Many people have heard of the 4 C’s of diamonds but don’t really understand what they mean or how the grade can determine the value of a diamond. The 4C’s were invented by the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) and they have been adopted universally by the entire diamond industry. We recommend you appraise yourself of the 4cs to ensure you understand their importance and to help you avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a diamond not appropriate to your occasion. Here’s what you should consider before buying a diamond:
Less than 1 in 4 of all diamonds are cut to the correct proportions. A diamond that is masterfully cut displays maximum brilliance and fire. Cut and proportion are extremely important because they have the greatest influence on the sparkle and value of a stone. A diamond that is well cut reflects light from one facet to another and disperses it back through the top of the stone.
The Cut of the diamond is the most important and perhaps the most misunderstood and controversial of the 4Cs. Diamond dealers refer to cut as the “make” or “model”, and it is the only feature of a diamond that can be controlled by man.
Precision cutting is required to maximize the true brilliance of a diamond. When we talk about cut, we are referring to much more than just the shape of a diamond. We are talking about the exact angles, proportions, symmetry, and polish that affect the way a diamond reflects light. Precision is of the essence. For maximum brilliance to occur, there should be absolute symmetry in the placing of the facets and the highest quality of polishing. When the proportions are ideal the brilliance, scintillation and dispersion of light is maximized.
A skilled diamond cutter realizes the rough diamond’s potential. He cuts and facets the crystal to reflect the maximum amount of light inside the stone and back through the top of the diamond. His objective is to produce a perfectly symmetrical stone whose right and left sides are mirror images of each other.
At the same time, he has to find the optimal balance between yielding the most diamond weight and creating the best proportioned cut. One reason why higher grades of cut are so much more costly is because more diamond was sacrificed to create them. That’s also why a well proportioned one-carat diamond may be worth twice as much as a poorly proportioned larger diamond that lacks fire and brilliance.
The way a stone is cut can affect its appearance in other ways. If the diamond has a deep cut, it actually looks smaller than another diamond of the same weight that is cut well. Likewise, a diamond that has a spread cut (cut shallow) will appear larger than another diamond of the same weight that is cut well. A diamond that is cut either too deep or too spread is typically undesirable.
A diamond’s body colour can range from totally colourless to light yellow. The whiter or more colourless the stone, the more costly, because the absence of colour is more rare. Also, the less colour in the stone, the easier it is for light to pass through and be dispersed back into the spectrum of colours, like a rainbow.
The first quality grade of a diamond is its colour grade. Diamonds occur naturally in all spectral colours, from red to blue. However, the most commonly occurring colours are yellow and brown. The amount of colour a diamond possesses corresponds to the alphabetical scale show below, beginning with D and ending with Z (the originators of the system began with D in case a whiter diamond was ever found!).
Diamonds of a colourless grade in the D – F range are much more valuable than those in the L – P range because of the rarity of colourless diamonds. The affect of colour on the cost of a diamond can be dramatic. Two diamonds of the same weight, clarity, size and shape can have a cost difference of over 100% between a colour F and J. The colour of your diamond will be a matter of personal taste. So if you don’t like the colour, spend more money!
The less colour a diamond carries the more sought after it becomes. colour to a diamond is likened to that of sunlight to the sky. The less colour a diamond possesses the less impedance it has to its brilliance. colourless diamonds allow light to be untainted and reflects light and brilliance to its highest potential. Our shop carries the best grade of colourless diamonds.
While we may think of diamonds as being colourless, they can have hints of yellow or brown. Truly colourless diamonds, ranked D – F on the diamond quality pyramid, comprise the highest grade of colour. Near colourless, or white diamonds are ranked G – J. Diamonds labeled K and L are also called top silver: M and N are known as faint yellow: O, P and Q are very very light yellow or top brown in colour.
Why less is more!
A whiter or colourless stone allows the diamond to cleanly reflect and refract light. When white light enters the diamond, part of the ray is reflected back to your eye, but the rest penetrates the stone. That ray is deflected toward the centre of the stone by the facets, then bounces back to the surface. Like a prism, the diamond refracts the white light into its full spectrum of colour. The whiter the stone, the greater the refraction
Colour is actually one of the most difficult factors to evaluate. For one thing, everyone sees colour differently. Differences in colour between stones are very, very subtle, and may be imperceptible to an untrained eye. In fact, even the experts will compare an ungraded stone to one previously graded to properly assess its colour. Small differences in colour can make large differences in the price.
Colour and the setting
A diamond may exhibit the colour of its setting, which is why most ring settings will have a white gold or platinum head. White gold and platinum have the least effect on the diamond’s colour. Conversely, a diamond with more body colour is often best enhanced by a yellow gold setting. Of course, the setting you choose is a matter of personal preference.
