4 C's of Diamond Buying
Use the 4 C’s of Buying Diamonds
We understand selecting jewelry is complicated. It’s overwhelming and you’re always wondering if you’re buying the kind of high-quality diamond you expect. We want our customers to trust us and know exactly what it is that they are buying, so we created a guide for buying diamonds. That means when you’re ready to buy a diamond ring or want to add sparkle to your jewelry collection, you will get exactly what you’re looking for. So, let’s start at the beginning: The Four C’s of Diamonds.
When selecting a diamond, it's not color that makes the stone, it's the lack of color. In fact, the value of the diamond increases in correspondence with the decrease in color. That’s because a diamond's brilliance is measured by how the stone reflects light. The clearer the diamond, the more the colors of the rainbow are reflected to the eye. As a rule, most natural diamonds have tints of yellow or brown although they appear to be icy white. Perfectly colorless diamonds are very rare and highly valuable.
There are exceptions to the rule, though. Some colored diamonds, referred to as "fancy color diamonds", lie outside the yellow and brown color range. These fancy color diamonds may be pink or blue and are in high demand. A colorless diamond will be significantly more expensive than a faint yellow or even near colorless diamond.
How is Diamond Color Graded?
Once upon a time, the diamond world used a variety of systems to grade diamond color. These early methods provided a variety of tiers and classified diamonds on scales ranging from A to C, from zero to 3, with roman numerals, and with word descriptions. Unfortunately, these early systems were not replicable or reliable. The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, decided to create a new industry standard color measuring system. The GIA chose to start their new rating scale with the letter "D" so as not to be confuse stones with ratings obtained utilizing earlier formats. The letter "D" came to signify absolutely colorless diamonds and applied to extremely rare stones. The scale concluded with "Z", which was representative of stones with very noticeable color.
The GIA grading system divides its scale into five basic categories: D-F represents colorless diamonds: G-J, near colorless; K-M, faint yellow; N-R, very light yellow; and finally, S-Z, signifying light yellow. The difference between one letter and the next is extremely subtle. It takes an expert jeweler or gemologist with a high powered microscope to differentiate between levels as most differences cannot be detected with the eye alone. Grading is achieved by comparing a gemstone to diamonds of known color under exacting lighting conditions. Most people can visually detect the difference between diamond color and lack there of with several levels separating diamond samples. As a general rule, diamonds rated "J" or higher are colorless to the naked eye.
What is Diamond Florescence?
Some diamonds appear to change color when exposed to certain types of light, especially direct sunlight or under florescent light bulbs. This quality, called florescence, is a fascinating phenomenon. Scientists, in very technical terms, describe florescence as an emission of electromagnetic radiation light by a substance that has absorbed radiation of a different wavelength. For diamond lovers, the interesting part is that if the "absorbed radiation" is ultraviolet as well as invisible, the "emission" it creates is a colored light we can see. In fact, about 30% of diamonds have a blue florescence, even when the diamond appears to be colorless or yellow under natural light. The fluoresced color may also appear white, yellow, orange or even milky or oily. Diamond color grading reports indicate whether the stone fluoresces and also classify the strength of the characteristic as faintly, weakly, moderately, strongly or very strongly.
How Does Fluorescence Affect Diamond Value?
As with diamond color in general, yellow tinting adversely affects the value of a diamond. So, if a white diamond has a yellow florescence, its value falls; and conversely, if a yellowish diamond fluoresces white or blue, its value goes up. The important thing to note here is that before purchasing a diamond, the buyer needs to view the stone under multiple lighting conditions. Viewing the stone inside a store with florescent lighting may magnify the fluorescent quality of the stone. Blue florescence is considered to be an asset as it may mask yellow tints and increase a stone's value.
Choosing a Diamond
Selecting a diamond is highly personal. Individual taste, culture, and financial considerations are very important. To the purist with unlimited funding, colorless diamonds of grade D to F are the preferred option. For those who need a better value but still want a diamond that appears colorless, stones with Grade levels G-J are perfectly fine. In fact, with a budget in mind, trading down the color level can allow the buyer to purchase a bigger stone or one with a better cut.
