Understanding the Four C’s
Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat
Shopping for diamonds can be a tad overwhelming, especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking at. That diamond is beautiful. So is that one. But why are they different prices?
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), seeking a way to compare these precious stones in the 20th century, arrived at what are called the 4 Cs: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. Each diamond you’ll examine on your road to engagement will hold a place in relation to others according to these categories.
When evaluating the color of a diamond, often what someone is actually doing is looking for the absence of color. Unless a buyer or designer is seeking a stylistic divergence from the norm, stones nearly devoid of tint are prized above all. Clarity often means they are chemically pure and structurally flawless. The GIA rates the color of a diamond on a D through Z scale, with D representing a stone nearly completely clear and Z representing one with a clearly visible hue.
Often, the differences in color between diamonds are indiscernible to untrained eyes. If you examine a diamond rated a D by a jeweler and one rated an F or a G, you might have a hard time telling the difference. But the D will likely cost more, all else being equal.
Because each diamond is formed in a unique, unrepeatable and natural way, imperfections known as inclusions within each diamond and blemishes on their surfaces.
When a jeweler evaluates the clarity of a stone, they look for the nature, number, position, relief, or depth, and size of inclusions and blemishes. Then, they evaluate how they affect the look of the diamond to the naked and magnified eye. A diamond’s clarity is defined according to the following scale:
- Flawless (FL)
- Internally Flawless (IF)
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)
- Included (I1, I2, and I3)
All of these ratings are based on an examination of the diamond under 10x magnification, so even though the jeweler can see the inclusions and blemishes, you might not be able to with your naked eye. And, of course, diamonds rated FL and IF will generally cost more than those further down the scale.
Unlike color and clarity, the cut quality of a diamond is mostly dependent on the artisan who refined it from its raw state to what you see in shops and online. How successful the artisan was in establishing symmetry, regular proportions of the stone’s facets and a high polish determine the cut quality rating it will carry.
The GIA cut scale consists of five grades: excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. A diamond that scores an excellent will reflect light magnificently, while one with a poor rating may actually seem dull in comparison. The cut quality of a diamond plays a large role in its value.
A diamond’s carat weight is how much the stone weighs, with one carat equal to 200 milligrams. A diamond’s weight will be proportionate to its size, and like cut quality, this C plays a major part in determining a stone’s monetary value.
Theoretically, a diamond could have any carat weight, but the most common stones, according to the GIA, range between 0 and 5 carats. Carat weights are measured to two decimal places, so you’ll often see weights such as .30 carats or 1.15 carats, and so on.
It’s important to keep in mind while you shop that just because two diamonds are the same carat weight, they can differ greatly in price. This may be due to differences in cut quality, clarity, color, or all of the above.
Understanding the 4 Cs is all it takes to start shopping smarter. If you decide on which color, cut and clarity rating fits your style, you can start thinking in terms of carat weight—how big the rock will be. Then, it’s just a matter of making sure your must-haves fit within your budget.
What’s your dream diamond? Let us know in the comments or post on our Facebook page!