The 4 C's

The differences between two diamonds can be very subtle. To understand these minute differences is to understand the 4C's: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight. It is the combination of these four characteristics in any one, or any number of ways, that determines the value of a diamond.

When you acquire diamond jewelry, you'll want your diamonds, no matter what their size, to be the best your money can buy. Any difference in quality or compromise of any of the "4 C's" means a difference in price.



Many people confuse cut with the "shape" of a diamond. The shape you select is a matter of individual taste, and today your choice is only limited by the skill and imagination of the craftsman. It is their effort during every stage of the fashioning process that reflects the maximum amount of light back to the eye. Most round, brilliant-cut or fancy-shaped diamonds possess 58 carefully angled flat surfaces, called facets, whose placement will affect the fire, brilliance and ultimate beauty of your diamond.


The most prized diamonds are colorless diamonds, because their beauty depends entirely upon their remarkable optical properties. In such diamonds, all the colors of the rainbow are reflected back to your eye. While the majority of gem diamonds appear to be colorless, others can contain increasing shades of yellow to brown, some of which are referred to as champagne diamonds. Other diamonds of exceptional color - red, blue, green, pink, and amber - are known as "Fancies."

The color grading scale varies from totally colorless to light color or tinted. The difference between one grade and its neighbor is very subtle. Experts never try to remember color; they use master diamonds of known color for comparison.

Near Colorless*
Faint Yellow*
Very Light Yellow*
Light Yellow*
*Colors shown here are meant as a graphic representation
only and do not in any way reflect actual diamond colors.



Because of their unique optical properties, diamonds, more than any other gemstone, are capable of producing the maximum amount of brilliance. While minute crystals of diamond or other minerals are contained in almost all diamonds, a diamond that is virtually free of inclusions and surface markings will be judged as flawless. In these diamonds, nothing interferes with the passage of light or spoils the beauty. But these diamonds are extremely rare and will command high pricing.

To determine a diamond's clarity grading, it must be examined under a 10x magnification by a trained, skilled eye. The minute "inclusions" make every diamond unique. These are, in fact, nature's fingerprints, and do not mar the diamond's beauty nor endanger its durability. Without high magnification, you may never see many inclusions. But, the fewer there are, the rarer your diamond will be.

Flawless stones (FL and IF) are exceptionally rare. They are not normally purchased for jewelry, since they're considered "investment grade" stones.

VVS and VS stones are at the top end of the quality most would purchase for jewelry. Their clarity is such that the untrained eye will have difficulty detecting the flaws even under a jeweler's (10X magnification) loop.

SI stones are the highest quality stones sold in most retail stores. These stones are less expensive than the higher quality stones (hard to believe if you shop a typical mall!) since they are not nearly so rare. The flaws in an SI stone do not normally detract much from the stone's appearance to the naked eye. An SI1 stone is a fairly standard compromise between cost & clarity.

I1, I2, and I3 stones are generally not suitable for jewelry. The flaws can be seen easily with the naked eye. Retail establishments sell I1 (or lower) diamonds as their inexpensive diamonds. They are usually purchased by those seeking size in their stone, above all other important considerations.


Carat-Weight as with all precious stones, the weight--and therefore the size--of a diamond is expressed in carats. One carat is divided into 100 "points" so that a diamond of 25 points is described as a quarter of a carat or 0.25 carats. Size is the most obvious factor in determining the value of a diamond, but now you know that two equal sizes can have very unequal prices depending on their quality. However, remember that diamonds of high quality can be found in all size ranges. As you buy larger "carat" sizes, be sure you are not being "traded down" on the other color, clarity and cut issues.