Buying a Diamond: The Four Cs

When talking diamonds, you often hear about the Four Cs — carat, cut, color and clarity. These are the four key characteristics of diamond. The more you know about the 4 Cs, they more you’ll understand the quality of diamond that you are buying.

Diamonds
Image: istockphoto

Carat
Diamond size is measured in carat weight. Each carat equals 100 points. Therefore, you might hear a 1/2 carat stone being called a 50-point diamond, or a 2 carat rock being referred to as a 200-point diamond. But don’t think think that bigger is always always better — size isn’t the only thing that matters.

Cut
Contrary to what many people think, the cut of the diamond doesn’t refer to the shape. It actually refers to the craftsmanship in cutting the stone. Diamond cutters try to cut a stone to make best use of light. If a diamond is cut too deep, then too much light will escape on the opposite side. If a diamond is cut too shallow, light escapes before it can be reflected. All the facets must be cut precisely with symmetry in order to achieve maximum brilliance.

Diamond shape does come into play when choosing your stone. You can select from round, oval, pear, emerald, princess, marquise, heart and other shapes.

Color
Diamonds are graded by color from D through Z. D, E and F are colorless and the most rare (and thus the most expensive). G, H, I and J are near colorless and very high quality. The closer to colorless, the higher the price and the more rare the gem.

Clarity
Clarity refers to a diamond’s purity. When a stone is extracted, tiny traces of natural elements are inside. These elements are often referred to as inclusions. These inclusions can interfere with light passing through the stone. Therefore, you want as few inclusions as possible. Flawless (FL) diamonds are very rare, as are internally flawless (IF) stones. The clarity scale also includes Very, Very Small Inclusions or Very Very Slightly Imperfect (VVS1, VVS2), Very Small Inclusions or Very Slightly Imperfect (VS1, VS2), Small Inclusions or Slightly Imperfect (SI1, SI2) and Imperfect Eye-visible Inclusions (I1, I2, I3).

When choosing a diamond, you need to find a balance among the 4 Cs in price range that you can afford.

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