What are the four C's of diamonds?
The diamond industry is limited and supervised by several organizations. They are worldwide well-trusted gemological laboratories. These labs valuate every legal diamond on the global market and certificate them. One of the most respected labs is the Gemological Institute of America. GIA defines four essential characteristics of a precious stone: Carat, Cut, Color, and Clarity. These are the 4Cs of a diamond.
They are contained in a GIA certificate – which you always should ask for before buying a diamond. Let us meet them a little closer.
If you ever wondered about diamonds, you heard about this term. Unlike many assumes, carat doesn't mean a diamond's size. Depending on the shape, two diamonds with the same carats can have different sizes. Instead, carat indicates a diamond's weight. One carat unit equals 0.2 grams or 0.007 ounces. It also divides into 100 points. This gradation aims to ease the diamond's measurement. For instance, you can have a 1.84 and a 1.85 carat diamonds and recognize them with special scales.
"Why use some carats if you have worldwide standardized units?" you might ask. It is an excellent question, indeed. Carat is a simple tribute to diamond traditions. Back when there were no CI, Greek merchants measured diamonds with a Carob tree seed – "ceration." People of that time believed these seeds always had the same size and weight. Their Arabic "colleagues" took the word and spelled it as "qirat." After that, Italian jewelers transformed it into "cerato." Finally, diamonds reached England, and the tongue of islanders gave birth to a "carat." Jewelers of the world used it ever since. Six hundred years went by, and the term remains as a memento of good old days. From the face of the whole diamond industry, we humbly ask you to forgive us for such little sentiment.
- The heaviest rough diamond humankind has ever discovered was called Cullinan diamond. It had 3,106.75 carats weight. Cullinan diamond was so big jewelers divided it into 105 smaller stones;
- The biggest shard of the Cullinan diamond was called the Great Star of Africa. 530.4 carat diamond is now mounted in the UK Sovereign's Scepter with Cross;
- Second Star of Africa with "modest" with 317.4 carats is installed in the UK Imperial State Crown;
- Seven other major diamonds belong to Elisabeth II as well. She also owns several minor diamonds and a set of unpolished shards.
Before it appears on the market, a diamond needs to be cut, shaped, and polished. Basically, the cut contains two subtopics. Firstly, it is cut of a diamond itself. Quality of cut allows a diamond to reflect more light and perform exceptional brilliance. Secondly, there is a diamond's shape. The choice of form affects a diamond's visual size and diamond price.
Cut is one of the most significant options for any diamond. Decently cut diamond often can outshine bigger and brighter ones. Experienced advisors often tell customers to aim for diamond's cut mainly. Cut also has its gradation, ranging from Excellent to Poor:
- Excellent cut. The best mark of craft jewelers can only perform to a diamond. Precise cuts maximize brilliance capability and allow a diamond to sparkle perfectly. Diamonds with such cut are only 3% of the whole market. The premium status of such diamonds accumulates extreme demand for them. Reasonably, this implies extreme price;
- Very Good cut. Second place among all diamond cuts. This is what the majority of customers are looking for. These diamonds are not as expensive as excellent ones; yet, you won't be able to spot the difference with a naked eye. Sparkles are still prominent, and light reflection, in general, is in proper balance. A Very Good cut diamonds group contains 15% of the market. This cut is perfect if you consider going slightly over medium budget;
- Good cut. Decent cut, which represents the balance between cost and quality. Some tiny technical mistakes are being made, so the light reflection of a diamond is slightly misbalanced. Sometimes jewelers can reach this stage on purpose to save the diamond's size. These diamonds are 25% of the market. Budget choice with a decent appearance;
- Fair&Poor cut. These groups of cut are not recommended to use as diamond jewelry. Light reflection is broken, and brilliance is reduced. Very budget diamonds, but imperfection is evident to a naked eye.
Aside from cut quality, there is also the shape of a diamond. Nowadays, diamond professionals use ten cuts:
- Round diamond cut;
- Cushion diamond cut;
- Oval diamond cut;
- Asscher diamond cut;
- Princess diamond cut;
- Emerald diamond cut;
- Pear diamond cut;
- Marquise diamond cut;
- Heart diamond cut;
- Radiant diamond cut.
The majority of these diamond shapes were invented in the early 1900s. This became possible with great technical improvement of the twentieth century. Aside from them, there are several shapes that are not so common. One of them is called rose cut. It was created in the 1500s and had only 24 facets (for instance, modern round cut diamond has 57).
