Sponsors

4C’s of Diamonds – Color, Cut, Clarity, Carat

THE 4Cs OF DIAMONDS

Diamond forms under high temperature and pressure conditions that exist only about 100 miles beneath the earth’s surface. Diamond’s carbon atoms are bonded in essentially the same way in all directions. Another mineral, graphite, also contains only carbon, but its formation process and crystal structure are very different. Graphite is so soft that you can write with it, while diamond is so hard that you can only scratch it with another diamond.

What difference can the cut of a diamond make? It’s a question that deserves a detailed answer. Each cut we make in the creation of a diamond unlocks the beauty in the form of sparkle. The final effect is magic. Over generations, we at Ritani have focused on our craft, using artistry and science to improve the brilliance, and create more of the allure that attracts us.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

Origin of the Diamond 4Cs

4Cs of Diamond Quality
Every diamond is a miracle of time and place and chance. Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, there was no agreed-upon standard by which diamonds could be judged. GIA created the first, and now globally accepted standard for describing diamonds: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight. Today, the 4Cs of Diamond Quality is the universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world.

The creation of the Diamond 4Cs meant two very important things: diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language, and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase.

clarity-and-color-of-diamonds-1950-diamond-color-clarity-chart-600-x-362
THE 4Cs

CUT

The cut grade indicates how much a diamond will sparkle.

COLOR

This grade refers to the “whiteness” of a diamond, or its lack of color.

CLARITY

The clarity grade is based on any tiny natural identifiers found within a diamond.

CARAT WEIGHT

This is a measure of a diamond’s weight and a reflection of its size.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

WHAT IS DIAMOND CUT?

A quality cut grade allows a diamond to express its natural sparkle and scintillation.

Cut refers to the quality of a diamond’s proportions and symmetry. These angles allow the diamond to capture light and reflect it, producing sparkle. If a diamond’s pavilion is too deep, for example, the center will be noticeably dark.

If you want a truly brilliant diamond, consider those with cut grades of Very Good or Ideal.

Cut-Proportions

A Diamond’s Cut Unleashes Its Light

Diamonds are renowned for their ability to transmit light and sparkle so intensely. We often think of a diamond’s cut as shape (round, heart/oval/marquise, pear), but a diamond’s cut grade is really about how well a diamond’s facets interact with light.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Precise artistry and workmanship are required to fashion a stone so its proportions, symmetry, and polish deliver the magnificent return of light only possible in a diamond.

A diamond’s cut is crucial to the stone’s final beauty and value. And of all the diamond 4Cs, it is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze.

To determine the cut grade of the standard round brilliant diamond – the shape that dominates the majority of diamond jewelry – GIA calculates the proportions of those facets that influence the diamond’s face-up appearance. These proportions allow GIA to evaluate how successfully a diamond interacts with light to create desirable visual effects such as:

Brightness: Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond

Fire: The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow

Scintillation: The amount of sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond

GIA’s diamond cut grade also takes into account the design and craftsmanship of the diamond, including its weight relative to its diameter, its girdle thickness (which affects its durability), the symmetry of its facet arrangement, and the quality of polish on those facets.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

The GIA Diamond Cut Scale for standard round brilliant diamonds in the D-to-Z diamond color range contains 5 grades ranging from Excellent to Poor.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

How does pavilion depth affect a diamond’s cut?
The distance from the bottom of the girdle to the culet is the pavilion depth. A pavilion depth that’s too shallow or too deep will allow light to escape from the side of the stone or leak out of the bottom. A well-cut diamond will direct more light through the crown.

IDEAL CUT
Tremendous sparkle. Excellent polish and symmetry.

VERY GOOD
Lots of sparkle. Great polish and symmetry.

GOOD
A good amount of sparkle. Sufficient polish and symmetry.

POOR
Will not sparkle very much. Unsatisfactory polish and symmetry.

The term “cut” has two references: One is the diamond’s shape, the other is the quality, determined by its proportions, symmetry and polish.

The top-selling diamond cut shape is the round brilliant. Other cut shapes including princess, marquise, pear, heart, oval, emerald, radiant, cushion and Asscher are considered fancy cut.
The cut of a diamond is considered to be the most important factor with respect to its beauty. The cut determines the brilliance of the diamonds – how light is reflected , dispersed and scintillated. Unlike color and clarity, there is not a single grade that defines it. Furthermore, two diamonds equal in carat weight, color and clarity can differ in appearance and value because of differences in cut quality.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

The cut is the most complicated of the 4Cs. Unlike carat weight, color and clarity, whose value and rarity are related to the diamond’s natural formation, cut quality is the result of human decision and diamond cutting skills.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity

There are three factors that determine a diamond’s cut quality:

Proportions: the relative sizes and angles of the diamond’s parts and facets
Symmetry: the precision of the cut design, especially the facets
Polish: the smoothness and luster of the diamond’s surface

The cut grades are referenced on a diamond’s certificate often using the GIA standards of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. For the most part, the actual measurements are mainly on the laboratory reports.

