Purchasing a diamond can be incredibly exciting, particularly if it is for a certain ring finger! It can also be a rather daunting experience, with an almost mind-boggling array of factors influencing the value of an individual stone.
There are so many options to consider, from diamond shape to diamond color. There are fancy colored diamonds, and there are fancy shaped diamonds, You might like a classic princess cut stone, or maybe cushion cut is more your style. And then there is the whole question of natural diamonds versus lab grown diamonds.
So. Many. Decisions.
Before you invest in any diamond engagement ring however, it’s important to undertake a little diamond education to ensure that you understand the factors that influence the price of a diamond, and which of those factors are most important to you.
Understanding the 4cs of Diamonds
A diamond can be a large investment, so we’ve prepared a rough guide to help you understand the 4 C’s; Cut, Carat, Clarity, and Colour. These are the characteristics used to classify a stone and to determine its value. The aim is to decide which is most important to you; size, sparkle, flawlessness or color, and then to work within your budget to get the best combination of the remaining attributes.
A diamond’s cut refers both to the physical shape of the stone and to the quality of its finish. The quality of the cut is the most important factor in determining a diamond’s brilliance, or sparkle, therefore it is an important consideration when purchasing a stone and plays a large part in determining its value.
A diamond’s brilliance depends on its ability to bend and direct light as it passes through the stone and back to its surface, and the cut of a diamond determines how well the stone is able to do this. It is a complex area, however, the various grading bodies such as the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and the AGS (American Gem Society) use a sliding scale to rate a diamond’s cut. The GIA employs a five-point scale ranging from excellent and very good to good, fair, and poor, while the AGS uses a similar scale with different terminology replacing excellent for ideal. For example, excellent or ideal cut grades are awarded to diamonds with the highest level of sparkle intensity, while fair and poor grades imply poorer light reflection and therefore less sparkle.
It is important to note that most grading bodies only provide cut grades for round diamonds, although several have extended to grading other shapes.
It is a common misconception that the term carat refers to the size of a diamond, however, what it actually refers to is a diamond’s weight. One carat is defined as one-fifth of a gram, or 200 milligrams. A carat can also be further divided into points, with one point being equal to 0.01 carats.
Interestingly, a half-carat stone is not half the size of a one-carat stone. The average diameter of a 0.5 carat diamond is 5mm, while the average diameter of a 1.0 carat diamond is 6.35mm.
Many factors influence how large a stone appears, including its shape and cut. The relative width and depth of the cut stone must be taken into account, as shallower stones can appear larger than deeper stones of the same weight. Similarly, longer, elongated shapes such as the Marquise cut will appear larger than the round brilliant cut.
While carat weight is one of the key factors in determining the value of a diamond, it should be noted that, as larger diamonds are much rarer than smaller stones, the price rises exponentially with the carat weight. Therefore, a diamond that is double the size of another may be up to four times its price.
Almost all diamonds have impurities, and the size, number, position, and nature of these will determine their clarity, which in turn influences the stone’s value.
Impurities can exist in the form of inclusions, which are structural imperfections within the diamond, usually consisting of foreign matter or pockets of air that have formed within the stone, or blemishes, which are flaws on the stone’s surface.
Obviously, the fewer impurities a stone has, the higher its value. Many impurities are invisible to the naked eye however, and others can be disguised once the stone is set, therefore the degree and location of the impurity is also a factor when determining a diamond’s clarity.
The GIA has an 11-point scale rating clarity from Flawless and Internally Flawless (FL/IF) through to Included (I1, I2, I3). This involves looking at the stone under 10x magnification, and stones ranging from FL/IF to VS2 are said to be eye clean, which means that there are no imperfections visible to the naked eye.
Some people value a stone’s purity and are prepared to pay a premium for a flawless diamond, while others appreciate the value offered by a cheaper, blemished stone whose imperfections can be hidden once the stone is set. This is largely a personal choice, however, flawless stones are extremely rare, and therefore extremely expensive.
The colour of a diamond is actually a reference to its lack of color, or whiteness. Diamond color is graded according to the GIA color scale, from D to Z, with D being the whitest and most valuable shade.
Further down the scale, diamonds become increasingly yellow, and finally brown. There is very little variation in color at the top of the range, however, and slightly lower grades can often provide better value for money while appearing identical to the untrained eye. As a general rule, colors D to F are regarded as white/colorless stones, with differences only apparent to an expert Gemologist. Colors G to I are regarded as nearly white/colorless, with differences only apparent when compared directly with a higher-graded stone. Colours J to K are regarded as tinted stones, however can often appear whiter when set in yellow gold. Diamonds graded K and lower are generally not regarded as desirable stones.
The 5th C – Diamond Certification
A diamond certificate is issued following an unbiased, professional examination to authenticate a diamond’s attributes. It confirms the carat weight, color, clarity, and the stone’s exact measurements. In the case of round brilliant cut diamonds, it also grades the quality of the cut.
Certificates are essential in verifying a diamond’s value, and unless you are buying a very small stone, you should only consider purchasing certified diamonds.
There are five internationally recognized bodies that grade diamonds, however, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is the most highly regarded of these. Others include the AGS (American Gem Society), HRD Antwerp (Diamond High Council / Hoge Raad Voor Diamante), IGI (International Gemological Institute), and EGL (European Gemological Laboratory & its US counterpart).
These five bodies also provide laser inscription, which generally consists of a unique code inscribed on the girdle of the stone that is visible only under magnification. This verifies that the diamond purchased is the diamond received.
It’s Time to Buy a Diamond Ring!
So, now that you’ve conducted some comprehensive diamond research, it’s time to visit your jeweler!
Understanding the 4Cs of diamonds is crucial when it comes to evaluating their quality and value. By familiarizing yourself with these characteristics of a diamond, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision when selecting a diamond that meets both your aesthetic preferences and budget.
Every diamond is different, and each person values different qualities in a diamond, so prioritize what matters most to you – whether it’s size, clarity, colorlessness, or overall value for money.
All images via Tiffany & Co.