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The Four C’s of Diamonds

Many people are familiar with diamonds. Your jewelry box might be filled with exquisite diamond necklaces. Perhaps you have visited every jewelry store in search of the perfect diamond engagement ring. Like many of us, you might browse jewelry departments wishing you could afford one of those beautiful, sparkling diamonds!

Whatever the case, you probably have a lot to learn about this prized gemstone. Did you know that diamonds are the hardest natural material in the world? In fact, they can only be scratched by other diamonds. Maybe you weren’t aware that just like snowflakes, no two diamonds are exactly alike. Now comes the real test of your knowledge — can you identify the 4 C’s of a diamond?

We’ll give you a hint…they don’t refer to “cost”! We’re going to explain the meaning of Cut, Color, Clarity & Carat. Educating yourself will make your next diamond purchase easier. You’ll be able to determine the best quality diamond to suit your budget.


The cut refers to how a diamond is shaped and polished. The quality of the cut determines the beauty of the stone. Detailed mathematical calculations are used to determine a proper cut that will reflect the most amount of light and create maximum sparkle. A cut classified as “very good” will reflect up to 90% of the light entering the stone, whereas a “poor” cut is often too deep or shallow and can make the stone appear dull. A mathematical genius invented the most common “round brilliant” cut in 1919. Diamonds are cut into different shapes to accentuate their brilliance. Common cuts include marquise, pear, emerald, oval, heart and princess. When purchasing a diamond, we recommend choosing a smaller stone or sacrificing color or clarity over cut.


Most of us think of diamonds as clear or bright white. However, structural defects and chemical impurities can affect the color of white diamonds. The subtle color variations can range from purple to black. Yellow hued diamonds are less expensive than rare pink or blue stones such as the famous Hope Diamond. A diamond’s color is rated using a scale that begins with D for diamonds with no color all the way to Z for bright yellow stones. Don’t be fooled by the scale; diamonds in the Z category can be just as rare and expensive as “D” rated stones. A perfect diamond is completely transparent so you should look for stones with very little color.


This term refers to the number, type, location and size of the flaws in a diamond. Flaws such as scratches, the presence of minerals or tiny cracks are referred to as “inclusions”. Diamonds with very few inclusions are very rare, and thus expensive. Stones are rated in 5 grades ranging from the rare FL, IF (Flawless, Internally Flawless) to the least expensive I1, I2, I3 rating which include obvious inclusions that affect the transparency and brilliance of the stone. If you are budget conscious, choose a well cut stone with a G or H color and pay particular attention to the location of the flaws.


The weight of a diamond is measured in carats. One carat equals 200 milligrams or 1/5 of a gram. Larger diamonds are much more expensive than smaller stones because they are so rare. The weight of smaller diamonds may be expressed in points, with 1 carat equaling 100 points. If you want a larger carat stone but are on a budget, consider a good cut diamond with a S11-S12 clarity rating and J color grade. Another tip is to choose 1.9 carats instead of 2 or a 90 point stone rather than a carat. Although you will notice very little visible difference, you can expect a big difference in price.

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