Diamond EducationThe 4 C's
Diamond Anatomy & Cut Quality
Each of the 4 C’s (Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat) play a role in a diamond’s beauty, though it is difficult to decipher one component by itself. As a comprehensive whole, the 4 C’s interact with one another within each diamond. As a general rule, we suggest a high quality Cut above all else—as this greatly impacts a diamond’s beauty and brilliance—while balancing a fine line on Color and Clarity to get the best bang for your buck.
Understanding the 4 C’s of Diamonds Shopping
A diamond’s 4 C’s represent the four main components of its beauty and structure: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. When looking at a diamond, the eye perceives a balance of its characteristics and components, including, but not limited to, the 4 C’s.
Each of the C’s are graded on a scale, and can be evaluated for quality. Though some universal terminology and standard grading exists, it does vary by lab entity. The most consistent entities—and the ones we recommend gaining a certificate from—are the GIA and the AGS.
Gradings of the 4 C’s help determine the value of a diamond and indicate its quality. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Knowing the basics of these gradings is helpful when comparing two similar diamonds, but what remains most important is how the diamond appears to the naked eye—and how attractive the diamond is overall. In this sense, having a foundational understanding of the 4 C’s is imperative as a buyer, so that you can avoid spending your budget on a component that will go unnoticed.
A Diamond’s Clarity grade evaluates how clean a diamond is from both inclusions and blemishes. Clarity is graded by the GIA on the following scale:
- FL (Flawless)
- IF (Internally Flawless)
- VVS1 (Very, Very Slightly Included 1)
- VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included 2)
- VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1)
- VS2 (Very Slightly Included 2)
- SI1 (Slightly Included 1)
- SI2 (Slightly Included 2)
- I1 (Inclusions 1)
- I2 (Inclusions 2)
Diamond Clarity Descriptions
Depending on the size, location and darkness of blemishes and inclusions, these imperfections can interfere with light as it passes through the diamond. When this happens, the brilliance and beauty of the diamond is dulled, taking away from the high quality Cut.
For Clarity, our primary recommendation is to ensure the diamond is eye clean, and that inclusions are not interfering with light reflection.
Diamond Cut specifically refers to the quality of a diamond’s angles, proportions, symmetrical facets, brilliance, fire, scintillation and finishing details. These factors directly impact a diamond’s ability to sparkle, along with its overall aesthetic appeal.
Diamond Cut Descriptions
Cuts vary significantly among diamonds and diamond cutters. At times, a cutter may aim for maximum Carat weight, leaving the diamond too deep or too shallow for optimal light reflection. Other times a diamond may be cut to minimize the number of inclusions, improving its Clarity, but forgoing maximum sparkle. Even an Ideal cut diamond may have a yellow tint that is too noticeable and detracts from the gem’s beauty.
Diamond Color is graded in terms of how white or colorless a diamond is. The GIA grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless, and Z containing noticeable brown or yellow tint.
The pricing of diamonds usually reflects these grades—sometimes significantly. In most cases, the naked eye cannot tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds, though the price difference may be significant.
Diamond Color Descriptions
The most critical aspect with Color is to determine if it appears colorless in relation to its setting. You also want to be certain that a diamond is clear of any tinting that takes away or interferes with white and colored light reflections. The K Color in this Cushion Cut Diamond, for example, distracts from the sparkle of the diamond while this I Color Diamond is radiant.
Brilliance, or sparkle, is created from the way the diamond is cut. It is not advantageous to purchase a diamond that distracts from this important principal characteristic.
As a general recommendation, review each diamond closely and ask for the assistance of an expert. This is the best way to ensure you’re not paying for a feature (i.e. too high of Color grade) that will go unnoticed, or purchasing a diamond that distracts or interferes with light reflection.
Note: Certain colored diamonds are valued stones, like a fancy pink or green diamond. Color grades for these diamonds are distinctly different than traditional “white” diamonds.
Often when people hear the term “Carat Weight,” they think it refers to the size of the diamond. In actuality, Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, not how large the stone is. A 1 Carat Diamond equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams—and weighs about the same as a quarter of a raisin. Depending on the Diamond’s Shape and how it is cut, two 1 Carat Diamonds might be quite different in size.
Diamond Sizing Descriptions
While Carat weight is an element to consider when buying a diamond, the overall appearance and brilliance should carry more importance. For example, a mediocre 1.5 Carat diamond will not shine as brightly—or draw as much attention—as a stunning 1.0 Carat diamond, no matter how much more it weighs.