Diamonds, so they say, are forever. Whether you’re just picking out an engagement ring or buying an entire set of diamonds it can be a little overwhelming to choose right ones. You may or may not have heard of the 4 C’s. They are the four steps or rules to buying diamonds. The quality and size of diamonds you purchase will surely be determined by your budget. Diamonds, though not as popular as gold in Indian culture, are becoming more and more popular. Western influence has brought the engagement and wedding rings to us which we’ve incorporated and made an integral part of our own traditions as well. To start let’s take a look at the 4 C’s.
THE 4 C’s OF DIAMONDS
The brilliance of a diamond depends heavily on its cut. Don’t confuse the diamonds cut with the diamonds shape. Cut refers to the diamond’s reflective qualities. A good cut gives a diamond it’s brilliance which is the brightness the illuminates from the very heart of the diamond. The angles and finish of a diamond determine its ability to handle light, which leads to the brilliance. The light is what makes diamonds so mesmerizing. In a poorly cut diamond the light reaches the facets and then “leaks” out from the sides or bottom rather than reflecting back to the eye. Less light reflected means less brilliance. The grades for the cut are: Ideal, Premium, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
So which cut should you buy? The Ideal cut category only applies to round diamonds and is the best that money can buy. Premium cuts are similar to the Ideal and also provide maximum brilliance. Very Good diamonds reflect most of the light that enters them creating a good deal of brilliance. This category falls outside of some customers’ preferences but their price falls slightly below that of Premium cuts. Good diamonds reflect much of the light that enters them. However, their proportions fall outside of the preferred range. These diamonds offer cost savings to customers who wish to stay within a budget without the sacrifice of quality or beauty. Fair and Poor diamonds reflect only a small proportion of light that enters them. These diamonds have usually been cut to maximize the carat weight.
Most diamonds contain inner flaws or inclusions that occur during the formation process. The visibility, number, and size of these inclusions determine the clarity of a diamond. Clear diamonds create more brilliance and are therefore highly prized and priced. Most diamonds have flaws. There are two types of flaws: inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions are internal flaws and blemishes are surface flaws. For grading purposes all flaws are referred to as inclusions. Inclusions include air bubbles, cracks, and non-diamond minerals. Blemishes include scratches, pits, and chips. Some blemishes occur during the cutting process. Diamonds with no or few inclusions are rarer. Diamond grades for clarity range from Flawless (completely free of inclusions and blemishes) to Included 3 (diamonds with large heavy inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye).
Diamond Clarity Grades:
Flawless: No internal or external flaws. Extremely rare.
Internally Flawless: No internal flaws, but some surface flaws. Very rare.
Very Very Slightly Included. There are two grades in this category. The inclusions are difficult to detect under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist.
Very Slightly Included (two grades). Inclusions are seen only with difficulty under 10x magnification.
Slightly Included (two grades). Inclusions are more easily detected under 10x magnification.
For grades F though SI the diamonds clarity has made an impact on the diamonds value but not appearance!
Included. There are three grades. Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification as well as to the human eye. It is not recommended to by diamonds in any of these three grades! Most people can immediately look at these diamonds and notice their flaws; not just jewelers!
Which clarity should you choose? A diamond does not have to be flawless to be stunning. Since the clarity only affects the value of the diamond and not the appearance, aside from the I grade, it is really up to you how much you want your diamond to be worth. VVS and VS are usually the best choices for both value and appearance. SI1 and SI2 are more affordable and are called “eye-clean” because no inclusions are visible to the naked eye. Unless the recipient carries a loupe (a strong jewelry magnifying glass) they won’t notice the inclusions!
The most desirable diamonds are colorless because they allow the most refraction of light. Off-white diamonds absorb light, inhibiting brilliance. Color is the result of the composition of a diamond and does not change over time. A colorless diamond allows more light to pass through it giving off a sparkle. Only a few, rare diamonds are truly colorless. The whiter a diamonds color, the greater its value. This does not include fancy color diamonds because they are very rare and expensive and are actually more valuable for their color. The GIA’s professional color scale grades diamonds for D through Z. Diamonds graded D though F are virtually colorless. Those graded G through I show no color to the untrained eye.
If your diamond will be set in white gold or platinum you may want to opt for a higher color grade than if than if the setting is in yellow gold. A very faint yellow color will be visible in diamonds graded J through M but this can be minimized by selecting the right jeweler.
A carat is the unit weight by which diamonds are measured. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams. Size does matter! Differences in size are clearly visible, even to the untrained eye. Carat should not be confused with karat, which is the method of determining the purity of gold. Large diamonds are rare and have a greater value per carat.
