The Jewelry Box | All posts tagged 'clarity '
Close Search


Blog


How to Buy a Diamond: Looking at the 4 C's

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.  

C2:  Clarity

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.

 

C4:  Carat

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!

Chunky Wedding Rings: Is Bigger Better?

The short —but rather inconclusive— answer to this is question is:  not necessarily.  You want the symbol of your love and commitment to have some oomph and presence on your finger, right?  But if you’re dreaming of a celebrity-sized diamond rock – it just may be best to re-think that!

 

Ring trends from the La La land—should we follow?

If you’re a celebrity Instagram follower, you’ve probably been gob-smacked eyeing the diamonds on recently betrothed Hollywood stars.   Not too long ago, the winner of this battle of celebrity engagement bling was Kim Kardashian.  Her 15-carat-$8 million was a stunner. But then came Mariah Carey who trumped her with her 35-carat-$10 million engagement rock.  (Mariah was likely relieved that it was an anonymous buyer who spent $22 million at Sotheby’s New York sale last April for a 100-carat flawless diamond boulder. At least among Hollywood brides-to-be, she still reigns supreme, diamond-size-wise.)

1

But stars, divas and high-profile celebrities need to shine in the limelight all the time, and huge, expensive diamond rings stir that media frenzy that feeds their brands and careers. So, unless you have a similar status and needs, let Mariah hold the winning title (at least for now) in that battle of celebrity engagement bling!

 

Why bigger is not always better…

 

For all it’s worth, jewelers agree that the “wow” effect of a diamond ring has very little to do with its size. What’s more important is a diamond’s color, clarity and design.  So there you are.

 

And just think about it.  That huge rock on your hand will snag your cashmere sweater.  It will get entangled in your other bling.  It will make running your hands through your man’s hair a painful rather than a romantic experience.  And it will probably cause snickers and whispers at the office.  Although your friends and co-workers will  “ooo” and “ahh” while ogling your chunky ring in front of you, it might be a different story behind your back.  The words “pretentious” and “ostentatious” might be bandied about.

  

Still, not all good things come in small packages…

 

Yes, of course, it’s a no brainer that it’s not the size of the engagement ring, it’s the love you have for one another that matters.  But, let’s face it — aesthetically speaking— a .25 carat diamond in a solitaire setting tends to look like a lonely pinhead on your finger.  

 

So, if affordability is a factor (and there is absolutely no shame in that), don’t obsess with having a diamond engagement ring.  Go for other more wallet-friendly gemstones.  An opal or a sapphire in a beautiful setting will deliver just as much of a wow factor as a diamond ring.  

28758B29612

 

Listen (or not) to what an engagement ring study says…

And the survey says:  a big, expensive engagement ring just might lead to your worst nightmare.

 

A 2014 study from Emory University drew a correlation between the price (generally dictated by the size) of the engagement ring and the probability of divorce.  The study found that the higher the price, the more likely the couple divorced.  Still, the study also found that men who cheaped out on a ring (spent less than $500), also had high divorce rates.

 

So, it looks like science is saying that somewhere in the middle between the very big and the very small is the sweet spot for the engagement ring size.  You can take heed…or not.

2923929696

If diamonds have been your BFF, and your man can afford a bigger ring, go for it!  You have to love your engagement ring.  To each her own.

 

But a bigger engagement ring does not necessarily mean it is better.  It does not mean your love and commitment is deeper.  If you’re not into showstopper bling and the price point is a consideration, go smaller — without any misgivings.  

 

Michele Obama’s engagement ring was a modest 1-carat diamond and she and her hubby are still going as strong as ever after more than 20 years!  

2