Diamond colour is the most confusing of the 4 C’s. You really do not notice colour until “I – J”. Brilliant cut diamonds are colour graded upside down and through the side. Facing up brilliant cut diamonds true colour is hard to see unless you have other loose stones for comparison. Once the stones are set, colour is even harder to grade. Fancy shape diamond colours are easier to see. Most of the time the colour is apparent in the tips of the marquise, pears and ovals. Princess cuts are similar to brilliant cuts in the fact that they hide colour quite well. Emerald cuts start to show colour around “K-L”. We have sold many faintly coloured Emerald cuts and they are still beautiful and elegant to the naked eye.
Nature is rarely perfect. So it is very rare to find a diamond that is completely pure or free of inclusions – minerals or crystals trapped within the stone at the time it was formed. Without ten-power magnification, you may never see these tiny inclusions. But they are the fingerprint that makes each diamond unique.
The second quality grade of a diamond is the Clarity. Clarity refers to the amount of visible bits or ‘inclusions’ inside the diamond crystal. The fewer the inclusions, the more valuable the diamond. This increase in value is once again based on rarity. Most diamonds mined have specks visible to the unaided eye.
What is that speck?
These tiny identifying marks consist of “naturals” on the outside or inclusions on the inside of the stone. Inclusions refer to anything that is trapped within the diamond crystal. Nearly all diamonds, even those of the highest quality, have some inclusions, which fall into these categories:
a dark spot from a trapped bit of mineral
Open cavities interrupting the diamond surface that were a part of the original diamond crystal
Internal cracks or fractures caused by either internal or external stress during the diamond’s formation.
Ideally you should be looking at Diamonds of clarity of SI1 and above. The clarity grade of SI1 (small inclusions) is basically clean to the naked eye and any inclusions within the diamond are only visible under 10x magnification. A flawless diamond is said to have zero or almost impossible to see inclusions within its physical composition. Clarity is graded on the number of inclusions, frequency, size and locations. The fewer in number these imperfections are, the greater the value of the diamond and the “cleaner” a diamond appears to the eye or loop.
Almost all diamonds have natural characteristics, or inclusions unique to the particular stone. Some are obvious at a glance, some are undetectable with the naked eye. Inclusions affect a diamonds ability to refract light, thus determining the overall brilliance. The fewer the inclusions, the more valuable the stone. Flawless diamonds are rare, and are usually found in crowned collections. Diamonds with very, very small (VVS) or very small (VS) inclusions are highly valued and are closer to the top of the diamonds scale. Diamonds graded I1-I3 has inclusions that can be seen by the untrained eye.
Clarity of a diamond is the easiest of all the four C’s. We personally like any diamond where we cannot see any inclusions. We usually recommend diamonds between VS2 and VVS1 clarity. You can purchase a flawless diamond but the sparkle will not increase and the only visible difference you will see is under 10X.
The size of a diamond is defined by its weight, which is expressed in carats. One carat weighs one-fifth of a gram, and is divided into 100 points – like pennies to a pound. The larger the diamond the more rare and costly it is. However, depending on their colour, clarity and cut, two diamonds of the same carat weight can vary widely in their value.
The weight of a diamond, as with all gemstones, is expressed in carats. The word “Carat” is derived from the Greek word “keration” which is also the Greek name for the Carob tree (Ceratonia Siliqua). In the Middle East, this tree is fairly common and produces pods with seeds. Ancient merchants discovered the seeds were always uniform in weight and used them for weighing pearls, diamonds and other precious stones. The weight of one carob seed was later standardized to 1/5th of a gram; hence, a five-carat diamond weighs 1 gram.
A carat is divided into 100 points, so a 1/2 carat stone equates to 50 points, a 1/4 carat diamond 25 points. Very small stones, such as those used in pavé or channel settings, are sometimes called melee. Melees range from .01 to .16 carat in weight. The significance of a diamond’s weight, like the other quality grades, is a question of rarity. Out of 250 tons of diamond-bearing ore only a single one-carat diamond of gem quality may be found.
Since diamonds become rarer as they increase in weight, the larger the diamond, the more valuable (and costly) it is. But the price of a diamond does not increase at the same rate as its weight. The larger the stone (all else being equal), the more disproportionate the increase in cost per carat. For example, a 2-carat diamond is always more expensive than two 1-carat diamonds of the same quality. The price of a diamond tends to increase exponentially as the size increases.
The Fifth C – Comparison
Online diamond retailers may give all the gemmological information anyone could want when doing diamond research, but the present diamond pricing system actually penalises the consumer, instead of buying the certificate you should also compare diamonds with your own eyes side by side.