When choosing a diamond, you should be familiar with the Four C’s: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.
The more color a diamond has, the less light passes through the stone to make it sparkle. A colorless diamond allows more light to pass through it to create the maximum amount of brilliance. Colorless diamonds, however, are extremely rare.
Most diamonds have subtle shade differences, ranging from nearly colorless to light yellow. Most appear colorless to the unaided eye. The diamond industry uses a letter system to grade the color of diamonds, from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). A diamond with less color is more valuable.
Diamonds are cut into a variety of shapes, the most popular being: round, marquise, pear, emerald, oval, heart, square, princess, baguette and trillion. All but round are considered ‘fancy shapes’ — however, because they are more difficult to cut, they may be more expensive.
Cut refers to the precise proportions and dimensions of a finished diamond. Cut should not be confused with shape.
How a diamond is cut affects the stone’s “brilliance,” or how much it sparkles. A stone that has been cut properly allows light to enter and refract through the stone, which creates brilliance. A stone that is too shallow or too deep will look dull and lifeless.
Clarity refers to how clear a diamond is. Most diamonds have natural imperfections, called inclusions — minerals or crystals trapped inside the stone during its formation. The characteristics of the inclusions determine the clarity of the diamond. Diamonds that have no inclusions will reflect more light and are very rare. Nearly all diamonds contain these inclusions, or tiny “birthmarks,” which make each stone unique. Most are unseen to the unaided eye; jewelers use magnifiers to identify them.
The weight of a diamond is measured in carats. Total carat weight (T.W.) is the total weight of all the stones in a piece of jewelry. For example, a ring with one 1/2 carat stone and two 1/4 carat stones would have a T.W. of 1 carat.
Larger diamonds, or those with more carats, are sometimes considered to be more valuable, but occur less frequently in nature. However, diamonds of the same carat weight may vary widely in value. A diamond with poor color and clarity might be much less valuable than a smaller diamond with a better color and clarity.
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