The universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world is known as the 4 Cs of a diamond: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat.
It may seem like there are as many types of diamonds as there are fish in the sea. How do you choose the right size, color or shape? And what’s the difference between lab-grown vs. natural diamonds?
The experts at Thollot & Co. are here to help your find the perfect diamond for your engagement ring or other heirloom-quality jewelry. We break down the infamous “4 Cs” assessment method and more so you can make the best decision for your budget, lifestyle and love story.
Beautiful. Rare. Cherished. Each diamond is unique and is a miracle of time, place and change. And each has specific qualities that establish its value.
Until the middle of the 20th century, there was no agreed-upon standard by which diamonds could be judged around the world. GIA created the first, and now globally accepted standard for describing diamonds: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat Weight. Today, the 4Cs of Diamond Quality is the universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world. The creation of the Diamond 4Cs meant two very important things: Diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language, and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase.
As creator of the Diamond 4Cs and the International Diamond Grading System™, GIA is not only a global authority, but the world’s trusted source for unbiased assessment.
Lab Grown vs. Natural Diamonds
This system can be applied to both mined and lab created diamonds. That’s because lab grown diamonds are “real” diamonds — they possess all the same chemical and optical qualities as their natural-born cousins. The only way to tell them apart is with expensive, specialized equipment. If you’re deciding between lab created and natural diamonds , price is the most important factor.
The cut of a diamond determines its brilliance or sparkle. Each shape will be cut differently. Before a diamond is cut, the location of inclusions and flaws, the natural coloration, and the original shape of the rough stone are studied extensively. The stone facets are then mapped out and cut in a way that maximizes size, shape, and clarity. For optimal light performance, you will want a diamond that is cut neither too shallow nor too deep.
A diamond’s cut is crucial to the stone’s final beauty and value. And of all the diamond 4Cs, it is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze.
To determine the cut grade of the standard round brilliant diamond – the shape that dominates the majority of diamond jewelry – GIA calculates the proportions of those facets that influence the diamond’s face-up appearance. These proportions allow GIA to evaluate how successfully a diamond interacts with light to create desirable visual effects such as:
Brightness: Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond
Fire: The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow
Scintillation: The amount of sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond
A diamond is distinguished by its natural characteristics, just as a person would be noted for her blue eyes or his brown hair. Notated as a diamond's clarity, these characteristics can be present on the surface (blemishes) or within the stone (inclusions). The clarity is judged by the number and types of these characteristics and is designated using a scale that runs from Fl, defined as flawless, to I3, defined as inclusions visible with the naked eye. A flawless diamond is truly rare.
The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale has 6 categories, some of which are divided, for a total of 11 specific grades.
- Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
Diamonds are graded based on the amount of color they do or do not possess. The scale runs from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). An absolutely colorless diamond is rare and therefore very valuable.
The diamond color evaluation of most gem-quality diamonds is based on the absence of color. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond has no hue, like a drop of pure water, and consequently, a higher value. GIA’s D-to-Z diamond color-grading system measures the degree of colorlessness by comparing a stone under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions to master stones of established color value.
Many of these diamond color distinctions are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye; however, these distinctions make a very big difference in diamond quality and price.
The unit of measure used for the weight of a diamond is the carat. As a matter of reference, a carat is equivalent to .2 grams or .007 of an ounce. Carat weight can also be divided further by using points. There are 100 points in one carat. So, a 1/4 (.25) carat stone can also be expressed as 25 points and mean exactly the same thing. When comparing two diamonds, please note that just because one is twice the carat weight of the other does not mean that it will appear to be twice the size.
Diamond carat weight is the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. A metric “carat” is defined as 200 milligrams.
Each carat can be subdivided into 100 ‘points.’ This allows very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. A jeweler may describe the weight of a diamond below one carat by its ‘points’ alone. For instance, the jeweler may refer to a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a ‘twenty-five pointer.’ Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.08 carat stone would be described as ‘one point oh eight carats.’