Learn the 4 Cs of diamonds to help you better understand how stones are classified and know what to look for when shopping.
The 4 Cs, which include color, clarity, cut and carat refer to the visual characteristics of a diamond. These were introduced by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as a global grading system meant to help consumers and jewelers accurately identify a diamond’s quality and value. Familiarizing yourself with the 4 Cs will help maximize your diamond buying experience and investment. The following guide explains what to keep in mind so you can shop with confidence.
What Are the 4 Cs of Diamonds?
ColorDiamond color is graded on a D-Z scale, with D being completely colorless and Z having a light yellow tint. Generally, stones that fall in the D-J range are considered the best value. To the naked eye, detecting color differences at this level is difficult, while diamonds graded higher feature noticeable color. Stones in the colorless category also cost more because they’re harder to find. Although, color is personal preference, and the most suitable selection will often depend on the jewelry setting.
A diamond’s clarity pertains to any impurities present on or within the stone. These tiny imperfections, known as flaws or inclusions, develop during the growing process and are unique to each diamond. Common inclusions and blemishes are feathers, clouds, bruises, abrasions, and dark carbon specks. Though imperfections are naturally occurring, they can impact a stone’s brilliance and durability. Stones with no flaws or inclusions that may only be seen with magnification are graded SI (slightly included) or higher on the clarity scale and are worth more than those with heavy inclusions.
The cut of a diamond is less about its shape and more about how well it’s proportioned, faceted, and polished. These aspects affect the way a stone captures and reflects light, which determines its brilliance. Well-cut diamonds present a highly desirable sparkle, whereas a poorly cut stone can appear dark and dull even if it has good color and clarity. The GIA system rates cuts as Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades signify maximum radiance and fire.
A carat is the unit of measurement used to calculate a diamond’s overall weight, which is also a reflection of its size. Thus, higher carat weights typically indicate heavier and larger stones. One carat equals one fifth of a gram, and as the carat weight increases, so does the stone’s value. This is because bigger diamonds are rarer. However, despite being more prominent, a large stone with less clarity and lower color grading may not be worth as much as a stone that measures smaller but is crystal clear and free of blemishes.