The 4Cs of Diamonds: Assessing the Quality of Your Diamond Jewelry

By | March 12, 2013

Princess Cut 02Diamonds are beautiful and exquisite. They are used for necklaces, earrings, rings and bangles around the world. When buying a diamond, it is important to assess the quality to make sure it is worth your money. Diamond quality is assessed by 4Cs: Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat.

The Cut: The Brilliance of the Stone

The cut determines how brilliant the diamond will shine and is considered by diamond experts to be the most important of the four Cs. It refers to the depth of the angles, which affect how the light reflects and where it will shine from. Stones with the best cut will shine out through the top, which makes them look brighter. Those with a poor cut will leak the light through the side or bottom, making them look bland and boring.  Often diamonds will be purposely cut thinner and broader to make them look like a bigger diamond, or thicker to retain the carat weight of the diamond.  Neither of these options makes the diamond look brighter or livelier.  A diamond cut to ideal proportions or slightly spread will create the most brilliant diamond.

The Clarity: The Number of Flaws in the Stone

The overwhelming majority of diamonds have flaws, known as inclusions. Those with no flaws are extremely rare and, therefore, expensive and valuable. Stones are rated for their clarity from FL to I, where FL has no flaws and I is full of inclusions. The clarity categories in order are FL (Flawless), IF (Internally Flawless), VVS (Very Very Slightly Included), VS (Very Slightly Included), SI (Slightly Included), and I (Included). The clarity works with the cut to help create a brilliant shine. While the angles may be perfect, the flaws can cause the light to scatter and reflect differently, causing the shine to look dimmer.

The Color: How Transparent Is the Diamond?

Diamonds vary in color from clear (colorless) to yellow or brown. The clearer or more transparent a diamond is, the more valuable it is. The color affects how bright the light will shine through as the color absorbs the light instead of letting it shine out. The colors are graded by the alphabet with D being the clearest and Z being the most yellow.  Diamonds with substantial body color are called Fancy Diamonds and are also more valuable.  Fancy colored diamonds are found in many colors including yellow, brown, pink, green, and blue.

The Carat: The Weight of a Diamond

The Carat determines the weight of a diamond. Those with a larger number are heavier and larger. They tend to be more expensive but this does not mean that they are higher quality than smaller options available. Diamonds that are heavier can be thicker and smaller in diameter.  This adds to the cost of the diamond while it looks like a smaller stone.  The opposite can also be the case.  Diamonds are sometimes cut thinner to keep the weight and subsequently the cost down.  This makes it look like you are receiving a larger diamond than you are paying for.  However, as mentioned about these cutting techniques to alter the carat weight of the gem drastically affect the brilliance of the diamond and how much it will sparkle.

The 4Cs of diamonds are important to assess quality but the differences may be minute. It may be worth opting for a slightly yellower diamond or one of slightly lesser quality for a smaller price tag as the difference maybe unnoticeable.  When buying a diamond, it is always best to purchase from a local jeweler where you can view the actual gemstone.  While the 4Cs affect the brilliance of a diamond slight differences within the classifications can change the appearance of the gem.  Some diamonds with the same grades can look dull and dead, while other shine bright and lively.