Starting with the Basics

It is universally acknowledged that a diamond is forever. Based on its rarity along with other factors, it is deemed to be precious and possibly worth an incredible amount. However, there are a few things you should know before you buy your diamond. In the diamond industry, these characteristics are known as the 4C’s– Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat. Based on these standards, a gemologist can assess a diamond’s quality and determine it’s worth, so what are each of these characteristics and what role do they play in a diamond’s beauty?

Contrary to what you may think, “Cut” does not refer to a diamond’s shape but to the dimensions and angles of a diamond’s facets and how they interact with light.  Most diamonds in circulation are cut by “hand”. Of course, there’s a lot of technology involved in the “hand” cutting of the diamond, but at the end of the day, the diamond is cut by an individual, meaning no two diamonds will ever be cut exactly the same. Generally, cut is the most important factor when looking for a diamond, as it’s what gives a diamond its sparkle. Even a diamond with a high clarity and color grade will appear dull if cut poorly. There are four categories when grading a diamond’s cut (best to least): Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Fair. 

When determining a diamond’s clarity, this refers to its purity and the visibility of any inclusions (internal flaws) or blemishes (external flaws). Each clarity grade is based on the number of inclusions, size of the inclusion, type of inclusion, and its prominence in proportion to the size of the diamond. Since these flaws are mostly unrecognizable to the naked eye, a diamond’s clarity must be determined using a diamond loupe. The official scale from best to least is: Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2), Slightly Included (SI1, SI2, SI3), and Included (I1, I2, I3). An Internally Flawless (IF) diamond means that you can’t notice any inclusions, whereas an Included (I3) diamond is heavily included and the imperfections are easily noticeable to the naked eye, making the diamond appear cloudy. A diamond’s clarity grade is an important factor when it comes to rarity. An IF diamond is incredibly rare, and an I3 diamond is a dime a dozen. As a last note on clarity, a flawless diamond does not exist in nature, but after cutting and polishing a flawless diamond is able to be created.

Color refers to the natural tint that is present in white diamonds. In nature, most white diamonds have a slight tint of yellow or brown. Traditionally, the whiter the diamond is, the more desirable it is. Diamonds can be treated with certain chemicals and even certain amounts of heat and pressure to alter the true color of the diamond but the grading scale used for those is distinctly different from the traditional color grading scale. The traditional scale ranges from the letter D (whitest of white) all the way to Z (very saturated color). Since the grading scale has such a wide range, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds, especially once it’s in it’s setting. This is an important factor to keep in mind when trying to get the most bang for your buck. 

Lastly, the carat weight refers to a diamond's weight, not necessarily it’s size. A 1 Carat Diamond equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams. Depending on the shape of a diamond and the way it was cut, two diamond’s with the same carat weight could vary in size.

When you put together a diamond’s cut, clarity, color, and carat weight you can determine how rare the diamond is as well as its estimated value. There are practically a million combinations of the 4C’s that exist, but hopefully, with these basics, you can now feel more confident about what to look for when making your next diamond purchase.

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