Despite what you might think, it has not been all that long since we have had any sort of grading system for our diamonds. It wasn’t until 1939 that the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) established the 4 C’s of measuring a diamond’s worth. They stood for: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight. Now, the very important thing to note here is that color, clarity, and carat weight, are naturally occurring characteristics and cannot be altered… unless you are growing culture diamonds in a lab then you can control whatever you want, and the diamonds are the exact same chemical composition… completely indiscernible. Anyway, we’re getting off topic. The only C that we, as humans, get to control is the cut of the diamond, and that is precisely where the craftsmanship comes in.
But let’s explore all of the C’s shall we?
I know what you’re thinking, wait… aren’t diamonds clear? That’s exactly what color measures… and that is the amount of yellow or brown tint to the diamond. The closer the diamonds is to colorless the more valuable it is, although I think that one is obvious. Most people cannot detect this tint with the naked eye, and of course some diamonds are meant to be a certain color, so they are excluded, but most diamonds have some degree of this tint. The color is graded on an alphabetic scale that starts with D, which is completely colorless, to a steadily increasing amount of yellow and brown tint all the way to Z.
Another part of color is fluorescence, and that refers to the degree of luminescence a diamond shows when exposed to ultraviolet light or strong sunlight. This fluorescence frequently shows as a blueish tint, and can often offset the yellow tint of the diamond making it look whiter. It is denoted on the grading scale as Faint, Medium, or Strong.
This measure refers to the amount of natural inclusions or imperfections found in the diamond. These are rarely visible to the naked eye, so gemologists must use a 10X microscope to see these clearly. These are usually divided into two characteristics Inclusions and Blemishes. Inclusions are imperfections that occur inside the diamond itself, while blemishes occur on the surface of the diamond usually during the cutting or polishing process. The actual grade comes from the number, size, type, and placement of the imperfections.
This refers to the weight of the diamond… just like it sounds. A carat, in fact, is just a unit of measurement that is equal to 0.2g or 200mg. The size of a diamond is important because larger diamonds are rarely found, so the larger the diamond, the more difficult it is to find, so it becomes more expensive. Again… unless you’re making them in the lab, and then you can make them any size, although it does take more time, money, and energy to make a larger diamond, and since the process is expensive, the price increases as well. Also, it’s worth noting that Carat measures weight not volume, so a diamond could be smaller but have a higher Carat weight because it is simply more dense and weighs more.
This is the only C that is controlled by man and is a measure of how well the diamond is cut into the perfect proportions. There are developed and definitive standards for diamond size, proportion, and facet counts, and this measure determines how effectively these standards were executed. The more effectively it was cut and polished the more fire, brilliance, and scintillation. A perfectly cut diamond will take light in from the top and send it back out the top.
Now that you are an expert in judging diamonds, get out there and explore some of these things. Next time you’re out shopping for jewelry, you can impress the sales person with your knowledge and maybe in the process make it clear that you are not to be messed with when it comes to price.
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