Our standard collection at REEDS Jewelers includes only the most desirable colorless or near colorless diamonds, ensuring a bright, lasting beauty in every diamond purchase. Fancy color diamonds may be special ordered at the request of the customer. If you would like to order a fancy color diamond please contact us with the specifics of what you need and we will do our best to accommodate you.
In the most basic terms, Clarity means clearness. Natural diamonds are rarely perfectly clear. There are external blemishes, internal inclusions, and a myriad of other imperfections seen when viewing a gemstone under magnification. These impurities were developed when minute crystals were trapped within the diamond while it was being formed. To gemologists, clarity defines the degree of imperfection, or measures the size and number of impurities in a particular stone. A flawless diamond that contains no imperfections is so rare, that few jewelers have ever seen one. Since many of the imperfections discovered are invisible to the naked eye, Clarity actually has the least impact of the Four C's on a diamond's beauty. Visible defects on the other hand, have a great impact on value. As a rule of thumb, the greater the number and size of the impurities, the less is the stone's value. All diamonds are unique because of these natural contaminants.
How is Diamond Clarity Graded?
As with the grading scales discussed with the carat, cut and color, a diamond's clarity grading is not ideal. Diamond grading reports are created by humans, and as such, subjectivity always places a part in the evaluation. However, reputable labs utilize their expertise along with the GIA grading scale to provide the most replicable evaluation possible. Diamonds are evaluated under industry standard 10x power magnification.
Five basic characteristics are taken into consideration when grading Diamond Clarity: the size of the inclusion; the number of inclusions; the location of the inclusions; the possible effect of the inclusion on the diamond's durability over time; and finally, the visibility of the inclusion.
The GIA Clarity Scale consists of 11 levels for grading diamonds. They are defined as follows:
- F1 (Flawless) - A magnificent specimen totally free of blemishes or "inclusions" under 10x magnification
- IF (Internally Flawless) - Without internal characteristics at 10x magnification, but with minor surface blemishes that do not penetrate the stone
- VVS1 & VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included) - Having minute inclusions that are very difficult to see under 10x magnification
- VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) - Having minor inclusions ranging from difficult to see, to somewhat easy to see under magnification and on a white background
- SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) - Inclusions are easily recognized under 10x magnification when viewed on a white background and may be visible by the naked eye from the bottom (pavilion) of the stone
- I1, I2, & I3 (Included) - Obvious inclusions that may be visible to the eye when the stone is face-up
Choosing Diamonds with Clarity in Mind
A valuable tool to use when selecting a diamond is the Clarity grading report which plots inclusions. Internal Inclusions are marked in red while external blemishes are indicated by the color green. Only primary imperfections are plotted with less significant ones being noted in comments. Markers or comments indicating the presence of "clouds" are not good as this may cause a dullness in the diamond's appearance. Clouds that lower clarity values are only found in SI1 or lower graded stones. One very important thing to read in the grading report regards the "Nature" characteristic, or the inclusions affect on the durability of a diamond. Large feathering, depending on size and position within the diamond, has the potential to cause cracking. This is very rare but possible.
Keep in mind that only one out of a hundred people are able to detect VS2 inclusions. Second, note that after carat weight, Clarity has the most effect on a diamond's price. Third, a diamond's cut can impact a stone's brilliance more so than its level of purity. Taking these factors into consideration is very important when selecting the diamond that is not only right for you, but one that falls within the price range you have in mind. The less flawed a diamond is, the more rare it is and the cost corresponds to the rarity. The fact that many of these flaws can only be seen under magnification is an important one to consider, especially when choosing from diamonds with an SI or higher rating. It's critical to select a diamond that doesn't have visible imperfections which mar the diamond's beauty. The extent of the invisible imperfections on the other hand, is where the line between cost and quality considerations may be drawn.
REEDS is delighted to offer an array of diamonds in a full range of clarity as well as providing multiple price points and value from which to choose.
