An Introduction to the 4Cs

Some lessons in life are game changers, whereupon learning them you are transformed or evolved in some way.

Take buying a diamond as an example. Given its implications, the very day it occurs to you that you might want to consider such a purchase for the purpose of putting in an engagement ring, you become a changed person. A more mature one, with important decisions to make.

And so it should. Education is empowerment and buying a diamond is a moment in life when you should be as informed as possible.

So let’s start slowly, with the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight—widely considered to be the building blocks of diamond education.

The Cut is Crucial

Cut refers to the craftsmanship that brings a rough diamond alive and gathers light around the stones. In a round diamond (the most popular shape today) there are 58 facets, or tiny prisms, that gather and reflect light, or in some cases, they don’t. A stone cut too shallow or too deep allows light to leak out through its bottoms and sides. An ideally cut diamond absorbs light and reflects it with brilliance unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Color Matters

Diamonds with absolutely no color at all are rare. So if you own oil fields in Saudi Arabia, you may want to add them to your shopping list. For the rest of us, diamond color is graded with a letter scale ranging from D to Z. Those graded D to F are considered colorless; G to J, near colorless; and K to Z has a noticeable tint. As you may have guessed, a diamond with little or no color is a more expensive diamond.

Getting Clear on Clarity

All diamonds contain tiny trace minerals, fractures, and other slight inclusions (imperfections) that are a natural part of its growth formation. Gemologists grade diamonds for clarity, just as they do with color, on a scale ranging from FL (flawless) to I3 (prominent inclusions). Most inclusions are imperceptible to the naked eye.

Carat—Only Part of the Story

Diamonds are measured in carat weight. One carat is equal to a fifth of a gram. Hence, carat refers to the weight of a diamond. Nothing more. Larger diamonds tend to be more expensive (natch) but that doesn’t mean that a diamond with a larger carat weight is necessarily a better buy. A high carat diamond is nothing without a high cut grade, because a poorly cut, yet heavy stone, can appear dull and lackluster.

The 4Cs work together to determine a diamond’s value.

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