What makes a great diamond? The Four Cs:
As we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it works the same for diamonds, everyone is into different things. Some people might like different cuts, some prefer the more modern styling that a triangle or shield cut might give compared to the classic round brilliant.
But for this blog post we are talking the crème de la crème of the four Cs : Cut , Clarity , Carat and Colour. I am saving fancy diamonds ( coloured diamonds ) for another blog, right now we are talking about pure , colourless diamonds, diamonds that you will see in engagement rings, necklaces and earrings most commonly in most jewellery stores, let us first talk about cut:
As I said before when it comes to the perfect diamond it all comes down to taste when we talk cut, the shape of the diamond. Some people like the chunkiness of a baguette or emerald cut diamond, though if you want the best looking diamond when it comes to brilliance, fire and luster ( in layman’s terms , a really shiny rock ) you have to go with the classic round brilliant diamond, the most common cut.
What makes a diamond sparkle is the light entering the top of the diamond ( through what’s known as the table , the flat facet on top of a cut gemstone ) then bouncing off one of the facets in the pavilion ( the bottom half / tip of the diamond ) then off the other side before coming back up into your eye to give you that flash of light.
The classic round brilliant cut you seen in every single jewellery store these days was design by a Jewish gem cutter called Marcel Tolkowsky from Poland in 1919 and was designed to be the most efficient cut for a diamond to harness its sparkling , stunning beauty. However creating a round brilliant diamond is harder than it sounds.
If every diamond round brilliant was cut the same, cut wouldn’t really play much in the grand scheme of things compared to the rest of the three Cs it is partnered with when it comes to price. However there is a difference because manufacturers ( the people who end up cutting the diamond from its rough state) have a choice, do they cut the rough into two diamonds and change the depth of the stone so it’s pavilion is shallower or deeper than it should be to efficiently reflect light so they can save on carat weight ( a more prominent price factor ) or do they stick to the perfect dimensions of a round brilliant and waste potential material.
Unfortunately , a lot of the time the latter is cast aside so that more carat weight is kept in the stone, this is great for consumers in a way because you get a bigger rock on your finger, and often more times than not, you can’t notice the difference between the correct dimensions and that of a round brilliant cut out of whack unless you are a connoisseur if you will and compare the two together. But because more often than not the weight ( carat ) is chosen over the perfect dimension, there is a premium in a perfectly cut round brilliant especially if it’s big, who doesn’t like the look of a sparkly big boulder of a diamond on their finger.
Clarity in my humble opinion is the most important thing to me when it comes to any kind of gemstone, be it diamond, ruby, sapphire or emerald etc. The clarity of a gemstone is it’s level of inclusion in the stone that spoil it’s transparency, things like foreign stones that the diamond grew around or internal fractures which we call feathers etc. The reason Clarity is important to me and to consumers is because all the other Cs don't really play as much of a factor in the overall beauty of a stone quite like clarity does. Sure a diamond might have a yellowish or grey tint to it from an inferior colour, but at the end of the day it can still be beautiful if that’s what you’re going for, but it’s hard for a stone like that to still look good or any gem for that matter, if it’s got a big ol’ feather in the middle of the stone or black chunks of carbon ruining the whole aesthetic of the diamond.
Clarity does not only mean inclusions within a stone, it can also mean blemishes, thinks like scratches, fractures and chips on the outside of the stone, but depending on how bad the damage is , these can often be polished away unlike a deep running cleavage plane through the table of the stone down into the pavilion. Diamonds are graded on their inclusion as follows:
At the bottom, we have the 'I' grades, these stand for included, it’s inside stones with this rating that you can clearly see inclusions within the stone with the naked eye clearly, then it goes up to SI rating which stands for slightly included, then to VS ratings which stand for very slightly included, then to VVS which stands for very very slightly included, but to see the inclusions in stones with this rating, you are going to need to have some experience with gemstones and be looking into the stone with a loupe, a small magnification device that has a x10 zoom. After the VVS you have internally flawless, which is a diamond that has zero inclusions inside, spotless and crystal clear, but one above that is flawless, the difference being a flawless diamond has no blemishes on the outside whatsoever compared to an internally flawless diamond. Alot of flawless diamonds turn internally flawless because when they are set, the processes of doing that to a stone and putting it in a prong setting for example will scuff the stone on it’s girdle where it is being held in place, nothing a bit of polishing once removed won't fix.