Today, most of rose cut diamonds left are antiquarian masterpieces. You are not likely to find such a diamond on the market, but you can create your own, personalized stone. Modern cut technology allows diamond cutters to do fascinating things.
Excavated diamonds naturally come within two main color conditions: colorful (fancy) or colorless. The first ones are extremely rare, and their price even in a few carats weight can reach millions of dollars. It's a complicated task that takes years of instant learning to evaluate such diamonds correctly. They have their gradations, so the 4Cs are not entirely relevant here.
Colorless diamonds (also mistakenly called "White") are a bit easier to understand. They have alphabetical gradation, which starts from D (the most transparent diamonds) and ends with Z (diamonds with deep yellow tint):
- D. As mentioned before, D diamonds are the most transparent colorless ones. Clear as glass, they are valued and demanded greatly;
- E-F. Human is unable to spot the difference between D, E or F. This is possible with specialized machinery;
- G-J. This scale of diamonds has a barely visible yellow tone. Bare eye can recognize it only under a particular angle and with great focus;
- K-M. A tint of yellow is noticeable on these diamonds. Budget decision for customers who are not very concerned about transparency;
- O-Z. Yellow tone is obvious here. In fact, it is so saturated diamond can't be bright anymore. This is the least expensive option.
There are a few hints in terms of the diamond's color. First of all, the G-J scale is optimal if you are going to place your diamond on a golden ring or earrings. The tone of gold will mask the tint of the diamond completely. You can also take a Z diamond. If placed correctly, a diamond with a saturated tone can pretend to be a colored one!
The last, but not the least of the 4Cs is clarity. This option can't be changed simply because it is nature-given. As a matter of fact, clarity includes several points: imperfections presence, quantity, location, size, etc. GIA also grades clarity for different stages. This gradation starts with Flawless to Imperfect:
- (FL) Flawless clarity.Very best Mother Nature can provide us with in terms of diamonds. Blemishes are absent, and brilliance is excellent. Diamonds with Flawless clarity are amusingly rare. They always get very deep expertise: it's quite unlikely nature creates such perfect things. The cost of Flawless diamonds is flawless as well.
- (IF) Internally Flawless clarity. No human eye can recognize the difference between FL and IF qualities. To distinguish that you need to have special jewelry loupe. Under its 10x magnification you can spot one or two imperfections. Internally Flawless diamonds are more common than FLs, look the same and have a lower price. Perfect diamonds to look for.
- (VVS1, VVS2) Very Very Slightly Imperfect clarity. These stages are the most hunted among all clarity qualities. You can find several imperfections here. However, there is a very little chance to see them without the loupe. Light-reflecting capability is still astonishing, and the cost is greatly reduced. If you're looking for a perfect balance between price and quality – this is it.
- (VS1, VS2) Very Slightly Imperfect clarity. Budget quality of a diamond's clarity. Surface here is not very clear, and you can spot a few blemishes without any magnification. This is a good choice if you're ready to sacrifice clarity for the size.
- (SI1, SI2) Slightly Imperfect clarity. The least recommended stage of clarity. There are several imperfections visible due to this price is greatly reduced. You might purchase SI1 or SI2 if you're not bothered by clarity at all.
- (I1, I2, I3) Imperfect clarity. We advise you to avoid this quality. The light reflection is broken here, and the brilliance is severely damaged. The Imperfect diamonds are usually used as sub materials of the jewelry industry.
What is the most important of the 4Cs of diamonds?
Diamond experts agree on the fact you need to focus on the cut. This C should be your priority while choosing the diamond. Remember: decently cut diamond can outshine bigger gems with lower cut quality.
The carat number is totally up to you and your budget. There can't be any recommendations. Some would like to have a humble 1 carat diamond engagement ring, and some would like to have 10 carats. The weight of a stone is only affected by how much you would like to spend.
Color depends on your taste and the type of ring you have chosen. For instance, D-F color qualities suit white gold and platinum. If your ring is made of yellow gold, you can go lower on a color – ring's yellow tint will mask the tone of a stone.
Clarity is optional. It is not necessary to seek Flawless diamonds if you're not into exclusive luxury jewelry. They are usually overpriced due to their rarity. However, we recommend avoiding going below VS1 and VS2 clarity.