Diamond Buying Guide – The 4 Cs

If you’ve ever shopped for diamond jewelry, you likely heard of the 4 Cs of characterizing diamond quality.  Created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), they are color, clarity, cut and carat.  The 4 Cs are a useful shorthand way of understanding the unique characteristics of a particular diamond.

Color – The color of a diamond is very important to the overall beauty of the stone.   Although the clarity of a diamond is often not discernible to the naked eye, a color that is darker than white (colorless), while subtle, may be visible to even the average consumer.  Universally recognized, GIA’s color scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow-brown).  Rare fancy diamonds, such as pink, blue and green diamonds, are not graded on the D to Z range, but rather by intensity of color.  Although not as well known as the colorless white diamond, some fancy colored diamonds, such as the red diamond, can be even more expensive and rare than the white diamond!

Clarity – Diamond clarity refers to the absence or presence of inclusions and blemishes.  GIA’s diamond clarity grading categories are as follows:

💎 Flawless (FL) - No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
💎 Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions visible under 10x magnification.
💎 Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – Extremely slight inclusions that are difficult for even an experienced grader to see under 10x magnification.
💎 Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification.
💎 Included (I1, I2, I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification.

As most people know, flawless diamonds are the rarest.  SI diamonds and higher are often used for engagement rings.

Cut – The cut of a diamond determines the amount of brightness, fire and scintillation in a particular stone.   Although many think the cut of a diamond refers to the shape of the diamond, it actually refers to the proportions, symmetry and polish of the diamond.  The five categories used to characterize diamond cut are Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor.  When Excellent, the cut of a diamond interacts with the light to radiate the most beauty and uniqueness of that particular stone.  Some consider diamond cut to be the most difficult C to grade.

Carat – carat refers to how much a diamond weighs.  The carat is divided into 100 points to allow for precise measurement.  So, a diamond that is 0.33 carats can also be described as being 33 points.  As most people know, typically the larger the carat, the more valuable the stone since larger, jewelry quality stones are rarer.  However, it is not always the case that the larger stone will cost more than a smaller stone.  A smaller stone of higher quality, color and/or cut can cost more than a larger stone that is lower in grade in one or more of the other 3 Cs.

Understanding the 4 Cs of diamond buying is important in choosing the right stone for you and your budget.  Being equipped with knowledge can make customers feel more confident and reassured that they are getting the most value for their purchase.

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