Diamond Guide: The 4Cs 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 4Cs 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.
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 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 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.
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 4Cs. 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 educateddecision when purchasing diamond jewelry pieces.
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 4Cs can be a helpful tool when making your choice. Try different diamond shapes in various metals to hone in on the style you love.