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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!

Wedding Inspiration: Vintage Bridal Accessories

After you’ve picked a vintage inspired ring by Gottlieb & Sons, keep the theme going for all your bridal accessories. You’ll probably agree that when it comes to playing up that vintage feel in your wedding ensemble; accessories may just be more useful than – dare I say it – the gown.  Really! Unless you’re thoroughly versed in the fashion of each decade before the turn of the 20th century, it’s actually sometimes pretty hard to tell the difference between a contemporary bridal gown and one that’s specifically from, let’s say, the Art Deco era

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It’s largely the accessories that tell the story. And you’re in luck – there is a plethora of bridal accessories on the market that rock the vintage look.  Here are just a few gems that could have easily adorned the wedding ensemble of your favorite Jane Austen character or Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary, or Gatsby’s object of passion, Daisy.

 

 

Veil it vintage

Ahh, the romance and passion of Jane Austen’s world!  What woman would not like to be part of that era— at least for a few hours of perfect manners and Georgian society, before making a hasty retreat to her own 21st century thriving career and bustling life? This flowy, ethereal veil could have easily been draped over Austen’s Emma as she glided gracefully down the aisle to wed her beloved Knightley.  

Veil

 

Crown me royal

No ties to royalty?  No problem.   Even if your blood is not even close to a blue hue, your wedding is a perfect occasion for you to don a crown or a tiara in public —without any snickers and curious looks.  Be a princess or an aristocratic lady (hello, Lady Mary) from years gone by at your nuptials with these most royal of marquees.  

crowncrwon2

 

Head for the headband

Want to evoke the Flapper/Gatsby era with your bridal outfit?  Try a feathered or lace headband that will plant you squarely in the 1920s.   

Headband

But, if it’s that classic old Hollywood glamour that sets your heart a-patter, a jeweled band will make you look like one of those icon goddesses from the golden era of motion pictures.

 

 

Twist in a vine or a comb

For a look that whispers rather than shouts “vintage,” hair vines and combs are the way to go.  Slide a comb atop a bridal up-do or twist a flowery hair vine into a braided bun— it’s an understated yet elegant touch that delivers a vintage vibe without stealing the limelight from your gown.

 

Fascinate with a fascinator

But to really rock that vintage look, go for a fascinator.  It’s dramatic and bold and sexy.  There is probably not a single film from the 1930s in which the female star did not wear a fascinator.  And with this accessory, you’re not evoking just the 1930s — fascinators in one shape or another have been worn for centuries, so they are quintessentially vintage.

 

So, which era speaks to you?  Whichever it is, you’ve got plenty of choices in accessories to embody it as you sashay down the aisle.  But, remember, when the clock strikes 12 Midnight, you’ll have to put away these gorgeous time travel pieces, and return – gladly or regretfully — to the 21st century!