You’ve heard of the “The 4 Cs” of buying diamonds, but what do cut, color, clarity, and carat weight actually mean? This guide is designed to make it easy to find the diamond of your dreams.
Cut is one of the most important factors in determining the value of a diamond. Cut is also the only factor that is a result of human skill. A diamond’s beauty is balanced against the inevitable loss of weight that takes place in the process of cutting. Cut determines the amount of brilliance, fire, and sparkle in a diamond.
- If a diamond is cut too shallow, the light escapes through the pavilion or bottom of the diamond instead of being reflected.
- If a diamond is cut too deep, light can escape through the opposite side of the pavilion or bottom of the diamond.
- When a diamond is cut to ideal proportions, light is reflected from one facet to another and dispersed through the crown or top of the stone.
In most diamonds, “color” actually refers to the absence of color. While most quality diamonds appear colorless to the naked eye, subtle differences impact both the quality and price of a diamond. A truly colorless diamond is extremely rare; most diamonds possess various degrees of yellow or brown shades. When a diamond is well cut, refraction and dispersion will often disguise certain degrees of coloration. The American Gem Society rates diamonds on a 0-10 grade scale. A diamond with a color grade of 0 is considered colorless.
Clarity refers to the purity of a diamond based on internal and external characteristics. Inclusions are internal flaws visible under magnification. The most common inclusions are crystals and feathers. Crystals are minerals trapped inside the diamond; feathers are actual breaks in the diamond. Blemishes are usually very small and only visible on the surface of the diamond. The fewer the inclusions and blemishes, the rarer and more valuable the stone.
A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. The word carat refers to the natural weight of a carob seed. Historically, diamonds were weighed against these seeds. A one carat diamond is equal to 1/5 of a gram. Each carat is further divided into points, and each point represents 1/100th of a carat.
As diamonds increase in size, their cost usually increases geometrically rather than mathematically. It is not unusual for a one carat diamond to cost four or five times more than a one-half carat stone of equal quality. Generally, a greater carat weight means a more expensive diamond. However, the value of two diamonds of equal weight can vary tremendously based on the other three Cs: cut, color, and clarity.