Many pieces of diamond jewelry develop priceless memories. We wear them for weddings, graduations, and sometimes, almost everyday of our life. Plus, jewelry is a piece of art. The value can be somewhat a matter of taste and current trends. However, there are standardized ways to evaluate a diamond. To assign it a price and value. Official monetary prices for diamonds are determined by the “four Cs”: cut, color, clarity, and carat.
1. Let’s Start With Cut
Cut Vs. Shape
It’s important to note that a diamond’s CUT is not the same thing as its SHAPE. In regards to the 4Cs, CUT refers to:
- the proportions of the many tiny facets cut into a stone (traditionally fifty-eight facets)
- how well they interact with light
- plus, the overall finish or polish of the gem.
SHAPE refers to the basic outline of the shape of the stone, such as round, square, marquise, pear, etc.
The Human Touch
Cut is the only one of the four Cs that is determined by human touch. Cut is probably a diamond’s most important characteristic overall. However, it’s also the most difficult to evaluate. Trust your eye more than paperwork when it comes to the sparkle you witness in a diamond.
The diamond cutter’s challenge is to create the most optically beautiful diamond without sacrificing size. Symmetry and polish are the most basic, important considerations in regard to the technique of a good cut.
Cut Equals Sparkle
A diamond’s cut determines how much light it can refract. Consequently, the cut makes a huge difference in a diamond’s sparkle. Ideally, nearly all the light that passes through a diamond will be refracted back through the top of the stone. Instead of being lost through its sides and bottom. Let’s look at three important light factors with diamonds:
- brightness, or the total amount of refracted light
- fire, or how the light disperses into the color spectrum
- And, scintillation, or how the light flashes and sparkles as the stone is moved.
Grading Terms For Cut
By the grading system set down by the Gemological Institute of America, a diamond’s cut may be rated Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. “Excellent” rated diamonds are more rare and refract nearly all light that enters them back through the top of the stone. Diamonds rated “Poor” lose most of their light through their bottoms and sides. Therefore, you see more sparkle with an “Excellent” cut diamond. Because of the increased sparkle, an “Excellent” cut diamond may appear larger as well.
Take two flawless, colorless diamonds of equal carat weight. However, one is cut well and the other is cut poorly. The diamond rated as an “Excellent” cut appears clear and fiery. In comparison, the one rated as a “Poor” cut appears lifeless and dull. Therefore, they sell for two very different prices.
In addition to affecting a diamond’s sparkle, its cut may improve or worsen the ultimate appearance of its color and clarity. However, we’re examining the four Cs of diamonds. So, despite the weight placed on cut relative to the other three Cs, all four factors must be considered together to determine the overall value of a diamond.
At Copeland Jewelers our experts can help you in examining the four Cs of diamonds and how all four of these factors affect one another.
There are two separate categories to discuss when it comes to the color of diamonds: “white” and “fancy” or colored diamonds.
White diamonds are what most people think of when they think of diamonds – clear, colorless or almost-colorless gemstones.
In direct contrast to their fancy counterparts, white diamonds are more valuable when they have less color in them. The clearer a diamond is, the better its ability to reflect the colors of the rainbow for us to see. However, since our eyes detect sparkle before they detect color, color is generally considered secondary to cut when it comes to rating white diamonds’ value. However, color still plays a very important role, and it varies widely.
Most naturally occurring diamonds have some measure of yellow or brown tint, even though they may appear colorless to the naked eye. Truly colorless diamonds are extremely rare and valuable. Color classifications within the official grading system range from D to Z. More specifically, the scale goes like this:
- D to F: colorless
- G to J: nearly colorless
- K to M: faint yellow tint
- N to R: very light yellow tint
- S to Z: light yellow tint
When you get past Z it’s rated as a fancy color diamond. These classifications are determined by comparing the diamond in question with a “master” set of diamonds with known ratings under very specific lighting conditions. The differences between one letter and another are extremely subtle and will only be detected by an expert jeweler or gemologist. The color of metal surrounding a stone may also affect its appearance. If a diamond appears yellowish against white metal it may not look as yellow in a yellow gold setting.
The final piece in determining the color of a white diamond is its fluorescence. Fluorescence is considered a mark against white diamonds. Therefore, the price of those diamonds go down. Not all diamonds exhibit fluorescence. But when they do, it means they appear to change color under ultraviolet light. This complicated phenomenon is due to differences in wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation light. Diamonds with fluorescence reflect light of various colors even when the diamond itself is colorless or near colorless. The reflected light is often blue, but it can also appear yellow, orange, or white. Sometimes, it shows an oily or milky cast, even under fluorescent light.
Fancy Or Colored Diamonds
Fancy diamonds, come in a multitude of pastel to bright colors: pink, red, purple, blue, green, orange, yellow, and brown, and all shades in between. The gradations of color in a fancy diamond are described according to the following scale:
- Fancy Light
- Fancy Dark
- Fancy Deep
- Fancy Intense
- Fancy Vivid
Therefore, a diamond considered “Fancy Intense purple” would have a deeper color than one labeled “Fancy purple.” Fancy diamonds are rarer than their white brethren. In general, the deeper their color, the more valuable they are. Diamonds can be treated to change or intensify their colors. However, this makes them less valuable than stones with the same color that occurs naturally.
