The Complete Guide to the 4Cs of Lab Grown Diamonds
Diamonds are graded and characterized by four main characteristics, which were originally created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). These four characteristics are color, clarity, cut, and carat weight, the 4Cs. Use this guide to learn about the 4Cs and familiarize yourself with the essential diamond characteristics that will make your diamond selection a more informed and streamlined process.
A diamond's cut is crucial to its beauty and value. A well-cut diamond will sparkle and shine in a way that captures the heart, while a poorly cut diamond will appear dull and lifeless. When shopping for a diamond, be sure to prioritize the quality of the cut above all else.
One of the key factors that determines the overall appearance of a diamond is the cut. The diamond cut refers to the way the stone has been shaped and faceted, and it plays a crucial role in determining how much light is reflected and how much sparkle and fire the stone exhibits.
- Ideal Diamond Cut: The Super Ideal diamond cut is the highest quality diamond cut available. Only diamonds with the most desirable proportions and dimensions are included in this grade.
- Excellent Diamond Cut: The Excellent diamond cut is a grade that is only slightly lower than the Ideal grade. To the untrained eye, an Excellent diamond is just as brilliant and fiery as a Ideal diamond.
- Very Good Diamond Cut: A Very Good diamond cut is the third-highest grade available. These diamonds still exhibit incredible light return and exceptional brilliance. The majority of the light entering the diamond will refract in the expected way, providing maximum sparkle and fire.
- Good Diamond Cut: Good cut diamonds are ideal for a larger carat as they leave weight while still reflecting plenty of light. The proportions within a diamond of this grade will be slightly imperfect, which allows them to reflect most of the light.
- Fair Diamond Cut: Fair cut diamonds are graded as such due to a marked reduction in fire and scintillation, as the balance between light and dark areas is not symmetrical.
Diamonds are often thought of as being completely colorless, but in reality, most diamonds have some level of color in them. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed a color grading scale for diamonds that ranges from D (completely colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Each letter on the scale designates a specific color range, with D being the most chemically pure and rare, making it the most valuable.
To make it easier to understand, the GIA also groups the letters into broader categories. The categories are as follows:
- D through F: Colorless. These diamonds have little to no color and are the most chemically pure of the D to Z range. They are extremely rare and valuable.
- G through J: Near colorless. These diamonds have slight color, which is often unseen except by trained graders. They are still considered very valuable.
- K through M: Faint. These diamonds have noticeable color but it is still difficult to see by the untrained eye. They are less valuable than near colorless diamonds.
- N through R: Very light. These diamonds have a noticeable yellow or brown tint and the color can be seen in larger stones by the untrained eye. They are even less valuable than faint diamonds.
- S through Z: Light. These diamonds have a distinct yellow or brown color, but are not so colored to be considered a “fancy” diamond. The color can be seen in many sized stones and they are the least valuable of the D to Z range.
It's important to note that while a diamond's color grade is a significant factor in determining its value, it's not the only one. Other factors, such as cut, clarity, and carat weight, also play a role. Nonetheless, the GIA color grading system is widely accepted and is used by jewelers and consumers worldwide. In general, the lower the letter on the scale, the higher the grade, and the more valuable the diamond
Diamond clarity is an important aspect to consider when evaluating the overall quality and value of a diamond. Clarity refers to the presence or absence of internal and external blemishes, or inclusions, in a diamond. These characteristics can be caused by natural phenomena such as crystal growth, pressure, and temperature changes during diamond formation.
Diamond clarity is determined using a 10x magnification loupe, and gemologists grade diamonds using a scale developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The GIA clarity scale ranges from Flawless (FL) to Included (I3).
- FL (Flawless diamonds) have no inclusions or blemishes visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. These diamonds are extremely rare and command high prices. Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds have no inclusions, but may have surface blemishes that are visible under magnification.
- VVS (Very, Very Slightly Included) diamonds have very small inclusions that are difficult to see under 10x magnification, even for experienced graders. The VVS clarity grade is further divided into two categories: VVS1 and VVS2. VVS1 diamonds have inclusions that are extremely difficult to detect, even under magnification, and are considered slightly more valuable than VVS2 diamonds.
- VS (Very Slightly Included) diamonds have small inclusions that are visible under 10x magnification, but are typically not visible to the naked eye. Like VVS, VS is divided into two categories: VS1 and VS2. VS1 diamonds have inclusions that are typically not visible to the naked eye, and are considered slightly more valuable than VS2 diamonds.
- SI (Slightly Included) diamonds have inclusions that are easily visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible to the naked eye. SI clarity is also divided into two categories: SI1 and SI2. SI1 diamonds have inclusions that are not typically visible to the naked eye, while SI2 diamonds may have inclusions that are visible without magnification.
- I (Included) diamonds have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, and may affect the diamond's durability and transparency. The I clarity grade is also divided into three categories: I1, I2, and I3. I1 diamonds have inclusions that are usually visible to the naked eye, while I2 and I3 diamonds have inclusions that are more noticeable and may impact the diamond's brilliance and overall beauty.
It is important to note that while diamond clarity has a significant impact on the value of a diamond, many of the inclusions and blemishes are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, it is possible to find a diamond with a lower clarity grade that still appears beautiful and valuable to the average consumer. Ultimately, the clarity grade should be considered in combination with the other 4Cs (carat weight, cut, and color) when evaluating a diamond's overall quality and value.
A carat is the unit of measurement used to weigh diamonds and other gemstones. It is a metric unit, equivalent to 0.2 grams. The word "carat" comes from the carob seed, which was used in ancient times as a standard for weighing small objects due to its consistent weight.
Carat weight is often confused with the visual size of a diamond, but in reality, it is a measurement of weight. Two diamonds of the same carat weight can appear different in size depending on their shape and cut. For example, a 1-carat diamond with a shallow cut may appear larger than a 1-carat diamond with a deep cut.
Diamonds are sold by carat weight, and the price per carat increases with the size of the diamond. Larger diamonds are rarer and therefore more valuable. However, the value of a diamond is not solely determined by its carat weight. Other factors, such as cut, color, and clarity, also play a significant role in determining a diamond's value.
When purchasing a piece of jewelry with multiple diamonds, the total carat weight (TCW) is often used to describe the weight of all the diamonds combined. For example, a pair of diamond stud earrings with a TCW of 1 carat means that each earring has a 0.50 carat diamond. It's important to note that the price of a piece of jewelry is not solely determined by its TCW, as the individual characteristics of each diamond also contribute to its value.
In summary, a carat is a unit of measurement used to weigh diamonds and other gemstones. It is a metric unit equivalent to 0.2 grams, and the price per carat increases with the size of the diamond. The total carat weight (TCW) is often used to describe the weight of all the diamonds in a piece of jewelry.