The 4Cs: Setting the Standards for Buying a Diamond
At JewelsBoutique.com, we believe that, like your most cherished jewelry, knowledge is priceless.
Selecting a diamond is the decision of a lifetime, and the process begins with the 4Cs. Setting industry standards, the 4Cs—Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight—is the time-honored system for determining a diamond’s worth. It is the collective assessment of the 4Cs that assigns value to a particular stone.
Our experts at JewelsBoutique.com have created this exclusive guide to help you understand the unique 4Cs classification system. This is your key to choosing a diamond that will be treasured forever.
Cut: Creating Brilliance
Sparkle, fire, brilliance, scintillation. These are the words we generally use to describe the beauty of a diamond, and cut is what determines a stone’s light performance—the overall shine of a diamond.
A diamond is at its most brilliant when it is cut to exact proportions and correct angles—not too deep and not too shallow. Each facet reflects off another, releasing the diamond’s brilliance (light) and fire (colored light) through the table, or top, of the diamond.
If a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow, the light will seep out from the bottom or sides, and the diamond will not release as much sparkle.
You may also hear words like polish and symmetry when referring to cut. Polish refers to how smooth the stone’s facets are, while symmetry describes their alignment. A stone with poor polish or symmetry will appear lackluster.
The cut and polish of a diamond is the most important of the 4Cs. When a diamond Diamondis cut with precision and focus on correct facet placement, result init will maximize maximum the diamonds brilliance, scintillation and fire. When a diamond is cut to ideal proportions, light enters through the top of the diamond, reflects from one facet to another and exits toward your eye giving higher brilliance, scintillation and fire resulting in greater beauty.
Cut too deep
If a diamond is cut to deep, then some light escapes through the opposite side of the pavilion, or bottom, of the diamond. This makes the diamond appear smaller and less brilliant. Similarly, if the diamond is cut too shallow, some light will escape through the bottom of the diamond.
Cut too shallow
Well cut diamonds exhibit facets with the correct angles and perfect placement to maximize the diamonds brilliance. It is the quality of the cut and its final polish that unlocks the hidden beauty of diamonds.
The Diamond Cut Grades:
- Excellent: According to GIA standards, an Excellent-cut diamond is cut to the highest possible standard and optimum proportions. It is cut with exacting proportions and superior craftsmanship, and therefore reflects the ideal amount of sparkle, brilliance and fire. Exhibiting ideal beauty and intricate craftsmanship, an Excellent-cut diamond is the most expensive cut.
- Very Good: According to GIA standards, a Very Good-cut diamond reflects practically as much sparkle, brilliance and fire as an Excellent cut. The differences between Very Good and Excellent is virtually imperceptible, so a Very Good is an exceptional choice in cut—and is less expensive than Excellent.
- Good: According to GIA standards, a Good-cut diamond reflects a good deal of light and produces a good amount of sparkle, fire and brilliance. Less expensive than Excellent and Very Good, it is a suitable option for engagement jewelry.
- Fair: According to GIA standards, a Fair-cut diamond generates a decent amount of brilliance and fire, but will not appear to have as much sparkle compared to a diamond that is Excellent, Very Good or Good. Quite often, a diamond of Fair proportion is cut for carat weight and size, not beauty. When budgeting, you may consider a larger Fair-cut diamond, instead of a smaller diamond that is higher on the cut scale.
JewelsBoutique.com does not recommend or offer Poor-cut diamonds, as they are cut too deep or too shallow to reflect the proper amount of light.
Smart Shopping: JewelBoutique.com Expert Tips:
- A human (and not natural) influence on the diamond, cut is based on the expertise and precision of the cutter.
- When selecting a diamond, you should consider the highest cut grade that your budget allows.
- Cut should not be confused with shape! Though diamonds may be shaped as round, pear, oval, cushion, asscher, emerald, princess, heart or marquis, it is the cut that determines sparkle, scintillation and fire.
- You can tell if a diamond is cut too deep from visibly dark areas where light has escaped.
- You can tell if a diamond is cut too shallow by an overall dull appearance.
Color: Clearly Beautiful
After cut, color is an important factor to consider when determining which diamond is for you. There are two categories of diamonds: white and fancy. White diamonds are most commonly used in engagement rings, while fancy diamonds are often purchased to commemorate anniversaries or other milestone occasions.