When it comes to purchasing a diamond based on color, it’s important to look at ranges. If money is no object, then by all means, seek out Fancy Vivid colored diamonds or totally colorless white diamonds. But, if you’re looking to get a similar impact for a lesser price, consider something in the Fancy Intense or G to H ranges. Trading down in a color grade may allow you to purchase a larger stone. Or, you may prefer the more intense color over size. In the end, we’ll make sure you’re satisfied with something you like at a good value.
Whatever qualities you’re looking for in your diamonds, the experts at Copeland Jewelers will give you all the information to help you make the most informed choice. At your Austin jewelry store, we love educating our customers about the four Cs!
In general, clarity is a measure of how clear or transparent a diamond is. There are two factors that can negatively affect diamond clarity:
- blemishes, which may occur on the stone’s exterior. Blemishes happen naturally. However, they can also result from the polishing process or from stress on the diamond as it is worn. Diamonds are hard. But, they can be damaged.
- Inclusions, which are imperfections inside the gemstone. Inclusions are irregularities in the atomic structure of a diamond. For example, clouding or feathering. Inclusions occur for a number of reasons. Volcanic eruption brings the diamond to the earth’s surface. Some diamonds have no blemishes or inclusions whatsoever. However, this is really rare. Even some jewelers have never seen a totally flawless diamond. For gemstones that do have blemishes or inclusions affecting their clarity, these marks are unique from stone to stone. Much like the birthmarks on a human being.
Diamond imperfections can be invisible or visible to the naked eye. Their visibility can be minimized in the process of cutting the gem. So, clarity is the “C” that has the least impact on the overall value of a stone. Diamond clarity is evaluated under 10x magnification, an industry standard. Attention is paid to the quantity, visibility, locations, and sizes of any imperfections. These imperfections or inclusions are noted, along with their possible effects on the stone’s durability. Clarity grading consists of eleven ratings:
- (FL) Flawless – absolutely no blemishes or inclusions
- (IF) Internally Flawless – no inclusions, but minor blemishes on the stone’s surface
- VVS1 and VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included, levels 1 and 2) – having miniscule inclusions that are difficult to see at 10x magnification
- VS1 and VS2 (Very Slightly Included, levels 1 and 2) – having minor inclusions ranging from difficult to see to somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification and on a white background
- SI1 and SI2 (Slightly Included, levels 1 and 2) – having inclusions that are easily seen under 10x magnification on a white background and may be visible with the naked eye when viewed from the bottom of the diamond
- I1, I2 and I3 (Included, levels 1, 2, and 3) – having obvious inclusions, which may be visible to the naked eye when viewed from the top of the stone
It’s especially important to pay attention to any internal feathering, which could potentially cause the stone to crack, depending on the feathering’s size and position. Remember that diamonds with very few or no imperfections are more rare. Therefore, they’ll be more expensive. In addition, most minor blemishes and inclusions are invisible to the naked eye. Some of these inclusions may be lessened or eliminated altogether with the right cut of the stone. Plus, a good bench jeweler can hide an inclusion with the proper placement of a prong.
At Copeland Jewelers, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll always get an honest, fair, and accurate evaluation of a diamond’s clarity. Our experts can help you choose the best stone based on your target price and design ideas. We are always happy to help you understand the four Cs of diamonds!
The weight of a diamond is measured in carats, making this C the most objective of the four factors. In the early twentieth century, the measurement of one carat was standardized to equal one fifth of a gram (0.20 g), or seven thousandths of an ounce (0.007 oz). A diamond’s weight is measured extremely precisely. Each carat is broken down into hundredths, often referred to as “points.” Therefore, this means that a half-carat diamond weighs 0.50 carats, or 50 points.
A diamond’s weight does not necessarily correspond to its surface area, since the surface area is determined by the stone’s cut. The cut of a stone is generally designed to maximize color and clarity, and it may cause the stone’s weight in carats to decrease significantly – hence why the four Cs should be considered all together, relative to one another, in determining a stone’s value. Diamonds that are cut to appear large may have relatively small carat values, while those that are cut to appear small may have relatively large carat values. Once a diamond is set in a piece of jewelry in Austin (or anywhere else!), its weight can no longer be precisely determined, but an approximate weight can be determined by examining its outer dimensions. If multiple diamonds are used in one piece of jewelry, a number for “total carat weight” will likely be used, rather than listing the carats of each stone individually.
The rarity of diamonds, especially quality diamonds, makes their value relative to their carat size less straightforward than you might expect. Statistically, a single one-carat stone will be found among every million diamonds that are mined, while a single two-carat stone will be found among every five million. For this reason, if Diamond A and Diamond B have similar colors, clarities, and cuts, but Diamond B weighs twice as much, it’s likely to be three or even four times more expensive than Diamond A. Additionally, 0.50, 0.75, and 1.00 carats are referred to as “magic sizes,” and they can command premium prices. While a diamond of 0.48 carats and another of 0.50 carats may appear almost identical, the one that is slightly smaller will probably cost significantly less, all other factors being equal.
While carat is the easiest of the four Cs to define with a numerical value, it should probably be the least important factor in determining what you like and don’t like. The other three Cs will have a much greater impact on a stone’s appearance, especially when it comes to brilliance and sparkle. It’s much better to spend your money based on how a piece of jewelry looks when you wear it than based on its weight. When it comes to finding jewelry that fits your preferences, or learning about how jewelry is created and evaluated, look no further than Copeland Jewelers, your Austin jewelry store. Our wide selection, knowledgeable staff, and reputation for custom jewelry design will ensure you find exactly what you’re looking for.