Diamonds 101: Breaking Down The Four Cs

4 c's of diamonds

In the jewelry world, we judge diamonds by using the four Cs: carat, color, clarity, and cut. Each affects the price, so read on to learn more about each C! 

Carat

Carat weight is arguably the most important of the four Cs: it’s how big that rock is! 

Carat is often confused with karat, which refers to gold purity (i.e., 18K gold). Diamonds and other gemstones are measured in metric carats. One carat is equal to 0.2 grams. While that may not seem like a lot, precision is crucial when it comes to measuring a diamond’s carat weight – even one-hundredth of a carat changes the diamond’s price.

Color

We measure a diamond’s color on a scale from D to Z, with D being the whitest and Z being brown. So, when you think about it, the color evaluation of a diamond is actually based on the absence of color. According to GIA, “a chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of water, and consequently, a higher value.” Keep in mind, some people like colored diamonds, and they’re just as gorgeous! But, if you’re looking for a traditional, bright white diamond, you want to get as close to D as your budget will allow.

Clarity

Just as our faces get blemishes, so do diamonds. As GIA explains it, “natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep within the earth. The process can result in various internal characteristics called “inclusions” and external characteristics called “blemishes.” Unlike humans, however, some diamonds really are perfect. We refer to diamonds with the best clarity as flawless. After that, the scale gets a little tricky. The GIA standardized scale breaks it down:

  • Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification 
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification 

So, clarity should be part of your decision-making, but remember, not everyone is going to be looking at your diamond with a jeweler’s loupe. Many diamonds have imperfections, and that can be part of what makes them unique. 

Cut

A diamond’s cut (not to be confused with shape) refers to the arrangement of facets needed to create an attractive face-up appearance. It works with a diamond’s clarity and color to fuel its sparkle. Again, this is graded by the GIA. 

Raw diamonds look very different from their cut counterparts. Diamond-cutters are responsible for the brilliance you see in cut diamonds. The quality of the cut and proportion determines this C.

GIA Cut Scale:

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
Diamond Anatomy
GIA Anatomy of a Diamond

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