The quality of a diamond is evaluated using 4 primary characteristics known as the 4 C’S – cut, color, clarity and carat. There is a wide range of diamond sizes and qualities available within any given budget. The challenge is to determine which of the 4 C’s is most important to you in order to narrow this range so you can make the best choice.
The cut of a diamond determines its brilliance and sparkle. Cut is important because it is a direct indication of the brilliance and sparkle of a diamond. Diamonds with perfect clarity or color, but which are badly cut can appear dull and lifeless, however finely cut diamonds can, in many cases, be brilliant even if with average or below average color and clarity. The better the cut, the more rare and the more valuable is the diamond.
The color of a diamond results from light passing through chemical impurities and/or defects in the crystalline structure. These inclusions alter the light absorption pattern so that color is visible to the human eye. While diamonds come in many colors and many hues, the most common color and hue is yellow. The amount of yellow hue is graded according to a scale which ranks rewards the lack of color with the highest letter grades and which ranges from D (colorless) to Z (heavy yellow). Diamonds whose color is beyond Z are denoted as “fancy” diamonds and are graded using their own scale and terminology. The purer and more intense the color, the rarer and more valuable is the diamond.
The clarity of a diamond is a measure of the number and type of inclusions within the diamond and on its surface. The fewer the inclusions visible under a 10X magnifier, the higher the clarity grade which ranges from flawless to heavily included.
The term “carat” refers to the weight and size of a diamond. The value of a diamond rises exponentially with its size. Most diamonds fall in between 0.01 carat and 1.00 in size. Put another way, that range is between a hundredth of a carat and a full carat in weight.