education

Diamonds – The Four Cs

By 17.04 September 20th, 2018 No Comments

EDUCATION

BUYING GUIDES

Why do we use the Four Cs when purchasing diamonds?

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world’s most respected scientific and unequalled authority for knowledge of diamonds, created the benchmark International Diamond Grading System by which diamonds are judged world-wide, known as the Four Cs.

An important tip when buying a diamond:

To be sure that you receive the most value when purchasing diamonds, it is of paramount importance to learn as much as possible about how diamonds are classified so that you become familiar with the various aspects and topics associated with diamonds, namely the Four CsCut, Color, Clarity, and Carat – the Universal Language of Diamonds.  Knowledge of the Four Cs will place you in the right position to make sensible and perfect choices. A 5th C to be considered is the Care of diamonds.

The meaning of Cut:

The first and most important of the Four Cs is Cut and what makes it a ‘prime cut’ with respect to its beauty! A well-cut diamond directs more light through the crown of the diamond. Cutting determines Brilliance which is how both external and internal white light is reflected from the diamond. Dispersion, sometimes known as Fire, results from separate light rays which cause color flashes to move through the stone, and Scintillation or Sparkle shows the colors as the diamond is moved in different directions. 

Understanding the effect the CUT has on the brilliance of a diamond:

Cut has two main references. The first is the SHAPE and the second is QUALITY. The shape is determined by the diamond cutter and thus a human factor is brought in, as well as the complicated skills required to cut the various shapes, all of which are unique to each diamond – no two diamonds are ever the same as they all come from separate rough stones.  A well cut diamond shows light reflected from one facet to another, which then disperses through the top of the diamond. More than one diamond may be cut from a large rough stone, but the larger the stone, the greater the value, as has been noted at many diamond auctions!

The influence on the beauty of a diamond depends on its cut and thus the ‘sparkle’ or light performance that we expect from such a stone. The various types of cut or shape are different and each has unique characteristics: Round (also known as Brilliant), Princess, Cushion, Marquise, Emerald, Radiant, Pear, Oval, Asscher and Heart.  The differences are defined by the number of facets and direction in which these facets are cut, creating unique optical appearances for each type of cut.

The quality is determined by proportions, symmetry and polish. ‘Proportions’ of the various cuts determine whether or not the diamond is too shallow when the diamond loses brilliance, too deep

The grading of the CUT and other aspects, and the various levels of quality in the grading chart:

When buying a diamond, select the highest grade within your budget. The grades are assessed on a scale from excellent or ideal, very good, good, fair and poor.

“In the Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA)  Diamond Grading System ’symmetry’ refers to the exactness of the shape and the symmetrical arrangement of the facets assessed on the above scale. ‘Polish’ refers to the quality of a diamond’s surface condition as a result of the polishing process or to blemishes created after the cutting process. It’s assessed on a scale from excellent to poor.”

To qualify for an excellent or ideal cut grade, both symmetry and polish must be excellent or very good – about 3% of cut diamonds are of this high quality, reflecting most of the light entering the stone. To qualify for a very good cut grade, represented by about 15% based on cut, this also reflects most of the entering light, and both symmetry and polish must be at least good. A good cut reflects most of the light that enters and represents about 25% – these are much less expensive than the above qualities. A fair cut, about 35% of cut diamonds, is not as brilliant as a good cut.  Poor cut diamonds lose most of the entering light and are not sold by good diamond merchants. 

Role of the CUT in your buying decision:

The choice of cut is a purely personal one as all cuts are beautiful; however, some cuts are a lot more costly than others due to the amount of extra care that has to taken in the cutting process, so this choice may be dependent on your budget.

The meaning of Clarity:

Diamonds are formed by heat and pressure exerted on crystallising carbon deep within the earth. This process causes various characteristics or imperfections to be found in almost every diamond. These internal inclusions are sometimes so tiny that they are not visible to the naked eye and do not affect the beauty of a diamond at all. They may appear as dark or white dots, scratches or cracks. External imperfections are known as blemishes and may also be caused during the mining process. Clarity is simply a measure of these imperfections and the effect they have on the overall appearance of the stone.  No diamond is 100% pure but the lack of visible flaws in a ‘flawless’ diamond increases the value of the stone. Diamonds which have imperfections which cannot be seen by the naked eye still have very good value.

