Diamonds: Know Your Carats
most people think about buying a diamond, they think BIG.
Well, why not? It's only natural to want the biggest,
fanciest and most brilliant stone you can get. Many consumers
go out aiming for a one-carat, D-flawless stone, because
they've heard that's the best you can get. But is it?
Does Size Matter?
If you've done your homework and reviewed the Four Cs
of diamond quality--carat, cut, clarity and color--you're
already ahead of the game, because you know you need all
four of these criteria to get the best diamond. But what
if you're faced with the choice of buying a bigger, lesser-quality
stone or a smaller, finer-quality one? Which will you
choose? According to the experts, size does count, but
overall quality counts more.
Although diamonds are mined in many parts of the world,
more than 250 tons of ore need to be blasted, crushed
and processed to yield just one carat of rough diamond.
And of that relatively small amount, it is estimated that
only about one-fifth of all rough diamonds are suitable
for gem cutting.
The goal of the diamond cutter has not changed since ancient
times: He wants to produce a diamond of the greatest possible
weight and the finest quality. Obviously, the cutter's
skill is a critical factor in the beauty and value of
a diamond and there are precise geometric formulas for
each stone shape. While diamond shape is a matter of individual
preference and does not affect the stone's value, certain
stones are cut certain ways to eliminate flawed or badly
colored parts of the rough. Each cut, however, is aimed
at giving you the highest caratage for the money.
A carat is the term used for the measurement of a diamond's
weight. It is equal to 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams, and
there are 142 carats to an ounce. (This is a totally different
term from the "karat" weight of gold, which is actually
a measurement of purity rather than weight).
In fact, the gemstone "carat" comes from the carob seeds
that were used to balance scales in ancient times. While
the use of seeds might sound like a pretty unscientific
way to measure diamonds, according to historians, it was
surprisingly accurate. These tiny, horn-shaped seeds were
so uniform in size and weight that even today's sophisticated
scales can't detect more than one three-thousandth of
an ounce difference between them!
Of course, you don't have to worry about the use of carob
seeds today. Gemologists use very sophisticated equipment
to measure the size and weight of diamonds--assuring accuracy
even when they are set in a piece of jewelry. This is
important because when mounted, one diamond may appear
larger than another, although they actually weigh the
For jewelry purposes, carats are further divided into
points, a one-carat stone equaling 100 points. Therefore,
a half-carat stone may be referred to as a "50-pointer,"
a quarter carat, "25-points," etc. The smaller stones
used in pave or channel settings are sometimes called
melee. In certificates, appraisals and receipts, however,
the weight of your diamond should be written in carats,
rounded to 1/100ths, such as .25 carats; .50 carats, 1.20
Another fact that's important to understand is that prices
of diamonds rise proportionately with the size of the
stone. Because large diamonds are rare, they generally
have a greater value per carat. For example, the price
of a two-carat stone will be several times higher, than,
say, four 50-pointers of equal quality. Likewise, a diamond
that hits the one-carat mark will cost considerably more
than a 95-pointer of the same quality.
Get that Cert
When you buy your diamond, be sure you ask for a certificate
with it. A certificate from an accredited laboratory such
as the Gemological Institute of America is important because
every diamond, like every fingerprint, is unique and distinguishable
from every other. Each stone bears its own individual
characteristics and this evaluation will give you the
diamond's exact measurement and weight, plus details of
the quality of its cut.
The evaluation of your diamond will be performed by a
qualified professional with the help of special gemological
instruments and will map out all the information about
your diamond. A certificate will not put a dollar value
on your stone; to get that valuation, you must consult
a qualified appraiser.