The factors that determine the value of a diamond are the carat, colour, clarity and cut, referred to as "The Four C's".
"The Four C's" are as important as knowing a new car's horsepower, fuel efficiency and safety ratings. This is the start (but not the end) of evaluating a diamond.
The Four C's: carat, colour, clarity and cut - are the criteria by which diamonds are graded. The system was developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and adopted by the entire industry.
The Four C's are based on a diamond's rarity: the rarer the C (not necessarily the "prettier") the more the C contributes to the diamond's price. The Four C's are complete independent from each other. For example, a diamond can have high colour but a low clarity, or high clarity but a low cut, etc. So unless you know all of the Four C's, it's impossible to compare one diamond to another.
Carat refers to the size of the diamond in terms of weight. 1 Carat (Ct) weighs 1/5th of a gram. 1 Carat can be divided into 100 points, just as $1 can be divided into 100 cents. Therefore, 1/2 carat equals 50 points; 1/4 carat weighs 25 points and so on. The more a diamond weighs, the rarer the diamond, the more you will pay.
Diamonds are over 95% comprised of carbon. Other minerals get trapped in the diamond when it is forming. Often these trace elements alter the colour of the diamond. When nitrogen is trapped in the diamond the diamond begins to turn yellow. The colour scale is from D-Z. As you go from D to Z with D being the whitest there is more nitrogen present, the diamond becomes more yellow, the diamond is less rare and therefore costs less money.
Most often, we see traces of the natural growth process in the finished diamond product. These characteristics are called blemishes or inclusions. Blemishes are characteristics such as scratches that are confined to the surface of a diamond. Inclusions (trapped minerals, breaks, growth marks), however, are either totally confined to the inside of a diamond, or they start inside a diamond and break through its surface.
The clarity scale ranges from Flawless to Imperfect.
The in-between grades assess how apparent the inclusions are when viewed through 10X magnification. The fewer inclusions, the rarer the diamond, the more you will pay for the diamond.
FL - Flawless: No blemishes or inclusions when examined by a skilled grader using 10X magnification.
IF - Internally Flawless: No inclusions - and only insignificant blemishes - when examined by a skilled grader through 10X magnification.
VVS1, VVS2 - Very, Very Slightly Included: Minute inclusions that are difficult for even a skilled grader to locate through 10X magnification.
SI1, SI2 - Slightly Included: Noticeable inclusions which are easy - or very easy - to see through 10X. In some instances, even, inclusions can be spotted with the unaided eye.
I1, I2, I3 - Included: Inclusions which are obvious to a trained grader through 10X magnification, can often be seen face up with the unaided eye and could potentially affect durability or beauty.
When we speak of cut we are referring to the proportions of the diamond as opposed to its shape for example Round Brilliant, Marquise, Pear, Princess etc. Every diamond regardless of its shape gets its brilliancy and scintillation by cutting and polishing the diamond facets to allow the maximum amount of light that enters through its top to be reflected and dispersed back through its top.
So you've read the overview on understanding diamonds and the Four C's, right?
Tragically, that's only the beginning. There's far, far more to learn about diamonds than any man should ever have to know.
NOW it's time to buy that diamond!
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