The Four Cs is a term you often hear in the diamond industry. There isn’t much mystery behind it – it simply stands for the four characteristics that define a diamond: carat, clarity, color and cut. Not surprisingly, as a diamond’s grade rises, so does its price. But don’t let a diamond’s grade scare you away from owning it – here are a few insider tips that may convince you that chasing a D IF isn’t the only option out there.
The cut, which is entirely different from the shape, of a diamond is more important than any of the other Cs when assessing its beauty. The cut alone affects the look of the diamond and how much it sparkles. If a diamond is cut to the right proportions, light will radiate from its top, otherwise referred to as the table. If the proportions are too shallow, light will seep through the bottom. And if they are too deep, light will be lost through the sides.
When it comes to cut grade, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The cut grade is the result of several influential elements, which are explained in the following glossary:
Light reflected outward through the table.
Colored light reflecting outward from inside the diamond; greater color dispersion occurs – and the amount of fire is maximized – as the cut grade improves.
Light flashing as a diamond is turned and tilted. This is a fancier way of referring to the amount of sparkle in the diamond.
The width of the diamond’s surface in proportion to its weight.
A measure of the kind of polishing job done on the diamond’s facets and how visible the polish marks are, along with the sharpness of the facets’ edges. As you might expect, polish plays a major part in how freely light moves through a diamond, so it’s important to avoid diamonds with poor and even fair polish grades if you don’t want to end up with a lifeless stone.
The precise positioning (or lack thereof) of a diamond’s facets. Symmetry plays a huge role in diamonds that have very high clarity and is less relevant in those with lower clarity.
The outer rim of a diamond.
The upper part of the diamond, above the girdle
The lower part of the diamond, below the girdle
The small facet at the base of the pavilion
The large flat surface on the top of the diamond
In white diamonds, the term “color” describes how white the diamond is. Diamonds that are whiter will have better color grades. Color, the way we understand it, is not desirable in white, or colorless, diamonds because any trace of color is typically yellow when it appears in a white diamond. Color grades range from D, which is the highest grade possible as it means it is completely colorless, to Z, the lowest as it shows obvious yellow. Diamonds from K to Z will show a yellow gradient that intensifies as the letter grades move forward.
While the difference in price may be startling between D and J color diamonds, the actual variation in color that appears within diamonds falling at the extremes of this range is visibly subtle. In fact, to see the contrast in color, the diamonds are grouped into similar color categories. To identify color in diamonds that are in the D-E-F range, you should compare those diamonds face-down against a white background under a good light source.
is a colorless (white, no yellow) range.
is a near colorless (nearly white, very little yellow) range.
is a colorless (whis a faint yellow range.ite, no yellow) range.
It is important to keep in mind that once your diamond has been set in jewelry, it will be quite difficult to detect the color of the diamond. What you’re really investing in by purchasing a higher color diamond is the rarity of that diamond, not necessarily the beauty alone.
The clarity grades below are used by GIA:
Flawless, with no inclusions visible under 10x magnification; the rarest of the rare.
Internally Flawless, with insignificant surface blemishes and no inclusions visible internally under 10x magnification; extremely rare.
Very Very Slightly Included, with tiny inclusions which are extremely difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification; very rare.
Very Slightly Included, with minor inclusions that are difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification; rare.
Slightly Included, with inclusions that are easily visible to a trained eye under 10x magnification, and in some cases may be visible with the unaided eye; less rare.
Included, with major inclusions often visible to the naked eye.
If you’re unsure what kind of clarity to shop for, the wisest option would be an “eye-clean” diamond. “Eye-clean” means exactly what you think: a diamond that looks clean to your naked eye when viewing it face-up. Any eye-clean diamond, generally VS2 and better, provides the most bang for your buck especially when compared to FL (Flawless) and IF (Internally Flawless) diamonds, which are not only the rarest of all clarities but also the most expensive.
Differences in clarity do not necessarily determine the beauty of the diamonds. Clarity simply speaks to the rarity of a diamond. An FL diamond will obviously be much rarer than an I1. Something to keep in mind, however, is that sometimes inclusions can give a diamond unique character. After all, no two diamonds in the world are truly alike. Having a certain inclusion can be your diamond’s own fingerprint that sets it apart from all other diamonds.
Carat weight is the weight of a diamond. This does not mean that all diamonds having the same carat weight will be the same size. The diameter, measured in millimeters, of a diamond face-up can be different for two diamonds of the same exact carat weight. For example, you can have two diamonds each weighing exactly 1 carat and one may have a diameter of 7.0MM while the other may have a diameter of 6.5MM. Obviously, the 7.0MM diamond will appear larger. While the 7.0MM diamond may come across as the larger stone, as previously explained in the Cut section, the 6.5MM may actually be considered more beautiful as it is the cut grade – and not carat weight – that translates into a diamond’s optimum beauty.