Anyone wanting to make an informed purchase of diamond jewelry needs at least a cursory understanding of the Four C's. These are the standards by which diamonds are graded, and ultimately determine their value. They are Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat weight. What follows is a brief description to acquaint diamond shoppers with these essential benchmarks.
CARAT WEIGHT - Contrary to popular belief, a large stone alone does not a valuable diamond make! While bigger can be better, it's not the only factor. All the other C's carry as much weight in the end, and be sure to use the size as a factor, though not necessarily a determining one. A carat is actually a measurement of weight, not size, equal to 200 Milligrams.
COLOR - The less color the better. In other words, everything else being equal, a colorless diamond will be much more valuable. Diamonds range in color from colorless to brown, and are ranked by letter starting with "D",(colorless) to "Z", (brownish) This is determined under special lighting, and does not include the "fancy colored diamonds", as these are graded differently. In short, the clearer the better!
CLARITY - Another important characteristic of a diamond's value is it's clarity. This deals with the number and size of any inclusions; small clouds, crystals, feathers or cavities noticeable under 10X magnification. The clarity grades are F-Flawless (extremely rare); IF-Internally Flawless; VVS1, VVS2- Very, Very Slightly Included; VS1, VS2 - Very Slightly Included; SI1, SI2- Slightly Included; and I1,I2,I3- Included. All you really need to know about this though, (other than your diamond's grade) is that you should not be able to see any inclusions with the naked eye.
CUT - Most people think that the cut of a diamond refers to it's shape. That's not so. It actually refers to the way a diamond is shaped to refract light, thus enabling it to sparkle. This is quite an art and requires that each facet of the stone be cut at precise angles to each other, in the correct shape and size, to bring about the desired effect. Each diamond shape has different measurements for it's particular dimensions. There are eight basic shapes popular today, and they are, in no particular order; heart, princess, pear, marquise, radiant, emerald, oval and round.
Understanding these characteristics can make a diamond jewelry purchase much less nerve-racking. You're spending a good deal of money; it's nice to know what you're spending it on!
Keith Thompson is the webmaster at DiamondChristmas.com, where diamond jewelry is the order of the day from some of the web's best merchants.