Understanding the Four C's: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat-Weight
There's More to Diamonds than Meet the Eye
Quality and value for money are more important now than they have ever been when it
comes to the important things we buy. The thought of purchasing a home, a car, a VCR, even
a vacation that is short of the most exacting standards would be unthinkable in these
demanding times. The same holds true for diamonds, the hardest and oldest natural
substance known to man, and the most beautiful. But there is more to a diamond than meets
To understand the 4C's. Cut, color, clarity and carat-weight. It is the combination of
these four characteristics in any one of a number of ways that determines the value of a
When you acquire diamond jewelry, you'll want your diamonds, no matter
what their size, to be the best your money can buy. Any difference in quality means a
difference in price.
Many people confuse cut with the shape of a diamond. The shape you select is a matter
of individual taste, and today your choice is only limited by the skill and imagination of
the craftsman. It is their effort during every stage of the fashioning process that
reflects the maximum amount of light back to the eye. Most round, brilliant-cut or
fancy-shaped diamonds possess 58 carefully angled flat surfaces, called facets, whose
placement will affect the fire, brilliance and ultimate beauty of your diamond.
The most prized diamonds are colorless diamonds, because their beauty depends entirely
upon their remarkable optical properties. In such diamonds, all the colors of the rainbow
are reflected back to your eye. While the majority of gem diamonds appear to be colorless,
others can contain increasing shades of yellow to brown, some of which are referred to as
champagne diamonds. Other diamonds of exceptional color--red, blue, green, pink, and
amber--are known as "Fancies."
The color grading scale varies from totally colorless to light color or tinted. The
difference between one grade and its neighbor is very subtle. Experts never try to
remember color; they use master diamonds of known color for comparison.
Because of their unique optical properties, diamonds, more than any other gemstone, are
capable of producing the maximum amount of brilliance. While minute crystals of diamond or
other minerals are contained in almost all diamonds, a diamond that is virtually free of
inclusions and surface markings will be judged as flawless. In these diamonds, nothing
interferes with the passage of light or spoils the beauty. But these diamonds are
extremely rare and will command a high price.
To determine a diamond's clarity grading, it must be examined under a 10x magnification
by a trained, skilled eye. What minute inclusions there may be make every diamond unique.
These are, in fact, nature's fingerprints and do not mar the diamond's beauty nor endanger
its durability. Without high magnification, you may never see these inclusions. However,
the fewer there are, the rarer your diamond will be.
As with all precious stones, the weight--and therefore the size--of a diamond is
expressed in carats. One carat is divided into 100 "points" so that a diamond of
25 points is described as a quarter of a carat or 0.25 carats. Size is the most obvious
factor in determining the value of a diamond, but now you know that two equal sizes can
have very unequal prices depending on their quality. However, remember that diamonds of
high quality can be found in all size ranges.
Confidence in your Jeweler
When you are ready to choose your diamond, see a reliable jeweler. Jewelers are the
experts who will be happy to explain the 4C's to you in more detail. They will also be
able to show you beautiful diamonds in many sizes and can tell you the difference between
various qualities of diamonds and how these differences affect the price you pay.
Established jewelers prize their good reputation, and know you are making one of your most
important purchases. They can help you select the very best your money can buy.
© American Gem Society