When it comes to selecting the right diamond, there are many variables to consider. Naturally, your mind gravitates to the big questions: what cut do you like? What shape diamond should you rock? And of course, how much sparkle will your diamond have? Did you know that all of these questions relate to the quintessential benchmark for diamonds?
Every diamond’s value relates to the 4C’s. Diamond specialists and geologists use the 4C’s to classify diamonds into grades. What are the diamond 4C’s and why do they matter?
Because when it comes time to shop for your diamond, you’ll want to ensure you get the best value for your purchase.
With the 4C’s as your informational handbook and us as your guide, you’ll grab a gorgeous diamond that fits in line with your preferences.
The 4C’s of Diamonds: What Are They?
When you look at a diamond, you may feel captivated by its beauty, but what makes it beautiful? The 4C’s are interrelated, meaning they all work together to dictate the quality, value, brilliance, and sparkle of the gem.
What are the diamond 4C’s?
Each feature has a hand in shaping the appearance of the diamond. Are they all equally important? In a way, yes, because they work together. When you look at a diamond, you observe a striking balance of intricacies that summarize the stone’s beauty.
That said, there are certain features more deserving of attention than others. Why? Because when you shop for diamonds, your budget will determine which of the 4C’s to focus on.
As an example, say you want a large diamond but your budget is $3,000. If you want a 1ct or heavier diamond, you’ll have to compromise color and clarity.
Let’s flip that coin to see what’s on the other side. With the same budget, you can choose a .75 carat with a high color grading, exquisite clarity, and bright sparkle.
Ultimately, your choice depends on whether you favor carat weight or clarity.
Grading A Diamond 4C’s by Lab
Are all grading systems equal? In a perfect world, yes. However, there are variances in diamond grading and it depends on the lab. That’s why it’s absolutely paramount that you ensure the diamond you purchase comes with a legitimate certification from a trusted lab.
The most popular diamond certification labs are:
- Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
- American Gem Society (AGS)
Every diamond needs to be examined by a trusted lab to ensure that the value and quality are accurate. After the diamond is carefully examined, the lab creates a report containing all information about the gem — including the 4C’s.
A diamond certification ensures that the diamond you purchase is 100% accurate according to its certification. As a buyer, this saves you from overpaying for a diamond. Let’s have a closer look at the diamond 4C’s to give you a comprehensive understanding.
A diamond’s cut influences its brilliance, sparkle, and symmetry. Moreover, the cut dictates the overall aesthetic of the diamond.
Much of this decision is preferential, as you likely have a preference for certain cuts over others. Maybe you absolutely adore a marquise and dislike a pear shape. Once you decide on your ideal shape, you’ll have to factor in the precise proportions of the diamond cut.
If a diamond is cut too deep or shallow, it can either accentuate or subdue imperfections. Ultimately, it’s up to the gemstone cutter to yield the most carat weight with the cut. And above all, a good cut will optimize the diamond’s sparkle and clarity.
Diamond cut grades fall into six categories:
- Very Good
Yes, cut plays an important role, but an “Ideal” diamond cut isn’t the utmost factor to consider. You’ll also want to check the diamond’s other qualities.
The color of a diamond is categorized by an alphabetical grading system. Instead of giving a high grade for a colored diamond, the most pristine are called “colorless” or “white” diamonds.
The standard for diamond color is to minimize all traces of color to allow the diamond to fully sparkle. When color is present in a diamond, it can look cloudy or unclear with a yellow or brown hue.
Of course, there are fancy colored diamonds, which are richly saturated in shades of pink, blue, and even brown.
For all colorless diamonds, the grading falls into these categories:
- D-F: Colorless Diamonds (the cream of the crop: these diamonds exhibit zero color and are priced accordingly)
- G-J: Near-Colorless Diamonds (nearly colorless diamonds that are less expensive than colorless)
- K-M: Faint Colored Diamonds (budget-friendly diamonds tinted with noticeable light yellow)
The grading system for diamond clarity is slightly more extensive, in large part due to the presence of inclusions. Fortunately, most diamond labs grade clarity on the same scale:
- FL: Flawless
- IF: Internally Flawless
- VVS1 &VVS2: Very, Very Slightly Included 1 and Very, Very Slightly Included 2
- VS1 & VS2: Very Slightly Included 1 and Very Slightly Included 2
- SI1 & SI2: Slightly Included 1 and Slightly Included 2
- I1 & I2: Inclusions 1 and Inclusions 2
As a general rule, high clarity diamonds contain virtually zero visible flaws. Opposite these are diamonds that exhibit noticeable flaws, blemishes, or inclusions. While inclusions aren’t a deal-breaker in every diamond, they can dull or cloud the brilliance of the stone.
As such, choose a diamond that is “eye-clean,” meaning there are no visible inclusions that will interrupt the diamond’s ability to reflect light. This is vital because light must clearly enter and exit a diamond in order to sparkle, and we all want sparkle, don’t we?
Diamond Carat Weight
The last of the diamond 4C’s is the carat weight. Contrary to popular belief, diamonds aren’t evaluated by size, but by weight. Another misconception is that diamond carat is the most important quality. Sure, we’d all love a large rock, but what if it looks cloudy and doesn’t sparkle?
In this scenario, there are two C’s more important: cut and clarity. While celebrities love to don huge diamonds, it’s simply not practical for everyday jewelry or engagement rings. Ultimately, a diamond’s sparkle and brilliance are what makes it stand out — not its size.
Ready to buy diamonds?
Before you make a purchase, remember that the diamond 4C’s work together, but certain factors are more important.
First, you’ll want to choose a diamond cut that allows the most light to reflect. Second, color is important because tints of color can dim the brightness of the gem. Clarity comes in third, as it deciphers whether or not the diamond looks clean, or cloudy. Lastly, choose a carat weight that prioritizes the three factors above, that way you ensure your diamond sparkles beautifully!