very LightY ellow Light Yellow

diamond color scale

Natural color diamonds are very rare and very expensive. A fancy color diamond's value is dependent on several factors: its hue (rare colors such as red and green are very rare, and command a higher price), the deepness of the color and its purity. This online natural color encyclopedia gives you additional information about these rare gems. Don't purchase a fancy colored diamond until its color has been verified by the GIA Lab; that's the only way you can guarantee you aren't buying a fake.

Fluorescence, a naturally occurring phenomena, is present in some degree in nearly two thirds of all diamonds. A diamond with strong fluorescence will appear to be different colors (or have a hazy appearance) when viewed under strong sunlight and artificial lighting. Strong fluorescence in a higher graded stone causes a milky effect, lowering its value. However, this effect in a lower graded stone helps its appearance and commands a higher price. This feature is rated separately. As higher graded diamonds with strong fluorescence are priced lower, this is another way to save, yet have a fine-looking diamond to set in a jewelry piece.

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Diamond Cut

A diamond's cut is the most important of the 4Cs. The cut is what gives a diamond or other gemstone its fire and brilliance, and a master diamond cutter's work makes light behave in breathtaking ways as it reflects throughout the diamond, from one side to the other before reflecting back out to your gaze. A diamond's makes a huge difference in its appearance, and a lesser graded stone with a better cut is one way to own a finer piece of jewelry.

A diamond that's cut too shallow or deep loses much of its brilliance, as the light leaks out to the sides or bottom rather than being reflected back to the table, or top of the diamond.

Cut grades are ideal, premium, very good, good, fair and poor. Hearts and Arrows is a super ideal cut created in the late 1980s in Japan.

Type of CutDescription
Hearts & Arrows Penultimate ideal cut produces a unique, breathtaking brilliance previously unachievable. A circular pattern of hearts and arrows can be seen using a special viewer. This cut is used in round and princess shapes.
Ideal Cut This cut applies only to round diamonds, and is the ultimate cut to display a diamond's inner fire. It has a smaller table size (top facet) which creates the exceptional brilliance of this cut. A rough diamond loses more weight with this cut to achieve maximum brilliance.
Premium This are nearly the equal of the ideal cut and also provides extremely high quality fire and brilliance.
Very Good Diamonds with a very good cut reflect most of the light that enters and still have a good amount of brilliance. This cut strays slightly from preferred proportions to create a larger diamond.
Good This cut is done to create the largest possible diamond, rather than creating a smaller, but premium one. They reflect out much of the light that enters. If size is your concern, this cut helps you stay within your budget.
Fair & Poor This cut reflects light very poorly as it maximizes the carat weight over nearly everything else.

Diamond Shapes

A good jeweler won't try to confuse you by combining the shape of a diamond with its cut. Here are some of the more popular diamond shapes set in jewelry: round brilliant, marquise, princess, oval, emerald and pear.

diamond shapes

More Diamond Buying Tips

Did you know that while a diamond is the hardest substance in the earth and has amazing resistance to scratches, it is also very brittle. It can break into pieces when you hammer it.

  • The GIA has a fantastic interactive tutorial on how to buy diamond jewelry. Find this above the Service Center and click on the link to start the tutorial.
  • The ultimate protection for your diamond jewelry is Gemprint. Your jeweler or appraiser may offer this valuable service.

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