Diamond Quality - Understanding the 4 C's of a Diamond
The common language for diamond grading is expressed as the 4Cs: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. It is important to note that a diamond’s value depends on the combination of all four of these qualities. This system of grading, established by the Gemological Institute of America, ensures a consistent and efficient method for characterizing diamonds.
A diamond’s cut is probably the most important yet complicated quality of a diamond. There is a common misconception that suggests diamond cut refers to the shape of the diamond, however this isn’t true. A diamond’s cut refers to the way it allows light to be reflected from its surface to the human eye. It is the reason why a diamond can sparkle unlike any other precious element on earth. Cut has five grades in order of brilliance: ideal cut, premium, very good, good, fair & poor. These cuts produce visual effects that determine the diamond’s brightness, fire, and scintillation. A diamond’s brightness is the white light it reflects, its fire is the scattering of this light into colors of the rainbow, and its scintillation is the pattern of light within the diamond.
Because natural diamonds are made from intense amounts of pressure applied to carbon deep in the earth, it is natural for one to contain flaws. There are two types of flaws: inclusions which are internal and blemishes which are external. These flaws are graded according to the following scale from perfect to more visibly blemished: flawless, internally flawless, very very slightly included (VVS1-VVS2), very slightly included (VS1-VS2), slightly included (SI1-SI2), and included (I1-I2-I3). Many inclusions and blemishes are too microscopic to be seen by the naked eye and, therefore, require professional assistance.
Diamond color is based on the presence or absence of pigment. An ideal diamond is perfectly white with no hue, optimum for light penetration. The diamond color scale ranges from letters D-Z, D being colorless and Z being light yellow. Colorless diamonds are more rare and expensive while ones that fall on the lower end of the color scale are generally less expensive. In some instances, diamonds come in fancy colors such as blue or pink. These types of diamonds are more rare and specifically sought-after.
A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams and is subdivided into 100 points, which allows for a more precise decimal measurement. The number of points a carat has is equivalent to the decimal in the measurement. For instance, a diamond that weighs .75 carats has 75 points. Diamonds that have a larger carat weight are more rare and expensive than their smaller counterparts.