Diamonds are the most famous gemstone. While the size of the stone (carat) plays a part in overall quality, there are other important factors to consider such as cut, clarity and color.
This guide will give you a head start on selecting the perfect diamond for you. If you have any questions, stop in and ask us. We love talking about the splendor of diamonds.
Cut describes the proportions and angles of a diamond. Many people confuse cut with the shape of a diamond. Although nature determines the other three characteristics, it takes a master diamond cutter to reveal a diamond's true beauty. Diamonds are available in various shapes including round, square, pear, heart, marquise and oval but cut refers to the angles and proportions of a diamond.
A well cut diamond reflects light from one mirror-like facet to another and projects the light through the top of the stone. The result is a fiery and brilliant display. Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow leak light through the side or bottom, resulting in a lackluster appearance and diminished value.
Carat refers to a gem’s weight not its size. However, a heavy gem is usually a larger gem. A larger, heavier gem is going to be more expensive than a smaller, lighter one. There are 100 points to a carat. When you hear, “a ½ carat diamond” that actually means a 50 point diamond. This is important to know because some jewelers (not us) will often try and sell a 90 point diamond as a full carat. Buying a 9oz sirloin for the price of 10oz might not be that big of a deal. But this isn’t steak. These are diamonds.
Because diamonds form deep within the earth, under extreme heat and pressure, nearly all diamonds contain small imperfections. Inside the diamond, those imperfections are called inclusions, on the surface, they are called blemishes. Clarity refers to the degree to which these imperfections are present. Diamonds with numerous inclusions or blemishes have less brilliance, because the flaws interfere with the path of light through the diamond. The position of an inclusion also affects how easily it can be seen.
Most jewelers grade diamonds based on an 11 point scale created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). With this grading system, the number, size, color, reflectivity and position of every flaw is considered under 10x magnification. The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale can be seen below:
GIA DIAMOND CLARITY SCALE
FL Flawless: No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. Extremely rare, less than 1 in 5000 jewelry quality diamonds are rated FL.
IF Internally Flawless: No inclusions, only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. FL and IF diamonds appear identical unless viewed under 10x magnification by a skilled grader. Less than 3% of jewelry quality diamonds are rated IF.
VVS1, VVS2 Very, Very Slightly Included: Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. VVS1 inclusions are typically only visible from the pavilion, or base, of the diamond, while VVS2 inclusions are visible from the crown, or top, of the diamond. In each, the inclusions are invisible to the eye, appearing identical to the higher grades unless viewed under 10x magnification by a skilled grader.
VS1, VS2 Very Slightly Included: Inclusions are clearly visible under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor. Inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. Perhaps 1 in 100 untrained observers can detect VS2 inclusions with the naked eye, on close inspection under ideal conditions.
SI1, SI2 Slightly Included: Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10x magnification. SI1 is the lowest grade with flaws often invisible to the naked eye. SI2 inclusions are usually visible to the naked eye, although they will require close inspection.
I1, I2, I3 Included: Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance. I1 diamonds have inclusions that are almost always visible to the naked eye. I2-I3 diamonds have pronounced inclusions, and in the case of I3 may even affect the diamond's durability.
A word of advice: If you’re debating between a large stone with a lot of inclusions or a smaller, more perfect stone, choose the clearer stone. In our opinion, a big diamond that doesn’t sparkle sort of defeats the purpose.
White colored diamonds remain the most popular, even though diamonds are found in a kaleidoscope of colors. Diamonds are graded on a color scale implemented by GIA, which ranges from D, which is colorless, to Z. D-F diamonds are considered colorless, G-J near colorless, K-M faint yellow, N-R very light yellow and S-Z light yellow. While truly colorless diamonds, graded D, are treasured for their rarity, diamond color is ultimately a very personal taste.
A word of advice: Choosing a color of diamond is a matter of preference. Some want white. Some like yellow. Whatever color you decide, try to get as close to that side of the spectrum. Otherwise, your white diamond will look stained or your yellow diamond will look pale.
Diamonds are one of the hardest materials on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. Don't wear diamonds if you plan on doing heavy activities. Diamonds can also scratch other gems and be scratched by other diamonds. This is why many jewelry boxes have dividers. Separate your gems.