The classification and value of a white diamond is based on its lack of color. The whiter and brighter the diamond, the higher it is on the diamond color grade scale. D is the most valuable, ranks highest on the scale, and represents diamonds that are positively colorless.
From there, diamonds are classified according to how much yellow tint (caused by natural minerals and impurities within the stone) is reflected against a pure background. The lowest a diamond can be graded, without being classified as Fancy, is Z.
It is only when the diamond takes on a deep and vibrant hue of purple, blue, red, pink, yellow, or brown, that it becomes classified as Fancy. Fancy diamonds are rare, and therefore can be as or more expensive than D-color diamonds.
When viewed under an ultraviolet light, diamonds emit a glow known as fluorescence. While fluorescence impacts colorless diamonds by making them appear cloudy, it positively impacts diamonds with a yellow tint by making them seem whiter.
Variances in color come from natural elements, such as nitrogen and boron. These elements are incorporated into the diamonds anatomy during the diamond's creation phase.
Diamonds with strong color are called "Fancies", they can be red, blue, yellow, pink, purple. Natural fancy colored diamonds are the rarest and consequently more valuable.
The Diamond Color Grades:
- DEF (Colorless): Known as the Colorless range, these diamonds are the most rare, valuable and expensive of all diamonds.
- D-color: A D-color diamond is positively colorless, the most coveted and rare on the scale. It is the most valuable and expensive colorless diamond.
- E-color: To the untrained eye, an E-color diamond appears colorless. The differentiation between a D-color diamond and E-color diamond is imperceptible without specialized equipment.
- F-color: There is no perceptible color in an F-color diamond. Only experts with specialized equipment can detect the slight color difference between an F-color diamond and D or E-color diamonds. In the colorless range, an F-color diamond is generally less expensive than D and E-color diamonds.
- GHIJ (Near Colorless): This range offers excellent choices for jewelry. Near Colorless diamonds appear colorless when set, and a slight tint is only detectable when compared to a colorless stone under specialized equipment. They are less rare, and expensive, than diamonds in the colorless category.
- G-color: A G-color diamond offers exceptional value, since it is the closest diamond to a colorless stone and appears colorless when mounted. Only an expert with specialized equipment would be able to see the nearly imperceptible tint of a G-color diamond.
- H-color: The negligible tint of an H-color diamond usually goes undetected by anyone but an expert, making it a desirable choice for engagement jewelry. When budgeting, you may consider a larger H-color diamond, instead of a smaller colorless diamond, as a valuable option.
- I-color: An I-color diamond in a high-grade cut can offer spectacular sparkle, as well as excellent value. Fluorescence in these stones can actually make the diamond seem whiter by masking the very slight tint. When budgeting, you may consider a larger I-color diamond, instead of a smaller colorless diamond or near colorless diamond of a higher color grade.
- J-color: A J-color diamond is the least expensive diamond in the colorless range. Generally, any fluorescence found in a J-color diamond may make the diamond appear whiter and brighter than a diamond of a higher color grade. When budgeting, you may consider a larger J-color diamond, instead of a smaller colorless diamond or near colorless diamond of a higher color grade.
JewelsBoutique.com does not recommend or offer diamonds in the KLM (Faint), NOPQR (Very Light), and STUVWXYZ (Light) color grades, as they exhibit an obvious tint.
Smart Shopping: JewelBoutique.com Expert Tips:
- When buying a colorless diamond, look for one with little to no fluorescence.
- When purchasing a diamond in the faint to light categories, the presence of medium or strong fluorescence may make the stone appear brighter.
- The type of metal or mounting you choose may affect the color appearance of a diamond—white gold and platinum will show off a diamond’s color differently than yellow gold.
Clarity: The Mark of Perfection
A diamond’s clarity is graded by external and internal imperfections. Blemishes refer to man-made imperfections detected on the surface of the diamond, while inclusions refer to naturally caused imperfections found within the stone.
Appearing as a scratch or chip, blemishes are usually caused by human hand or machine during the cutting process.
Appearing as feathers, clouds, bubbles, or crystals, inclusions are the “natural fingerprints” that individualize each diamond—affecting a diamond’s sparkle, rarity and value.
Diamonds are graded on a scale from Flawless to Included. Flawless diamonds exhibit no visible blemishes or inclusions under a 10x Loupe magnification, while Included stones possess internal and external imperfections visible to the eye.
