THE FOUR C’S
A diamond’s 4 C’s represent the four main components of its beauty and structure: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. When looking at a diamond, the eye perceives a balance of its characteristics and components, including, but not limited to, the 4 C’s.
Each of the C’s are graded on a scale, and can be evaluated for quality. Though some universal terminology and standard grading exists, it does vary by lab entity. The most consistent entities are the GIA, IGI and the AGS.
Gradings of the 4 C’s help determine the value of a diamond and indicate its quality. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Knowing the basics of these gradings is helpful when comparing two similar diamonds, but what remains most important is how the diamond appears to the naked eye—and how attractive the diamond is overall. In this sense, having a foundational understanding of the 4 C’s is imperative as a buyer, so that you can avoid spending your budget on a component that will go unnoticed.
Diamond Cut specifically refers to the quality of a diamond’s angles, proportions, symmetrical facets, brilliance, fire, scintillation and finishing details. These factors directly impact a diamond’s ability to sparkle, along with its overall aesthetic appeal.
The GIA grades Diamond Cut on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades, depending on Diamond Shape, signify proportions and angles cut for maximum brilliance and fire.
Cuts vary significantly among diamonds and diamond cutters. At times, a cutter may aim for maximum Carat weight, leaving the diamond too deep or too shallow for optimal light reflection. Other times a diamond may be cut to minimize the number of inclusions, improving its Clarity, but forgoing maximum sparkle. Even an Ideal cut diamond may have a yellow tint that is too noticeable and detracts from the gem’s beauty.
More importantly, though, is ensuring Cut is a focal point of your diamond selection. Even a pristine 2 Carat Diamond with no blemishes or color tinting can be dull if it’s not cut exceptionally well. Cut is the biggest indicator of beauty, and should be made priority over the other C’s.
The picture below represents the majority of the cuts for diamonds and for many others stones. So a diamond can be an emerald cut and an emerald can be a brilliant cut, which is the same as a round cut.
On top of these cuts, there is a rose cut which is completely flat at the bottom, as shown in the picture below.
Cabochon cut is another very popular type of cut, but usually reserved for other types of stones, not diamonds. The most used one is the first from left, in the picture below. It is flat at the bottom and rounded, smooth and polished on the top.
Cabochons in different styles
Kite cut comes in different shapes and sizes. Depending on the shape, it can also be called shield cut, like the one on the left, or even diamond shape.
Diamond Color is graded in terms of how white or colorless a diamond is. The GIA grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless, and Z containing noticeable brown or yellow tint.
The pricing of diamonds usually reflects these grades—sometimes significantly. In most cases, the naked eye cannot tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds, though the price difference may be significant.
The most critical aspect with Color is to determine if it appears colorless in relation to its setting. You also want to be certain that a diamond is clear of any tinting that takes away or interferes with white and colored light reflections.
Brilliance, or sparkle, is created from the way the diamond is cut. It is not advantageous to purchase a diamond that distracts from this important principal characteristic.
As a general recommendation, review each diamond closely and ask for the assistance of an expert. This is the best way to ensure you’re not paying for a feature (i.e. too high of Color grade) that will go unnoticed, or purchasing a diamond that distracts or interferes with light reflection.
DIAMOND CLARITY CHART
A Diamond’s Clarity grade evaluates how clean a diamond is from both inclusions and blemishes. Clarity is graded by the GIA on the following scale:
Depending on the size, location and darkness of blemishes and inclusions, these imperfections can interfere with light as it passes through the diamond. When this happens, the brilliance and beauty of the diamond is dulled, taking away from the high quality Cut.
For Clarity, our primary recommendation is to ensure the diamond is eye clean, and that inclusions are not interfering with light reflection, so VS2 or above.
Often when people hear the term “Carat Weight,” they think it refers to the size of the diamond. In actuality, Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, not how large the stone is. A 1 Carat Diamond equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams—and weighs about the same as a quarter of a raisin. Depending on the Diamond’s Shape and how it is cut, two 1 Carat Diamonds might be quite different in size.
There are 100 points in a single carat. So, a diamond weighing 3/4 carat would be a "75 point diamond".
1 carat = 200 milligrams = 100 points.
While Carat weight is an element to consider when buying a diamond, the overall appearance and brilliance should carry more importance. For example, a mediocre 1.5 Carat diamond will not shine as brightly—or draw as much attention—as a stunning 1.0 Carat diamond, no matter how much more it weighs.
AND JUST HOW DO THE 4C’S WORK TOGETHER?
Each of the 4 C’s contribute to the overall beauty of a diamond and make each stone unique. A Diamond, however, should be viewed as an organic whole. Because the eye has difficulty differentiating one component by itself, such as Clarity or Color, it is important to consider how the 4 C’s impact each other.
To evaluate a diamond using the 4 C’s, consider the following:
- Cut: Make Cut a primary focus during your search, as it is the “C” which most readily impacts a diamond’s beauty. Look for high levels of brilliance and fire, and be willing to reduce your spending in other areas like Clarity or Color to ensure an exceptional Cut.
- Color: A diamond should look white or colorless to the naked eye. Ensure the Color does not distract or interfere with white and colored light reflection.
- Clarity: Choose a diamond that is eye clean. Blemishes and inclusions should not distract from the brilliance or fire of a diamond.
Carat: Consider what is important for you and the one you love, but remember that brilliance and beauty will outshine mere weight each and every time. Be open to lowering your Carat weight to ensure you purchase a stunning diamond.
With these fundamentals in mind, remember that a diamond is a precious whole, and should be looked at in totality.