THE 4 C’s
Diamond Quality Factors
These are known as the 4Cs. When used together, they describe the quality of a finished diamond. The value of a finished diamond is based on this combination.
A diamond’s value is often affected by the rarity of one or more of the 4Cs. Colorless diamonds are scarce—most diamonds have tints of yellow or brown. So a colorless diamond rates higher on the color grading scale than a diamond that is light yellow. Value and rarity are related: In this case a colorless diamond is more rare and more valuable than one with a slight yellow color. The same relationship between rarity and value exists for clarity, cut, and carat weight.
The 4Cs describe the individual qualities of a diamond, and the value of an individual diamond is based on these qualities. The terms that people use to discuss the 4Cs have become part of an international language that jewelry professionals can use to describe and evaluate individual diamonds.
Today, the descriptions of each of the 4Cs are more precise than those applied to almost any other consumer product. And they have a long history. Three of them—color, clarity, and carat weight—were the basis for the first diamond grading system established in India over 2,000 years ago.
The color evaluation of most gem-quality diamonds is based on the absence of color. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, and consequently, a higher value. GIA’s D-to-Z color-grading system measures the degree of colorlessness by comparing a stone under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions to masterstones of established color value.
GIA’s D-to-Z color-grading scale is the industry’s most widely accepted grading system. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colorless, and continues, with increasing presence of color, to the letter Z.
Many of these color distinctions are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye; however, these distinctions make a very big difference in diamond quality and price.
Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. This process can result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes.’
Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone. While no diamond is perfectly pure, the closer it comes, the higher its value.
The GIA Clarity Scale has 6 categories, some of which are divided for a total of 11 specific grades.
Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader. To the naked eye, a VS1 and an SI2 diamond may look exactly the same, but these diamonds are quite different in terms of overall quality. This is why expert and accurate assessment of clarity is extremely important.
Diamonds are renowned for their ability to transmit light and sparkle so intensely. We often think of a diamond’s cut as shape (round, emerald, pear), but a diamond’s cut grade is really about how well a diamond’s facets interact with light.
Precise artistry and workmanship are required to fashion a stone so its proportions, symmetry and polish deliver the magnificent return of light only possible in a diamond.
The quality of cut is crucial to the diamond’s final beauty and value. And of all the 4Cs, it is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze.
The GIA Cut Grading System for the standard round brilliant diamond evaluates seven components. The first three, brightness, fire and scintillation, consider the diamond’s overall face-up appearance. The remaining four, weight ratio, durability, polish and symmetry, assess a diamond’s design and craftsmanship.
Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond.
The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow.
The sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond.
Diamond Carat Weight
Diamond carat weight is the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. A metric “carat” is defined as 200 milligrams.
Each carat can be subdivided into 100 ‘points.’ This allows very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. A jeweler may describe the weight of a diamond below one carat by its ‘points’ alone. For instance, the jeweler may refer to a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a ‘twenty-five pointer.’ Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.08 carat stone would be described as ‘one point oh eight carats.’
All else being equal, diamond price increases with carat weight, because larger diamonds are more rare and more desirable. But two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values (and prices) depending on three other factors within the 4Cs: Clarity, Color, and Cut. It’s important to remember that a diamond’s value is determined using all of the 4Cs, not just carat weight.