Clarity of diamonds is evaluated by a diamond grader who uses a 10-power magnification process. The clarity is then noted with respect to the kind of inclusions seen, their size, color and position within the stone. The grade then reflects the degrees of visibility. The clarity grade affects the price and is also an indication of the diamond’s vulnerability as heavy inclusions can cause diamonds to break. 

The GIA Diamond Clarity Grade scale has five main categories of clarity characteristics with a total of eleven grades. These are:

Flawless (FL): no internal or external imperfections visible under 10x magnification – very rare constituting about 2% of the world’s diamonds.

Internally Flawless (IF): no internal imperfections visible under 10x magnification but with minor finish faults which can be removed by polishing – also very rare.

Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): difficult to see very, very small imperfections under 10x magnification; however, these diamonds are of excellent quality.

Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): very small imperfections seen with effort under 10x magnification. These diamonds are less expensive than those of VVS1and VVS2.

Included or Imperfect (I1, I2 & I3): major or minor or inclusions that are obvious under 10x magnification and may be visible to the naked eye, which reduce the value of the stones considerably. The transparency and brilliance are also affected.
All the above grades, except Included, give good value for money and are worth purchasing, as the overall beauty and durability of these diamonds are not affected by inclusions. To be 100% sure of your purchase, choose those with a VS2 grade or higher. Flawless stones are rare and 

when the diamond appears dull due to light escaping from the bottom or the ‘ideal’ diamond when maximum light is retracted through the top or table of the stone.

The grading of the CUT and other aspects, and the various levels of quality in the grading chart:

When buying a diamond, select the highest grade within your budget. The grades are assessed on a scale from excellent or ideal, very good, good, fair and poor.

“In the Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA)  Diamond Grading System ’symmetry’ refers to the exactness of the shape and the symmetrical arrangement of the facets assessed on the above scale. ‘Polish’ refers to the quality of a diamond’s surface condition as a result of the polishing process or to blemishes created after the cutting process. It is assessed on a scale from excellent to poor”.

To qualify for an excellent or ideal cut grade, both symmetry and polish must be excellent or very good – about 3% of cut diamonds are of this high quality, reflecting most of the light entering the stone. To qualify for a very good cut grade, represented by about 15% based on cut, this also reflects most of the entering light, and both symmetry and polish must be at least good. A good cut reflects most of the light that enters and represents about 25% – these are much less expensive than the above qualities. A fair cut, about 35% of cut diamonds, is not as brilliant as a good cut.  Poor cut diamonds lose most of the entering light and are not sold by good diamond merchants. 

Role of the CUT in your buying decision:

The choice of cut is a purely personal one as all cuts are beautiful; however, some cuts are a lot more costly than others due to the amount of extra care that has to be taken in the cutting process, so this choice may be dependent on your budget.

The meaning of Clarity:

Diamonds are formed by heat and pressure exerted on crystallising carbon deep within the earth. This process causes various characteristics or imperfections to be found in almost every diamond. These internal inclusions are sometimes so tiny that they are not visible to the naked eye and do not affect the beauty of a diamond at all. They may appear as dark or white dots, scratches or cracks. External imperfections are known as blemishes and may also be caused during the mining process. Clarity is simply a measure of these imperfections and the effect they have on the overall appearance of the stone.  No diamond is 100% pure but the lack of visible flaws in a ‘flawless’ diamond increases the value of the stone. Diamonds which have imperfections which cannot be seen by the naked eye still have very good value.

Clarity of diamonds is evaluated by a diamond grader who uses a 10-power magnification process. The clarity is then noted with respect to the kind of inclusions seen, their size, color and position within the stone. The grade then reflects the degrees of visibility. The clarity grade affects the price and is also an indication of the diamond’s vulnerability as heavy inclusions can cause diamonds to break.

The GIA Diamond Clarity Grade scale has five main categories of clarity characteristics with a total of eleven grades. These are:

Flawless (FL): no internal or external imperfections visible under 10x magnification – very rare constituting about 2% of the world’s diamonds.

Internally Flawless (IF): no internal imperfections visible under 10x magnification but with minor finish faults which can be removed by polishing – also very rare.

Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): difficult to see very, very small imperfections under 10x magnification; however, these diamonds are of excellent quality.

Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): very small imperfections seen with effort under 10x magnification. These diamonds are less expensive than those of VVS1and VVS2.

are consequently very expensive. Expert assessment of clarity is of paramount importance when choosing diamonds.

are consequently very expensive. Expert assessment of clarity is of paramount importance when choosing diamonds. 

