The Four C’s of Diamonds
At JEWELS BY ALEX, we understand selecting jewelry is complicated. We want our customers to know exactly what it is that they are buying so, let’s start at the beginning. The most basic component of jewelry education is understanding the “Four C’s”.
Carat weight is the only standard, objectively measured member of the Four C’s. One carat equals 1/5 of a gram, or .007 of an ounce. Jewelers utilize extremely precise and exact scales to weigh diamonds to hundredths of a carat. Each of these “hundredths” is referred to as a “point”. So, a one carat diamond is the same thing as a 100 point diamond just as a .50 carat diamond equates to a 1/2 carat or 50 pt diamond. Carat weight and diamond size are not the same thing. Size may actually be greatly affected by cut. Distance in millimeters across the top of the diamond has a huge impact on how big a diamond appears. Once a diamond is set in a ring, it is viewed from the top. Hence, diamonds that have a wider top diameter may seem bigger than stones with a higher carat weight but a smaller top surface area.
Unfortunately, much of a diamond’s natural carat weight is lost when it is cut and polished. Often a Gemologist’s decision of where and how to cut a particular stone must take optimizing cut, clarity and color into account, sometimes to the detriment of the final weight of a stone. “Magic size” refers to .5, .75, and 1 carat stones. Reaching these optimal numbers greatly impacts a stone’s value. For example, a stone that weighs .48 carats may be much less expensive than one weighing .50 carats even though they appear to be almost identical. Hitting a “magic” 1/2, 3/4 or 1 carat sweet spot can lead to a big difference in price.
Diamonds already set in jewelry cannot be weighed; so carat weight is estimated by measuring a stone’s outside dimensions. Appraisals or grading reports generally list carat weight measured under these conditions as approximate weight. If the jewelry contains multiple gemstones, the measurement is referred to as an approximate or estimated “total carat weight”.
In an historical aside, the origin of the term “carat” is quite interesting. Early Greeks used carob seeds as the base counterweight for weighing diamonds on balance scales. The carob seed’s weight was both light and predictable. The term “carat” is derived from the Greek word “keration” referring to this practice. Since then, the carat has become the international standard weight for diamonds as well as gold.
Choosing a Diamond with Carat Weight in Mind
Most diamonds sold today are less than one carat. In fact, the average diamond engagement ring is less than .50 carats. It’s simple to understand that the more a diamond weighs, the more it is going to cost. What most of us don’t realize however is that this cost increase is not proportional to the increase in weight. In fact, doubling the weight of a stone doesn’t double the cost… it can quadruple the price tag! One piece of advice is to stay just below the “magic size”. As discussed above, a .48 carat diamond looks pretty much like a .50 carat one, but can be quite a bit less expensive. Secondly, consider the cut when selecting a diamond. A well cut diamond may sparkle more and appear bigger than more expensive diamonds of higher carat weight.
It’s very important to consider who a diamond is being purchased for before making a decision. A buyer needs to consider finger size, the setting, and individual preferences. To some people, the size of the diamond matters most. If this is the case, clarity and color grades may be adjusted to meet budget requirements. Be aware of finger size. Large diamonds may be too big for small fingers. If you’re lucky enough to be buying a ring for someone with small hands, often medium or small diamonds will appear to be large on the wearer. Next, consider the setting when selecting a diamond. Not all settings will fit diamonds of all sizes. Finally, individuals have very unique tastes. Sometimes the best advice is to ask the person about his or her preferences before making a final selection.
A diamond is something that a person will treasure for a life time. JEWELS BY ALEX would love to assist you in selecting the perfect diamond. We are happy to offer loose diamonds from 1/3 carat to over 4 carats as well as a large variety of pre-fashioned diamond rings in a various carat weights. JEWELS BY ALEX also carries many diamond jewelry items including diamond bracelets, pendants, necklaces, brooches and earrings in an array of styles and sizes by a variety of fine jewelry designers. If you are looking to purchase a larger diamond or a combination that is not offered on our website, please contact us with the specifics you need and we will do our best to accommodate your requirements.
Ironically enough when selecting a diamond, it’s not color that makes the stone, it’s the lack of color. In fact, the value of the gemstone increases in correspondence with the decrease in color. A diamond’s brilliance is a result of how the stone reflects light. The clearer the diamond, the more the colors of the rainbow are reflected back to the eye. Because the human eye recognizes sparkle or light interaction before it detects color, diamond color is secondary to cut when rating particular gemstones. As a general rule, most natural diamonds have tints of yellow or brown although they appear to be icy white. Perfectly colorless diamonds are very rare and valuable.
Just to confuse you after making the above statement regarding the importance of lack of color when selecting a diamond, there are exceptions. Some colored diamonds, referred to as “fancy color diamonds” lie outside the yellow and brown color range. These fancy color diamonds may be pink or blue and are, in fact, highly sought after and valuable.
How is Diamond Color Graded?
