Diamonds are classified based on four properties: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat Weight. These are known as the four Cs. The standards for each of these intrinsic properties has been set by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Let’s take a look at the first “C” – COLOR
Why does the GIA color grading system start at D?
Before GIA introduced the GIA D-Z Color Grading Scale, a variety of other symbols were loosely applied throughout the industry. Not only were A, B, and C used without clear definition, but some dealers, taking a cue from the poultry business perhaps, started grading their diamonds double A (AA). Other systems used numbers both Arabic (0, 1, 2, 3) and Roman (I, II, III). By far, the most confusing of all the systems relied on descriptive terms like “gem blue” or “blue white.” Terms like these are notoriously susceptible to misinterpretation. So the creators of the GIA Color Scale wanted to start fresh. They wanted symbols that would not have any association with earlier systems. Thus the GIA scale starts at the letter D. There may be some people still clinging to other grading systems, but no other system has the clarity and universal acceptance of the GIA scale.1
I thought color was a bad thing?
Orange diamonds are the most rare of the fancy colored diamonds. For a diamond to earn the classification of orange, there has to be absolutely no brown present in the diamond at all. Many diamonds look orange, but they may not actually have the orange classification.Because this diamond is so infrequently found, no one actually knows how it is formed. As with all colored diamonds, the cause is some inclusion of unknown impurity in the stone that formed the diamond. But there are so few orange diamonds to study, and the ones that exist are often of undetermined origin. Therefore, it is difficult to even study what might have caused the color.Orange diamonds are sometimes called apricot or marmalade diamonds. They can be quite brilliant and attain a warm color even while maintaining clarity. The shades vary from intense and vivid to brownish orange. Although the brownish orange may not be the official orange classification, it is still a beautiful and valuable stone. Orange colored diamonds are wonderful in pendants, earrings, and rings. They have a warm and rich color, almost an amber quality, which makes them very attractive. They are also an unusual gift that becomes a conversation piece, and like all fine jewelry, can be passed through generations.
On to the second “C” – CLARITY
Few things in nature are absolutely perfect. This is as true of diamonds as anything else. Diamonds have internal features, called inclusions, and surface irregularities, called blemishes. Together, they are called clarity characteristics. Clarity is the relative absence of clarity characteristics. Blemishes include scratches and nicks on a diamond’s surface. Inclusions are on the inside (some might break the surface of the stone, but they are still considered inclusions). Sometimes, tiny diamond or other mineral crystals are trapped inside a diamond when it forms. Depending on where they are located, they might still be there after the stone has been cut and polished.2Inclusions may appear to be a negative thing when you’re thinking of purchasing a diamond, however, they are like fingerprints that can not only identify every individual stone, but can help gemologists distinguish between natural diamond, and lab-created ones.
Like the rest of the Four Cs, clarity’s influence on value is directly related to the concept of rarity. Flawless diamonds are very rare – so rare, in fact, that it’s possible to spend a lifetime in the jewelry industry without ever seeing one. As you might imagine, they command top prices.
Now for the third “C” – CUT
The Cut of a diamond describes various features of the stone, all of which have an influence in its overall value. The main characteristics are the shape and the make. SHAPE There are several recognized shapes that diamonds are fashioned into. But what is a “Fancy Cut” diamond? The round brilliant is considered the standard cut. All diamonds that boast a shape that strays from this design, are called fancy shapes or fancy cuts. Their names are based on their shapes. The best known are the heart, marquise, pear-shaped cut, emerald-cut, oval, and radiant.
MAKE The make of a diamond refers to how well a stone is cut and faceted to bring out the full beauty of the rough crystal. The overall make consists of proportions, symmetry, and the polish applied to the stone, All of which affect the beauty of a diamond much more than perfect color or clarity.Proportion refers to the angles and relative measurements of a polished diamond. The proportions of a diamond help to determine its optical properties more than any other feature. Studies seem to suggest that slight differences in table size, crown angle, and pavilion depth have dramatic effects on a diamond’s overall appearance and resulting performing qualities.Proportions that are too deep or too shallow both allow light to leak out the bottom and lessen the amount of light that strikes your eye. Proportions determine a diamond’s brilliance (amount of light reflected back to your eye), fire (the flashes of color due to prismatic separation into the colors of the rainbow) and scintillation (sparkling movement of light as you move the diamond).
The last “C”, but certainly not the least – CARAT (Weight)
The standard unit of weight used for gemstones. One carat equals 0.200 grams (or 200 milligrams). Usually abbreviated “ct”.A point is the unit of weight equal to one one-hundredth of a metric carat (0.01 ct).The aspect of carat weight that surprises people is the relationship between rarity, weight, and value. People know that a pound of sugar costs about twice as much as a half pound of sugar. So it’s not always easy to understand, or explain, why a 2-ct. diamond might be worth more than twice as much as a 1-ct. diamond of similar clarity, cut and color.It’s really a simple concept: Large diamonds are harder to come by than small diamonds. The more scarce a diamond is, the higher its worth will potentially be. So a larger stone doesn’t just cost more, it also costs more with every little increase in carat weight.Diamonds are weighed to a thousandth (0.001) of a carat and then rounded to the nearest hundredth, or point. Over a carat, diamond weights are usually expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.05 ct. stone, for example, would be described as “one point oh five carats,” or “one oh five.” A diamond that weighs 0.54 ct. is said to weigh “fifty-four points,” or a “fifty-four pointer.”Some weights are considered “magic sizes” – half carat, three-quarter carat, carat. Visually, there’s little difference between a 0.99 ct. diamond and one that weighs a full carat. But the price differences between the two can be significant.