The quality of a diamond’s cut always speaks for itself.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

WHAT IS DIAMOND CLARITY?

The clarity grade is based on any tiny natural identifiers found within a diamond.

The shape of a diamond can affect the importance of its clarity grade. While the brilliance facets patterns of round and princess-cut diamond can hide certain imperfections, step-cut shapes – such as emerald and asscher-cuts – have large, open tables. If you are searching for a step-cut diamond, we suggest looking at those with clarity grades of VS2 or higher.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Diamond Clarity Refers to the Absence of Inclusions and Blemishes

Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. This process can result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes.’

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone. While no diamond is perfectly pure, the closer it comes, the higher its value.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity Examples
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity Examples

How did the GIA Clarity Scale come to be?
Like the color scale, GIA’s clarity grading system developed because jewelers were using terms that could be misinterpreted, “loupe clean” or “piqué™.” Today, even if you buy a diamond somewhere else in the world, the jeweler will most likely use terms like VVS1 or SI2, even if his or her language is French or Japanese instead of English.

What causes inclusions?
Small crystals can become trapped in a diamond when it’s forming. Sometimes as a crystal grows it can develop irregularities in its atomic structure.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale has 6 categories, some of which are divided, for a total of 11 specific grades.

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 noticeable under 10x magnification

Included (I1, I2, and I3)
Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance

Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader. To the naked eye, a VS1 and an SI2 diamond may look exactly the same, but these diamonds are quite different in terms of overall quality. This is why expert and accurate assessment of diamond clarity is extremely important.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

FL
Flawless. No imperfections on the surface, or inclusions within. These are the most rare of all clarity grades, and therefore extremely valuable.

IF
Internally Flawless. No inclusions within the diamond, but may have very minor blemishes on the surface. If so, they will not be visible without magnification.

VVS1
Very Very Slightly Included 1. Likely to have minute inclusions that can only be seen under 10x magnification by an expert eye. These inclusions can only be seen through viewing the bottom of the diamond.

VVS2
Very Very Slightly Included 2. Likely to have minute inclusions that can only be seen by experts under 10x magnification. These may be visible when viewing from the top of the diamond.

VS1
VS1 Very Slightly Included 1. The untrained eye may detect inclusions within diamonds of this grade, under 10x magnification. It can take a long time to see them, however (over 10 seconds).

VS2
Very Slightly Included 2. Slightly more inclusions than diamonds with VS1 grade, 10x magnification is still needed to detect any flaws. It can take up to 10 seconds to see them.

SI1
Slightly Included 1. More noticeable inclusions that experts can see clearly with 10x magnification. They may or may not be visible to the naked eye, depending on where they are in the diamond.

SI2
Slightly Included 2. May have noticeable inclusions that are easy to see under 10x magnification. Sometimes, the unaided eye can detect them.

I1
Included 1. Obvious imperfections under 10x magnification. The durability of the diamond may also be compromised depending on the specific inclusions.

I2
Included 2. Obvious imperfections under 10x magnification. There may also be eye visible inclusions, both within the diamond and on the surface. The durability of these diamonds may be compromised.

I3
Included 3. Large and obvious imperfections that can be clearly seen with the unaided eye. These may be within the diamond and at the surface level. The durability of these diamonds is likely compromised.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Simply stated, clarity is a measure of the tiny imperfections found in most every diamond.

A flawless diamond with little to no imperfections is often desired due to its rarity, but they are also the most costly. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that it is very common for diamonds to be formed with slight imperfections.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

These imperfections are known as “inclusions” and usually occur during the diamond’s crystallization period within the earth, or from the stresses of mining and processing. Inclusions are anything from tiny white points to dark dots, cracks or scratches. The fewer inclusions, the more valuable a stone is. Clarity is evaluated using a 10-power magnification. This means that the object viewed appears 10 times its actual size. The diamond grader examines the clarity characteristics with respect to the nature and number of characteristics, as well as their size, color and position. The clarity grade assigned reflects the degree of visibility of the characteristics.

4cs_4-diamond-clarity-vvs
Types of Diamond Flaws
Diamonds often possess unique markings – either internal (known as inclusions) or external (known as blemishes). A diamond’s clarity grade depends on the absence or abundance of such inclusions and blemishes.

The following lists some commonly used terminology to describe a diamond’s internal and external characteristics:

External Flaws

Natural – unpolished surface,
the original ‘skin’ of rough diamond
Cleavage or feather – inclusion along atomic grain
Pit – small indentation on a flat surface
Fracture – irregular shaped break

Internal Flaws

Cavity – opening on surface
Included – inclusions within diamond
Nick – minor surface chip
Carbon spot – included crystal
Grain/twinning line – irregularity in crystal growth
Pinpoint – small included crystal (appears white)
Scratch – small groove (can be due to normal wear)
Cloud – group of pinpoints
Chip – broken along external edge
Internal grain line – visible part of internal grain structure
Laser drill hole – clarity enhancements to remove/reduce appearance of inclusions
Bearded or feathered girdle – minute to small hairline fracture extending from girdle into stone

The clarity grade of a diamond not only affects the value and price, but can also be a good indication of the diamond’s vulnerability. Heavily included diamonds can be prone to breakage.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

WHAT IS DIAMOND CARAT WEIGHT?

Carat weight is a measure of a diamond’s weight, and a reflection of its size.

1 carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. Because carat is a record of a diamond’s weight – not its size – two diamonds of slightly different sizes may have the same carat weight. A diamond’s size is also dependent on how evenly its weight is distributed, and the quality of its cut. Some diamonds are cut to maximize carat weight, resulting in less sparkle. A balance of quality in carat and cut is therefore recommended.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

For the best value, look at diamonds slightly lighter than the carat weight you initially want. For example, instead of 1-carat diamonds, consider 0.98 and 0.99-carat diamonds. The difference in size will be negligible, but savings here can be significant.

4C's of Diamonds - Carat Weight
4C’s of Diamonds – Carat Weight

Diamond carat weight is the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. A metric “carat” is defined as 200 milligrams.

Each carat can be subdivided into 100 ‘points.’ This allows very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. A jeweler may describe the weight of a diamond below one carat by its ‘points’ alone. For instance, the jeweler may refer to a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a ‘twenty-five pointer.’ Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.08 carat stone would be described as ‘one point oh eight carats.’
All else being equal, diamond price increases with diamond carat weight, because larger diamonds are more rare and more desirable. But two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values (and prices) depending on three other factors of the diamond 4Cs: Clarity, Color, and Cut.

It’s important to remember that a diamond’s value is determined using all of the 4Cs, not just carat weight.

4C's of Diamonds - Carat Weight
4C’s of Diamonds – Carat Weight Examples

How did the carat system start?
The modern carat system started with the carob seed. Early gem traders used the small, uniform seeds as counterweights in their balance scales. The carat is the same gram weight in every corner of the world.

What are “magic sizes”?
Some weights are considered “magic sizes” – half carat, three-quarter carat, and carat. Visually, there’s little difference between a 0.99 carat diamond and one that weighs a full carat. But the price differences between the two can be significant.

4C's of Diamonds - Carat Weight
4C’s of Diamonds – Carat Weight

Carat weight is the easiest to understand of the 4Cs. A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. The carat is subdivided into 100 equal parts called ‘points.’ One point equals .01 carat or 1/100 carat. A one carat diamond equals 100 points. Carat weight is written in decimal numbers, but it is frequently expressed in fractions which are easier to understand. Diamond weight fractions are approximate and refer to ranges of weight. This chart from The Diamond Council of America® is a handy reference:

4C's of Diamonds - Carat Weight
4C’s of Diamonds – Carat Weight

Diamond prices increase with carat weight because larger diamonds are less common and more desirable. However, two diamonds of equal carat weight can have dramatically different values depending on three other factors: Color, Clarity and Cut. In jewelry pieces with more than one diamond, the carats are described in terms of total carat weight (T.W.). This is the combined total weight of all the diamonds in the piece. Determining the carat weight that is right for you depends primarily on your budget and taste.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

WHAT IS DIAMOND COLOR?

This grade refers to the ‘whiteness’ of a diamond, or its lack of color.

The less color within the diamond, the more rare and valuable it is likely to be. While D to F color grades are considered Colorless, an untrained eye could not easily spot color within G to I grades. If you are concerned about visible color, consider a yellow gold setting. This metal will neutralize warmer tones. Opting for a diamond with more color could allow you to invest more in a larger carat weight or quality cut grade.

4C's of Diamonds - Color - Graph - Table
4C’s of Diamonds – Color – Graph – Table

Diamond Color Actually Means Lack of Color

The diamond color evaluation of most gem-quality diamonds is based on the absence of color. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, and consequently, a higher value. GIA’s D-to-Z diamond color-grading system measures the degree of colorlessness by comparing a stone under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions to masterstones stones of established color value.

GIA’s diamond D-to-Z color-grading scale is the industry’s most widely accepted grading system. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colorless, and continues, with increasing presence of color, to the letter Z.

