Using the Four C’s
Diamonds are much more than a girl’s best friend – they’re beautiful, versatile, durable and rare. Each diamond is unique, but there are properties common to all diamonds that determine value and desirability. These are known in the jewelry industry as the “Four Cs.” Knowledge and understanding of these properties is crucial to helping you select a diamond that will be cherished forever.
The Four Cs are: Carat weight, Color, Clarity and Cut. Now let’s break each one down:
Ancient gem traders used carob seeds to balance their scales when buying stones. From this where we get the modern word “carat” – the standard unit of gemstone weight. A carat is divided into 100 “points” (just as a dollar is divided into 100 cents). For example, a diamond weighing exactly one-half carat (.50 ct.) can be described as weighing 50 points. A diamond that weighs 105 points (1.05 ct.) weighs just over one carat, and so on. Two diamonds of the exact same weight may be vastly different in value depending on the other Cs.
You may be surprised to know the vast majority of diamonds are brown, gray, or yellow, and simply not suitable for use in fine jewelry! However, a small percentage of diamonds exhibit little or no perceptible color and are known as “white” or “near-white,” the most desired as treasured gems. Most gem-quality diamonds appear colorless, but do actually have a slight, barely visible tint of color when viewed unmounted and under special lighting. The color grade is determined by how close to colorless the diamond is. A whiter diamond is of course rarer and therefore more highly valued.
Nature rarely creates perfection, and diamonds are no exception to this rule. Most gem quality diamonds contain minor birthmarks – called inclusions – attesting to the incredibly violent environment in which they were formed. Most inclusions are difficult, if not impossible to see without the aid of a microscope and don’t usually affect the beauty of a diamond. But they do identify the diamond as natural (“real”), and distinguish it from any other diamond in the world. The clarity grade is determined by the ease with which these natural characteristics can be seen under a microscope. A diamond with smaller, more difficult-to-spot inclusions is ideal and valuable.
Cut refers not only to the overall shape of a diamond – round, marquise, princess, etc., but also (and perhaps more importantly) the accuracy and precision of the cutting. The cutting quality – often called the “make” determines the overall brilliance and beauty of a diamond. A round, brilliant-cut diamond, for example, has 58 little individually cut and polished planes (facets) that must be in exact alignment and proportion to each other in order to achieve maximum brilliance and fire. A well cut diamond dances in the light, but a poorly cut stone (in industry jargon) is called “sleepy”.
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