Inclusions can affect the beauty of a diamond when they are so numerous or large that they become visible to the naked eye. These large inclusions can impede the flow of light (reflections) in a diamond making it sparkle less. Diamonds that have no eye visible inclusions reflect more light, and are rarer and more valuable. Diamonds that are flawless have no visible inclusions to a trained grader under magnification making them the most rare and valuable.
The Diamond Clarity Grades:
- FL, IF (Flawless, Internally Flawless):
- When viewed under a 10x Loupe magnification, a Flawless diamond exhibits no internal or external imperfections. A Flawless diamond is the most rare and valuable, and therefore is the most expensive.
- An IF diamond is similar to a Flawless diamond in that it possesses no internal flaws, but it might exhibit extremely slight external flaws such as negligible polish or surface scratches. These very minor imperfections are only perceptible under extreme magnification to an expert. An IF diamond is very rare and is generally as expensive as a Flawless diamond.
- VVS1, VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included):
- A VVS1 diamond exhibits extremely slight imperfections that are particularly difficult to detect, even under magnification by an expert. A VVS1diamond is superior in quality and is less expensive than a Flawless or Internally Flawless diamond.
- A VVS2 diamond exhibits extremely slight imperfections that are particularly difficult to detect, even under magnification by an expert. A VVS2 diamond is superior in quality and is less expensive than a Flawless or Internally Flawless diamond.
- VS1, VS2 (Very Slightly Included):
- A VS1 diamond exhibits inclusions that are small in both size and number. It is extremely hard to detect any imperfections under magnification or by eye. A VS1 diamond offers exceptional beauty and value.
- A VS2 diamond exhibits inclusions that are small in both size and number. It is extremely hard to detect any imperfections under magnification or by eye. A VS2 diamond offers exceptional beauty and value.
- SI1, SI2 (Slightly Included):
- An SI1 diamond may exhibit internal and external imperfections that are detectable under 10x Loupe magnification, as well as to the eye. An SI1 diamond is more common, and therefore is less expensive than a diamond graded Very Slightly Included.
- An SI2 diamond may exhibit internal and external imperfections that are detectable under 10x Loupe magnification, as well as to the eye. An SI2 diamond is more common, and therefore is less expensive than a diamond graded Very Slightly Included.
JewelsBoutique.com does not recommend or offer diamonds in the I1, I2 and I3 clarity grades, as they exhibit inclusions and imperfections that are obvious to the eye without magnification.
Smart Shopping: JewelBoutique.com Expert Tips:
- Despite classification, diamonds that appear clean to the eye can be of good value.
- Depending on where the imperfections lie, some flaws can be hidden in the mounting and have no influence over the stone’s beauty.
- Inclusions may impact a diamond’s brilliance by blocking reflective light, causing the stone to appear dull.
- Since each internal and external flaw is unique to the individual diamond, clarity can be used as identification to ensure that you received the diamond you purchased.
Carat weight: Sizing Up a Diamond
Diamonds are weighed in carats. Each carat is 1/5 of a gram or 100 points. To put it into perspective, half a carat would be 50 points. Diamonds can only be weighed accurately outside of the setting, but keep in mind that the setting may affect the appearance of a diamond’s size. The larger the carat weight, the more valuable the diamond.
Carat weight is not a reflection of a diamond’s size. In order to estimate size, cut and the diameter of the diamond’s table in millimeters should also be taken into consideration. If a diamond is cut with attention to proportions, its brilliance will make it appear larger. A diamond lower down on the cut scale may hold its weight at the bottom, therefore appearing smaller tan what its carat weight denotes.
Smart Shopping: JewelBoutique.com Expert Tips:
- Consider the setting when determining the carat weight of your diamond.
- For the budget conscious, balance is important. If you are going for size, selecting a stone higher on the carat weight and cut scales, and lower on the clarity and color scales, may get you the largest diamond for the best value.
- Consider the shape of her finger—diamonds may appear smaller on thicker fingers and larger on thinner fingers.
Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
A GIA-graded diamond is your assurance of authenticity and value. At JewelsBoutique.com, we only offer diamonds that have been assessed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and have received an objective and comprehensive GIA Diamond Grading Report.
JewelsBoutique.com invites you to explore more information from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA):