You may have heard or read somewhere that the value of a diamond is determined by its quality or grade. The fact of the matter is, that while quality is very important to a diamond's value, it's real value can't be determined without considering how it looks to you - the buyer - and whether or not you find its beauty appealing. No matter how high the grade, if you don't fall in love with the diamond you're buying, it's not a good value.
These factors are collectively known as the four Cs - cut, clarity, color and carat weight.
Diamonds have been graded using the four C's for about fifty years. The Gemological Institute of America pioneered the system back in the 1950s. The system has steadily gained acceptance worldwide. In fact, every major diamond grading laboratory in the world uses the GIA diamond grading nomenclature or something very similar on the reports they issue.
When most people hear the word "cut" they think of shape. Most diamonds are round, but diamonds are also cut into almost any shape imaginable. When diamond graders thinks of shape, they consider both the shape of the stone and the way each individual facet or flat polished surface is placed on the diamond. Most experts agree that it is the arrangement and positioning of the diamond's facets that has the most affect on the diamond's beauty.
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The clarity grade of a diamond is determined by a skilled grader under optimum laboratory conditions using ten-power (10X) magnification. The grader is looking for any characteristics inside the diamond (called inclusions) or any characteristics on the surface (called blemishes). Once the grader has found all these characteristics they are evaluated based on their size, type, position, color and number. Once the grader has finished this process a final clarity grade is assigned. There are eleven clarity grades in the GIA system ranging from Flawless (Fl) to Imperfect 3 (I3).
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When most people think of diamonds they think of a colorless stone. Although most diamonds appear colorless to the unaided eye in a face-up position, the majority has a body color that can be seen by an experienced grader in the proper environment. By far, the most common body color of a diamond is yellow. Diamonds with a tint of brown are also relatively common.
Generally speaking, the more colorless the diamond, the more valuable. In that regard, the color grade of a diamond is a measurement of rarity. Rarity is directly linked to value. Just as with clarity, a color grade cannot determine the beauty of a diamond. Color preference and perception is a very personal and subjective thing. Look at the stone and decide for yourself if you like its color before you make decisions based on a letter of the alphabet.
Just like all gemstones, the weight of a diamond is measured in carats. A carat is a metric unit of measurement that is exactly 1/5 of a gram (0.20). That means there are 5 carats to a gram. A carat is divided into 100 points (like pennies in a dollar).
The carat weight of a diamond can also be related to a stone's rarity. It is much harder to find a rough diamond that will yield a one-carat stone than it is to find two rough diamonds that will each produce a 0.50-carat diamond. Because of this, a one-carat diamond is substantially more expensive per carat then a half-carat stone. As the diamond increases in size the per carat price increases exponentially instead of proportionally.