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4 C's characteristics

Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are now commonly used as the basic descriptors of diamonds: these are carat, cut, color, and clarity.


<p style=Carat is the term used to describe the weight of any gemstone, including diamonds. Although the definition of a carat has changed over time, since 1913 the international standard has been 200 milligrams, or 1/5 of a gram.


In jewelry pieces with more than one diamond, the carats may be described in terms of total carat weight. This is the combined total weight of all the stones in the piece.


Diamonds can range in size from a fraction of a carat to several carats. Given the rarity of large stones, however, the price increases rapidly with size; therefore, a single 2-carat diamond will cost much more than two 1-carat diamonds. Very large diamonds with good color and clarity are very rare.


Expect to pay a premium for stones that are above a full carat weight. For example, a .95 carat diamond will cost a bit more than a .90 carat stone, but a 1-carat stone will cost significantly more than a .95 carat stone.


It is very common for diamonds to be formed with slight imperfections. These are known as "inclusions" and can come in many forms, including tiny white points, dark dots, or feathery cracks. The fewer inclusions, the more the stone is worth. A diamond's clarity ranking is determined by the number, size, type and placement of the inclusions.

A stone with only a few hard-to-see pinpricks located near the edge, where they can be covered by the mounting, has better clarity than a stone with a crack located right under the table (the large top facet of the stone). Cracks from the surface to the interior are especially dangerous because the diamond could break if hit the wrong way. On the other hand, small nicks and chips on the surface are often of little concern because they can be polished away.

For the most part, diamonds used in jewelry are clean to the naked eye. In a certified diamond, the cracks are charted on the certificate and act as a fingerprint for identifying a particular stone.

The following is the GIA clarity scale, along with corresponding definitions for different clarity grades, which is very commonly used in the United States:

diamond clarity

 - F or IF - Flawless / Internally flawless (Clear stone, free of all flaws, even under 10x magnification. / No inclusions visible at 10x magnification.)
 - VVS1/2 – Very Very Slight Inclusion (1 - Tiny inclusions are extremely difficult to find, even under 10x magnification. / 2 - Tiny inclusions are very difficult to find, even under 10x magnification.)
 - VS1/2 - Very Slight Inclusion (1 - Minor inclusions are difficult to see under 10 x magnification. / 2 - Minor inclusions are somewhat difficult to find under 10x magnification.)
 - SI1/2 - Slight Inclusion (1 - Inclusions are easy to see under 10x magnification. These diamonds are considered "eye clean" since inclusions can not been seen with the naked eye. In larger diamonds very very small inclusions may be visible and still be classified as SI1. / 2 Inclusions and/or blemishes are easy to see at 10x. These diamonds are considered "eye clean" since inclusions can not been seen with the naked eye. In larger diamonds very small inclusions may be visible and still be classified as SI2.)
 - I1 or P1 - Included (Inclusions and/or blemishes are obvious and rather easy to see without magnification.)
 - I2 or P2 - Included (Inclusions and/or blemishes are obvious and easy to see without magnification.)
 - I3 or P3 - Included (Inclusions and blemishes that are obvious to the unaided eye.)


Most diamonds appear colorless but actually have slight tones of yellow or brown. The closer the stone comes to colorless, the more valuable it is. Diamonds are graded on a color scale ranging from D (colorless) to Z (heavily tinted.) Only a highly skilled professional will detect any color in E or F stones, and the color in diamonds rated up to J will be virtually invisible when set in a ring or other jewelry.

Color is only one of the four C's so even when a stone has a visible tint, such as K or above, it can still be very lovely if it has good clarity and cut. How the diamond is set can make a difference, too; you might not want to put a truly colorless diamond in a yellow gold setting since the yellow color will reflect in the stone. On the other hand, a slightly yellow stone will appear whiter in a yellow gold setting.

Diamonds also come in a wide variety of other colors, including red, blue, green and a bright yellow known as "canary." These are graded as Z+ and are known as "fancy" diamonds. Ones with good color are very rare and can sell for much more per carat than white diamonds.

The following is the GIA color scale, which is very commonly used in the United States:


 - D-F – Colorless (Stone looks absolutely clear, with no hint of color to the eye in color grading or mounted.)
 - G-I - Near Colorless (Some color tint is visible during grading. Mounted in a setting, stone appears colorless. GHI color diamonds are considered very nice diamonds for fine jewelry.)
 - J-M – Faint yellow (Yellow or grayish tint is obvious during color grading. Mounted, this stone still shows a tint of color.)
 - N–Z - Light yellow (Obvious yellow or grayish color.)
 - Z+ - Fancy (Bright, remarkable color - usually blue, pink, yellow)

Diamond color




In the strictest definition of the term, "cut" is not the same thing as "shape" - for example, the most popular cut for a diamond is the round brilliant cut, but there are also round Swiss cuts, round Old European cuts, and round 144-facet cuts. For the most part, however, the terms are used interchangeably, including on this site.

The 58-facet round brilliant cut is the most popular because of its fire and brilliance. (These terms describe the intensity of the color and brightness of the light one sees in a diamond.) This is achieved by cutting the stone to very exacting mathematically-determined proportions so as much light as possible is reflected out the top of the diamond.

There are 58 total facets on the round brilliant diamond: 33 facets are in the crown and table (largest facet) located above the girdle (the diamond’s widest point), 24 facets in the pavilion and 1 facet at the bottom, or culet.

Diamond shape

The cut of a diamond refers not only to the shape of the diamond and number of facets, but also to the quality of the cut. A diamond with uneven or poorly proportioned facets won't be given the same grade of cut as an ideally proportioned and masterfully cut stone.





Although most diamonds on the market today are round brilliants, there are many different shapes available. The following chart shows some of the most popular shapes:



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