Know your diamonds
There are 4 main characteristics to look for when you are searching for a diamond. These are; Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat. As a whole, the 4Cs govern the overall quality of a diamond. On a fundamental level, each aspect of the 4Cs can greatly change the price and technical qualities that the stone possesses.
Truth be told, each of these characteristics requires a deeper knowledge than what is usually told to you by a sales assistant. In each of the sections below, you will learn insights that will help you gain knowledge that you can use to your advantage during shopping.
The cut determines how well a diamond absorbs and reflects light. The better the cut, the more sparkle the stone will have. Note: Cut does NOT refer to the shape of the stone.
Diamond cut is the most important aspect of the 4Cs when buying a diamond. It determines the amount of sparkle and fire that a diamond will display. In essence, cut refers to how well a diamond’s facets interact with light. A well cut diamond will display superior brightness, fire and scintillation compared to one that is poorly cut.
There are 3 main attributes that affect the diamond’s overall cut quality.
• Proportions: The angles and relative measurements of a polished diamond.
• Symmetry: The precision of a finished diamond’s shape and facet placements.
• Polish: The overall condition of the diamond’s facets surfaces.
A well cut diamond will have better proportions that don’t cause excessive carat weight to be hidden in its side profile. This makes the diamond appear the right size for its weight compared to another diamond that is cut deeply and faces up smaller.
On a fundamental level, the amount of sparkle and scintillation is dependent on how light rays are refracted and reflected within the diamond. This is why the precise positioning and alignment of each facet matters as they act like tiny mirrors to interact with light.
Having better light return will make the diamond face up whiter since more light is reflected back into the eyes of the viewer. Lastly, well cut diamonds will display an intense scintillation and fire which can help hide inclusions under its sparkle.
The clarity of a diamond refers to the amount/type of inclusions present in it. A diamond with lesser flaws inspected under 10X magnification receives a higher grade. When diamonds are created under extreme conditions, natural flaws are inevitable by-products of the formation process. Interestingly, a diamond’s inclusions work in a similar fashion like our fingerprints do. This means you can identify a diamond from another just by using its inclusions as a reference. Basically, the flaws can be classified into 2 types of categories depending on where they are found; blemishes (external flaws like scratches and chips) and inclusions (internal flaws like pinpoints and crystals).
A flawless diamond is one that doesn’t have any external blemishes or inclusions and is abbreviated as FL. On the other hand, the lowest clarity grade is abbreviated as I3 and it represents a severely included diamond that typically has ugly eye visible flaws. Generally speaking, diamonds with VS2 grades or better are usually eye-clean (inclusions cannot be seen without the aid of a loupe). At lower carat sizes, stones within the SI1 and SI2 ranges are also eye-clean and can offer fantastic value for money. However, it is also important to note that eye cleanliness is very subjective. Hence, each diamond in the SI ranges should be judged separately because of the different kinds of inclusions present in the stone.
Listed below is a quick breakdown of what each individual ratings means:
• FL (Flawless) – No inclusions or visible blemishes under 10× magnification.
• IF (Internally Flawless) (IF) – No inclusions. Minute blemishes are allowable (surface graining or details of polish) but barely visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
• VVS1 & VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included) – Inclusions are extremely hard to be detected using 10× magnification.
• VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) – Inclusions are fairly hard to be detected using 10× magnification and generally do not impact the visual beauty of the diamond.
• SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) – Inclusions are easily noticeable using 10× magnification and they are sometimes visible to the naked eye.
• I1, I2, and I3 (Included) – Inclusions are very obvious using 10× magnification. Besides potential durability issues, they can also adversely impact the diamond’s transparency and brilliance.
Technically speaking, a flawless diamond may have the best clarity grade but that isn’t a guarantee that it will look amazing. In fact, an eyeclean diamond with an SI1 or SI2 grade can look just as good to the naked eye.
The color of a diamond is rated on a scale of D – Z, with D being totally colorless and Z being a noticeable yellow. In the market, the range of D-F is highly sought after. In nature, diamonds are found in almost every color and hue you can possibly imagine; grey, white, yellow, red, green, pink and brown. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually very rare to find a diamond that doesn’t have any color at all. When it comes to grading color, there has been a devised system of describing diamonds in the normal range with letters from D (colorless) to Z (light brown or yellow). Diamonds in the colorless range (D,E,F) appear cool, icy white. Due to their relative rarity in nature, these diamonds are priced at a higher premium.
For diamonds in the near colorless range (G,H,I,J), their color tints are very hard to differentiate in the face up view. To most untrained eyes, the G and H colors would face up white if the diamonds are well cut. For people who want to get the most value for money, these are the best color grades to get a good balance between icy white appearances and affordable costs. For faint colors like K,L,M onwards, most people would be able to pick up a tinge of color in these diamonds. If you are someone who is color adverse, you should avoid diamonds beyond the K color grade.
The carat weight refers to a specific measurement of how heavy the diamond is. Note: By itself, carat weight is not an indication of the stone’s physical dimensions. Well, the history behind this is pretty interesting. The word carat actually originates from carob; which refers to a locust tree that produces edible pods. Carob seeds, being even in weight, were used as weighing references by traders in the olden days. Remember, this was a time when high tech weighing machines were non-existent. Back then, one carat was equal to the weight of one carob seed and trades were made based on this simple estimation. Technically speaking, one carat is equal to 200 milligrams or 100 points. If you purchased a 1 carat stone, it means that you had bought yourself exactly 0.2 grams of diamond.
Also, many people have the misconception that a diamond with bigger carat weight will always appear larger. The truth is far from that and the below chart shows that. As you can see above, the size of a 1 carat diamond is approximately 6.5mm (based on the assumption that the stone is cut to ideal proportions). On the other hand, the size of a .5 carat diamond is approximately 5.2mm. Even though the carat weight is 50% of a 1 carat stone, it doesn’t face up twice as small!