Diamond Education: The 4Cs

Let’s Shine Some Light On The Subject.

Want to take some of the mystery out of buying diamonds?  We’ll give you the highlights and explain the terminology.   You don’t need to be a gemologist to follow along and we think you’ll enjoy the process.  We’ll keep it simple, provide a little guidance and offer some helpful tips and basic facts. And remember, a jeweler you trust will be the most important factor in helping you make your choice.

That said, diamonds are fascinating and buying one should be exciting and fun.  So let’s start at the beginning.

For Starters.

You’ve found the love of your life.  You’re ready to make the leap. The good news is you don’t need to be certified to make an informed choice.


Did you know that the shape you choose for your center diamond has an impact on how your ring looks and feels?  Consider the benefits of each of these shapes when you’re choosing.

  1. Round— the most popular; cut for maximum brilliance.
  2. Princess Cut — the most popular fancy-shape; has a great deal of sparkle.
  3. Oval — a modified brilliant-cut with similar fire; elongated shape creates the illusion of greater size.
  4. Cushion — a square cut with rounded corners, much like a pillow; arguably giving the most sparkle.
  5. Asscher Cut — an elegant square shape with blocked corners that make diamonds appear octagonal.
  6. Emerald — rectangular with parallel facets and blocked corners; produces a hall-of-mirrors effect.
  7. Marquise — an elongated shape with tapering points at both ends; flatters the finger.
  8. Pear — teardrop-shaped, with a great deal of sparkle.
  9. Radiant Cut — a combination of the emerald cut and the sparkle of the round brilliant; typically with blocked corners.
  10. Heart — a sentimental cut that is sometimes hard to find.

Carat Weight

This one may seem fairly self-explanatory.  But there are a few things you need to know. Carat weight is a measure of a diamond’s weight, and a reflection of its size. So two diamonds of slightly different sizes may have the same carat weight.  Size also depends on how evenly weight is distributed and the quality of the cut.  So two diamonds with the same carat weight can vary greatly in value, depending on the color, clarity and most importantly, the cut. It’s really a matter of deciding what matters most to you, size or quality, and then finding the best combination of size, color and clarity for your budget.


Part of the wonder of diamonds is the fact that they are created by incredible natural forces. In fact, natural diamonds are formed by tremendous heat and pressure deep within the earth. Understandably, the powerful process can result in internal “inclusions” and external “blemishes.” These are simply fancy words for imperfections, or characteristics, as we like to call them.

A diamond’s clarity is determined by the number, size, nature and position of its inclusions and blemishes. No diamond is perfect, but the closer it comes to perfection, the higher its value. A “flawless” diamond is rare. Inclusions seldom affect a diamond’s beauty, although they do affect price.

Internally Flawless


Very Very Slight Inclusions


Very Slight Inclusions


Slight Inclusions



See the Scale


Just because a diamond looks white doesn’t mean it’s colorless. In fact, the white diamond spectrum ranges from totally colorless to light yellow.  The amount of color in a diamond is signified with a special lettering system that ranges from D to Z.  The letter D is awarded only to rare, totally colorless diamonds.  In other words, the more colorless a white diamond is, the greater its beauty and value.

  • A colorless diamond can be graded D, E or F. Less than ¼ of 1% of all the diamonds in the world fall into this category.
  • A near colorless diamond can be graded, G, H, I or J. The majority of diamonds sold in the industry are represented by one of these grades.

Colored diamonds, such as pink, blue, chocolate or bright yellow, are also available, but they are rated on a different scale than white diamonds.



Near Colorless


Faint Yellow


Very Light Yellow


Light Yellow

See the Scale


Ever wonder what gives a diamond its sparkle? The cut…the cut…and did we mention the cut?

Cut is widely considered to be the most important of the 4Cs, having

Cut, being the only aspect of a diamond controlled by man, expresses the diamond’s natural sparkle and has the biggest impact on your diamond’s appearance and quality.  It’s a big deal.  And that’s why we suggest you invest in a quality cut grade first and foremost.  We’re not saying that carat, clarity and color are unimportant, but sacrificing sparkle for a larger diamond, or one that’s color can only be distinguished under magnification isn’t the best strategy.

But in spite of the importance of cut, there weren’t any standardized criteria for cut grading before the mid 20<sup>th</sup> century.  When criteria were finally standardized, it included brightness, fire, scintillation, weight ratio, durability, polish and symmetry.  A cutter who is working with a diamond rough is trying to maximize each of these to make the diamond more rare and valuable.  Needless to say, it takes a master level of craftsmanship to achieve maximum sparkle.

So what’s best?  A diamond cut with the ideal proportions for its shape. Think of it like this: The bottom of the diamond has facets, and those facets act like mirrors. When the facets are cut at the proper angles, light enters through the top of the diamond, bounces off the mirrors, and returns back to your eye in a full spectrum of color.

And the opposite is true for a poorly cut diamond with incongruous proportions. It will allow light to escape out the bottom and sides, resulting in a dull, dark appearance.

In short, the angles allow the diamond to capture and reflect light or sparkle.  For a really brilliant diamond, with excellent polish and symmetry, you should choose a cut grade of Very Good or Ideal. And finally, perfection in cut will also increase your diamond’s value, making it, so to speak, a cut above the rest.

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