Buying a diamond – or some diamonds – is exciting! It takes us into the worlds of high finance, beautiful jewels, and impossible glamor. Who does not want a little bit of glamor every now and then? But choosing the best diamond from a selection, or even being able to tell a cubic zirconia from a diamond, can be quite tricky unless you have training as a gemmologist.
Let us look at the things that can help to tell you if you are getting a good diamond or a great one.
The Four Cs
Almost everyone has heard of the four Cs of diamond buying and selling – but not everyone fully understands what they mean!
- Carat: Carat is a unit of measurement applied to gemstones and since 1907 the accepted weight for one carat is 200 milligrams. In visual terms, a perfectly square one-carat diamond would measure 6.4 millimeters by 6.4 millimetres. In contrast, cubic zirconia (often called artificial diamond) is denser, being 1.7 times heavier than diamond. One carat of cubic zirconia would measure about 3.5 millimetres, considerably smaller than the equivalent weight of diamond. ‘Carat’ comes from ‘carob’, the seeds of which were the original measure by which gemstones were weighed.
- Cut: The cut of any gemstone is vital, with the many facets, faces, tables, girdles, and culets all working together to allow the stone to throw out as much reflection as possible, especially when talking of diamonds, which are usually colorless and thus reliant on the light to show off their inner sparkle. A quick run-down of the above jargon: facets and faces are the same thing, the ‘table’ is the broad top of the diamond in a typical diamond-shape, while the culet is the much smaller plane at the bottom – which is often a point rather than a flat surface. The girdle is the bevel around the widest point of the diamond where the top widening facets become the lower, narrowing, facets. The wrong cut can make a good stone look dull and lifeless, while the right cut can dramatically improve the look (and saleability) of a flawed stone. The typical diamond shape, with flat top and pointed base, is called a round brilliant cut because it is designed to reflect the maximum amount of light.
- Clarity: As it sounds, clarity means basically clearness. For diamond purposes, any stone which has no blemishes or flaws to be seen at a magnification of ten can be said to be clear. However, as diamonds form underground, minute particles can get caught inside the stone, tiny fractures or fissures can form, or accidental damage during the mining, cutting, or polishing processes can cause the same. Internal flaws are called ‘inclusions’ while external ones are known as ‘occlusions’. A good cutter can often minimize or entirely remove the flaw so that the diamond’s brilliance – or clarity – is all but unaffected.
- Color: Color is something of a misnomer when it comes to diamonds, except for some rare instances – it is a lack of color that is generally more highly prized. Diamonds are graded from A to Z (loosely speaking), with the aforementioned colored diamonds, which go in and out of fashion over time, taking up the bottom end of the alphabet: X, Y and Z. A to C are also not included in the rating being only theoretically possible. D-graded diamonds are very colorless, being difficult to see on a white sheet of paper when in shadow – in the light, the diamond’s beauty shines through!
Hearts and Arrows
A sign of a well-cut diamond is if eight perfectly symmetrical arrows can be seen reflected when the diamond is viewed through the base, and eight perfectly symmetrical heart-shapes when the diamond is viewed from the top. This is a very informal measure of a good diamond, but the even spread of the reflections shows that the facets have been perfectly aligned, a desirable feature in any diamond. To find true hearts and arrows diamonds your jeweler can provide various diamond light performance images, including a hearts and arrows image. If they cannot provide these, beware!
Size Really Doesn’t Matter
The size of your diamond does not matter unless the four Cs are all equal. A D-rated, flawless one carat stone will be a better buy than a H-rated imperfect two or even three carat stone, so do not be tempted to think that bigger is better.
Now you know a little more about what to look for when choosing a diamond, here is a final lesson: more and more, diamonds are being bought and sold online, and as long as you choose a reputable site (any deal that seems too good to be true almost certainly is!) you will be able to make your selection based on the stone’s stated specifications – an easy way to get exactly the stone you want!