All you need to know about diamond 4c's

Posted in Jewelry 101 on July 23, 2020

When buying a piece of diamond jewelry it’s worth knowing four important things about them: clarity, cut, carat weight, and color also called diamond 4c’s. I remember when I bought my first diamond earrings and how overwhelmed I was at first. Countless of hours searching on the web and consulting with the shop clerks, I was afraid of getting ripped off. I always think it’s better to be cautious that later regret your actions. I found great information online however I felt that some lacked in some aspects. Thus I decided to write this guide to make it simple and clear for others. 

I will start off by explaining why and how diamond clarity matters, then I’ll explain how the diamond cut is related to that. What is a diamond carat weight and how to make sense of it? Lastly, I’ll cover the colors of diamonds, by the end of this guide you’ll have all the solid knowledge on the subject.

In nutshell:

  • Clarity is understood like this: the less microscopic blemished the diamond has, the more “flawless” it is, which makes them more desirable and expensive.
  • The cut is the most important aspect of the diamond, this affects how light is reflected from them and makes them truly shine with beauty.
  • Carat weight is a diamond measurement unit, which is the easiest of all the 4Cs to determine.
  • Colors this is a matter of preference and the colors range from colorless to yellow.
round diamond with brilliance cut

Diamond 4c's - clarity

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about diamond clarity are those crime movies where the main character takes diamonds to an appraiser and the look at it through a microscope, and they say something along the lines like: “oh, this is the purest diamond that I’ve seen! It’s worth xxx, xxx”. But what are they looking for? Well, they are looking for blemishes and inclusions, a part of diamond 4c’s. 

What are blemishes and inclusions? A blemish is a marking on the diamond and Inclusions are markings within the diamond. In simple terms, the less there are the more flawless and valuable the diamond is, also more expensive.

Appraisers look for them using a gemological hand loupe or microscope to determine diamond clarity, hence the scenes in the movies. The most common magnification glass used for this is 10x, it’s common to show a customer the characteristics of a diamond and determining diamond clarity.

Why bother using a microscope? Well, most of the inclusions or blemishes are pretty much invisible to a naked eye and every diamond has them. Then how is the clarity determined? Fist the count of inclusions and blemishes, the size of them, their location, and type of inclusion or blemish. There are other factors to consider too such as diamond cut, which is next on our list.

Diamond 4c's - cut

The cut of the diamond is one of the most important aspects of a diamond 4c’s. This affects how the diamond reflects light and how brilliantly they shine. Why is diamond cut important?

A bad diamond cut can leave the diamond dull and unclear. This is why a diamond cut is a top priority when choosing a diamond. A good diamond cut bends the light to the top of the diamond and makes it shine. It may sound simple however in a simple diamond cut there and be as many as 33 facets in the crown and 25 facets in the pavilion. Think about it for a second, each cut needs to be precisely cut and it needs to be symmetrical, well proportioned, and perfectly polished this is why it’s held in high regard.

There are five parts in diamond anatomy: Girdle, table, crown, pavilion, and culet. See the image below.

picture of diamond anatomy

Diamond cut styles

Brilliant-cut diamonds - This cut aims to direct most light out from the table of the diamond, it contains 58 faces. Common shapes for this cut are round, princess, radiant, cushion, oval, pear, and heart.

Step-cut diamonds - Cuts are done in steps that remind stairs but it varies, most common shapes for this cut are rectangular or square.

Mixed-cut diamonds - these are combinations or brilliant and step cuts.

Diamond shapes

There are 9 common diamond shapes, most popular is round shape a style that’s also one of the oldest. Then there are oval, pear-shaped, heart-shaped, marquise, emerald-cut, baguette, princess-cut, and cushion-cut -diamonds. Which brings us to diamond carat weight.

Diamond 4c's - carat weight

Not to be confused with “karat” which is the measurement unit for gold purity, a “carat” is a measuring unit for diamond weight. A diamond that is 100 carat is equal to 20 grams (~0.7oz). The word “carat” comes from a typical carob seed which weights about 200 milligrams, thus the same diamond would weight just about the same as 100 carob seeds. 

Larger carat diamonds are rare, therefore larger diamonds are more expensive. When choosing the right carat, do note that on a smaller hand a diamond will look bigger and likewise. Last we cover diamond color, which is really a matter of preference.

Diamond 4c's - color

Diamond color can be colorless or yellow and it is determined by the Gemological Institute of America’s color scale, which ranges from D to Z. See the image below.

picture of diamond colors

This Diamond 4c's is a matter of preference, some people like colorless diamonds for their brilliant purity, and others like warmer look diamonds, which may even appear near-colorless. Why do diamonds have different colors? Well, the answer is chemistry, during carbon development it might get mixed with other elements such as nitrogen or boron. Nitrogen gives the diamond a yellow color and boron a blue color.

When it comes to prices, usually the more clear the diamond is the more expensive it is. However a naked eye can’t tell the difference, but the price difference is surely noticeable.

Summing it up

Hopefully, this guide gave you a good overview of the diamond 4c’s. Each factor has its part to play and choosing the right one for you can be a balance between your budget and needs. Having a clear vision and goal will give you lead you to the best choices.

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