See the Cs: A Guide to Diamond Quality
Learn the Four Features That Determine Diamond Quality
Said to be a girl’s best friend, diamonds have been the ever-popular and timeless choice for wedding jewelry, particularly engagement rings, for decades. With their name coming from the Greek word adámas, which means, “unbreakable”, diamonds are incredibly resilient and intricate stones known for being the hardest substance on earth. Diamonds also possess their own rare, ravishing breed of beauty that continues to captivate women everywhere, and with so many unique traits, no two diamonds are exactly alike. In fact, four distinct features categorize diamonds and enable them to retain an intense amount of sparkle and brilliance no matter their setting. The four features that distinguish every diamond are described with four c-words: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Learning these distinct details that determine diamond quality empowers jewelry lovers to understand the value of the different diamonds they encounter and to appreciate the individuality of their own diamonds all the more.
The cut of a diamond refers to the way the diamond reflects light. This aspect of diamond quality determines how dazzling the diamond is. The cut of the diamond focuses on the proportions of the diamond rather than on its shape, and jewelry craftsmen achieve different diamond cuts by cutting and polishing the diamond facets in the way that allows the diamond to reflect the most amount of light. In a well-cut diamond, light enters the diamond through the top and bounces against the different facets before being dispersed back out through the top. An improperly cut stone will not generate as much sparkle because the light will either fail to reflect and simply pass through the diamond, which occurs in a stone that is cut too shallow, or the light will reflect but pass through the sides of the diamond, which occurs in a stone that is cut too deep. The Gemological Institute of America rates the cut of a diamond on a sliding scale that runs from excellent down to poor. While there are over twenty different types of diamond cuts, some of the most popular include round, radiant, oval, emerald, marquise, pear, princess, and heart.
Though most of us think of diamonds as clear, diamonds can actually occur naturally in all the colors of the rainbow. Therefore, when assessing the color of a diamond, jewelers differentiate between fancy-color diamonds and colorless diamonds. Fancy-color diamonds are so deeply hued that they appear yellow, pink, blue, green, red, or brown, and these types of diamonds are both very rare and extremely valuable. Colorless diamonds are therefore the more common concern of jewelry lovers. GIA evaluates the diamond color of colorless diamonds by the absence of color they possess, as the most chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds have no hue and, inevitably, a higher value. GIA scales color using the letters D through Z: the letter D begins the scale as the representation of a completely colorless diamond, and the scale continues with the increasing presence of color until reaching the letter Z, which represents a light yellow diamond. GIA has used masterstones of established color value to create the scale and compare other diamonds against, so the value of a diamond will depend upon the letter grade it receives. While most diamonds have at least a trace of brown or yellow in the body color, most color distinctions are so subtle that they are untraceable by the untrained eye.
The clarity of a diamond refers to the presence of inclusions or blemishes in the stone. Inclusions are imperfections found inside a diamond, while blemishes are imperfections on the outside of a diamond. These imperfections are like birthmarks, as they are the result of diamonds being created naturally when carbon is exposed to an extensive amount of heat and pressure deep in the earth. Once again, GIA has developed a system for evaluating the clarity of diamonds that involves identifying the number, nature, position, size, and relief of blemishes and inclusions. GIA’s clarity scale moves through six categories, some of which are divided, for a total of eleven specific grades:
- Flawless (FL):
No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF):
No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2):
Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2):
Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2):
Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3):
Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
As most inclusions and blemishes are too small to be seen without magnification, an expert assessment from a trained diamond grader is essential to verifying the true clarity of a diamond and consequently, the diamond quality.
The carat weight of a diamond reports how much the diamond weighs in carats, and a metric carat consists of two hundred milligrams. The origin of the modern carat system is a small, uniform seed called a carob seed that was used by gem traders as counterweights in their balance scales. The carat system is uniform across the entire world. GIA has divided each carat into one hundred points for the purpose of achieving very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. A diamond having 50 points is .5 carats, or as jewelers might say, “a fifty pointer”. When a diamond weighs more than one carat, the stone weight is expressed in carats and decimals, such as “two point three” for a 2.03-carat diamond. Just like the cut, color, and clarity, the carat weight of a diamond influences the diamond quality and affects the value, with larger diamonds being more expensive due to their increased rarity. However, the cut of the diamond will also determine how large a diamond appears, so diamonds of a different carat weight can look the same size depending on the cut.
The Brittany’s C: Commitment
While these four Cs are the most well-known and widespread, some jewelers have taken the liberty of adding a fifth c-word of their choosing to describe their diamonds, such as certification or crown coverage. However, good jewelers will still inform their clients of the cut, color, clarity, and carat weight of each of their diamonds, as the true value of a diamond can only be known by discovering the diamond quality. At Brittany’s Fine Jewelry, we are committed to providing diamonds of the best diamond quality. We are therefore completely open and honest about details of our diamonds, and we price them fairly according to these details. We handpick the diamonds we use in our engagement rings, and because we know them so well, we can guarantee that the value and the quality of the stone match perfectly. To find the diamond you desire most with exceptional cut, color, clarity, and carat weight, visit Brittany’s Fine Jewelry today.
All images used by permission from our friends at the Gemological Institute of America.