Congratulations! If you are in the market looking to buy a diamond, chances are it is because you found someone very special who you want to spend the rest of your life with or you are celebrating an important milestone in your life.
The good news is you do not have to be an expert to buy a beautiful diamond. This article is intended to give a basic overview of what impacts the beauty and value of a diamond. Buying a diamond can be stressful, but it does not have to be.
Four basic characteristics determine the overall rarity and beauty of a diamond. They are the 4Cs: Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut. For the purposes of this article, I will use the grading system introduced by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) because it is the internationally recognized industry standard.
Carat is how much your diamond weighs (not to be confused with karat which refers to the purity of gold). There is a smaller unit of measurement called points. A one carat diamond weighs 100 points although this number can vary between 95 points to 105 points and still be legally referred to as a one carat. Most jewelers will share the specific points on a solitaire (a solitaire is a single diamond).
Color refers to the tint of yellow, brown or grey which is caused by different elements (usually nitrogen) present nearby when the diamond is formed. The color scale begins at D (colorless) and follows the alphabet to Z with more body color present as it gets further away from D. There are also fancy colors which are measured on a different scale (pink,blue,red,etc.). Color ratings DEF are considered colorless while colors GHIJ are considered near colorless. Starting with the color K the average person can see a tint of yellow which increases as it follows the alphabet down to Z. According to the Gemological Institute of America, the average person cannot detect color for the first seven grades.
Clarity is how clear your diamond is. When your diamond is formed, it will have internal characteristics or inclusions. They can look like little bubbles, crystals or feathers (or many other things). Inclusions are like birthmarks in that they are naturally occurring and unique to each diamond. Characteristics on the surface of the diamond are referred to as a blemish. Diamonds are graded under a 10X magnification. Everything else being equal, the less inclusions that are in the diamond, the rarer the diamond and the higher the value. Your sales professional should show your diamond to you under a gemscope or loupe. The gemscope is easier to use but the loupe is small, portable and inexpensive. The clarity grades are as follows: F (Flawless), IF (Internally Flawless), VVS1 and VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included), VS1 and VS2 (Very Slightly Included), SI1 and SI2 (Slightly Included), and I1, I2 and I3 (Included). Most gem quality diamonds are in the SI to I range.
Cut determines the sparkle of your diamond. Diamonds only do two things, they reflect light and they tell someone they are loved. This is referred to as the beauty factor as it is the only one of the 4cs that is determined by man/woman. The first three Cs are referred to as the rarity factors as they are all determined by nature. Cut refers to the proportion, polish, and symmetry. Think of the facets (the flat areas) on the top of your diamond as being windows and the facets at the bottom as being strategically placed mirrors. If the mirrors are perfectly aligned, the light will come in through the top, hit the mirrors and be pushed right back out the top. The light return is seen as sparkle. If the diamond has poor proportion by being too shallow or too deep, the light will leak out the bottom or the side. Cut has such a big impact on the beauty and value of your diamond that if you compare two diamonds with the same carat, clarity and color but one be well cut and one poorly cut, the poorly cut diamond should be priced up to 50% less than the well cut one.
Which of the 4cs is the most important?
Everyone has their own opinion but at the end of the day the decision is yours. Rank the 4cs in order of importance to you and your significant other and it will make your buying decision much easier. The 4Cs are an equation that can be adjusted to deliver the desired result. Someone who always dreamed of having a one carat solitaire will not be satisfied by a high clarity smaller carat diamond. Someone who works in a lab who has seen all of her coworkers have their new engagement rings scrutinized under a microscope will want a high clarity. What is most important to you? Weight? Tint? What it looks like under the gemscope? Sparkle?
Are Certified Diamonds (or Diamonds with a Grading Report)More Valuable?
Many diamonds come with a grading report from an independent grading lab. Any diamond can be graded so a grading report does not make it a better diamond but it does cost the retailer to have it graded which is factored into the price. An interesting point is only carat and cut are measured by science and this information should be consistent across all labs. Clarity and color are just opinions and opinions can and will vary. If you took a grading class and the general consensus was the diamond is a SI2 clarity, you could grade it as a SI1,SI2 or I1 and still be correct. The same goes for color. If you sent the same diamond to different grading labs, there will more than likely be slight variation on the clarity and color grades.
Who Do You Trust?
Where you buy is just as important as what you buy. How long has the company been in business? What services and guarantees do they offer? Are they financially stable? A lifetime guarantee is worthless if they are out of business in a year or two. Do they demonstrate environmental and social responsibility? Check out their reputation online on social media sites to see what their customers say.
What is the Most Important Thing to Remember when Shopping for an Engagement Ring?
Have FUN! You are on a quest for the perfect engagement ring for that special someone and about to embark on an incredible journey together through life. Enjoy the process.