Knowing the four Cs – tips for buying a diamond
Unless you are a diamond expert, one sparkly stone looks much the same as the other. Yet, there are significant differences when you start to look deeper. Our diamond experts suggest you should get to know the four Cs when it comes to buying a diamond.
The four Cs are the international diamond grading standard to help you evaluate a diamond’s beauty and price.
Although diamonds look colourless to the clueless eye, they normally contain tints of yellow and brown for a colourless diamond stone or a myriad of colours naturally. Diamonds are graded from D (colourless) to Z (tinted). Engagement rings tend to be around the D-J mark
A diamond's colour is all about the presence or absence of colour in white diamonds. Colour is a result of the composition of the diamond, and it never changes over time.
Because a colourless diamond, like a clear window, allows more light to pass through it than a coloured diamond, colourless diamonds emit more sparkle and fire. The formation process of a diamond ensures that only a few, rare diamonds are truly colourless. The whiter a diamond's colour, the greater its value.
Although the shape we’re taught at school has four sides, in reality the best stones feature a full 58 sides, which reflect the light and give the diamond its sparkle. Get one of these and, in turn, it will reflect well on you.
The diamond industry uses the word "cut" in two different ways.
To describe the shape of a diamond (for example, an "emerald cut" diamond). “Diamond cut" is used is to describe the reflective qualities of a diamond. The reflective quality of the diamond is determined by how well the diamond was cut.
To describe the reflective qualities. This is the one that is graded and gets a score on diamond certificates.
When a diamond is well-cut, light (brilliance) enters through the table and travels to the pavilion where it reflects from one side to the other before reflecting back out of the diamond through the table and the eye.
In a poorly cut diamond, the light that enters through the table reaches the facets and then 'leaks' out from the sides or bottom of the diamond rather than reflecting back to the eye. Less light reflected back to the eye means less brilliance.
The quality of your diamond will depend on how many natural flaws it has and how prominent they are. The more there are, the less expensive the diamond will be.
Natural diamonds are created under an incredible pressure so they are going to have flaws. A diamond's "clarity" grade is all about the flaws (or lack thereof). There are two types of flaws:
Blemishes: found on the surface of the diamond
Inclusions: found within the diamond
"Inclusions" are flaws such as air bubbles, cracks, and non-diamond minerals found within the diamond. "Blemishes" are scratches, pits, and chips (some blemishes occur during the cutting process, most often at the girdle).
F (Flawless): No internal or external flaws. Extremely rare, these diamonds come with a price tag to match their rarity. Expect a flawless one-carat round brilliant diamond to cost a minimum of $20,000.
IF (Internally Flawless): no internal flaws, but some surface flaws. Rare, but with prices for an internally flawless one-carat round brilliant diamond starting around $5,000, affordable for many people.
VVS1-VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions very difficult to detect under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $4,000).
VS1-VS2 (Very Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions seen only with difficulty under 10x magnification. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $3,750).
SI1-SI2 (Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions are visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible by the unaided eye. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $3,500).
I1-I2-I3 (Included 1, 2, and 3). Inclusions visible under 10x magnification as well as to the human eye. We do not recommend buying diamonds in any of these grades. Because they are less common, diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are more highly valued and priced.
Not to be confused with karats, the unit for measuring the purity of gold, or carrots, the vegetable which helps you see in the dark, carats refer to the weight of the jewel. One carat weighs 0.2 grams, which is divided into 100 points, so a 50-point diamond weighs ½ a carat. Of course, as March points out: “Two diamonds can be of equal carat-weight, but differ in value according to their cut, colour, and clarity.”