Once upon a time, the diamond world used a variety of systems to grade diamond color. These early methods provided a variety of tiers and classified diamonds on scales ranging from A to C, from zero to 3, with roman numerals, and with word descriptions. Unfortunately, these early systems were not replicable or reliable. The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, decided to create a new industry standard color measuring system. The GIA chose to start their new rating scale with the letter “D” so as not to be confuse stones with ratings obtained utilizing earlier formats. The letter “D” came to signify absolutely colorless diamonds and applied to extremely rare stones. The scale concluded with “Z”, which was representative of stones with very noticeable color.
The GIA grading system divides its scale into five basic categories: D-F represents colorless diamonds: G-J, near colorless; K-M, faint yellow; N-R, very light yellow; and finally, S-Z, signifying light yellow. The difference between one letter and the next is extremely subtle. It takes an expert jeweler or gemologist with a high powered microscope to differentiate between levels as most differences cannot be detected with the eye alone. Grading is achieved by comparing a gemstone to diamonds of known color under exacting lighting conditions. Most people can visually detect the difference between diamond color and lack there of with several levels separating diamond samples. As a general rule, diamonds rated “J” or higher are colorless to the naked eye.
What is Diamond Florescence?
Some diamonds appear to change color when exposed to certain types of light, especially direct sunlight or under florescent light bulbs. This quality, called florescence, is a fascinating phenomenon. Scientists, in very technical terms, describe fluorescence as an emission of electromagnetic radiation light by a substance that has absorbed radiation of a different wavelength. For diamond lovers, the interesting part is that if the “absorbed radiation” is ultraviolet as well as invisible, the “emission” it creates is a colored light we can see. In fact, about 30% of diamonds have a blue florescence, even when the diamond appears to be colorless or yellow under natural light. The fluoresced color may also appear white, yellow, orange or even milky or oily. Diamond color grading reports indicate whether the stone fluoresces and also classify the strength of the characteristic as faintly, weakly, moderately, strongly or very strongly.
How Does Fluorescence Affect Diamond Value?
As with diamond color in general, yellow tinting adversely affects the value of a diamond. So, if a white diamond has a yellow florescence, its value falls; and conversely, if a yellowish diamond fluoresces white or blue, its value goes up. The important thing to note here is that before purchasing a diamond, the buyer needs to view the stone under multiple lighting conditions. Viewing the stone inside a store with florescent lighting may magnify the fluorescent quality of the stone. Blue florescence is considered to be an asset as it may mask yellow tints and increase a stone’s value.
Choosing a Diamond
Selecting a diamond is highly personal. Individual taste, culture, and financial considerations are very important. To the purist with unlimited funding, colorless diamonds of grade D to F are the preferred option. For those who need a better value but still want a diamond that appears colorless, stones with Grade levels G-J are perfectly fine. In fact, with a budget in mind, trading down the color level can allow the buyer to purchase a bigger stone or one with a better cut.
Our standard collection at Jewels by Alex includes only the most desirable colorless or near colorless diamonds, ensuring a bright, lasting beauty in every diamond purchase. Fancy color diamonds may be special ordered at the request of the customer. If you would like to order a fancy color diamond please contact us with the specifics of what you need and we will do our best to accommodate you.
In the most basic terms, Clarity means clearness. Natural diamonds are rarely perfectly clear. There are external blemishes, internal inclusions, and a myriad of other imperfections seen when viewing a gemstone under magnification. These impurities were developed when minute crystals were trapped within the diamond while it was being formed. To gemologists, clarity defines the degree of imperfection, or measures the size and number of impurities in a particular stone. A flawless diamond that contains no imperfections is so rare, that few jewelers have ever seen one. Since many of the imperfections discovered are invisible to the naked eye, Clarity actually has the least impact of the Four C’s on a diamond’s beauty. Visible defects on the other hand, have a great impact on value. As a rule of thumb, the greater the number and size of the impurities, the less is the stone’s value. All diamonds are unique because of these natural contaminants.
How is Diamond Clarity Graded?
As with the grading scales discussed with the carat, cut and color, a diamond’s clarity grading is not ideal. Diamond grading reports are created by humans, and as such, subjectivity always places a part in the evaluation. However, reputable labs utilize their expertise along with the GIA grading scale to provide the most replicable evaluation possible. Diamonds are evaluated under industry standard 10x power magnification.
Five basic characteristics are taken into consideration when grading Diamond Clarity: the size of the inclusion; the number of inclusions; the location of the inclusions; the possible effect of the inclusion on the diamond’s durability over time; and finally, the visibility of the inclusion.
