Diamond Crash Course Part One
Shopping for diamonds can be intimidating both due to their value, and to the fact that small differences between stones can result in huge differences in prices. Hopefully this guide will help you understand how diamonds are valued!
Very simply, diamonds are graded and priced according to the four c's: Carat, Color, Clarity, and Cut.
A carat is a unit of mass that equals 1/5 of a gram. Carat is the main unit used to describe a diamond's size. It's not a perfect measurement--a one carat round stone can look very different from another one carat round stone depending on the proportion of the table to the depth, ie how broad/flat vs. narrow/tall the cut is--but it is the most trusted measurement, and the one that means the most in terms of pricing.
Diamond color is graded on a scale of D, or perfectly colorless, to Z. Stones lower on the color scale tend to have yellowish tints. Whiter diamonds are in higher demand, so the closer to D a diamond's color is, the more of a premium it will carry. Generally, the most expensive stones will have D, E, or F color, but a G-H stone can be a good deal since generally only experts can tell the difference. Color is generally considered the second most important attribute.
Natural Diamonds are not formed under perfect conditions, and can have small flaws called inclusions such as carbon spots, bubbles, or whisps. A stone's clarity is graded on how many of these inclusions there are, and how big they are. A perfect stone is flawless, which means even its facets are without any flaws. An internally flawless stone has no internal inclusions, but may have some microscopic polish lines on the facets. VVS, VS, and SI stones have inclusions of increasing size that can only be seen with a jeweler's loupe (10x magnification). I stones have inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye. Depending on the type of inclusion, even a heavily included stone can be beautiful if it is big and white enough, and can often be great deals. Clarity is generally the third most important diamond attribute.
You may think cut has to do with the different shapes diamonds can take--for instance princess cut, asscher cut, emerald cut, etc.--but cut actually has to do with the angles and proportions that different facets of a diamond have with each other. Light refracts within a stone ideally within certain angles, and if diamonds are cut too long or too short, some of the brilliance and fire of the light within the stone is lost. Cut is graded on a scale of excellent (very clean and beautiful light refraction) to poor. Take a look at GIA's interactive tool to get a better sense of how cut can really impact a stone's appearance. Though cut can impact a stone's appearance greatly, it's generally considered the least important of the four attributes.
Find out more about diamonds next week!