Carats & Charactaristics
Diamonds. Are. Beautiful.
Every diamond is unique, and the product of the wondrous intersection of time, location, and change. The unique and individual qualities of each diamond create its value and desirability.
To better understand what jewelers, and diamond experts, are endeavoring to communicate, when a customer is diamond shopping, it is important to understand the “4C’s” of diamonds. The agreed-upon standard for judging diamonds was not established until the middle of the 20th century. It was at that time that GIA (Gemological Institute of America) created the first, and now the globally accepted, standard for describing diamonds, the 4 C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight.
Cut – The amazing ability of a diamond to transmit light and sparkle intensely, is created through its Cut. Often, customers will think of a diamond’s Cut as its shape (round, princess, pear, emerald, etc.), when in reality, Cut refers to the diamond’s cut grade – how well its facets interact with light. The better the cut, the more the diamond will sparkle.
It requires precise craftsmanship, and a great deal of artistry, to fashion (or cut) a stone, so that its proportions, symmetry, and polish deliver the amazing return of light that only a diamond can deliver. The quality of Cut is crucial to a diamond’s final beauty, and therefore its value. Of all of the 4Cs, Cut is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze.
Color – It’s almost ironic that a gem-quality diamond’s Color evaluation is based on the absence of color. A diamond that is considered chemically pure and structurally perfect has no hue: It’s like a drop of pure water.
GIA’s color-grading scale is the diamond industry’s most widely accepted grading system. This scale begins with the letter D, which represents colorless diamonds, and continues to the letter Z, with increasing presence of color. Their color-grading system measures the degree, or amount, of colorlessness of a diamond, by comparing it under controlled lighting, and precise viewing conditions, to master stones of established color value. Many of the color distinctions are quite subtle, and are invisible to the untrained eye; however, those distinctions make a big difference in diamond quality and price.
Usually, at the Color grade of “S,” diamonds are considered “Fancy Yellow.” Diamonds are found in an array of other colors, including: pink, red, green, blue, brown, and black. Typically, many of these colors are created by irradiation, a laboratory process of exposing the stone to strong radiation (which becomes inert quickly after the procedure), and then it is exposed to intense heat, which affects the overall coloration, of the diamond.
Clarity – Natural, or “mined” diamonds are the result of carbon being exposed to tremendous heat and pressure, deep within the earth. This creation process can result in a variety of internal characteristics, called “inclusions,” and external characteristics, called “blemishes.” The evaluation of diamond’s clarity involved determining the number, size, position, relief, and nature of these characteristics, as well as, how these affect the overall appearance of the diamond. Many inclusions, and blemishes, are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye, or anyone other than a trained diamond grader, which is why expert and accurate assessment of a diamond’s clarity is extremely important.
Clarity, (or clearness), ranges from Flawless, (perfect), to I (included). To the naked eye, a VS1 and an SI2 may look exactly the same, but those two diamonds are very different, in terms of overall quality.
Flawless: perfect, inside and out
Internally Flawless: may have minor blemishes on the outside
Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1-VVS2): have very tiny inclusions
VVS1 – inclusions are only visible through the pavilion
VVS2 – inclusions are slightly larger
Very Slightly Included (VS1-VS2): have very small inclusions
VS1 – inclusions are smaller than VS2
VS2 – inclusions are very small
Slightly Included (SI1, SI2, SI3): have small inclusions
Included (I1, I2, I3): have inclusions that can be seen by the naked eye
Carat Weight – This is the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. “Carat” is a metric unit of measure, defined as 200 milligrams. Each carat can be divided into 100 “points,” this allows for extremely precise measurements – all the way to the hundredth decimal place. (And you thought 7th grade math would never come into adult life!) Sometimes, jewelers will describe the weight of a diamond, below one carat, by its “points” alone. For example, a jeweler may refer to a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a “twenty-five pointer.” Diamond weights that are greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals, for example a 1.07 carat stone would be described as “one point oh seven carats.”
When all other factors are equal, a diamond’s price increases with carat weight. Larger diamonds are more rare, and more desirable. However, two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values, and therefore prices, depending upon the other three factors that make up the 4C’s. Diamond values are determined using all four!