You don’t need a degree in gemology to find that perfect diamond for the love of your life, although that would probably make your quest for this holy grail a snap! Your mission is not rocket science, but it’s not a piece of cake either. You want to get the best you can afford, and not sound like a total doofus talking to the sales rep. The question is: what is the best?
A pricey (will she say “Yes”?) type of purchase like this needs some prior research. And that’s what we’re here for. So, ready to be enlightened?
The good news is that there is an actual system for diamond evaluation – it’s called the 4 Cs. Each C refers to one of the diamond’s four most important characteristics—Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat—and each one’s quality is expressed in numerical and graded ratings. The final value of a diamond is based on the combination of all four grading’s. That makes sense, no? A bit like your average student performance rating back in school....
C 1: Color
Colorless diamonds are the most expensive because they are rare. As with anything, rarity and demand carries a high price tag.
Most diamonds have tints of yellow or brown, and the color category is rated based on how much tint is present in the gem.
Grades D-F: diamond is colorless
Grades G-J: diamond is near-colorless
Grades K-M: diamond has some faint yellow tint
Grades N-R: diamond has a very light yellow tint
Grades S-Z: diamond is light yellow
Subtle differences in color can dramatically affect a diamond’s value. Two diamonds of the same clarity, weight, and cut can differ in value based on color alone. Even the slightest hint of color can make a dramatic difference in value.
Most stones in the D-G range will likely look very similar to you, but you may start to see a very slight tint at around the H grade.
I know you want to get a perfect diamond for your chosen one, but flawless diamonds are generally seen only in the movies or on the fingers of multi-billionaires. Most diamonds have internal and external flaws (referred to as inclusions and blemishes) to one degree or another, which affect their clarity. And it’s this degree that drives the rating of its characteristic.
The Centenary diamond is famous for being a perfect flawless diamond, both internally and externally
What are these flaws? Well, blemishes include scratches and nicks on a diamond’s surface, and inclusions are whatever is trapped inside of the gem, such as another tiny diamond (and no, that’s not a value-added bonus), or other mineral crystals.
Clarity grading is done under 10-power (10x) magnification.
FL — IF = Flawless
(Only Oprah can probably afford a diamond of this grade.)
VVS1 — VVS2 = Very, Very Slightly Included.
Internal flaws (inclusions) are very difficult to see by a professional grader under magnification.
VS1 — VS2 = Very Slightly Included.
Diamonds have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.
SI1 - SI2 = Slightly Included
Most SI2s are eye clean while almost all SI1s are eye clean.
I1- I3 = Included
Inclusions easily visible to the naked eye.
The lower grade stones may not be the prettiest, but they can still morph into a dazzling rock under the fingers of a talented craftsman. And that brings us to probably the most important characteristic of the diamond: the Cut.
C3: The Cut
The cut refers to how the diamond is shaped to allow for light to go through it and reflect back. Basically, it’s the way light enters and exits a diamond. That light path is what gives the diamond its brilliance and dazzle – or as your sales rep will refer to as “fire.” With a masterful cut even a yellow “frozen spit” rock can give off fire like Rihanna's diamond!
In a well-cut diamond, light enters the top and exits the top, absorbing light and reflecting it back in “fireworks”. When a diamond is cut too shallow or too deep, the light disperses from the bottom and sides, making it look duller, darker and smaller. Yet, keep in mind that cut grades only apply to round diamonds.
We’re not going to get bogged down by the many mathematical algorithms that go into the proper precisions of the cut. For your purposes, the grading certification for the cut should say “Ideal”, “Excellent” or “Very Good.”. Or you can just rely on your eyes: Does the diamond sparkle less than the others on the display? Does it look dark when you look into it? Does it give off a “lifeless” impression? Then it’s best to keep on searching.
Most people think that carat signifies the diamond’s brilliance and power as a gem, but it actually refers to its weight. Carat is a unit of weight measurement. One carat weighs one-fifth of a gram (.20g) – about the weight of a paper clip. Popular carat weights are ½ ct, ¾ ct, 1 ct., etc.
This category is a bit tricky, because you’d think that the bigger the carat the more valuable the diamond, right? But that’s not always the case. A big diamond poorly cut and with cloudy appearance will be less attractive and therefore less valuable than a small, well-cut diamond with very good clarity. So “bigger is better” is not necessarily true in a diamond selection. Still, given equal quality cut and clarity, a bigger diamond will certainly be more valuable. It’s all relative.
In the end, the combination of all 4 Cs is what will determine the unofficial 5th C: the cost. One more piece of advice. The sales rep needs to show you documents showing the diamond’s authenticity and gradings. Just remember, color tells you how close to the flawless standard the diamond is, clarity tells you how many imperfections it has, and carat tells you how big it is. But, pay most attention to the “cut” – that is the deal-breaker!