Buying a diamond might seem like a daunting task especially for the first-time buyer but using established standards to determine what sets a quality stone apart from the rest should make the process a whole lot easier. Anyone who is interested in buying a diamond or learning more about diamonds should start with the 4Cs (Cut, Clarity, Carat, and Color). Established by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the 4Cs is the global standard used for grading and describing diamonds.
The 4Cs make it easy for jewelers to set prices for diamonds and consumers to determine whether a particular diamond suits their personal preferences. A diamond’s characteristics based on standards of cut, color, clarity, and carat heavily determines its value.
Some people mistake a diamond’s cut for a diamond’s shape. Cut is different from shape. A diamond’s cut refers to how it is proportioned, its symmetry, and as well as its polish. A diamond’s cut is determined not only by the quality of the rough stone but by the craftsmanship and preciseness of the diamond cutter. Cut is very important in a diamond, as it can greatly affect its external appearance. Even the most flawless of diamonds can look dull if not cut to exacting proportions.
The GIA uses the following grading system to describe a diamond’s cut:
A diamond with an excellent cut grade offers maximum fire (amount of light that is reflected by the diamond as result of the optimum dispersion of light as it enters the diamond) and brilliance (brightness of the diamond). It is neither cut too deep nor too shallow. It also has excellent symmetry (refers to how each facet of a diamond is angled to allow for maximum brilliance) and has excellent polish (refers to how smooth each facet is).
A diamond that has an excellent cut grade is able to reflect most of the light that enters the diamond.
Diamonds that are graded “Very Good” are cheaper than excellent cuts but are almost very similar in terms of fire and brilliance when viewed with normal lighting. While there are differences in cut quality compared to excellent cut diamonds, it is unnoticeable to the untrained eye.
Diamonds that are graded “Good” in terms of cut quality offer the best value for money. They are not nearly as expensive as diamonds with very good or excellent cut grades but they offer superior fire and brilliance. Such diamonds are able to reflect most of the light that enters the diamond.
A diamond with a fair cut grade allows most of the light that enters the stone to escape either from the bottom or the sides of the diamond. As such, fire and brilliance is significantly reduced resulting in a dull and lifeless appearance especially for bigger stones. It is recommended not to get a diamond with a fair cut grade for stones that are bigger than .75 carats, as the effects of the cut quality are quite apparent.
Diamonds of poor cut grading cannot reflect majority of the light that enters it. Instead, most of the light is allowed to escape from the bottom and sides. As a result, diamonds of this caliber are very dull and lifeless. Most jewelers don’t offer diamonds of poor cut grades because of the low demand.
Since Cut is the most important quality when it comes to a diamond’s appearance, it is important to pay close attention to a diamond’s cut grade. Cut is extremely important in brilliant cuts like the round brilliant and princess cut, as these diamond shapes are valued for their excellent fire and brilliance.
Most diamonds contain inclusions (imperfections within the diamond). Inclusions that are concealed or hidden from plain sight are ideal because they don’t affect the way a diamond reflects light. Inclusions that are very visible can affect the way light bounces on individual facets of a diamond and can therefore greatly affect a diamond’s fire, brilliance, and scintillation.
A diamond’s clarity is graded based on the quantity of inclusions and their location in the diamond. The GIA uses the following parameters to describe a diamond’s clarity grade:
Do not contain any visible inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes (flaws located on the surface) even under 10x magnification. These diamonds are virtually flawless and are extremely rare and expensive.
IF (Internally Flawless)
IF diamonds have no visible inclusions or blemishes unless viewed under 10x magnification by a trained expert.
VVS1 VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included)
VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds contain some inclusions and blemishes but they are not visible to the untrained eye. Even under 10x magnification, only a skilled grader is able to spot the inclusions on a diamond of VVS1 or VVS2 Clarity.
VS1 VS2 (Very Slightly Included)
Diamonds of VS1 or VS2 clarity grades contain minor inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye. The inclusions can only be seen under 10x magnification.
SI1 SI2 (Slightly Included)
Diamonds with SI1 clarity contain inclusions that are still invisible to the naked eye and can usually only be observed under 10x magnification. SI2 diamonds, on the other hand, contain inclusions that can be seen by the naked eye upon close inspection.
I1, I2, I3 (Included)
I1 to I3 Diamonds contain very visible inclusions that can be observed by the naked eye. I2 and I3 diamonds usually contain inclusions that can affect a diamond’s overall quality and appearance.
The color of diamonds, except for fancy color diamonds, are graded based on the absence of color in the diamond. Colorless diamonds are very clear and contain no traces of color (e.g. yellow or brown).
Diamond color is graded on a scale of D to Z. D, E, and F diamonds are considered the rarest, as they are virtually colorless whereas diamonds in the G and H color range are near colorless except for a slight tinge which can be eliminated with the proper setting (e.g. white gold or platinum). Diamonds in the I to J color range offer the best value for money, as they are about 10% cheaper than diamonds in the G to H range but still appear colorless to the naked eye.
The chart below illustrates the color range of diamonds from A to Z.
While many people think of carat weight in relation to a diamond’s size, it actually refers to how heavy a diamond is. The size of a diamond is determined by its diameter and crown size (measured in mm and mm2, respectively).
A diamond’s value increases the heavier it is, although two diamonds of the same carat size can have different prices depending on their cut, color, and clarity. In addition, two diamonds of the same carat weight can have different sizes depending on how they are cut.
Most diamonds of equal quality are sold on a price-per-carat basis. So if a diamond is priced at $3000 per carat, you can expect to pay double that amount for a 2-carat diamond of the same quality. This system makes it easier to compare prices and determine budgets for diamonds of the same quality.
The chart below illustrates different diamonds of varying carat weights in relation to their size in mm.