Thinking of getting engaged? We are happy to assist you with making decisions when shopping for a diamond. This page will give you a general overview of the 4C’s of diamond quality.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that there is generally a tradeoff in terms of the 4C’s. You, as a diamond buyer, need to determine what is important to you (or your bride)! For instance, sometimes a stone which is a little under a carat is cut in a way that makes the top appear larger – which is important if size is your main consideration, but could take away some of the sparkle as the cut is no longer ideal. Other times, you may find yourself deciding between an internally flawless (IF) stone, or one with very, very small inclusions (VVS) – which will look identical to the naked eye, but will affect the price.
Above all: Don’t be afraid to ask questions; women are generally more than happy to give you their opinion on what is most important – whether it’s making sure the stone is “bright white” (colour), sparkly (cut), or doesn’t need a microscope to see (carat weight). To many women, shape is often the determining factor – they already picture themselves wearing an round, emerald cut (rectangular), pear, or marquise-shaped stone. Also consider her style – look at the other jewelry she wears: is it classic, frilly, dramatic – and are the requirements of her job going to make it necessary to have a ring with a flat profile, or is likely to get “knocked around”. These things all factor in to buying the perfect ring!
If you have questions, please feel free to email.
Now, read through our article below to learn more about the science of diamonds!
Diamonds actually occur in all different colours of the rainbow (we refer to most of these colours as “fancy”), but when we talk about diamond grading as it relates to the 4C’s, we are referring to the range from almost pure white to brownish. In terms of grading, the best colour for a diamond is pure white. The reason for this is because it allows for maximal dispersion of light, resulting in that sparkle of colour called scintillation.
The definitive guide to this range of colours is set out by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This organization rates the body color from D (colourless) all the way to Z (yellow). These differences are extremely subtle and require a grader who has been trained for many years looking at hundreds, even thousands of stones. Objectively speaking, there is no perceivable difference between a D colour diamond and a G-H (which is the quality sold at most jewelry stores) to the average jewelry buyer, yet can result in a large cost differential.
Cut refers to the proportions of the diamond regardless of it’s shape (round brilliant, pear, princess, etc.). Regardless of shape, every diamond gets it’s brilliance from the way to facets allow light to enter through the top, be dispersed throughout, and reflect back up.
The ideal cut is shown in the Figure above. As you can see in the diagram at left, if the angles are correct the light that enters is dispersed properly back through the diamond’s top facets. When a stone is cut too deep (second image) or too shallow (third image) the light that enters through the top escapes out the bottom of the diamond. This does not allow the maximum beauty of the diamond to be realized, making Cut a very important consideration in diamond quality.
The clarity of a diamond is determined by the number and location of inclusions, or naturally occurring flaws, when viewed under 10x magnification.
Again, the GIA has developed a rating scale, which rates Clarity in diamonds from Flawless (Fl) to Imperfect 3 (I3). In general, diamonds from VS to VVS are considered very good quality and are commonly used in fine jewelry.
Inclusions are an important part of grading because they can affect how light is able to pass through the diamond. Thus, the fewer inclusions, the better quality the diamond will be. A natural diamond that is free of inclusions and surface blemishes is very rare, and therefore very valuable.
The final C refers to the Carat weight of the stone, and is the easiest quality factor to determine (please note, the diagram below is for illustration purposes only; actual sizes will depend on monitor resolution, etc.).
As in the metric system, one carat is divided into 100 “points”. In other words, a diamond that weighs 50 points can be said to be a half carat. Traditionally, many brides have wanted a one carat centre stone for their engagement ring, but the buyer should know that stones slightly less than a carat – say .90 to .99 – are generally indistinguishable, and have a more reasonable price point.
As the size of large, naturally occurring diamonds increases, so does its rarity. This is what makes a large diamond more expensive than a small one.
Remember, take your time and think through your diamond purchase. It took nature billions of years and tonnes of pressure, paired with the skill of a master diamond cutter, to create it. Pair that with an original, one-of-a-kind, design and you’re sure to knock her socks off!