Please take a moment to read more about the significance and definition of these 4 criteria. They will both help you understand a diamond’s characteristics and increase your pleasure during and long after the purchase process.
Every Stone Has A Different Story To Tell
Every diamond is a unique miracle of nature, created billions of years ago deep below the Earth’s surface by forces beyond our imagination. They are the ultimate symbols of love, emotion, commitment and purity. Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.
While their beauty, rarity and ability to arouse our emotions have always been their most cherished qualities, a system was also needed to help place a quantifiable value on them. This system is called the 4Cs of Diamond Quality: Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight.
The creation of the Diamond 4Cs ensured diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase.
The cut (not to be confused with “shape”) of a diamond is the key that unlocks a diamond’s most important quality: its brilliance, created by a combination of brightness, fire and scintillation.
- Brightness: Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond
- Fire: The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow
- Scintillation: The amount of sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond
Cut is generally described as a diamond’s most important characteristic, playing the leading role in influencing a diamond’s beauty. The better a diamond is cut, the more sparkle it will have. It takes great skill and experience to cut a stone to deliver that magnificent play of light only possible in a diamond. The cut of a diamond is an art, reflecting the skill of the craftsmen who cut and polished it.
A diamond’s cut grade is an objective assessment of how well the diamond’s facets interact with light, of how well the diamond sparkles.
It takes account of many aspects, including its weight relative to its diameter, the thickness of the girdle (important for its durability), the symmetry of the facets and how well these have been polished. When a diamond is cut with the proper proportions, light is returned out of the top (the “table”) of the diamond. If it is cut too shallow, light leaks out of the bottom; too deep and it escapes out of the side.
Typically, the cut is graded into one of 5 categories: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor, where Excellent represents perhaps only the top 3% of all cut diamonds. An Excellent cut diamond reflects nearly all the light entering it, and fetches the highest prices.
A diamond’s cut is crucial to the stone’s final beauty and value. It is the most complex and technical aspect of the 4C’s to analyse, but at the end of they day, how the diamond looks to you is of equal importance!
GIA’s diamond D-to-Z colour-grading scale is the industry’s most widely accepted grading system. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colourless, and continues, with increasing presence of colour, to the letter Z.
Colour actually refers to a diamond’s lack of colour, grading the whiteness of a diamond.
Colour manifests itself in a diamond as a pale yellow. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, and consequently, a higher value.
- D grade diamonds are considered to be “absolutely colourless”. They are extremely rare and therefore command the highest values.
- E-F grades are also considered “colourless”, although an expert gemologist will be able to see minute traces of colour. These diamonds are also very rare.
- G-J grades are described as “near-colourless”. They need to be compared side-by-side against diamonds of better grades for the differences in colour to be visible.
- K-M grades are described as “faint”, with a faint yellow colour.
- N-Z grades go from “very light” to “light”, with some noticeable colour ranging from a very light yellow (or brown) to a light yellow (or brown).
These colour distinctions are often so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye. However, these distinctions have a great influence on diamond quality and its price.
Naturally coloured diamonds outside the normal colour range are called fancy-colour diamonds, with yellow being the most common. When the colour becomes intense or vivid, the price of some yellow diamonds may be higher than the price of a D colour diamond. Diamonds in other colours are rare and can be very expensive.
Many wonder why the scale starts at D and not at a higher grade such as A, B, or C. This was to avoid confusion with other random grading systems that companies originally used to grade gems. D was chosen as an arbitrary grade with which to start and differentiate the system.
Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. This process can result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes.’ Diamonds with the least and smallest imperfections receive the highest clarity grades. Because these imperfections tend to be microscopic, they do not generally affect a diamond’s beauty in any discernible way.
Clarity is the measure of the number and size of the tiny imperfections that occur in almost all diamonds.
The industry uses a scale with 6 categories, some of which are further divided, for a total of 11 specific grades. The clarity grade of a diamond is determined by a standard 10x magnification, by use of a microscope or a diamond loupe.
- FL: Flawless (No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification)
- IF: Internally Flawless (No inclusions visible under 10x magnification)
- VVS1 and VVS2 : Very, Very Slightly Included (Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification)
- VS1 and VS2 : Very Slightly Included (Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor)
- SI1 and SI2 : Slightly Included (Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification)
- I1, I2, and I3 : Included (Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification or even to the unaided eye, which may affect transparency and brilliance)
Although extensively used while purchasing and scouring for just the right diamond, carat or ct, is often confused with size. However, the carat actually refers to the weight of gems and diamonds. This is also not to be confused with karat, which refers to the purity of gold.
Carat weight refers to the weight of gems and diamonds, not the size!
The form and kind of gemstone will show its weight differently, because of the different densities of each stone. Diamonds that have the same carat weight can have varying costs due to the impact of the other C’s that come into play. Like, for example, a diamond’s cut influences how large the carat weight will appear. Diamonds of a smaller carat weight will appear larger and with higher cut grades. Total carat weight refers to the total of the individual carat weights of all diamonds in one piece of jewelry.