Diamonds play a big role in our society. For a lot of people, diamonds only matter when they get married or engaged. For the lucky few, they are play things and accessories that give brilliance and opulence to a life well lived. So whether you are buying a new gift for your wife or are getting ready to pop the big question, everyone should have some basic ideas of what to look at when buying diamonds. Because of the high price they command, going into a store to buy one blind, without even some basic knowledge on diamond grading may end up in you over paying for the diamond ring or necklace that you buy.
If, by some off chance, you made some preliminary research before reading this, then you might have some idea of the basics of diamond grading. You may already know the four C’s that people always hear about when asking about diamonds.
The Four Cs are:
Carat is all about diamond weight. From the word carob, a tropical tree whose seeds were used to weigh gemstones until the turn of the century, a carat is one-fifth of a gram, and this unit of measurement is further divided into 100 “points”, because of the usual small size of diamonds. For example, a five carat diamond weighs one gram while a half a carat, or .5ct, weighs 100 milligrams.
Clarity, usually thought of as the most important diamond grading characteristics, is entirely dependent on the kind, number, size, position, and color of “inclusions”, imperfections and characteristics that are inside the diamond, and surface characteristics called “blemishes”. An ideal diamond is one that is completely clear of these inclusions and blemishes, getting the highest points for clarity from diamond experts. But this rarely happens. These blemishes and inclusions are actually very useful, often acting like fingerprints, identifying diamonds, especially those whose value transcends traditional grading and have historical value. The more the blemishes and inclusions, the lower the rarity of the diamond. Clarity is often graded under 10X magnification and the final clarity grade is often determined by how easy these inclusions and blemishes are to see.
When talking about color, the ideal is a clear diamond without any shade or hue, just like a dew drop. The rating ranges from completely colorless (D), to deeply colored (Z). Diamonds that are beyond the (Z) rating are called fancy diamonds. When grading for color, expert graders refer to master stones, diamonds of known color that are used as the control group with other colored diamonds compared to them. These days, there are machines called a Colorimeter that some jewelers use to grade diamond colors, but the consensus is that these machines are still no match for the well-trained eyes of master graders.
In diamond grading, a lot of people often forget that a diamond’s cut can, in the right circumstances, mean more to its value than clarity. The diamonds we see in the store are cut from “diamonds in the rough” to maximize their brilliance. A lot of diamond manufacturers choose to sacrifice the cut for weight, veering away from the classic Tolkowsky cut. Because of this, the diamond, though heavier, is graded lower as the cut is key to a diamond reflecting and refracting light just the right way, catching it and sparkling. A diamond may be heavy, but if it doesn’t glint in the light, then it is not well cut and thus, will be worth less.
Basically, when shopping for diamonds, whether necklaces, earrings, rings or other kinds of jewelry, you should take a close look at it and keep all of the information above in mind. This guide will not make you a diamond grading master, but if you know what to look for, you will know what is worth the price tag and what is just short of highway robbery. You can do further research and go into the store with a slew of grading tables and charts or you can look for reputable stores and sellers that will allow you to cross check their grading with other graders or offer a good money back guarantee for products that are less than advertised. Remember, diamonds cost a pretty penny so arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can when looking to buy one so that you get the best value for your money.