4C's of Diamonds - Color - Graph - Table
4C’s of Diamonds – Color – Graph – Table

Many of these color distinctions are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye; however, these distinctions make a very big difference in diamond quality and price.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

Why does the GIA color grading system start at D?
Before GIA universalized the D-to-Z Color Grading Scale, a variety of other systems were used loosely, from A, B, and C (used without clear definition), to Arabic (0, 1, 2, 3) and Roman (I, II, III) numbers, to descriptive terms like “gem blue” or “blue white,” which are notorious for misinterpretation. So the creators of the GIA Color Scale wanted to start fresh, without any association with earlier systems. Thus the GIA scale starts at the letter D. Very few people still cling to other grading systems, and no other system has the clarity and universal acceptance of the GIA scale.

4C's of Diamonds - Color - Graph - Table
4C’s of Diamonds – Color – Graph – Table

Are Zs considered fancy-color?
No. Naturally colored diamonds outside the normal color range are called fancy-color diamonds. The FTC provides no guidelines for the use of the term “fancy-color” in the US, but there is general agreement in the international trade that fancy-color diamonds are either yellow or brown diamonds that have more color than a Z masterstone or they exhibit a color other than yellow or brown.

4C's of Diamonds - Color - Graph - Table
4C’s of Diamonds – Color – Graph – Table

COLORLESS D
No color. Appears completely clear under 10x magnification. Recommended paired with platinum, white gold or palladium. These metals emphasize the lack of color.

COLORLESS E
No visible color. Can only be discerned from a D graded diamond by a gemologist in side-by-side comparison. Set in platinum, white gold or palladium to emphasize the lack of color.

COLORLESS F
No visible color. Can only be discerned from D and E graded diamonds by a gemologist in side-by-side comparison. Set in platinum, white gold or palladium to emphasize the lack of color.

NEAR COLORLESS G
Very subtle traces of color, typically visible only in side-by-side comparison. Will look stunning in a variety of metals, although yellow gold will neutralize any color in the diamond.

NEAR COLORLESS H
Subtle traces of color, typically visible only in side-by-side comparison. Suitable for both white and yellow metal settings. Yellow gold will neutralize any visible color in the diamond.

NEAR COLORLESS I
Subtle traces of color, sometimes detected by the unaided eye. Suitable for both white and yellow metal settings. Yellow gold will neutralize any visible color in the diamond.

NEAR COLORLESS J
Subtle traces of color, sometimes detected by the unaided eye. Suitable for both white and yellow metal settings. Yellow gold will neutralize any visible color in the diamond.

FAINT YELLOW K
A yellow tint may be detectable without magnification. A warmer colored diamond may appeal, so be sure to consider your personal taste. A yellow gold setting may help to neutralize the hue.

FAINT YELLOW L
A yellow tint may be detectable without magnification. These slightly colored diamonds may appeal, so be sure to consider your personal taste. A yellow gold setting may help to neutralize the hue.

NOTICEABLE COLOR M – R
A yellow or brown tint is clear to the unaided eye. Their visible color makes these diamonds much more affordable. Set them in yellow gold for a warm, colorful look.

VERY NOTICEABLE COLOR S – Z
While still considered a ‘white’ diamond, an S-Z graded diamond has visibly yellow or brown tones. You may find that the color in these diamonds is too much for your taste.

4C's of Diamonds - Color - Graph - Table
4C’s of Diamonds – Color – Graph – Table

Choosing the right color for your diamond is based on personal preference. It’s important to remember that you are generally searching for a stone with little to no color.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

Diamonds are colored when the crystals grow inside the earth. Tiny traces of some elements like nitrogen can color the crystals. In addition, the pressure involved in the diamond formation creates distortion in the crystal structure which is believed to also contribute to its color.

The color evaluation on gem-quality diamonds is based on the absence of color. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses a 12-letter alphabetical scale of D to Z. Using this scale, the diamond on the lower end of the scale (D) will have the least amount of color – it is considered a colorless stone. The diamond at the higher end of the scale (Z) has deeper tones. However, when a diamond’s color is more intense than the “Z” grading, it enters the realm of a “Fancy Color” diamond. In this case, the intensity of the color in the diamond can play a significant role in its value. The value of a Fancy Colored Diamond can surpass that of colorless diamonds if the intensity of the color is high and the color is rare.
D grade is absolutely colorless
E and F are essentially colorless. The difference between D, E, and F is so slight that only experts can see it when the diamonds are unmounted.
K, L, and M are faintly tinted. Diamonds under 1/2 carat appear colorless when mounted. Diamonds over 1/2 carat may show a tint of color.
Grades N through Z have a light tint, and it is visible.
Diamonds with less color are more rare and valuable. Only about 5,000 of the polished diamonds produced each year weighing 1/2 carat or more are colorless. Most of the diamonds sold are grades G to L. For fancy diamonds, the value goes up with the intensity of the color. Fancy colors include bright yellow, pink, champagne, blue and green. Red, purple and orange diamonds, though found in nature, are extremely rare.

Look at Diamonds on Sale at Amazon.com

Sidebar