Once you've gotten this far you have already probably heard about the '4 C's' of diamonds. The '4 C's' are carat, color, clarity and cut. The sum of the 4 C's will ultimately determine the '5th C' which I like to call cost or budget.
We will give you a brief overview to help you better choose a diamond that is right for you.
Don't let someone convince you that you need a particular quality. Everybody has different needs and wants it is vitally important to balance this with price or budget.
The carat is most easily to describe because it refers to the weight of the diamond. One carat is 0.2 grams. It takes almost 142 carats to equal 1 ounce. One carat has what we refer to as 100 'points.' Therefore, a quarter carat would weight 25 'points.' A half carat 50 'points.' And a three quarter carat 75 'points' and so on.
Coloris what we refer to as the actual visible 'tint' of the diamond. The highest color and most rare is colorless. Most diamonds sold in retail stores are near colorless to faint or light brown or yellow. There are even what as referred to as 'fancy' colored diamonds such as blue, pink and red. With the exception of the rare fancy colors, colorless diamonds command the highest prices. The worldwide color scale, derived by GIA (The Gemological Institute of America), starts at D and goes through Z and beyond to the fancy and vivid colors.
Clarity is the degree to which a diamond is free of blemishes and 'inclusions.' Inclusions are internal 'imperfections' in the diamond. Some inclusions are caused by conditions present when the diamond was formed, others during the cutting process. Since nature makes nothing absolutely pure or perfect those diamonds with few inclusions are rare and command a higher value or price. The industry wide scale ranges from the low end of 'gem quality' diamonds I3 to the best flawless.
Most diamonds have eye visible inclusions. These range from easily visible, clarity grades I2-I3, to barely eye visible I1. One must also keep in mind the size of the diamond also greatly influences this generalization. The industry uses 10 x magnifications in grading clarity in diamonds.
I1-I3 (imperfect), this is the broadest of all categories. Most gem quality diamonds fall into this range. This quality basically means you can visibly see imperfections without magnification. How easy depends on the stone. However, the lower qualities I2-I3 have so many inclusions they will generally not be shiny. An I1 stone may not be bad quality. In fact, this is mostly what you find at retail jewelry stores. The diamond may still have good to great color, lots of shine and sparkle but if you look very closely you may see a tiny inclusion. A good value for those who want a big bang for the buck and trying to stay within a budget.
SI (Slightly Included), refers to stones that under 10x magnification have noticeable or fairly noticeable inclusions but are generally 'eye clean.' Eye clean means that holding a diamond and looking at it without magnification you will NOT see visible inclusions. Most of our merchandise is SI or better. This is a quality diamond that can be compared to higher quality. The only difference is under magnification.
VS (Very Slightly Included), and inclusions are noticeable, by an expert, under 10x magnification but are minor and small in appearance. Unless you are using a microscope and the inclusions are pointed out, the average buyer will probably not see inclusions even under a 10X loupe. This is very high quality.
The highest grade next to flawless is VVS (Very Very Slightly included). Diamonds graded VVS contain extremely small inclusion difficult for even skilled graders to see under 10 x magnifications. You will no doubt not see ANY inclusions under a 10x loupe and may not even see any under a microscope. This is EXTREMELY high quality. Only a fraction of 1% of all diamonds achieve this grade.
The most rare clarity is IF (Internally Flawless). These are classified as being free of any internal imperfection under 10 x magnifications. This is extremely rare and very expensive. We do not suggest an IF stone because even normal wear can cause this type of diamond to lower in clarity by chipping or abrading.
Cut refers not to the shape of the diamond but to the proportions to which the stone was polished. This is a touchy subject because it is difficult to measure 'brilliance' in a diamond. However, there are several theories behind cutting the 'ideal' diamond such as Tolkowski. The AGS (American Gem Society), has come up with a 'cut grade' with all their diamond reports. Based upon this theory and others we can conclude that the best cut diamonds fall into a range. AGS grades their perfectly cut diamonds 0 on a scale of 0 - 10. AGS ideal 0 cuts are extremely rare and consequently will cost much more. Very fine cut diamonds, AGS 1 and 2 grades are also rare but also exhibit extreme brilliance and provide a great value.
Since fancy shapes are not symmetrical like the round diamond no information has been published as to the 'ideal cut' fancy shape diamond. However, the industry, as well as our experts, has combined information to determine a range for well cut fancy shapes. This is based on analyzing several thousand stones over years of experience. A well cut fancy shaped diamond will produce outstanding brilliance.
What is Florescence? Florescence is the impact of ultra violet light on the diamond. 1/2 of all diamonds have some sort of florescence, from very faint to very strong. This means that under ultra violet light the diamond will glow blue.
Does this have an impact on value? The answer would be sometimes. It depends on how noticeable it is. Diamonds of high color sometimes appear milky or cloudy when they have strong florescence. But not all the time. The other circumstance is when it is noticeable is under direct sunlight, which has ultra violet light in it. Those diamonds which appear blue under sunlight would be lower in value.
On the other hand florescence may add value to a diamond of lower color as it gives the diamond a whiter, brighter appearance. Diamonds with as high as H color and lower sometimes appear whiter with some degree of florescence.
Those diamonds with the higher quality and stronger florescence have the largest discounts.
Remember, discounts apply to how noticeable the effect is. Two diamonds of the same quality, both with strong florescence may not have the same discount in price. In all cases faint florescence has no impact on value because it is only noticeable in a laboratory setting and has no impact on brilliance.
What does Certified mean? A certified diamond is a stone that has been submitted to either EGL or GIA for quality analysis. The lab grades the color and clarity and takes detailed measurements of the diamond.
The importance of a certified diamond is to the consumer. You can compare two diamonds that are both 'certified' without even seeing them. If you have two diamonds both EGL certified G color, VS2 clarity, you can be confident that they are comparable.
EGL and GIA are the benchmark in the industry for certification. The entire industry uses these labs. How can you compare an appraisal from an independent appraiser with a certificate? The bottom line is you cannot.
If you are getting a good quality diamond it is better to have it certified. This way you can be confident that your diamond's grade will be comparable to any other diamond of the same grade, anywhere. You can be sure, if you are comparing certified diamonds of the same quality, you are getting comparable stones.
Your next step is to browse different diamonds and find the one that suits you and your budget. Choosing the right diamond can be a confusing process. So it is vitally important to find the right sales associate to best understand your wants and needs. They will ask you some of the following questions:
What is the budget that you are looking to spend?
What will the stone be used as? (necklace, ring, earring etc.)
Describe to me to whom the purchase is for and what sort of tastes and preferences they have.
They will then pull multiple stones and compare them side by side to give you comparable examples.
They will put the stone under the microscope so you can see for yourself the differences between the stones.
So now you have the knowledge to empower yourself to find and buy the most perfect diamond within your budget.