The 4 C's of Diamonds
Carat refers to a diamond’s weight. One carat, the traditional unit of measurement for diamonds, is approximately 0.2 grams. You may also hear the weight of a diamond referred to in points or fractions. One carat is equivalent to 100 points, so a 75-point diamond is equal to 0.75 carats or 3/4 of a carat. Because they are rarer, larger diamonds have greater value per carat, so the price of a diamond rises exponentially to its size. Does size matter? Not for everyone. There are more factors that determine a diamonds quality and value.
Not to be confused with shape, when talking 4 Cs it refers to the proportions of the cut.
A diamond’s cut grade is an objective measure of a diamond’s light performance, or the amount of sparkle a diamond has. A diamond’s overall proportions, as well as the size and position of its facets, make up the cut. The consistency and balance of these can greatly affect how the stone captures light and reflects it back to the eye. When a diamond is cut with the proper proportions, light enters the diamond and is returned through the top of the diamond. If a diamond is too shallow, light will escape from the bottom of the stone. If it is cut too deep, light will escape out the sides.
Diamonds with fine proportions, symmetry and polish optimize their interaction with light and have increased brilliance, dispersion, and scintillation.
One factor that determines the value of a diamond is its color. With the exception of fancy-colored diamonds, the most valuable diamonds are those with the least color. Completely colorless diamonds are very rare (and pricey). The diamond color scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). A diamond’s color is determined by a manual process of comparing the diamond to a master set. Each letter grade represents a range of color and is a measurement of how noticeable a color is. Color is very much a personal preference. Some love the warmth a slight yellow brings to a diamond. Others prefer a crisp colorless look. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
When diamonds are formed with traces of other minerals, rare and beautiful colors can result. These “fancy” colors range from blue and brilliant yellow to red, brown, pale green, pink, and violet. Because of their rarity, colored diamonds are highly desirable and typically more valuable.
A diamond’s clarity is measured by the existence or absence of visible imperfections. Surface blemishes or internal imperfections, even those seen only under magnification, affect a diamond’s value. The fewer imperfections, the more rare the diamond. These imperfections can come in the form of surface blemishes or inclusions inside the stone that developed while the crystal grew, naturally.
Most imperfections cannot be seen with the naked eye and require magnification to detect. Each diamond’s unique set of imperfections are like a fingerprint. Almost like a secret between you and your diamond. Nobody walks around showing off their new ring with a loupe or microscope, right? So, remember to trust what your eyes are telling you when you shop.
Clarity levels begin with flawless (FL, IF), followed by very, very slight (VVS1, VVS2), very slight (VS1, VS2), slightly included (SI1, SI2), and included (I1, I2, and I3).