Not to belittle the other 3 "Cs", but Cut is probably the most important diamond characteristic as well as the most difficult to evaluate. Why does it top our list? It's simple, the cut is what makes diamonds sparkle and that sparkle, unquestionably, is the "thing" that diamonds have that dazzles us. You could have a large, colorless, perfectly unflawed diamond but a poor cut could make the diamond twinkle less brilliantly than one of much lower quality. In fact, two diamonds of equal carat weight could have values that differ by as much as 50% due solely to the quality of the cut.
About Diamond Cut and Grading
A diamond's cut is what produces the stone's brilliant sparkle. Traditionally, diamonds are cut to produce 58 tiny facets, or flat surfaces, measuring only two millimeters in diameter. The expertise of the diamond cutter greatly effects the cleanest and sharpness of the cut and hence, the diamond's light performance or refraction of light. In fact, it's this precision cut that defines how the gem will produce the beguiling sparkle as light refracts from the stone to the eye. A finely cut diamond will appear very clear and fiery while poorly cut stones will seem dull and lifeless in comparison, regardless of the particular diamond's innate qualities . The quality of the cut not only makes the stone sparkle more vividly, but it also may make the gem appear larger than stones of similar carat weight.
How is Diamond Cut Graded?
When a diamond is properly cut, light refracts from the top of the diamond In contrast, improperly cut diamonds loose light out of the bottom when the cut is too shallow and from the sides if the cut is too deep. Diamond cut has three basic characteristics: brightness, fire and scintillation. Brightness refers to the total amount of light that is reflected from the diamond. Fire indicates the dispersion of light into the color spectrum. Scintillation is a measure of diamond sparkle or how light flashes with movement. Unfortunately, all of these attributes are measured objectively making grading difficult and subjective.
In early 2005, the Gemology Institute of America or GIA unveiled a diamond cut grading system for standard round diamonds in the D-to-Z color range. The GIA created a way to rate diamond cut on a five tiered scale ranging from Excellent to Poor. This rating scale is dynamic, meaning that changes are still being made. Diamonds with a cut rating of Excellent are of the highest quality and reflect nearly all light that enters the diamond. Diamonds with an Excellent rating are rare and spectacular specimens. Lower ratings include Very Good, representing high quality cut diamonds; Good which while not quite as nice as the top rating diamonds, still allows light to pass through the gemstone; Fair, which is defined as a lesser gemstone that still allows some light to reflect; to finally, Poor, representing diamonds that are cut so inadequately that most light is lost through the bottom or sides of the gemstone.
REEDS Jewelers is proud to offer the stunning Ideal Cut Diamond. Proportion, polish and symmetry are all critical to a diamond's beauty and value. When the cut is ideal, the diamond does what it was born to do - create a display of light. A true Ideal diamond takes twice as long to cut and polish. Our Ideal cut stones are certified by the prestigious gemological laboratory, American Gem Society Laboratory (AGS). Each Ideal Cut diamond comes with its own official AGS grading report and laser inscription identification.
Who Grades Diamonds?
Diamonds can be unofficially graded by anyone and because there is so much objectivity involved in diamond grading, it's very important to know the qualifications of the experts behind the grading. Hence, many reputable jewelers rely on the American Gem Society Laboratory (AGS), a premier and official laboratory that grades the cut of a diamond. The AGS guarantees and authenticates quality, cut, color, clarity, and carat weight of the diamond. Their Diamond Quality™ Certificate provides assurance of a quality diamond backed by a knowledgeable and ethical member of the American Gem Society while providing the consumer with a powerful and accountable diamond document.
Many people confuse cut with the shape of a diamond. Shape is the basic form of the diamond, meaning whether it's round, square, tear shaped, etc. Cut, as explained above, is the precision cutting of the gemstone to create facets that reflect light. Round diamonds are the industry standards but shape is only limited by the skill and imagination of the diamond cutter. Diamonds that are not round are known as fancy cut diamonds. Popular cuts include princess, marquise, emerald (square), oval, pear and heart-shaped diamonds. Other unusual shapes including triangles can also be found.
REEDS Jewelers is happy to help if you do not find the exact cut you are looking for on our site. Please feel free to contact us with the specifics of what you need and we will do our best to accommodate you.