The Four Cs of Diamond

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Most people don’t have the necessary experience or equipment to analyze the composition of a diamond.

The four Cs are actually based around the grading attributes of diamonds but they are useful as an easy way to quickly assess a diamond.

Let’s take a look at each category.

1. Color of a Diamond

Color already featured prominently as we considered the technical and laymen’s classifications of diamonds.

It’s not surprising. Color is usually the first thing you notice with a diamond. However, the perfect color for a diamond is a matter of personal taste.

Recent popularity for different-colored natural diamonds, due largely to celebrities sporting colored diamonds in their rings, has helped shape perceptions.

Pink and black diamond types, as well as yellow diamond types, have gained popularity recently. Yellow is the most common of all tints to a diamond.

Traditionally speaking, though, the perfect diamond is colorless. That’s why they still command the highest prices on the market.

While the majority of diamonds may appear “colorless” to the untrained eye, there is usually a tinge to them that a diamond expert will see immediately.

Yellow or brownish hues are the most common, due to the nitrogen content. These hues are sometimes not even visible to the naked eye.

However, in some cases, the coloration is so strong that it is immediately apparent. These diamonds are usually more affordable for shoppers.

There is actually an official color-grading system from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) that we can refer to.

With this system, diamonds are graded by color alphabetically from D to Z, where D is colorless and Z is heavily tinted.

In general, tints that are visible to the naked eye will be graded as K or above. Those graded N or above will certainly have visible tinges and from S or above, the tint will be notable.

Note that some diamond colors are extremely rare (and expensive). These include white, red, blue and green diamonds.

Also note that diamonds can be treated and colored artificially by manufacturers.

2. Clarity of a Diamond

You might hear someone refer to the “VVS” of a diamond. If so, they are talking about its clarity.

It is another measure that you can learn about before shopping for diamonds.

Clarity refers to the quantity and visibility of any flaws in the diamond. It will go a long way to determining the “quality” of the diamond in question and the price.

The classification system for clarity of a diamond provided by GIA includes the following categories:

  • Flawless (FL) – no inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
  • Internally Flawless (IF) – no inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) – inclusions are minor & range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) – inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification.
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) – inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

3. Carat (Weight) of a Diamond

Most people are familiar to some extent with the carat as a measurement of size for diamonds and other gemstones, as well as pearls.

It is equal to 200 mg or 0.00643 troy oz and, with all else being equal, the larger the size of a diamond, the greater its value.

In fact, the size of a diamond is not a linear deal when it comes to its value. Larger diamonds reach exponentially higher prices than their smaller cousins.

The bulk of diamonds on the market are less than one carat, which means that we must talk in terms of points (100 sub-divisions of the carat).

You might see a diamond weighing half a carat listed as a “50-point diamond”. Such diamonds are more plentiful, popular, and affordable than larger diamonds that may command eye-watering prices.

Bear in mind that you can have a high carat diamond valued below a low carat diamond if other qualities of that diamond are different.

A very pure, colorless diamond of one carat may be worth significantly more than a much larger stone of much lesser clarity.

So, treat the carat as an indication purely of the weight/size of the diamond rather than any indication of value.

4. Cut of a Diamond

The last of the four Cs is the “cut” of a diamond.
This refers to other visible features of a diamond, such as its:

  • Proportions (width and depth of the diamond)
  • Finish (does light escape from the diamond and leave it looking dull?)
  • Symmetry
  • Polish

As you can see, these are features imparted to the diamond by the cutting process that make its natural features stand out.

Most importantly, they affect the the way that light travels through the diamond through its facet arrangement.

The cutting process affects the brightness, brilliance, sparkle, scintillation, and intensity of the diamond.

Some of these features are generally deemed more desirable than others by diamond shoppers. For instance, almost everyone wants a symmetrical and well-polished diamond to show off its beautiful natural qualities.

Cuts of diamonds are subject to a grading system to :

  • Excellent (EX)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Good (G)
  • Fair (F)
  • Poor (P)

You will pay a premium for diamonds that excel in their cut and have a rating of VG or above.

If you’re shopping for a bargain, then you can often find poorly cut diamonds available at cut prices (pun intended!).

Other distinguishing features of diamonds

The four Cs cover the main qualities that determine the types of diamonds in the minds of shoppers.

Another obvious visual feature of a diamond is its overall shape. This can vary significantly from diamond to diamond, based upon their natural features and the way in which they are cut.

It is often one of the first things people consider when shopping for diamonds for rings, necklaces, earrings, and other jewellery.

Here are some common examples, Some of the most common diamond shapes are Round (the most common), Princess-cut, Oval or pear-shaped diamonds, Emerald-cut diamonds.

The shape may affect the brilliance or clarity of the diamond as well as its suitability for a certain piece of jewelry.

If you are looking at set diamonds, the shape of the diamond may greatly affect the style of the ring or other piece of jewelry it is set in.

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