Findiamond buying guide
A diamond’s 4 C’s represent the four main components of its beauty and structure: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. When looking at a diamond, the eye perceives a balance of its characteristics and components, including, but not limited to, the 4 C’s.
Each of the C’s are graded on a scale, and can be evaluated for quality. Though some universal terminology and standard grading exists, it does vary by lab entity. The most consistent entities—and the ones we recommend gaining a certificate from—are the GIA and the AGS.
Gradings of the 4 C’s help determine the value of a diamond and indicate its quality. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Knowing the basics of these gradings is helpful when comparing two similar diamonds, but what remains most important is how the diamond appears to the naked eye—and how attractive the diamond is overall. In this sense, having a foundational understanding of the 4 C’s is imperative as a buyer, so that you can avoid spending your budget on a component that will go unnoticed.
Diamond Cut specifically refers to the quality of a diamond’s angles, proportions, symmetrical facets, brilliance, fire, scintillation and finishing details. These factors directly impact a diamond’s ability to sparkle, along with its overall aesthetic appeal.
The GIA grades Diamond Cut on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades, depending on Diamond Shape, signify proportions and angles cut for maximum brilliance and fire.
Cuts vary significantly among diamonds and diamond cutters. At times, a cutter may aim for maximum Carat weight, leaving the diamond too deep or too shallow for optimal light reflection. Other times a diamond may be cut to minimize the number of inclusions, improving its Clarity, but forgoing maximum sparkle. Even an Ideal cut diamond may have a yellow tint that is too noticeable and detracts from the gem’s beauty.
More importantly, though, is ensuring Cut is a focal point of your diamond selection.
Fancy diamond color is graded along three different axes. They are hue (the actual color – i.e., red, blue, green, or anything in between), tone (the relative lightness or darkness of the color), and saturation (how strong or weak the color is).
Due is most often described as a combination of two or more colors. When the first color is listed in an adjective form and the second color in a noun form (ie, Orangy Yellow), the first color is the modifying color and the second color is the primary color.
Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid
Fancy Light implies a stone with both weak saturation and a light tone. Fancy implies a stone with either a slightly darker tone, or a slightly stronger saturation, and perhaps both.
For colors that are best displayed in a lighter tone (ie, colors that are generally “brighter”) such as yellow, and pink, Fancy Intense implies a relatively lighter tone with a significantly stronger saturation.
Fancy Vivid also implies a relatively lighter tone, yet coupled with the strongest possible saturation. For “darker” colors such as blue, Fancy Vivid can only refer to the diamond with a fully saturated darker blue.
Fancy Deep and Fancy Red
With other hues, lighter or darker tones take on completely new names. In general, the darkest tone of color will full saturation is usually called “Fancy Deep.”
When Fancy Deep Pink gets just a bit darker and a bit more saturated, it becomes Fancy Red. Darker yellows become modified with the “Brown” hue, and darker Blue or Green often becomes “Grayish.”
Clarity grades are assigned by examining the finished diamond face-up at 10X magnification in neutral lighting. When strictly graded, F and IF indicate the diamond is Flawless, or Internally Flawless; revealing no inclusions at this magnification. VVS1 and VVS2 indicate Very Very Slight inclusions; only the minutest imperfections were detected. VS1 and VS2 imply Very Slight inclusions; the grader saw only minor characteristics. SI1 and SI2 grades indicate the diamond was Slightly Included; inclusions were notable under 10X magnification. I1 means Included; characteristics were obvious to the grader when magnified. I2 and I3 grades are reserved for diamonds with extremely obvious inclusions and/or durability issues caused by their clarity features.
Diamond weight is expressed in carats (one carat is equal to 200 milligrams). Carats are divided into 100 points so a 0.78 ct diamond is called a 78 pointer. Another term used by diamond professionals is grain. One grain equals 25 points so a one-carat diamond can be called 1ct, or 100 points, or 4 grains.