The meaning of Color:

Color in diamonds occurs due to traces of certain elements such as nitrogen, as well as the pressure involved in its crystalline formation in the earth. It is the second most important characteristic to consider when buying a diamond, it manifests as pale yellow and its grade is based on lack of color or its whiteness. Color is a personal choice but remember that the less color, the higher the grade. The human eye detects sparkle first, then color. The highest grade is D and the lowest is Z. Good dealers only sell diamonds with a grade higher than J.

The spectrum of colors and the different values

The GIA uses a 12-letter alphabetical grading scale of D to Z, with D having the least amount of color and therefore being of the highest grade. Those at the Z end of the scale show darker tones. If the color is more intense than a Z grading, then it becomes a ‘Fancy Color’ diamond. The value of ‘Fancy Color’ diamonds can be very high if the natural color is intense. These colors include bright yellow, champagne, pink, blue and green. Orange, purple and red diamonds are very rare and command high prices. The more intense the color, the rarer and more valuable is the diamond.

When a diamond is set, the color or lack of color will change according to the metals in which it is set. Examples are that of a colorless D grade diamond which is best seen in a platinum setting, a yellow diamond in yellow gold and a pink diamond in rose gold; however this is also a matter of personal preference.

Grade D is completely colorless and is extremely rare.

Grades E and F are also colorless and the difference can only be seen in an unmounted stone when viewed by an expert. These are also rare.

Grade H and G are near-colorless and it is difficult to detect color unless a comparison is made against diamonds of a higher grade – the value of these is excellent.

Grades I and J are near-colorless with a slightly warm tone – excellent value.

Grades K, L and M are faintly tinted with noticeable color. Generally mounted diamonds under ½ carat appear colorless whereas those over ½ carat may have a slight color tint.

Grades N to Z have a visible color tint.

The meaning of Carat:

Carat is always about weight and its impact on price! The weight may not reflect the size and to understand this you need to consider the weight together with the distance in mm across the top of the diamond as viewed in a set stone and the actual cut grade. A well cut diamond appears larger because of the light that is reflected out of the top. A badly cut diamond may seem smaller as much of the weight may be in the base and thus lacking reflected light. In essence a high cut grade with a low weight may appear larger than a poor cut grade with a large weight.

A carat has 100 equal parts called points so one point = 0.1 carat or 1/100 carat and a ‘metric’ carat is defined as 200mg. A diamond that weighs 0.45 carats is referred to as a ‘forty-five pointer’.

Price increases with weight as large diamonds are more rare than small ones and more desirable for purchasers; however, the factors of cut, clarity and color also come into play when considering price. If a piece of jewelry has more than one stone, then the combined weight is known as total carat weight or TW.

 

The meaning of Care:

Clean your diamonds regularly in order to keep them looking their best.  For diamond jewelry that is worn on a daily basis, a six-monthly professional cleaning is worth its weight in diamonds!  In this way loose settings and bent prongs can be checked which will prevent the diamond falling out of the setting.

At home your diamonds can be cleaned with a soft bristle toothbrush and liquid detergent. Rinse with clean water and polish with a soft cloth or chamois.

Storage is important as diamonds can scratch diamonds! Keep all pieces separate from each other in a jewelry box or separate pouches.

Included or Imperfect (I1, I2 & I3): major or minor or inclusions that are obvious under 10x magnification and may be visible to the naked eye, which reduce the value of the stones considerably. The transparency and brilliance are also affected.
All the above grades, except Included, give good value for money and are worth purchasing, as the overall beauty and durability of these diamonds are not affected by inclusions. To be 100% sure of your purchase, choose those with a VS2 grade or higher. Flawless stones are rare and

are consequently very expensive. Expert assessment of clarity is of paramount importance when choosing diamonds.

 

The meaning of Color:

Color in diamonds occurs due to traces of certain elements such as nitrogen, as well as the pressure involved in its crystalline formation in the earth. It is the second most important characteristic to consider when buying a diamond, it manifests as pale yellow and its grade is based on lack of color or its whiteness. Color is a personal choice but remember that the less color, the higher the grade. The human eye detects sparkle first, then color. The highest grade is D and the lowest is Z. Good dealers only sell diamonds with a grade higher than J.