Carat is the total weight of the diamond, but this doesn’t just stop with diamonds, it also carries over to coloured gemstones as well like ruby and emerald. Carat is also not to be confused with Karat, the difference is carat is the weight of a gemstone and karat is the purity broken up into 24 parts, the most common ( especially in the united states of america ) is 18 karats.
Carat sometimes can be confused by novices as the size of a gemstone like diamond, and it’s not your fault, when you look at a jewellery store and the engagement rings in the window, sure, the 2ct stone is going to look bigger than the 1ct stone, however it’s not an exact measurement of such. As an example, imagine a flawless diamond same size and shape as an included diamond, but the included diamond was a host rock for a heavier foreign material which it grew around. The included stone in this case might be a higher carat than the flawless diamond of the same shape and size because of the extra weight the foreign material inside the diamond adds to the diamond.
Carat plays a huge part in the value of a diamond, to the point cutters will prize that over other factors like cuts dimensions, this is often seen in the coloured stone market alot more ( like with sapphires) when the pavilions are extra fat on the bottom to maintain weight over the cut of the stone, these are called ‘fat bellies’ and often have what’s called a windowing effect, where if you were to look through the table of the stone, you can see straight through to the bottom and out the other side because when a gemstone is cut at such a steep angle like that, light bounces right back out the stones instead of around inside and back to the viewer.
The reason gemstone cutters will produce a fat belly like this is to add weight to the diamond so that it becomes what’s known as a magic number. These are a certain number of carats/ points that are more rounded , for example .5 ct ,1ct , 1.5ct, 2ct, 2.25ct etc. When a diamond is one of these magic numbers it jumps up in price, however this is a good thing and a bad thing , good for retailers because the price jump, but also good for consumers because if you were to buy an engagement ring with a .9ct instead of 1ct, you will make a cheeky saving on the overall price of the ring with a diamond that you can’t really tell the difference between it and a 1ct diamond anyways.
But to continue our search for the perfect diamond, the bigger the better, that’s what it boils down to really, the big , flawless perfectly cut diamonds are a premium and their beauty is hard to be challenged ( or can it…?)
Here is where diamonds can lose tons of value or make an absolute killing. Colour is perhaps the number one thing you notice in a gemstone beside from clarity. It’s perhaps the most striking of factors in any gemstone. When it comes to Diamonds however, colour can make things get a bit interesting.
Diamonds are graded colour wise ( The most common, transparent diamonds that is ) on a scale of D to Z by GIA ( The Gemological Institute of America ). D coloured diamonds are colourless and Z coloured diamonds are noticeably by anyone bearing some kind of colour, this can be grey, brown or yellow etc. When it comes to clear diamonds, D is the créme de la créme of colour when it comes to transparent diamonds. A huge D flawless diamond should like glass when it is presented to you, filled with fire and luster.
However, though we are talking manly about transparent, clear diamonds, I think it’s worth dipping our toes into ‘fancy diamonds’ at this point: Fancy diamonds are coloured diamonds, these diamonds are off the chart when it comes to D to Z colour. Infact, at this level of colour the stones start to go up in value instead of down and have their very own colour grading system:
These coloured diamonds are so rare, that in some cases, you could exchange a pair of D Flawless, pear cut diamonds of 15+ carat for a single round brilliant blue diamond of Fancy intense of only 3-5 carat. These diamonds ( red being the rarest ) take the cake when it comes to rarity. It is said that an entire mountain, like that you would find at a ski resort worth of dirt is leveled until it is completely flat and in that, you would only find one red diamond, just to put that into scale for you.
So there we have it the four Cs and the perfect diamond, a D Flawless excellent cut diamond , the larger the better. Hopefully you can take a few little things away from this to get a better understanding of what things are and a general idea of value when you walk into your jewellers and pick out a piece that you love 💍😍.