The 4 Cs Of Diamonds
08/21/2015 10:10AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Gallery: 4 Cs Of Diamonds [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Shanna Perkins
The first recorded instance of a diamond being used as an engagement ring was in 1947 when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy. Since then, diamonds have served as a symbol of eternal love. The complexity of diamonds far surpasses the adjectives that are frequently used to describe them. Yes, they are “beautiful” and they are quite “sparkly,” but what makes them visually express these qualities are factors known as the four Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
“I’d say most guys’ first concern is the cut of a diamond, followed by the carat weight, cost, color and clarity, but there are always exceptions to the rule,” says Belinda of Ashley Blue Jewelers, 1701 Chemin Metairie Parkway, Youngsville.“ No matter what, we try very hard to give our customers exactly what they want while staying in their price range.”
“The cut of a diamond is not just the shape; it describes how well proportioned the diamond is, and how well light travels through the diamond,” explains Gemological Institute of America, GIA, graduate Dianna Rae. “The cut of a diamond is very important. It determines its brilliance, sparkle and overall beauty.”
A diamond’s cut is often confused with its shape: pear, round, cushion, etc. In actuality, the cut is what determines its reflective qualities and overall value. If a diamond it cut too shallow, light will escape through the bottom. If it’s cut too deep, light will escape through the sides. A perfectly cut diamond allows more light and brilliance to appear on top of the stone.
“A diamond cut is the most important of the four Cs,” states Mike Armentor of Armentor Jewelers, 1020 E. Dale St., New Iberia. “In fact, it can affect the price of a diamond by 60 percent. Cut is most correctly defined as how expertly a diamond has been proportioned and faceted during the transformation from a rough stone to a finished diamond. Well cut diamonds more accurately bounce back all of the light that enters into the stone, giving the diamond the most sparkle. Diamonds with the best cuts will always offer the most sparkle.”
White diamonds are the most common color of diamonds used in engagement rings. In recent years, colored stones, known as “fancies,” have gained popularity. However, even white diamonds have small traces of color ranging from yellow to gray. The color scale grades these traces of color.
“The color grading scale is a chart that uses sequential letters of the alphabet starting with the letter D to represent the colorlessness of a diamond,” explains GIA graduate Armentor. “D is considered absolutely colorless. As the body of a diamond intensifies and becomes more visible, the grade will go down the alphabet. There are very subtle differences between each letter grade, which are near impossible to determine. It takes a skilled diamond grader in a very controlled environment to pick up these differences.
Even though the color of a diamond is only distinguishable to trained professionals, it does correlate to the diamond’s value. Diamonds D, E and F are considered “colorless,” and those that are G, H and I are considered “near colorless.” From there, the yellow and browns become higher.
“Color is graded on loose stones. The stone has to be help upside down,” clarifies Emma Hanks, Manger at Allain’s Jewelry, 221 E. Main St., New Iberia. “The best way to grade color is to put a pregraded stone next to the one you’re interested in to see where the stone falls on the color scael. You really need to see colors with naked eye.”
“Clarity is a term used to describe the absence of internal and external birthmarks of a diamond,” Armentor states. “Because diamonds are formed under tremendous heat and pressure, such naturally occurring inclusions and blemishes are common and make each diamond unique.”
The frequency and size of these inclusions determine the stone’s clarity grade. The inclusions are normally only visible through a 10X microscope. Clarity scale grades range from ‘flawless” to “severely imperfect.”
“If the Gemological Institute of America grading scale is being strictly followed, a diamond with an eye-visible inclusion will be graded as an I-1 or below,” reasons Rae of Dianna Rae Jewelry, 505 Settlers Trace Blvd., Lafayette . “You should always ask to see a diamond under the microscope. This will allow you to see the color and location of the inclusions and form an opinion of the diamond yourself. Do not rely strictly on the grading certificate or the salesperson. There are a variety of diamond grading laboratories and diamond graders and not all follow the guidelines of the GIA.”
Gemstones and pearls are measured using carats. The carat weight of a diamond determines its size. Though carats are frequently mentioned when describing a diamond, it’s important to understand that gemstones are valued using all of the 4Cs, not just the carat weight.
“A carat is a metric unit of weight that is equal to 0.2 of a gram,” explains Armentor. “Just as a dollar is divided into pennies, a carat is divided into 100 points. So for example, a 50 point diamond weighs 0.50 carats and is described as ½ a carat.”
With all of this information, it’s time to pick the engagement ring of her dream’s and your budget. Rae offers one final piece of advice to keep in mind when making a diamond selection. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” she advises. “Know who graded the diamond and if GIA diamond grading standards were followed. After you have considered the cut, color, clarity, carat weight and cost, just look at it and ask, ‘Is it pretty? Does it sparkle? Will she be thrilled to wear it and show it off?’”
Belinda encourages grooms-to-be to include what she refers to as the fifth C, cost, into their research. “Guys are always concerned with the 4 Cs, but I like to call it the 5 Cs and add in cost,” she reasons. “Customers usually have a budget they’d like to stay within, so concessions have to be made to stay within their price range.”
The importance of understanding the 4 Cs is to make an informed decision when making one of the biggest purchases of your life. But with the help of a trained professional, the only factor that matters is how it will look on your fianceé’s hand. “The only thing that matters is what the diamond looks like when you, your family and your friends see it in person,” reflects Armentor. “No one says, ‘Wow, that must be a G color.’ They will all say, ‘Wow, that is a pretty diamond.’”