Buying a diamond often becomes a strenuous process with never-ending variations and innumerable complications. Unlike other precious stones and metals like Gold, diamonds are not fungible and its price evaluation, dependent on several factors, largely remains a mystery. However, there are some basic points that consumers should understand and check before making a diamond purchase including 4Cs, Certificate, Conflict-free (Origin guarantee), Purity & Type, Eco-friendliness, Shape, Fluorescence, Flaws, Setting, commercial terms like return policies etc.
The 4 Cs
Carat of a diamond denotes its weight and is equal to 200 milligrams. 1 Carat is then further divided into 100 points or cents. Also, one should not confuse between the weight of a diamond and its size. A diamond carat refers to its weight. Even for the same-weight diamonds, their sizes may vary depending on the cut, shape, proportions etc. For ideal cut proportions, size of a diamond can be linked to its weight, as depicted below.
A very important characteristic, cut of a diamond ascertains how light transmits (reflects, refracts and disperses) through it and thus determines its brilliance. This depends on whether the diamond is shallow cut, excellent/ ideal cut or deep cut. Secondary cut type includes brilliant cut or step cut. Then, there are other cuts also like point cut, table cut, old single cut, peruzzi cut, old european cut etc. A diamond’s cut basically refers to its proportions, symmetry and polish. Gem-labs grade cuts on a 5 scale range – Excellent to Poor. However, some labs have other scales like ‘Ideal Cut’ or a 10-point scale. Cut grades are a result of combination of facet shapes, angles, girdle width, culet size, polish, symmetry etc. It’s also important to know some popular cuts like ‘Hearts & Arrows’.
A perfect diamond is made from 100% carbon, however in most diamonds other elements like boron, nitrogen, phosphorous etc. get included. Clarity of a diamond refers to presence or absence of such inclusions in a stone and is graded from Flawless (FL) to I3 range. Diamonds with VS2 clarity and above are called ‘Eye Clean’ since inclusions and imperfections like cavity in the diamond cannot be seen by naked eye. Important thing to note here is that the grading scale and their interpretations vary from lab to lab and consumers should understand these differences.
Though Colorless/ White diamonds are the most recognized ones because of better light absorption and resulting sparkle and hues, inclusion of elements other than carbon give colors to diamonds. Depending on the color, Gem-labs grade diamonds on color parameter too and again depending on the lab their scales and grading vary. However, in recent times fancy colored diamonds like yellow, brown and pink diamonds have also become popular and should not be completely discounted.
Beyond 4 Cs: Criteria you cannot ignore
Consumers today are looking beyond the basic 4Cs. With advent of internet, there has been increasing awareness about socio-political and environmental changes across the world. Consumers are increasingly concerned towards how diamonds fuel conflicts or affect the environment. Purity is another factor that defines rarity and appropriateness of diamond as a special gift for loved ones.
4 Cs of diamonds along with other parameters generate around 16,000 permutation and combinations making diamonds very complicated. Hence, it is important for consumers to get their diamonds certified from a reputed Gem-lab. A diamond grading certificate covers the basic 4Cs and other parameters, and consumers should insist on a certificate at the time of purchase. But at the same time, consumers should also bear in mind that there can be up to 2-grade difference between labs for the same diamond and this is well accepted in the industry.
Today’s socially conscious consumers choose and value ethical products. One of the pitfalls however attached to Earth-mined diamonds is its association with blood diamonds as seen in most cases of African diamonds. Conflict diamonds have unfortunately proliferated the global diamond pipeline and in absence of systems like Chain of Custody and ineffectiveness of Kimberley Process, consumers have no way to ensure that the diamond on their finger have not caused conflicts, human atrocities, child labor etc. Knowing the origin of a diamond is extremely critical and hence some diamonds come with laser-inscription of origin. Diamonds from some select areas like Canada are considered completely ethical. Another reliable source of origin-guaranteed diamonds are Lab-grown diamonds, which ensure 100% conflict-free, ethical diamonds.
Purity & Type
Purity of diamonds depends on the presence of chemical impurities. These impurities are at an atomic level within the crystal lattice of carbon atoms and unlike inclusions, require an infrared spectrometer to detect. Depending on this, diamonds are classified into 4 broad types: Type Ia, Type Ib, Type IIa and Type IIb. While Type Ia contain nitrogen impurities and make up 98% of all Earth-mined diamonds, Type IIa are the highest purity diamonds, almost or entirely devoid of impurities, usually colorless, having the highest thermal conductivity and comprise around 1.8 % of all gem-quality diamonds. Many large famous diamonds including Cullinan, Koh-i-Noor et al are Type IIa diamonds.
Impact of environment is a very sought after factor by new-age consumers while making a purchase decision. While environmental cost of Earth-mined diamonds is alarming, according to Frost & Sullivan report, the overall impact of Lab-grown diamonds is 7 times less than that of Earth-mined diamonds. Various analysis and reports clearly indicate that Lab-grown diamonds provide a truly eco-friendly and sustainable choice to consumers.
Besides, various other determinants including Shape, Fluorescence, Flaws, Settings, commercial policies etc. are also important for consumers to understand and research before looking for that sparkling token of love.
[Disclaimer: Above info presented is for general awareness only and does not imply any warranty of completeness or accuracy. We do not assume any liability arising out of any decisions based on the above info. Consumers should do their own research and consult with experts before making a diamond purchasing decision.]