When it comes to diamonds, know that not all are created equally. And when it comes to natural rough diamonds, no two diamonds are alike. Diamonds come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and internal characteristics that makes them wholly unique. And it goes without saying that some diamonds with certain qualities are more rare, thus more valuable. These diamond quality factors vary and impact the value of the given diamond.
So how to handle all these differences? Well, jewelry professionals use a system to evaluate. By doing so, they make it easier to compare diamonds to one another. The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, created a system that established four important factors to describe and classify diamonds:
Also known as the 4 C’s. When you use this system, you can better determine the value of a finished diamond. Grading diamonds has a long history. Color, clarity and carat weight were the basis for the first know grading system for diamonds. Today, we simply use better tools for a more precise measurement. But the standards remain true.
Understanding the 4 C’s
The 4 C’s describe the individual qualities of a diamond and in turn this determines the value. And in many cases, the rarity of one value will affect the value of a diamond as a whole. For example, colorless diamonds are more scarce, thus their value is higher. Each of the 4 C’s presents a rare option that will increase the value of the said diamond.
However, it is important to understand that the 4Cs grading system is more of a guideline than a “good” or “bad” scale. There is no right answer to the diamond you need due to other circumstances present. At the end of the day, it is what YOU think of the diamond and its appearance. You may like a diamond with more color than colorless. The scale for these features is just to inform you.
So, a diamond can hit the top of every scale point, which means it costs the most. However, does that mean it is more beautiful than a more affordable diamond? No. There is no “correct” set of specs for a diamond. As the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Here is a brief overview of the 4Cs and some tips about what they mean in terms of the diamonds they value.
Cut refers to the diamond’s cut. Not the shape. Not the size. But how well the stone is faceted, proportioned, and polished. Of all the diamond characteristics, cut is the only one not influenced by nature. So in many ways, it may be the most important factor. Cut also determines how the diamond will interact with light. This characteristic is called brilliance, which is the diamond’s ability to return light to the eye.
When it comes to selecting a diamond, cut is the first to consider since it is the most impactful visual element. The diamond cuts are Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. When it comes to value, the cut does not impact the cost as much as the other diamond quality factors.
After cut, color is the second most important of the diamond quality factors. Diamond colors fall under a D-Z scale. D is completely colorless, which means it is also the most expensive. And then we get to Z, which has a light yellow hue. Standard diamond quality falls between D-J. And not for nothing, but the shape of the diamond also effects the color. Round diamonds hides color very well. But longer diamonds reveal color much easier. All of this is to say, the color scale is essentially personal preference. So choose the one you like most.
Clarity refers to the number of natural imperfections, otherwise called inclusions, that you can see unaided with the naked eye and are present in the diamond. The GIA scale rates these diamonds from Flawless (FL) to Included (I). However, the diamond does not have to be flawless to look perfect. Again, shape comes into play. But for the most part, diamonds typically appear perfectly eye-clean and there is very little visible difference between an SI1 Slightly Included diamond and a VVS1 Very Very Slightly Included diamond. Of course, there is a huge difference in the price, but that’s it. So if you want to save on an area, you can save on the clarity.
Lastly, we get to the carat weight. This refers to the measurement of the actual weight of the diamond. According to GIA, one carat converts to 0.2 grams. Naturally, the larger the carat, the more expensive the diamond. Again, since no two diamonds are identical, use carat weight as a guideline. It merely determines the weight of the stone and not the actual size. The other diamond quality factors contribute to the difference in size, too.