Diamond Buying Guide

Diamonds are a significant investment for most people. This means that before you go out and make your purchase, it is important to be informed about what you are getting. Here at David’s we are aware of the fact that jewelry is a very trust-sensitive business. As such, we believe that informing our customers about what they are getting provides a strong foundation for a trusting relationship between Jeweler and Client.

While shopping for diamonds, there are some basic terms that are helpful to know: clarity, color, cut, and carat weight. These are frequently referred to as the four Cs. These categories are used to classify diamonds and describe the quality of a diamond. The price of a diamond corresponds directly to the quality of that diamond.

Clarity

Diamonds have clarity characteristics called inclusions, which are internal, and blemishes, which are surface irregularities. Clarity is graded on a scale that ranges from Flawless to Included with subcategories for a more precise grade. Below is a chart of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) grading scale. It is divided into six categories and eleven grades. There are other grading scales that can be used, but the GIA scale is highly regarded across the industry.

Category Flawless Internally Flawless Very Very Slightly Included   Very Slightly Included   Slightly Included   Included    
Grade FL IF VVS1 VVS2 VS1 VS2 SI1 SI2 I1 I2 I3

Clarity characteristics are not all bad. They help gemologists recognize real diamonds versus simulated diamonds. They can also help identify individual diamonds since, like snowflakes, no two diamonds are exactly alike.

Color

Color can be one of the most noticeable characteristics in a diamond. People often think of diamonds as colorless. However, truly colorless diamonds are very rare. Most diamonds used in jewelry are nearly colorless with yellow or brown tints. Most of the time when diamonds with slight amounts of color are used in jewelry the color is not noticeable.

A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue or color. However, in reality most gem sized natural diamonds are imperfect. Depending on the hue and intensity of a diamond’s coloration, a diamond’s color can either enhance or detract from it’s value. A slight yellow or brownish tint will usually lower the value, whereas fancy colors like blue or pink are extremely rare and therefore very valuable. The size of the diamond can make a difference in perceived color. The larger the diamond is, the more obvious its color. Differences in color can be subtle, but they can cause dramatic differences in price.

Color is graded on a scale from D-Z . Diamonds with a color grade of D-E are considered colorless. Diamonds graded G-J are considered near colorless, and so on.

Cut

A diamond’s cut refers to the way a diamond has been shaped and polished when it is transformed from a rough cut stone into a gem stone. The cut of a diamond has a lot to do with how it reflects light. Two of the attributes of diamonds associated with a well cut diamond are brilliance and fire. Brilliance refers to brightness of white light reflections from the surface and interior facets of a diamond. The flashes of color seen in a diamond are called fire.

The brilliant cut is a general term used for a gem of any shape that has mostly triangular or kite shaped facets radiating from the center. The round brilliant cut diamond is the most popular shape used in jewelry. Brilliant cut stones other than round are called fancy cuts, some of which are marquise (football), princess (square), oval, and pear (teardrop) shapes. Other fancy cuts are step cut which means they have longer, four-sided facets. The most recognizable step cut is the emerald cut.

Carat Weight

A carat is a unit of weight used to measure diamonds. Not to be confused with karat, which measures the purity of gold, one carat with a “c” equals 200 milligrams. When writing carat weights, it is helpful to think about them as similar to dollars and cents (1.34ct vs. $1.34). When discussing diamonds, a term you may hear frequently is “points.” There are 100 points in a carat (a lot like there are 100 cents in a dollar). A 72 point diamond weighs 0.72ct.

Larger diamonds are more rare than smaller ones. This means that the prices of a 1.50ct diamond is not just 1.5 times the price of a 1.00ct diamond of the same quality. In fact, the price per carat goes up also.

References:
GIA Diamond Essentials: Diamonds and Diamond Value, 2002.
"Diamond (gemstone)." Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved April 11, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_%28gemstone%29