Determining Diamond Quality: The 5 C’s

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Confucius once said, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Although this might be true I don’t think anyone wants a flawed diamond. But what determines the value of a diamond? Maybe you have seen a diamond ring and thought that it looked perfect. But calculating the value of a diamond isn’t defined by all the “oohs” and “ahs” received from a diamond engagement ring. There is an actual science to examining the value of these precious stones. To make it a bit simpler, a diamond’s quality is determined by the 5 C’s: Carat, Cut, Color, Clarity, and Certification. Each “C” is analyzed separately to determine the overall value of a diamond.


Carat: Let’s start with Carat. A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. A carat is divided into 100 points. So, if a diamond is 1 carat, it is 100 points. If a diamond is .75 carats, it is 75 points. Pretty easy, right? Sometimes when it comes to diamonds, there is a misconception that bigger is better. That is not necessarily the case. Two diamonds with the same carat weight can look different in size due to the cut of the diamond. That is why cut is so important.


Cut: You might be thinking that the cut is the shape of the diamond. You have probably seen a princess cut diamond or a round diamond. Shapes are definitely involved when purchasing a diamond but in order to get these shapes looking pristine, the diamond needs to be cut properly. The cut of a diamond deals with a diamonds proportions and is quite difficult to perfect. The cut significantly affects its appearance or the way it “sparkles”. Cutting a diamond too shallow and the light will go out the bottom. If you cut it too deep, light will exit the sides of the diamond. Cut proportionally, light is returned out the top of the diamond. This proportional cut  is the optimal cut a diamond can have and what truly makes it glisten. The proportional cuts are premium and therefore more valuable and expensive.


Color: Another factor affecting the value of a diamond is the color. The color of a diamond, or lack thereof is important in determining a diamond’s quality. The scale goes from “D” to “Z” with “D” being colorless and “Z” being light yellow. Anything past “Z” would qualify it as a naturally colored diamond, which are actually quite valuable. Natural colored diamonds can be red, pink, green or blue. Red diamonds are the rarest of the diamonds and thus are the most valuable and expensive. Colored diamonds are looked at on a separate scale. If a diamond does not have a strong enough color to be considered a naturally colored diamond then it is based on the color range grade from colorless to light yellow. So, if a diamond lies on the scale between “D” and “Z”, you want it to be colorless. On the scale, “D,” “E,” and “F” are colorless. Letters “G” through “J” are almost colorless. Colors with faint yellow range from “K” to “M”. Very light yellow is seen in diamonds ranging from “N” to “R”. Lastly diamonds on the scale from “S” to “Z” will have a light yellow color. The less color a diamond has on this scale, the more valuable because more light will shine through the diamond. This is another factor that makes a the diamond sparkle.  


Clarity: Another way to measure a diamond’s value is by looking at its clarity.  Clarity measures the number of impurities and flaws within a diamond. Determining a diamond’s clarity requires a gemologist to examine it under 10x magnification. As with color, clarity is also measured on a grade. The grade includes flawless (FL) or internally flawless (IF), Very very slightly included  (VVS1/VVS2) and, very slightly included (VS/VS2), slightly included (S1/SI2) and lastly included (I1,I2/I3). FL/IF are flawless or internally flawless diamonds. Flawless diamonds have no external or internal flaws. Think Beyonce. These diamonds have the highest level of clarity and are very rare. Internally flawless diamonds have no internal flaws. These diamonds are also quite valuable and expensive. VVS1 and VVS2 are very, very slighted included. At this level of clarity, it is very difficult to see impurities under a 10x magnification. Therefore, these diamonds are still of excellent quality. With VS and VS2 , imperfections are typically quite difficult to see under 10x magnification. These are still valuable diamonds but less valuable than the VVS2. The next grade are slightly included diamonds. In this grade, impurities are visible with 10x magnification and possibly with the naked eye. I1 grade diamonds are included diamonds meaning inclusions are more than likely seen by the naked eye and apparent under 10x magnification. I2 and I3 is the lowest grade of diamond clarity. These diamonds are included and imperfections are obvious. Because some of these diamonds only show imperfections through 10x magnification, they are still great options to buy. Although flawless and internally flawless diamonds are valuable and quite rare,  purchasing a diamond of a lower grade in clarity isn’t necessarily a bad option. Very slightly included diamonds, and even some slightly included diamonds don’t have visible imperfections to the naked eye and are still quite beautiful.


Certification: Now that we have covered four of the C’s of determining diamond quality, what could possibly be the last one? The final C included in the 5’s of determining diamond quality is the certificate. Several diamonds are sent to gemologists for inspection. This certificate is created by gemologists and includes an analysis of the diamond including its diamond shape, weight, clarity, color, etc. These certificates show that the diamonds have gone through professional inspection. They are very helpful in determining the value of the diamond.


So those are the 5 C’s: Carat, Cut, Color, Clarity, and Certification. Now that we have reviewed the 5 C’s that determine diamond quality, hopefully you have a better understanding of what makes a diamond valuable. The process is clearly quite intricate but that is what makes diamond’s so special. Although knowing these facts will not make you an expert, at least now you know the science behind what makes a diamond glisten. So whether you agree with Confucius or not, at least now you know what makes a diamond perfect or flawed!

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