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Each of the 4 C’s (Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat) play a role in a diamond’s beauty, though it is difficult to decipher one component by itself. As a comprehensive whole, the 4 C’s interact with one another within each diamond. As a general rule, we suggest a high quality Cut above all else—as this greatly impacts a diamond’s beauty and brilliance—while balancing a fine line on Color and Clarity to get the best bang for your buck. With the right Cut, both a .9 Carat Round Brilliant (K Color, VS2 Clarity) and a 1.5 Carat Round Brilliant (I Color, SI1 Clarity) can be stunning.
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A diamond’s 4 C’s represent the four main components of its beauty and structure: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. When looking at a diamond, the eye perceives a balance of its characteristics and components, including, but not limited to, the 4 C’s.
Each of the C’s are graded on a scale, and can be evaluated for quality. Though some universal terminology and standard grading exists, it does vary by lab entity. The most consistent entities—and the ones we recommend gaining a certificate from—are the GIA and the AGS.
Gradings of the 4 C’s help determine the value of a diamond and indicate its quality. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Knowing the basics of these gradings is helpful when comparing two similar diamonds, but what remains most important is how the diamond appears to the naked eye—and how attractive the diamond is overall. In this sense, having a foundational understanding of the 4 C’s is imperative as a buyer, so that you can avoid spending your budget on a component that will go unnoticed.
Diamond Cut specifically refers to the quality of a diamond’s angles, proportions, symmetrical facets, brilliance, fire, scintillation and finishing details. These factors directly impact a diamond’s ability to sparkle, along with its overall aesthetic appeal.
The GIA grades Diamond Cut on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades, depending on Diamond Shape, signify proportions and angles cut for maximum brilliance and fire.
Cuts vary significantly among diamonds and diamond cutters. At times, a cutter may aim for maximum Carat weight, leaving the diamond too deep or too shallow for optimal light reflection. Other times a diamond may be cut to minimize the number of inclusions, improving its Clarity, but forgoing maximum sparkle. Even an Ideal cut diamond may have a yellow tint that is too noticeable and detracts from the gem’s beauty.
More importantly, though, is ensuring Cut is a focal point of your diamond selection. Even a pristine 2 Carat Diamond with no blemishes or color tinting can be dull if it’s not cut exceptionally well. Cut is the biggest indicator of beauty, and should be made priority over the other C’s. As an example, this 1.50 Carat Round Brilliant is graded well for each “C” but lacks a vivacious sparkle.
It’s essential to note that a top grade designation, like Excellent, doesn’t necessarily indicate an outstanding diamond cut. Almost 55% of all diamonds sold online are Excellent cuts. Some are stunning, while others are mediocre. An example of an exquisite Excellent cut diamond is this 1.5 Carat Round Brilliant from James Allen.
Because Cut is so important to a diamond’s fundamental beauty, it’s crucial to review a diamond’s Cut carefully and ask for the
eye of an expert.
Diamond Color is graded in terms of how white or colorless a diamond is. The GIA grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless, and Z containing noticeable brown or yellow tint.
The pricing of diamonds usually reflects these grades—sometimes significantly. In most cases, the naked eye cannot tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds, though the price difference may be significant.
The most critical aspect with Color is to determine if it appears colorless in relation to its setting. You also want to be certain that a diamond is clear of any tinting that takes away or interferes with white and colored light reflections. The K Color in this Cushion Cut Diamond, for example, distracts from the sparkle of the diamond while this I Color Diamond is radiant.
Brilliance, or sparkle, is created from the way the diamond is cut. It is not advantageous to purchase a diamond that distracts from this important principal characteristic.
As a general recommendation, review each diamond closely and ask for the assistance of an expert. This is the best way to ensure you’re not paying for a feature (i.e. too high of Color grade) that will go unnoticed, or purchasing a diamond that distracts or interferes with light reflection.
Note: Certain colored diamonds are valued stones, like a fancy pink or green diamond. Color grades for these diamonds are distinctly different than traditional “white” diamonds.
A Diamond’s Clarity grade evaluates how clean a diamond is from both inclusions and blemishes. Clarity is graded by the GIA on the following scale:
Depending on the size, location and darkness of blemishes and inclusions, these imperfections can interfere with light as it passes through the diamond. When this happens, the brilliance and beauty of the diamond is dulled, taking away from the high quality Cut.
For Clarity, our primary recommendation is to ensure the diamond is eye clean, and that inclusions are not interfering with light reflection.
Review the stone to see if it is eye clean and ask for confirmation from an expert. A certificate alone won’t tell you how a diamond’s blemishes will impact the stone’s appearance and brilliance.
Often when people hear the term “Carat Weight,” they think it refers to the size of the diamond. In actuality, Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, not how large the stone is. A 1 Carat Diamond equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams—and weighs about the same as a quarter of a raisin. Depending on the Diamond’s Shape and how it is cut, two 1 Carat Diamonds might be quite different in size.
While Carat weight is an element to consider when buying a diamond, the overall appearance and brilliance should carry more importance. For example, a mediocre 1.5 Carat diamond will not shine as brightly—or draw as much attention—as a stunning 1.0 Carat diamond, no matter how much more it weighs.
Each of the 4 C’s contribute to the overall beauty of a diamond and make each stone unique. A Diamond, however, should be viewed as an organic whole. Because the eye has difficulty differentiating one component by itself, such as Clarity or Color, it is important to consider how the 4 C’s impact each other.
To evaluate a diamond using the 4 C’s, consider the following:
With these fundamentals in mind, remember that a diamond is a precious whole, and should be looked at in totality.
If you’re unsure how to evaluate a diamond, and want to purchase an exceptional diamond that’s within your budget,
contact one of our experts for assistance.
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