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4 Cs of Diamonds: Diamond Quality & Grading Guide

You may know about the 4 Cs of diamonds, but what about the fifth C? Learn why conflict-free sourcing is an important consideration for your next diamond.

You have a perfectly unique piece of jewelry in mind and now you need the perfect diamond. There are many factors to consider when it comes to choosing a diamond – five in fact. You’ve probably heard of the 4 Cs of diamonds: color, cut, clarity, and carat. But what about the fifth C of diamonds: conflict-free. When you understand each of these factors, you can make an informed decision when purchasing a diamond.

The First C of Diamonds: Color

Traditionally, a diamond receives a color grade on the Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) scale based on its lack of color. Experts consider a colorless diamond to be the rarest of all. A colorless diamond is worth more than a diamond with a yellow, brown, or gray appearance. The more color visible in a diamond, the less it is worth.

Of course, diamonds also come in all colors of the rainbow. But for the purposes of establishing a diamond’s value, actual-colored diamonds have a different scale. If you are shopping around for a colored diamond, be sure to ask if the color occurs naturally, or if the diamond was treated to achieve a color.

Natural and lab-grown diamonds come in a variety of colors. However, some natural diamonds are too yellow, brown, or gray to be worth much. These diamonds are often treated with various colors to make them more appealing to buyers. Ideally, as a buyer, you want a naturally colored diamond instead of a color-treated diamond.

Keep in mind that colored lab grown diamonds are considered not color-treated. In fact, lab grown diamonds are the preferred choice for many engagement ring buyers. They’re identical in every way to naked eye, plus they’re often more sustainable and the best value financially speaking.

The Second C of Diamonds: Cut

Part of the draw of a diamond is how it looks in the light. Various diamond cuts allow the light to reflect inside of the gem to make it look brighter and bolder, creating engagement rings that catch the light and the eye.

A diamond without a strong cut doesn’t trap light. Instead, the light escapes the diamond and looks dull. Experts assess a diamond’s cut based on several key factors. The first is brightness. Light bounces around inside the diamond and showcases rainbow colors in the light. The second factor is scintillation. This is when the light catches just right and appears to flash boldly.

Aside from light, experts also assess a diamond’s symmetry, polish, and proportions. For example, a brilliant round diamond contains 57 facets that work together to reflect the lightest. Different cuts have different facets and angles. Experts also take the size of the diamond into consideration in assessing the cut. You want the proportions of each cut to align with the overall size of the diamond.

The Third C of Diamonds: Clarity

Nearly all diamonds have internal markings that are also called inclusions. These tiny flaws may not be immediately visible to the naked eye. But experts can see how internal inclusions impact the way your diamond appears on the outside. If internal markings are big enough, they can block light and lessen the reflection and brilliance.

Inclusion may not impact value as much if it doesn’t change how light reflects inside your diamond. However, inclusions that are large, dark, or poorly placed can lower a diamond’s value. Keep in mind that even diamonds with the highest values have tiny inclusions and each diamond is unique. Experts rank clarity on a scale that ranges from flawless to included.

The Fourth C of Diamonds: Carat

Carat is perhaps the most well-known C of diamonds. While most may believe that carat weight describes the size of a diamond, it actually describes its weight. Weight is the biggest factor when considering size, however, so it’s an easy mix up.

Larger diamonds are usually worth more, but not always. The other Cs can also play a significant role in value. A larger stone may be less valuable if the cut, clarity, and color aren’t rated highly. A smaller diamond may be worth more if it has fewer flaws, a better cut, and more clarity. Each of the four Cs has an equal weight in determining a diamond’s value.

The Fifth C of Diamonds: Conflict Free

Many jewelers stop once they evaluate the 4 Cs of diamonds, Brilliant Earth considers the fifth C to be equally important. While this factor doesn’t impact monetary value, a conflict-free diamond does offer intrinsic value.

Lab-grown diamonds are often much more sustainable than natural diamonds. There’s a misconception that lab-grown diamonds aren’t “real” diamonds, but that isn’t true – they’re both made from the same particles, one is just grown in a lab. It’s difficult to tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond. Both mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds can be conflict-free.

However, lab-grown diamonds can often be more sustainability sourced so it’s easier to prove that they are conflict-free. If you choose to purchase a mined diamond, ensure that your jeweler knows the supply chain and can guarantee an ethically sourced diamond.

Many people associate diamonds with love, strength, and health. While diamonds can be expensive, they are a meaningful investment. No two diamonds are alike, so yours is one-of-a-kind – whether mined or lab-grown. Diamonds traditionally hold their value over time when well cared for. Your diamond can also hold even more personal value based on the setting you choose and the occasion you’re celebrating.

When you understand the 5 Cs of diamonds you can better understand diamond pricing and value. This helps you make a smarter investment based on what you want and need. After you determine a budget for your diamond you can choose a diamond that fits into your budget.

4 Cs of Diamonds FAQs

What are the Cs of buying a diamond?

The four Cs are cut, color, clarity, and carat. Cut refers to the symmetry of a diamond, color is a scale that ranges from colorless to a fancy colored, clarity refers to the number of inclusions within a diamond, and carat refers to weight.

What are the best 4 Cs for a diamond?

A healthy combination of all: aim for a diamond with good cut, color, clarity, and carat. Preferences and budget will dictate what’s most important: if you want a big stone on a budget, you may need to consider a diamond that has a lower grade for cut and clarity.

What is the order of importance for the 4 Cs of diamonds?

It depends on what you’re going for! Cut is most important for brilliance, proportion, and symmetry. Color is a personal preference choice that varies from white to more yellow or brown. Clarity is important for a clean appearance. Carat weight is important when factoring in size.

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