4 Cs - Carat, Cut, Clarity & Color

CARAT

Diamonds and other gemstones are weighed in metric carats: one carat is equal to 0.2 grams, about the same weight as a paperclip. (Don’t confuse carat with karat, as in “18K gold,” which refers to gold purity.) Just as a dollar is divided into 100 pennies, a carat is divided into 100 points. For example, a 50-point diamond weighs 0.50 carats. But two diamonds of equal weight can have very different values depending on the other members of the Four C’s: clarity, color and cut. The majority of diamonds used in fine jewelry weigh one carat or less. Because even a fraction of a carat can make a considerable difference in cost, precision is crucial. In the diamond industry, weight is often measured to the hundred thousandths of a carat, and rounded to a hundredth of a carat. Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. (For instance, a 1.08 ct. stone would be described as “one point oh eight carats,” or “one oh eight.”)
 

 

HOW DID THE CARAT SYSTEM START?

The carat, the standard unit of weight for diamonds and other Birthstone gemstones, takes its name from the carob seed. Because these small seeds had a fairly uniform weight, early gem traders used them as counterweights in their balance scales. The modern metric carat, equal to 0.2 grams, was adopted by the United States in 1913 and other countries soon after. Today, a carat weighs exactly the same in every corner of the world.

Carat Weight helps us to answer the question, “How big is the diamond?” A carat is a measurement that jewelers use to calculate the size of the stone. Typically, the larger the carat weight, the higher the price, because larger diamonds are more rare.

 

CUT

The cut of a diamond varies greatly from one to the next, and the price changes with it. The round cut is the most common cut, but other, more exotic cuts like the brilliant or cushion cut may be more expensive. This is because it takes longer to make more complex cuts and these cuts demand a higher quality stone in order to showcase the expected fire and sparkle.

 

The other aspect of this C refers to the quality of a cut. According to the GIA, the cut of a diamond is graded from “excellent” to “poor.” This is often the most difficult grading factor for a regular shopper to understand. Each diamond shape has set proportions that it should respect in order to maximize its shiny qualities. The cuts that fit these dimensions rank higher up on the scale. For example, shallow cut diamonds, though they may look larger from the top, are an example of a less-than-perfect cut.

If you see a ring that is described as “total carat weight,” this is the sum of all the diamonds in the ring added up. A smart way to get a larger overall ring on a smaller budget is to choose one with several diamonds instead of just one solitaire. For example, a 2-carat total weight diamond ring with a smaller center stone and several side diamonds is generally much less expensive than a 2-carat solitaire, even though it offers the same amount of carat weight.

As important as it is for the overall style and statement, the size of the diamond isn’t the only aspect determining the quality and cost of the stone.

 

CLARITY

Because diamonds formed deep within the earth, under extreme heat and pressure, they often contain unique birthmarks, either internal (inclusions) or external (blemishes).

 



Diamond clarity refers to the absence of these inclusions and blemishes. Diamonds without these birthmarks are rare, and rarity affects a diamond’s value. Using the GIA International Diamond Grading System™, diamonds are assigned a clarity grade that ranges from flawless (FL) to diamonds with obvious inclusions (I3).

Every diamond is unique. None is absolutely perfect under 10× magnification, though some come close. Known as Flawless diamonds, these are exceptionally rare. Most jewelers have never even seen one.

The GIA Clarity Scale contains 11 grades, with most diamonds falling into the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories. In determining a clarity grade, the GIA system considers the size, nature, position, color or relief, and quantity of clarity characteristics visible under 10× magnification.

  • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

COLOR

Diamond color is all about what you can’t see. Diamonds are valued by how closely they approach colorlessness – the less color, the higher their value. (The exception to this is fancy color diamonds, such as pinks and blues, which lie outside this color range.) Most diamonds found in jewelry stores run from colorless to near-colorless, with slight hints of yellow or brown.

 


Color vs. Clarity:
Out of the 4 C’s of diamond grading (Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight), color and clarity are the two that are the most apparent and detectable to the human eye.  Color refers to the amount of detectable yellow or brown tint present in a diamond. It is caused by the amount of nitrogen atoms in the structure of the diamond. Clarity refers to natural diamond inclusions, which can be crystals of other minerals, black carbon, tiny internal breaks called feathers, clouds or groups of mixed inclusion types, etc.  We will try to give you a quick refresher and what to look for and expect when selecting your center-stone 
 
When shopping for diamonds, keep in mind that face-up, or looking from the top of the stone as you would normally see it, generally any color from D-J will not show any noticeable color face-up, but of course comparing a D to  J side by side will be noticeable. Many may argue that color is more important than clarity because it is the first thing you see, but any stone in the colorless or near colorless range will present a diamond that does not have highly noticeable tint.  Certain shapes do show more color than others most notably ovals, radiant and pear shapes so it is wise to stay in the higher "D-I" color for these stones.  Conversely, round brilliants, emerald cuts, and asschers do a better job at masking color so you can get away with a lower color option in these cuts.
Clarity can be extremely important as well because inclusions can block light in a more included stone. Typically when diamond shopping, depending on whether you are going for quality, size, or a balance of both, any stone ranging from Flawless to Slightly Included 1, and sometimes SI2, will not show any inclusions that are visible with the naked eye. There are many SI2 stones out there that are clean to the naked eye and a trained professional such as a Lauren B salesperson can guide you to this type of stone which can offer you great savings without sacrificing beauty. The best middle range is VS2 to SI1 because you will usually not see any inclusions with the naked eye at all in the stone, but will have a much lower cost than extremely rare Fl, IF, VVS1, and VVS2 stones.  Clarity is extremely important in step cut diamonds like Emerald and Ascher cuts because they have large tables and any inclusion in the center can easily be seen. Conversely many of the other shape, which are brilliant cuts, will mask any inclusions under their faceting.

 

Both color and clarity can be important, but much depends upon your preference. One is not necessarily more important than the other, so here is what we suggest to all of our clients at Lauren B to find the largest, most well-balanced stone for your budget: stay between F-J in color, VVS1-SI2 in clarity, and you will find a beautiful diamond where you see no color and no inclusions!   At Gemsring we pride ourselves in working hand in hand with our clients to help them select the perfect.  Whether it is in store where you can see these options up close for yourself or via e-mailed HD videos with our attached recommendations you can be sure to walk away with the perfect stone at the right price