Diamond Guide: The 4C's of Diamonds

Diamonds may speak the universal language of love, but every diamond is unique in its beauty. When it comes to buying a diamond, four standards are globally used to assess a stone’s value: cut, color, clarity, and carat size. Known as the 4C's of diamonds, these factors all play a role in evaluating diamond quality (as well as diamond price). Fortunately, knowing what to look for in various grading reports can help you choose a diamond that’s best suited to your style and budget. You'll find everything you need to know about the grading system in our comprehensive diamond guide.

Diamond Cut


While the terms “diamond shape” and “diamond cut” are often used interchangeably, they’re actually quite different. Diamond shape refers to the diamond’s geometric outline (think round, heart, or pear). Diamond cut, however, refers to the arrangement of a diamond’s facets (or surfaces) and how they interact with light. This interaction directly impacts three main qualities of a stone: brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

  • “Brilliance” refers to a diamond’s reflection of white light.
  • “Fire” refers to how light is dispersed into the colors of the rainbow.
  • “Scintillation” refers to the amount of sparkle a diamond has as it moves.

Cut is one of the most important considerations for choosing a diamond engagement ring. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses a diamond grading scale to group stones based on cut with labels ranging from “Ideal” and “Excellent” to “Very Good,” “Good,” “Fair,” and “Poor.” Ideal- and excellent-cut diamonds generally provide optimal sparkle and shine. Generally, the better the cut, the more expensive the ring will be.

Diamond Clarity


Diamond clarity assesses the stone’s internal characteristics. These include surface blemishes and internal inclusions, which are often only visible under 10x magnification. Internally flawless diamonds are scarce, and most imperfections aren’t visible to the naked eye. While diamonds with fewer surface blemishes and inclusions (i.e., better diamond clarity grades) are naturally more expensive, it’s generally best to look for “eye-clean” diamonds that look flawless to the untrained eye. These more affordable stones allow you to spend more on a better cut, which ultimately has a more significant impact on a diamond’s beauty.

Diamond Color


Diamond color is used to assess a white diamond’s color and the amount of yellow pigment it contains. Colorless diamonds are a natural rarity and, therefore, more expensive than other color grades. Still, near-colorless diamonds are oftentimes suitable alternatives for engagement rings—especially when paired with certain settings. The GIA color grading scale includes diamonds with noticeable color to near-colorless and colorless stones with letter grades ranging from Z to D.

Diamond Carat Weight


While carat weight is commonly believed to indicate a diamond's size, the term refers to how much a diamond weighs and is considered the least important of the 4C's. A diamond with a lower carat weight can look more spectacular than one with more carats depending on its cut, color, and clarity.

Buying a Diamond

Now that you understand the 4Cs, you can make a more educated
decision when purchasing diamond jewelry pieces.

Engagement Rings


A diamond engagement ring is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, purchase of a lifetime. Since you’ll hopefully wear your engagement ring every day for years and years, you should take the time to explore and try on a number of different styles to ensure that you will be happy with your decision. Often you may have one idea in your head, but when you begin trying on rings, you find yourself drawn to a style you hadn’t considered. It’s best to keep an open mind. The 4C's can be a helpful tool when making your choice. Try different diamond shapes in various metals to hone in on the style you love.

Diamond Bands


Diamond bands are both symbolic and entirely personal. Wedding bands can be solid and simple, or more elaborate with diamonds or colored gemstones. Take into consideration the types of metals both you and your partner like. Do you want your bands to match or complement one another? If your band needs to be worn every day, look for one that won’t catch. Women should consider how their band looks with their engagement ring if they’ll be worn together.

Diamond Earrings


Classic diamond earrings like studs and small pavé hoops are an elegant way to bring a little sparkle to the everyday. Simple and understated, these earrings can be worn with other jewelry without looking over the top. For more dressed-up occasions, diamond statement earrings like chandelier styles or drops look glamorous and radiate beauty.

Diamond Bracelets


A diamond bracelet can be worn every day along with your other jewelry or on its own. From diamond tennis bracelets to pavé diamond bangles, you can mix styles and metals to create a look that’s entirely your own.

Diamond Necklaces


Delicate or bold, classic or edgy, a great diamond necklace can truly make an outfit. Whether you want to layer multiple diamond-dotted chains and pendants or make a statement with one amazing piece, diamond necklaces are surprisingly versatile and unbelievably chic.