What size diamond should you buy? Well, that weighs heavily on your budget. A general guideline for a diamond engagement ring is to spend two month’s salary but it’s not a rule so don’t feel that you have to abide by it. Deciding on a carat size means striking a balance between size and quality. If she prefers larger jewelry pieces, you can still buy her a large diamond by staying within your budget. Just choose one that is graded lower in color and clarity. Remember, that slender fingers made diamonds look bigger. If she has small fingers, a 1 carat diamond will look proportionately large and a larger stone may appear too big. The setting you choose should be made to fit the carat weight of the diamond.
THE 5th C
A diamond certificate, sometimes called a grade report, is a complete evaluation of your diamond by a qualified professional. The certificate tells you the diamonds exact measurements and weight as well as details of the cut and quality. It points out all the individual characteristics of the stone. Certificates also serve as a proof of the diamond’s identity and value. A certificate is not the same thing as an appraisal. It describes the quality of the diamond but does not place monetary value on it. It does, however, certify the quality of the diamond. GIA and AGS are the two most widely regarded and recognized diamond grading labs in the world. Always ask for credential of the diamond certifying lab! Different labs have different grading standards and some are more lenient than others.
Why do you need a certificate? Shopping for certified diamonds allows you to make an informed choice about your diamond selections and to comparison shop. If a jewelry store sells you a diamond without a certificate, you are buying the diamond based on the salesperson’s claim about its quality and a trained gemologist or even other jewelers may disagree with the assessment. To be safe, always ask for a certificate.
THE BIG S: SHAPE
Last, but not least, you’ll have to determine the shape of your diamond. Perhaps you may even want to do this at the beginning! It will lead you in the right direction. Not sure which shape to buy? Let’s take a look…
75% of the diamonds sold today are round. This is the most classic shape. It’s a 58 facet cut and gives maximum fire and brilliance. This shape has set the standard for all other diamond shapes.
An oval is a perfectly symmetrical design popular among women with small hands or short fingers. Its elongated shape gives a flattering illusion of length to the hand.
An elongated shape with pointed ends inspired by the fetching smile of the Marquise de Pompadour and commissioned by the Sun King, France’s Louis XIV, who wanted a diamond to match it. It is gorgeous when used as a solitaire or when enhanced by smaller diamonds.
A hybrid cut, the pear combines the best of the oval and the marquise. It is shaped like a sparkling teardrop. It also belongs to the category of diamonds whose designs mostly complement a hand with small or average-length fingers. It is particularly beautiful for pendants or earrings.
The ultimate symbol or romance, heart, is a pear with a cleft at the top. The skill of the cutter determines the beauty of the cut. Look for a stone with an even shape and well-defined outline. Although a symbol of love, the heart does not seem to be too popular in engagement rings, especially.
A rectangular shape with cut corners. It is known as a step cut because its concentric broad, flat planes resemble stair steps. Since inclusions and inferior color are more pronounced in this particular cut, take pains to select a stone of superior clarity and color.
This is a square or rectangular cut with numerous sparkling facets. It is a relatively new cut and often finds its way into solitaire engagement rings. Flattering to a hand with long fingers, it is often embellished with triangular stones at its sides. Because of its design, this cut requires more weight to be directed toward the diamond’s depth in order to maximize brilliance. Depth percentages of 70% to 78% are not uncommon.
This is a spectacular wedge of brittle fire. First developed in Amsterdam, the exact design can vary depending on a particular diamond’s natural characteristics and the cutter’s personal preferences. It may be a traditional triangular shape with pointed corners or a more rounded triangular shape with 25 facets on the crown, 19 facets on the pavilion, and a polished girdle. It is definitely for the adventurous.
A square or rectangular cut that combines the elegance of the emerald shape with the brilliance of the round. Its 70 facets maximize the effect of its color refraction. This cut requires more weight to be directed toward the diamond’s depth in order to maximize brilliance because of its design. Depth percentages of 70% to 78% are not uncommon.
Not so popular and perhaps you may have never heard of it, the cushion cut diamond is an antique style cut that looks like a cross between an Old Mine Cut (a deep cut with large facets that was common in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries) and a modern oval cut.
These are just some of the standard shapes popular in diamonds. It does not, however, stop there. More shapes include flower, cloverleaf, triangle, and kite. Some cuts are variations on standard shapes. Others spin of the natural crystal formation of the stone. Your individual taste will determine the shape of your diamond.
IN THE END…
Remember, that it’s all quite simple if you just start by determining your budget. Once you have some numbers to work with it will be much easier to go about selecting from there. Whether you’re buying just one diamond or several don’t let all the “rules” of diamond buying get to you. They were merely created as guidelines to help you select the right piece. A big price tag will not help you express your love any better so just stay within you budget and choose what you like best.
[photo credits: flickr.com, diamondsourceva.com, twincitydiamonds.com, andale.com, diamonds.com, diamondcube.com, myjewelrybox.com, dyn-images.hsni.com, amazon.com, moissanite-buyers-guide.com, yourloosediamonds.com, malanijewelers.com, suratdiamond.com]