For beginners starting to explore the world of loose diamonds, it’s important to have a general understanding of what exactly the four C’s mean. This phrase refers to the four qualities used to describe a diamond—cut, color, clarity, and carat. These four factors determine the diamond’s worth as well.
Each diamond quality is graded on a scale and should be considered in relation to one another when evaluating a diamond. Oftentimes, diamonds can “slide” up and down the scale on one quality to balance out another. The right diamond can be more than the simple sum of the parts and one can come away with an absolutely gorgeous diamond that doesn’t break the bank. In other words, a diamond doesn’t have to be at the top of all the C’s in order to still be the right choice for an engagement ring, anniversary necklace, birthday bracelet, etc.
We’ve created this guide to help you better understand what to look for when you’re choosing a loose diamond for your engagement ring or for evaluating the diamonds used in any diamond jewelry piece.
What Is Color?
Most diamonds, although appearing colorless, can actually have slight tones of yellow on a microscopic level. As these tones become more apparent, the rarity and cost decrease. The market has traditionally valued clear diamonds higher than others and the grading scale according to color reflects that as well. The D grade is considered almost completely colorless, the rarest and most expensive diamond to purchase.
As you move down the 23-scale grade from D to Z, diamonds become progressively more yellow or brown. Most diamonds you see at a jewelry store are considered “near colorless” or between G and J on the color scale. At a J grade and beyond, the naked human eye can start to detect a yellow tint. It is quite rare to find a D grade diamond, and if you do, it may break the bank.
If you’re worried about your budget, moving down the color scale toward H and I lets you buy a diamond that still appears brilliant and dazzling, but is much more affordable in price.
What Is Clarity?
It is important to remember that diamonds are natural elements and like most things in nature, they are rarely perfect. Similar to any rock or mineral, diamonds have flaws known as inclusions and/or blemishes. Diamond cutters do their best to cut and polish a diamond to hide the inclusions and blemishes, but inevitably, they are still present and the clarity of a diamond is what measures them.
The scale ranges from flawless to heavily included:
- F: Flawless inside and out
- IF: Internally flawless, which means there are blemishes on the surface, but not inside the diamond
- VVS1 & VVS2: Very, very slightly included
- VS1 & VS2: Slightly included
- I1, I2, & I3: Included
It is often difficult to see inclusions with the naked eye unless you look closely, depending on where they are located on the diamond. Every diamond is different, though. If you look at a diamond and can’t see any inclusions without a jeweler’s microscope, you can most likely accept a lower grade and save on costs without compromising the overall beauty of the diamond.
What Is Carat?
People often mistake carats as a measurement of size, but in actuality, this measures the weight of a diamond. Usually, diamonds are measured in points—such as 100 points equals 1 carat of weight. You will often see the abbreviation “ctw” which means “carat total weight”. This measures the total weight of the diamonds in a piece of jewelry. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to comprehend that a very small difference in carat weight can sometimes result in a huge increase in cost.
For most people, the difference between 1.1-carat and 1.2-carat diamonds might be impossible to discern, but the cost difference between those carats can be thousands of dollars. If you’re looking to shave a considerable amount off the cost of a diamond, start by looking at a diamond that weighs a little less.
For example, if you love a 1.6-carat diamond, see what it looks like next to a 1.5-carat of the same quality. It’s likely you’ll have difficulty seeing a big difference, but ultimately, the lighter diamond will end up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
What Is Cut?
A diamond’s cut is harder to quantify than color, clarity, and carat weight. The reason is due to the variation of diamond cuts and how the cutter chooses to shape, facet, and polish the diamond. Sometimes, diamonds are cut so that they are heavier, thus fetching more value for their carat weight.
Other times, they’re cut to hide or minimize certain inclusions and blemishes. The cut is so immensely important that several brands started patenting their own type of cut. Since diamonds are essentially a prism of light, the ideal cutting of a diamond dramatizes the rare splendor of a diamond to produce a dazzling brilliance. When it is done well, a diamond’s cut can easily be considered the most important of the 4 C’s.
Trust the Experts at Azzi Jewelers
Altogether, understanding the four C’s of diamonds can seem like a very complicated process especially when you’re searching for the perfect diamond to represent a meaningful moment in your life. However, the grading system is set up to reassure customers on an objective scale. That way you know you’re buying a quality diamond and getting exactly what you paid for.
The experts at Azzi Jewelers can walk you through the process of buying a diamond and help you determine which C’s mean the most to you. For more information discover our reference guide for everything you need to know about diamonds. Stop by our showroom in Lansing, Michigan to have all of your questions answered and more.