Whether you shop loose diamonds or for diamond engagement ring it’s important to understand as much as you can about diamonds, and the diamond 4 C’s will provide you with the kind of knowledge you need. Even though most people know about the 4 C’s, they may know just enough to get them into trouble. In other words, there are more to the four C’s than just cut, color, clarity, and carats. Let’s take an in depth look at these basics of diamond shopping so you can make an informed decision when you shop.
This is perhaps the most important feature to be aware of, and the first thing to know is, cut does not denote shape. Cut is all about luminescence and is rated from excellent to poor. Plus, cut is determined by three factors:
- Brilliance – total light reflected
- Fire – the way light is distributed into the color spectrum
- Scintillation – patterns of darkness and light as the stone is moved
When a stone is cut, the cutter can produce a large stone by making a shallower cut. However, this will not produce a high degree of fire. On the other hand, the best cuts are deeper but create smaller stones, and this is one of the reasons an excellent cut stone is more expensive than the other cuts.
Bottom line – if you want maximum sparkle choose the best cut you can afford.
Some people believe diamond color denotes what color the stone is (white, yellow, brown, pink, etc.). However, this is only partially true. Color grading refers to the absence of color and the most sought after stones for diamond engagement rings are white and without color. The less color a stone possesses, the more light and other colors it can reflect, and the more impressive it is. Color grades are as such:
- Colorless – D, E, and F
- Nearly colorless – G through J
- Faint color – K, L, and M
- Very light – N through R
- Light – E through Z
- Beyond Z – fancy colors
Clarity refers to how flawed a stone is. Flaws or inclusion are tiny fissures or cracks and they can hinder a diamond’s ability to reflect light. Grading is done from FL (flawless) to I3 (most flawed). In addition, you can buy clarity enhanced diamonds which have flaws repaired (to save money) and only an expert can tell the difference. Here are the grades:
- IF, VVS1, and VVS2 – the best clarity grades (next to flawless)
- VS1 and VS2 – very very slightly included (flawed) stones.
- VS1 and VS2 – very slightly included
- I1, I2, and I3 – very included and you can visibly see the flaws in the stone. I2 and I3 should only be considered if you are on a very tight budget.
A carat is equal to 0.2 grams of weight, and is not always determined by size. You can compare several loose diamonds with the same carat weight, and the values may vary a great deal, due to the other 3 C’s of shopping.