THE FOUR Cs
The Four Cs is a term you often hear in the diamond industry. There isn’t much mystery behind it – it simply stands for the four characteristics that define a diamond: carat, clarity, color and cut. Not surprisingly, as a diamond’s grade rises, so does its price. But don’t let a diamond’s grade scare you away from owning it – here are a few insider tips that may convince you that chasing a D IF isn’t the only option out there.
The cut, which is entirely different from the shape, of a diamond is more important than any of the other Cs when assessing its beauty. The cut alone affects the look of the diamond and how much it sparkles. If a diamond is cut to the right proportions, light will radiate from its top, otherwise referred to as the table. If the proportions are too shallow, light will seep through the bottom. And if they are too deep, light will be lost through the sides.
The 88 Cut is not graded for cut by the GIA as it is not a traditional round brilliant cut. Notwithstanding, using a proprietary method formulated for cutting of 88 Cut diamonds, highly qualified and specially appointed diamond cutters take maximum care to ensure the optimum placement of facets for the 88 Cut’s signature sparkle and shine.
Although the 88 Cut is not evaluated for cut quality, in general, the cut grade is the result of several influential elements, which are explained in the following glossary:
Brilliance: Light reflected outward through the table.
Fire: Colored light reflecting outward from inside the diamond; greater color dispersion occurs – and the amount of fire is maximized – as the cut grade improves.
Scintillation: Light flashing as a diamond is turned and tilted. This is a fancier way of referring to the amount of sparkle in the diamond.
Weight ratio: The width of the diamond’s surface in proportion to its weight.
Polish: A measure of the kind of polishing job done on the diamond’s facets and how visible the polish marks are, along with the sharpness of the facets’ edges. As you might expect, polish plays a major part in how freely light moves through a diamond, so it’s important to avoid diamonds with poor and even fair polish grades if you don’t want to end up with a lifeless stone.
Symmetry: The precise positioning (or lack thereof) of a diamond’s facets. Symmetry plays a huge role in diamonds that have very high clarity and is less relevant in those with lower clarity.
Girdle: The outer rim of a diamond
Crown: The upper part of the diamond, above the girdle
Pavilion: The lower part of the diamond, below the girdle
Culet: The small facet at the base of the pavilion
Table: The large flat surface on the top of the diamond
In white diamonds, the term “color” describes how white the diamond is. Diamonds that are whiter will have better color grades. Color, the way we understand it, is not desirable in white, or colorless, diamonds because any trace of color is typically yellow when it appears in a white diamond. Color grades range from D, which is the highest grade possible as it means it is completely colorless, to Z, the lowest as it shows obvious yellow. Diamonds from K to Z will show a yellow gradient that intensifies as the letter grades move forward.
While the difference in price may be startling between D and J color diamonds, the actual variation in color that appears within diamonds falling at the extremes of this range is visibly subtle. In fact, to see the contrast in color, the diamonds are grouped into similar color categories. To identify color in diamonds that are in the D-E-F range, you should compare those diamonds face-down against a white background under a good light source.
D-E-F is a colorless (white, no yellow) range.
G-H-I-J is a near colorless (nearly white, very little yellow) range.
K-L-M is a faint yellow range.
It is important to keep in mind that once your diamond has been set in jewelry, it will be quite difficult to detect the color of the diamond. What you’re really investing in by purchasing a higher color diamond is the rarity of that diamond, not necessarily the beauty alone..
The clarity grades below are used by GIA:
FL: Flawless, with no inclusions visible under 10x magnification; the rarest of the rare
IF: Internally Flawless, with insignificant surface blemishes and no inclusions visible internally under 10x magnification; extremely rare
VVS1/VVS2: Very Very Slightly Included, with tiny inclusions which are extremely difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification; very rare
VS1/VS2: Very Slightly Included, with minor inclusions that are difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification; rare
SI1/SI2: Slightly Included, with inclusions that are easily visible to a trained eye under 10x magnification, and in some cases may be visible with the unaided eye; less rare
I1/I2/I3: Included, with major inclusions often visible to the naked eye
If you’re unsure what kind of clarity to shop for, the wisest option would be an “eye-clean” diamond. “Eye-clean” means exactly what you think: a diamond that looks clean to your naked eye when viewing it face-up. Any eye-clean diamond, generally VS2 and better, provides the most bang for your buck especially when compared to FL (Flawless) and IF (Internally Flawless) diamonds, which are not only the rarest of all clarities but also the most expensive.
Differences in clarity do not necessarily determine the beauty of the diamonds. Clarity simply speaks to the rarity of a diamond. An FL diamond will obviously be much rarer than an I1. Something to keep in mind, however, is that sometimes inclusions can give a diamond unique character. After all, no two diamonds in the world are truly alike. Having a certain inclusion can be your diamond’s own fingerprint that sets it apart from all other diamonds.
Carat weight is the weight of a diamond. This does not mean that all diamonds having the same carat weight will be the same size. The diameter, measured in millimeters, of a diamond face-up can be different for two diamonds of the same exact carat weight. For example, you can have two diamonds each weighing exactly 1 carat and one may have a diameter of 7.0MM while the other may have a diameter of 6.5MM. Obviously, the 7.0MM diamond will appear larger. While the 7.0MM diamond may come across as the larger stone, as previously explained in the Cut section, the 6.5MM may actually be considered more beautiful as it is the cut grade – and not carat weight – that translates into a diamond’s optimum beauty.
The cut grade is also crucial because it affects the light return, which is commonly known as sparkle, through the top, or face, of the diamond. If a diamond is cut to ideal proportions, the amount of light/sparkle that is produced through the top is maximized, which makes the diamond look bigger than it actually is. On the other hand, in a poorly cut diamond, the bulk of the weight may rest in the bottom of the diamond, which of course will not do the diamond any favors as it will make it seem smaller than it should be for its weight. So the likelihood that you can come across a diamond lower in carat weight with a better cut grade that looks bigger than a diamond with a higher carat weight and poor cut grade is quite high. A diamond’s carat weight can be understood in terms of “points” as well: a one-carat diamond consists of 100 points, so a half-carat diamond is fifty points, etc.
If you’re still in the process of trying to decide on a carat weight for your diamond, there are some things you should keep in mind to help cement your decision.
For the budget-conscious shopper who still prefers a heavier diamond, a savvy option would be an I-J color, SI1-SI2 clarity diamond, with a good cut grade.
While 1.50 and 2.00 carat diamonds may sound more attractive than 1.49 and 1.99 ones, the prices for full and half carat diamonds surge at these levels. If you opt for diamonds very slightly below the full and half carat marks, you will pay much less – the size difference would be so negligible that no one would be able to tell the difference.
Petite ladies are in luck. Diamonds generally look bigger on those with small fingers. So if you pick a decently- sized diamond to put on your lady’s slender finger, it will likely appear impressively large!
Bear in mind your top priority: the diamond or the setting. That is because settings cannot accommodate all weights and shapes of diamonds so you should carefully investigate the dimensions of your diamond before you commit to a certain setting.