 

The spectrum of colors and the different values

The GIA uses a 12-letter alphabetical grading scale of D to Z, with D having the least amount of color and therefore being of the highest grade. Those at the Z end of the scale show darker tones. If the color is more intense than a Z grading, then it becomes a ‘Fancy Color’ diamond. The value of ‘Fancy Color’ diamonds can be very high if the natural color is intense. These colors include bright yellow, champagne, pink, blue and green. Orange, purple and red diamonds are very rare and command high prices. The more intense the color, the rarer and more valuable is the diamond.

When a diamond is set, the color or lack of color will change according to the metals in which it is set. Examples are that of a colorless D grade diamond which is best seen in a platinum setting, a yellow diamond in yellow gold and a pink diamond in rose gold; however this is also a matter of personal preference.

Grade D is completely colorless and is extremely rare.

Grades E and F are also colorless and the difference can only be seen in an unmounted stone when viewed by an expert. These are also rare.

Grades H and G are near-colorless and it is difficult to detect color unless a comparison is made against diamonds of a higher grade – the value of these is excellent.

Grades I and J are near-colorless with a slightly warm tone – excellent value.

Grades K, L and M are faintly tinted with noticeable color. Generally mounted diamonds under ½ carat appear colorless whereas those over ½ carat may have a slight color tint.

Grades N to Z have a visible color tint.

 

The meaning of Carat:

Carat is always about weight and its impact on price! The weight may not reflect the size and to understand this you need to consider the weight together with the distance in mm across the top of the diamond as viewed in a set stone and the actual cut grade. A well cut diamond appears larger because of the light that is reflected out of the top. A badly cut diamond may seem smaller as much of the weight may be in the base and thus lacking reflected light. In essence a high cut grade with a low weight may appear larger than a poor cut grade with a large weight.

A carat has 100 equal parts called points so one point = 0.1 carat or 1/100 carat and a ‘metric’ carat is defined as 200mg. A diamond that weighs 0.45 carats is referred to as a ‘forty-five pointer’.

Price increases with weight as large diamonds are more rare than small ones and more desirable for purchasers; however, the factors of cut, clarity and color also come into play when considering price. If a piece of jewelry has more than one stone, then the combined weight is known as total carat weight or TW.

 

Take jewelry off when gardening or doing household chores or sports as well as when applying lotions, make-up or perfumes and hairsprays.

Insure your diamonds then enjoy every minute of wearing them!

 

Laboratories around the world that grade diamonds:

When purchasing diamonds be sure to obtain a grading certificate from a reputable grading laboratory that attests to the diamond’s authenticity.  This ensures that the diamond you are purchasing is a genuine stone and not a synthetic or treated one.

There are a number of grading laboratories and each uses its own grading system and nomenclature.

The major gemological laboratories in the world are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California; the American Gemological Society (AGS) in Las Vegas; the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) in London and Paris; and the International Gemological Institute (IGI) in Antwerp, Belgium. These organisations also have offices in various other parts of the world.

The Gemological Institute of America is the world’s leading laboratory due to its consistency and high grading standards and is also the most trusted and widely used institute.

The American Gemological Society has a highly respected and ethical scientific approach into diamond cutting and uses a different grading system rating on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the best, instead of an alphabetical system.

The European Gemological Laboratory pioneered specific grading techniques for stones with a low carat weight of less than one carat. They are popular in Europe and introduced the clarity SI3 rating.

The International Gemological Institute is almost as well-known as GIA but deals mainly in Europe and Asia.

Not all the laboratories use the same standards and criteria, nor the same terminology. The latter two laboratories have standards which tend to be lax, hence their graded stones will probably be found in general jewelry stores. It is to your benefit to avoid in-house grading laboratories as these gradings are not necessarily accurate and you may be paying for a low quality diamond.

Our advice is to purchase diamonds graded by GIA and AGS only.  You will be buying exactly what you will be paying for – no more, no less.

 

 

The meaning of Care:

Clean your diamonds regularly in order to keep them looking their best.  For diamond jewelry that is worn on a daily basis, a six-monthly professional cleaning is worth its weight in diamonds!  In this way loose settings and bent prongs can be checked which will prevent the diamond falling out of the setting.

At home your diamonds can be cleaned with a soft bristle toothbrush and liquid detergent. Rinse with clean water and polish with a soft cloth or chamois.

