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The 4 C’s- Diamond Facts & Opinions

  • April 8, 2015

One of the first pieces of information most individuals learn about when searching for a diamond is how it is graded. This is broken down via the 4 C’s: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat weight, which is a system that GIA Laboratories first established in 1953 and has been the standard since. Through this system every diamond in a ring or on the market becomes unique. Now to get a little scientific, they break down as follows:

Color: Diamonds essentially are carbon rocks, which were under immense pressure and heated up to about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and produced billions of years ago. The presence of nitrogen affected the yellow color of the stone, creating a tinge of coloration in otherwise white diamonds. They grade this scale from D-Z, with D being the whitest stone available and Z having the most color saturation.  Whiter stones are valuated higher, with the exception of fancy colors such as canary yellow, blue, pink, etc.

Clarity: While the diamonds are formed under the earth, they can receive unique birthmarks. These include leftover carbon spots, feathering (cracks) on the interior of the diamond, and small bubbles.  Clarity determines the amount of these inclusions and how visible they are underneath a 10x magnified jewelers loupe. They are graded from lowest inclusions to highest as follows: Flawless, Internally Flawless, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, I3. Flawless will have the highest cost attached to it, and I3 will be the lowest.

Cut: The only aspect of the diamond completely controlled by humans, it measures the aspects of the diamonds used to create the light refraction effect we see to create the sparkle. Each cut (facet) in the stone is measured to ensure the light passes through and escapes in the direction intended. Cut is measured through Polish, Symmetry, and Proportion. Polish determines the quality of the the final finish on the facets, symmetry is the appropriate balance from side to side, and proportion is proper dimensions from top to bottom. They grade each section from Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent, then give an overall grade. While this grading was designed for round brilliants, a version has been appropriated to the other fancy cuts such as princess and emerald.

Carat: Grades the weight of the stone, with one carat being 1/5 of a gram or 200 milligrams.  While there are generally accepted sizes to each carat weight (e.g 6.5mm= 1ct) they can change based on depth of the cut.

These factors come together to determine the pricing of each stone. The following is a personal opinion and cannot be determined as fact: As you can see there are numerous choices in selecting the perfect diamond. Asking to compare them side by side usually is the best way to determine your personal preference, but I feel a few factors are most important. Once you decide your budget you can figure out what C is most important to you. My years in the industry have given me a bias towards Cut, as I have seen diamonds with slight blemishes full of brightness and fire overwhelm diamonds of lower cut but clearer Clarities. SI1-SI2 is a great balance if I can get an excellent Cut. As far as Color I am a fan of G-H as you maintain a bright white but don’t get the premium cost of D-F. In the end we can cater to any stone and preference, and are more than happy to let you select your favorite.