THE 4CS OF DIAMONDS
Many people equate the term carat with the size of a diamond, and as carat size increases, so will the carat weight. But the operative word there is weight. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond and is equal to roughly 200 milligrams which is less than a ¼ of an ounce. A carat can also be broken up into 100 points. So ¾ of a carat is also 75 points.
The heavier in carat weight a diamond is, the rarer it becomes. Prices of diamond increase exponentially with the weight of the diamond, so a one-carat diamond will cost much more than two ½-carat diamonds, given that other qualities, such as color and clarity, are equal.
The cutting of a diamond can impact the size of it, so depending on how their cut, two one-carat diamonds can look unequal. If a stone is cut flatter, then it will appear bigger, while a deeper cut stone will be smaller, but may have more brilliance and scintillation. You may be tempted to purchase a stone that’s cut flatter so that you can have the appearance of a larger, or heavier stone. But a diamond that’s cut too flat will have too little brilliance and can look cloudy. Carat weight is important, but there’s no point to sacrificing other qualities that make a diamond special so you can say you have a two-carat stone. A beautiful one-carat diamond, with outstanding brilliance and scintillation is going to be the better choice, from both a personal standpoint and an investment standpoint.
A smaller diamond can always be enhanced with baguettes, trillions or smaller same-shape stones on either size. As we stated earlier, two smaller stones won’t cost as much as an equally-weighted single stone, so you can increase the importance of the ring you’re buying without doubling your cost.
Diamond clarity is one the 4Cs of diamond qualities. It refers to any flaws, or inclusions in the diamond, and how visible or detectable they are. Inclusions can be foreign substances, or minute cracks or flaws. It also refers to the appearance of any surface flaws or scratches. As with the color grading scales, clarity also has a grading scale, with FL used to denote a flawless diamond. What FL means is that there are no flaws or inclusions that can be seen when the stone is examined under 10X magnification, the standard for examining for flaws.
Other clarity designations are:
IF stands for internally flawless. This means there are no internal flaws or inclusions, although there may be small surface flaws.
VVS1 and VVS2 stand for Very Very Slight inclusions that are difficult to see under magnification. VS1 and VS2 indicate Very Slight inclusions that can be seen under magnification but are invisible to the naked eye.
SI1 and SI2 denote Slight Inclusions that may or may not be visible to the naked eye.
I1, I2 and I3 are “imperfect”, with inclusions clearly visible to the naked eye. For I3, the inclusions impact the brilliance of the diamond and are large and obvious.
In most cases, there is nothing that can be done about flaws or inclusions, although in recent years lasers have been used to enhance some inclusions or fractures in diamonds by filling them in, much the way small dings in a windshield are filled in.
Certainly the most highly valued diamonds are those that are flawless – FL – or internally flawless – IF. But excellent values can be obtained at the VVS and VS grades, as these are flaws not visible to the naked eye, but only to an experienced grader under magnification.
When it comes to the 4Cs of diamonds, color, or lack of it, is an especially important characteristic. Diamonds are given letter grades to denote the level of color, starting with the letter D for a flawless, colorless diamond. Why D, and not C, B, or A? The reason we’ve heard is that when diamonds started being graded for color with this scale, it was decided to start with D, to leave room for the extremely rare possibility that a diamond would be found that was even more flawless than flawless. It hasn’t happened yet!
The color grades of D, E and F are the rarest and most colorless. The gradations in color can only be seen by an expert gemologist. The grades G-H are called near colorless and the difference can be seen by a casual observer only when compared to a higher-grade diamond. A stone in this grade category is an excellent value. The grades I-J are also near colorless, but not to the same extent as G-H. These also are an excellent value.
The color grades move up the scale to Z, with an increasing amount of color. These are inferior gem-quality stones and should not be confused with canary or other colored diamonds. Colored diamonds are graded differently than white diamonds and are also highly prized among collectors. They’re especially beautiful when combined with white diamonds. Consider that the Hope Diamond, one of the most famous diamonds, is a rich blue color. Out of all colored diamonds, a red diamond is the rarest of all.
The colors in colored diamonds come from impurities between the cells of the crystals, or structural defects. There are many different colors that diamonds can come in, but they’re limited to steel gray, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink to purple, brown, and black
Our love of diamonds and admiration of their fire and brilliance has given rise to many different cuts of diamonds. While we still see some of the earliest styles of diamond cuts – such as the round and emerald-cut, there are many more cuts today, some of them patented by their designers and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The most popular cut for a diamond ring today is still the round, brilliant cut. It was developed in the 17th century in Venice. It is still preferred when the raw crystal is in an octahedron formation. Even though as much as 50% of the stone is cut away in the process, often two stones can be carved from an octahedron. More unusually-shaped stones are used for fancy cuts, such as a marquise, pear or heart-shaped diamond. The earliest brilliants had 17 facets on the top of the stone and were called double-cut. This was soon improved with stones cut with 33 facets and were called triple-cut brilliants.
In the 19th century, with the development of better gem-cutting tools, more innovations in diamond cutting styles were developed. In 1919, Marcel Tolkowsky combined the art of cutting with the science of light and refraction and published his book, Diamond Design. These relatively recent geometric calculations were the forerunner of much of diamond cutting work today and led to other, more precise mathematical models engineered to enhance the fire and brilliance of diamonds.
There are now cuts such as the princess cut, trillions, ovals, pear and heart-shaped. Some innovative cutters have even fashioned star or butterfly-shaped diamonds! One patented cut, the Ashoka diamond, is an oblong cut with rounded, brilliant ends, and requires a stone 3 carats or larger. It’s an exceptionally beautiful (and pricey!) diamond shape. Tiffany has also patented a cut of diamond called the Lucida cut. It’s the lucky bride whose fiancי gives her one of these highly coveted stones!
The cut of a diamond refers to the way the stone is shaped and polished, how the facets are arranged and how deep or shallow it’s cut. There are various cuts of diamonds that refer to that, many of them patented. Both Asscher and Princess diamonds are square-shaped diamonds, but they are vastly different in how the facet are cut and arranged.
Cut also refers to the shape of the diamond. The shape is often determined by how the molecules of the crystal are arranged. If it’s an octahedron, it will be cut as a round brilliant, and often two round brilliants can be cut from the same original crystal. Other crystal configurations, such as macer, will be cut as marquise or oval diamonds.
The modern round cut brilliant stone has 58 facets, or 57 if the tiny bottom facet, the culet, is omitted. The Princess cut is unique in that it’s a square diamond with pointed corners. Many diamonds, even square and emerald cut diamonds will have rounded or cut-off corners, because contrary to popular opinion, a diamond can chip or scratch if it knocks against something at the wrong angle. It’s a bad idea to try to scratch a mirror with any diamond!
An emerald shaped diamond is a rectangle cut with longer, flat facets. It’s a good cut for a diamond that’s exceptionally clear. If it’s not, then an emerald cut diamond can appear cloudy.
The Asscher diamond is similar to an emerald shape, except it’s square. It’s cutting resembles a spider web when viewed from above.
Other diamond shapes are self-explanatory. A pear- or tear-shaped diamond is exactly that. It’s an oval that’s wider at one end and curves to a point at the other end. An oval is a perfect oval. The marquise-shaped diamond can maximize the carat weight of a stone because it’s a longer and flatter cut, yet highly faceted. The marquise comes in a variety of length-to-width ratios.