The GIA Clarity Scale consists of 11 levels for grading diamonds. They are defined as follows:
F1 (Flawless) – A magnificent specimen totally free of blemishes or “inclusions” under 10x magnification
IF (Internally Flawless) – Without internal characteristics at 10x magnification, but with minor surface blemishes that do not penetrate the stone
VVS1 & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included) – Having minute inclusions that are very difficult to see under 10x magnification
VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) – Having minor inclusions ranging from difficult to see, to somewhat easy to see under magnification and on a white background
SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) – Inclusions are easily recognized under 10x magnification when viewed on a white background and may be visible by the naked eye from the bottom (pavilion) of the stone
I1, I2, & I3 (Included) – Obvious inclusions that may be visible to the eye when the stone is face-up
Choosing Diamonds with Clarity in Mind
A valuable tool to use when selecting a diamond is the Clarity grading report which plots inclusions. Internal Inclusions are marked in red while external blemishes are indicated by the color green. Only primary imperfections are plotted with less significant ones being noted in comments. Markers or comments indicating the presence of “clouds” are not good as this may cause a dullness in the diamond’s appearance. Clouds that lower clarity values are only found in SI1 or lower graded stones. One very important thing to read in the grading report regards the “Nature” characteristic, or the inclusions affect on the durability of a diamond. Large feathering, depending on size and position within the diamond, has the potential to cause cracking. This is very rare but possible.
Keep in mind that only one out of a hundred people are able to detect VS2 inclusions. Second, note that after carat weight, Clarity has the most effect on a diamond’s price. Third, a diamond’s cut can impact a stone’s brilliance more so than its level of purity. Taking these factors into consideration is very important when selecting the diamond that is not only right for you, but one that falls within the price range you have in mind. The less flawed a diamond is, the more rare it is and the cost corresponds to the rarity. The fact that many of these flaws can only be seen under magnification is an important one to consider, especially when choosing from diamonds with an SI or higher rating. It’s critical to select a diamond that doesn’t have visible imperfections which mar the diamond’s beauty. The extent of the invisible imperfections on the other hand, is where the line between cost and quality considerations may be drawn.
JEWELS BY ALEX is delighted to offer an array of diamonds in a full range of clarity as well as providing multiple price points and value from which to choose.
Not to belittle the other 3 “Cs”, but Cut is probably the most important diamond characteristic as well as the most difficult to evaluate. Why does it top our list? It’s simple, the cut is what makes diamonds sparkle and that sparkle, unquestionably, is the “thing” that diamonds have that dazzles us. You could have a large, colorless, perfectly unflawed diamond but a poor cut could make the diamond twinkle less brilliantly than one of much lower quality. In fact, two diamonds of equal carat weight could have values that differ by as much as 50% due solely to the quality of the cut.
About Diamond Cut and Grading
A diamond’s cut is what produces the stone’s brilliant sparkle. Traditionally, diamonds are cut to produce 58 tiny facets, or flat surfaces, measuring only two millimeters in diameter. The expertise of the diamond cutter greatly effects the cleanest and sharpness of the cut and hence, the diamond’s light performance or refraction of light. In fact, its this precision cut that defines how the gem will produce the beguiling sparkle as light refracts from the stone to the eye. A finely cut diamond will appear very clear and fiery while poorly cut stones will seem dull and lifeless in comparison, regardless of the particular diamond’s innate qualities . The quality of the cut not only makes the stone sparkle more vividly, but it also may make the gem appear larger than stones of similar carat weight.
How is Diamond Cut Graded?
When a diamond is properly cut, light refracts from the top of the diamond In contrast, improperly cut diamonds loose light out of the bottom when the cut is too shallow and from the sides if the cut is too deep. Diamond cut has three basic characteristics: brightness, fire and scintillation. Brightness refers to the total amount of light that is reflected from the diamond. Fire indicates the dispersion of light into the color spectrum. Scintillation is a measure of diamond sparkle or how light flashes with movement. Unfortunately, all of these attributes are measured objectively making grading difficult and subjective.
In early 2005, the Gemology Institute of America or GIA unveiled a diamond cut grading system for standard round diamonds in the D-to-Z color range. The GIA created a way to rate diamond cut on a five tiered scale ranging from Excellent to Poor. This rating scale is dynamic, meaning that changes are still being made. Diamonds with a cut rating of Excellent are of the highest quality and reflect nearly all light that enters the diamond. Diamonds with an Excellent rating are rare and spectacular specimens. Lower ratings include Very Good, representing high quality cut diamonds; Good which while not quite as nice as the top rating diamonds, still allows light to pass through the gemstone; Fair, which is defined as a lesser gemstone that still allows some light to reflect; to finally, Poor, representing diamonds that are cut so inadequately that most light is lost through the bottom or sides of the gemstone.
Many people confuse cut with the shape of a diamond. Shape is the basic form of the diamond, meaning whether its round, square, tear shaped, etc. Cut, as explained above, is the precision cutting of the gemstone to create facets that reflect light. Round diamonds are the industry standards but shape is only limited by the skill and imagination of the diamond cutter. Diamonds that are not round are known as fancy cut diamonds. Popular cuts include princess, marquise, emerald (square), oval, pear and heart-shaped diamonds. Other unusual shapes including triangles can also be found.
Jewels by Alex is happy to help if you do not find the exact cut you are looking for on our site. Please feel free to contact us with the specifics of what you need and we will do our best to accommodate you.