Storage is important as diamonds can scratch diamonds! Keep all pieces separate from each other in a jewelry box or separate pouches

Take jewelry off when gardening or doing household chores or sports as well as when applying lotions, make-up or perfumes and hairsprays.

Insure your diamonds then enjoy every minute of wearing them!

 

Laboratories around the world that grade diamonds:

When purchasing diamonds be sure to obtain a grading certificate from a reputable grading laboratory that attests to the diamond’s authenticity. This ensures that the diamond you are purchasing is a genuine stone and not a synthetic or treated one.

There are a number of grading laboratories and each uses its own grading system and nomenclature.

The major gemological laboratories in the world are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California; the American Gemological Society (AGS) in Las Vegas; the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) in London and Paris; and the International Gemological Institute (IGI) in Antwerp, Belgium. These organisations also have offices in various other parts of the world.

The Gemological Institute of America is the world’s leading laboratory due to its consistency and high grading standards and is also the most trusted and widely used institute.

The American Gemological Society has a highly respected and ethical scientific approach into diamond cutting and uses a different grading system rating on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the best, instead of an alphabetical system.

The European Gemological Laboratory pioneered specific grading techniques for stones with a low carat weight of less than one carat. They are popular in Europe and introduced the clarity SI3 rating.

The International Gemological Institute is almost as well-known as GIA but deals mainly in Europe and Asia.

Not all the laboratories use the same standards and criteria, nor the same terminology. The latter two laboratories have standards which tend to be lax, hence their graded stones will probably be found in general jewelry stores. It is to your benefit to avoid in-house grading laboratories as these gradings are not necessarily accurate and you may be paying for a low quality diamond.

Our advice is to purchase diamonds graded by GIA and AGS only.  You will be buying exactly what you will be paying for – no more, no less.

 

 

Clarity

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Color

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Carat

The international unit of weight, used for measuring diamonds and gemstones. 1 carat is equal to 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams.

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Clarity

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Color

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Cut

Nothing is more impactful on a precious stone’s brilliance than its cut. The cut refers to the angles and proportions of a diamond. Known in the industry as ‘fire’, referring to the coloured light reflected, and ‘brilliance’ for the uncoloured light. The cut of a diamond – its form and finish, its depth and width, the uniformity of the facets – determines its beauty. The skill with which a diamond is cut determines how well it reflects and refracts light. A diamond should be cut proportionally, neither very shallow not very deep, given its dimensions. A diamond’s cut is its most important characteristics and a measure of its apparent beauty.

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Certificate

A diamond certificate or grading report provides an expert opinion on the quality of the diamond and is provided by an independent gemology lab. Trained gemologists with specialized equipment measure the weight and dimensions of the diamond and assess quality characteristics such as cut, color, and clarity. Brilliant Earth diamonds are certified by the world’s leading gem grading labs including GIA, IGI, and GCAL.

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Depth

The height of a diamond, from the culet to the table referred as a Depth of the diamond . Depth % is the height of the diamond as a percentage of the girdle diameter.

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Table

Table referred as the largest facet of a gemstone, located at the top. Table % is the table width as a percentage of the girdle diameter.

diamond_table

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Polish

Polish refers to the smoothness of the exterior of a diamond. Polish is graded from Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. Polish grades of Good or higher have the least effect on the brilliance of the diamond and recommended by us for the finest quality jewelry.

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Symmetry

Symmetry refers to the angles to which the facets are aligned. Basically exactness of the shape of a diamond, and the symmetrical arrangement and even placement of the facets. If facets are misaligned, the diamond may poorly reflect light. Symmetry is graded from Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. We recommends diamonds with Good or higher symmetry grades.

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Fluorescence

Describes the diamond’s response to ultraviolet light. In diamonds with strong or very strong fluorescence, there may be some interference with the flow of light which causes a milky or oily appearance. Canadian diamonds almost always have none to slight fluorescence.

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Measurements

Diamonds with “fancy” shapes are measured according to their length, width and depth. These diamonds will have a longer axis (the biggest measurement) and a shorter one that represents their width. The depth indicates the measurement of the diamond from the bottom to the top. The relative proportions of a diamond ultimately affect its quality and value.

Round-shaped diamonds are never perfectly round even though they may seem to be that way when you look at them. There is a tiny variation between maximum and minimum diameter, so dimensions are reflected as measurements of maximum diameter, minimum diameter and depth.

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