Choosing the right diamond, either for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, should be fun. It should also be a special and rewarding experience. As you look at more and more diamonds you’ll discover what your tastes and preferences are. You’ll also discover that the only way to find the perfect diamond to meet your needs is to talk to a knowledgeable jeweler that can offer sound advice and guidance.
And you thought diamonds were just pretty!
Quality + Beauty = Value
Let’s review the quality factors that go into grading a diamond. These factors are collectively known as the four Cs – cut, clarity, color and carat weight.
Diamonds have been graded using the four Cs for about fifty years. In fact, every major diamond grading laboratory in the world uses the GIA diamond grading nomenclature or something very similar on the reports they issue.
Cut – It’s all about beauty
When most people hear the word “cut” they think of shape. Most diamonds are round, but diamonds are also cut into almost any shape imaginable. When diamond graders thinks of shape, they consider both the shape of the stone and the way each individual facet or flat polished surface is placed on the diamond. Most experts agree that it is the arrangement and positioning of the diamond’s facets that has the most affect on the diamond’s beauty.
Let’s Talk Shape
There are many popular diamond shapes. Some are traditional, dating back to the early 1900s. Others are much more recent in their development.
Let’s Talk Angles and Proportions
The shape of a diamond is important, but even more critical is the way the facets are arranged on the stone and the angles and proportions they create. A diamond owes its beauty to the way it handles light. A well-cut diamond is the most brilliant and sparkling of all gemstones. A poorly cut gemstone, no matter how high its other quality factors, will seem lifeless and unappealing to the eye. That’s just another reason to spend some time looking at diamonds before you decide to make a purchase.
A traditional round brilliant cut diamond has either 57 or 58 facets or flat polished surfaces. Sometimes the diamond cutter won’t cut a tiny flat facet on the point of the stone. If this is the case, you’ll have a diamond with 57 facets. With the tiny facet (called a culet) you get 58 facets. Don’t worry if your diamond doesn’t have a culet. It doesn’t make a difference when it comes to the value or looks or your stone.
Round brilliant cut diamonds have the facet arrangement you see here. The stone is divided into three basic parts or areas – the crown (above the girdle), the pavilion (below the girdle) and the girdle itself.
Each facet on a diamond has a special name. The big facet on the crown is called the table. Surrounding the table are eight star facets. The kite-shaped facets are called bezels. Just above the girdle are sixteen upper girdle facets.
Clarity – from the inside out
The clarity grade of a diamond is determined by a skilled grader under optimum laboratory conditions using ten-power (10X) magnification. The grader is looking for any characteristics inside the diamond (called inclusions) or any characteristics on the surface (called blemishes). Once the grader has found all these characteristics they are evaluated based on their size, type, position, color and number. Once the grader has finished this process a final clarity grade is assigned. There are eleven clarity grades in the GIA system ranging from Flawless (Fl) to Imperfect 3 (I3).
n a very small percentage of diamonds in the SI range some characteristics may be visible to the unaided eye. Diamonds falling in the Imperfect grades will more commonly have eye-visible inclusions, but an Imperfect grade DOES NOT necessarily mean that the stone will be unattractive to the eye. This is just another reason why is it so important to look at a diamond carefully before you buy it. It’s also another reason why you should never buy a diamond based solely on its grades.
Remember – A high clarity grade may mean rarer (and more expensive), but it doesn’t mean more beautiful!
Color – a range of choices
Generally speaking, the more colorless the diamond the more valuable. In that regard, the color grade of a diamond is a measurement of rarity. Rarity is directly linked to value. Just as with clarity, a color grade cannot determine the beauty of a diamond. Color preference and perception is a very personal and subjective thing. Look at the stone and decide for yourself if you like its color before you make decisions based on a letter of the alphabet.
Do you know you A, B, Cs?
If you are color grading a diamond you don’t need to. That’s because the Gemological Institute of America (and most other international laboratories) use a color grading scale ranging from “D” to “Z”. “D” is the top of the scale and represents a completely colorless diamond while “Z” is at the bottom. This “D” to “Z” scale is only used on diamonds that have body colors of yellow, brown and gray. Other colors (and yellows and browns past the “Z” grade) are considered “fancy” colors and a different system is used.
For most yellow and brown diamonds their value generally decreases as their grade moves down the scale toward “Z”. But once a diamond passes the “Z” grade it becomes more valuable and more expensive. Likewise, as diamonds move up the scale toward “D” their value increases.
GIA Color Grade Description
D, E, F colorless
G, H, I, J near colorless
K, L, M faint yellow or brown
N to Z very light to light yellow or brown
Things you need to know about color grades
Carat Weight – bigger is better?
Just like all gemstones, the weight of a diamond is measured in carats. A carat is a metric unit of measurement that is exactly 1/5 of a gram (0.20). That means there are 5 carats to a gram. A carat is divided into 100 points (like pennies in a dollar).
While some people think bigger is better, no one can argue the fact that bigger means more expensive if all other factors are equal.
The carat weight of a diamond can also be related to a stone’s rarity. It is much harder to find a rough diamond that will yield a one-carat stone than it is to find two rough diamonds that will each produce a 0.50-carat diamond. Because of this, a one-carat diamond is substantially more expensive per carat then a half-carat stone. As the diamond increases in size the per carat prices increases exponentially instead of proportionally.