Understanding the 4 C’s of Diamonds
Many people have heard of the 4 C’s of diamonds but don’t really understand what they mean and how they impact a purchase decision. The 4 C’s were developed by the industry’s peak standards body – the Gemological Institute of America – and adopted universally by respected jewellers.
We recommend you seek advice from your jeweller to ensure you understand the importance of the 4 C’s and to help you avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a diamond not appropriate to your occasion.
Here’s what you should consider before buying a diamond:
- Clarity is a measure of the number and size of the tiny imperfections that occur in almost all diamonds.
- Many of these imperfections are microscopic, and do not affect a diamond's beauty in any discernible way.
Much is made of a diamond's clarity, but of the Four Cs, it is the easiest to understand, and, according to many experts, generally has the least impact on a diamond's appearance. Clarity simply refers to the tiny, natural imperfections that occur in all but the finest diamonds. Gemologists refer to these imperfections by a variety of technical names, including blemishes and inclusions, among others. Diamonds with the least and smallest imperfections receive the highest clarity grades. Because these imperfections tend to be microscopic, they do not generally affect a diamond's beauty in any discernible way.
Flawless, Internally Flawless: No internal or external imperfections. Internally Flawless: No internal imperfections. Very rare.
Very, Very Slightly Included: Very difficult to see imperfections under 10x magnification. An excellent quality diamond
Very Slightly Included: Imperfections are not typically visible to the unaided eye. Less expensive than the VVS1 or VVS2 grades.
Slightly Included: Imperfections are visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible with the unaided eye. A good diamond value.
Included: This grade of diamonds will have minor inclusions that may be visible to the unaided eye.
- Cut is a diamond's most important characteristic.
- It has the greatest overall influence on a diamond's beauty.
- It determines what we generally think of as sparkle.
Our gemologists recommend selecting the highest cut grade within your budget. The reason is simple: of the Four Cs, no other characteristic has a greater influence on a diamond's appearance.
A diamond's cut grade is an objective measure of a diamond's light performance, or, what we generally think of as sparkle. When a diamond is cut with the proper proportions, light is returned out of the top of the diamond (which gemologists refer to as the table). If it is cut too shallow, light leaks out of the bottom; too deep and it escapes out of the side.
Ideal cut: Represents roughly the top 3% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly all light that enters the diamond. An exquisite and rare cut.
Very good cut: Represents roughly the top 15% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly as much light as the ideal cut, but for a lower price.
Good cut: Represents roughly the top 25% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects most light that enters. Much less expensive than a very good cut.
Fair cut: Represents roughly the top 35% of diamond quality based on cut. Still a quality diamond, but a fair cut will not be as brilliant as a good cut.
Poor cut: Diamonds that are generally so deep and narrow or shallow and wide that they lose most of the light out the sides and bottom.
- Colour refers to a diamond's lack of colour, grading the whiteness of a diamond.
- A colour grade of D is the highest possible, while Z is the lowest.
Colour manifests itself in a diamond as a pale yellow. This is why a diamond's colour grade is based on its lack of colour. The less colour a diamond has, the higher its colour grade. After cut, colour is generally considered the second most important characteristic when selecting a diamond. This is because the human eye tends to detect a diamond's sparkle light performance first, and colour second.
- Carat is specifically a measure of a diamond's weight, and by itself may not accurately reflect a diamond's size.
- We tend to evaluate diamond size by viewing it from the top because that is how diamonds are presented to us when set into a ring.
- To understand diamond size, carat weight should be considered in conjunction with two other criteria:
- Distance in millimeters across the top of the diamond.
- Diamond's cut grade.