Diamonds are one of earths most treasured gems and have been used for jewelry and many state-of-the-art purposes for hundreds of years. No two diamonds are alike, and we tell them apart by rating its clarity, cut, color & carat weight.
Most diamonds have some inclusions or blemishes, which are typically microscopic markings within a diamond or on its surface — and which affect a diamond’s “clarity” and value.
No two diamonds are exactly alike, and this has to do with their clarity. The grade of clarity a diamond has depends on if it has any inclusions or blemishes, which are common. Put simply, the higher the clarity of a diamond, the fewer inclusions or blemishes. So-called “flawless” diamonds, or those with no inclusions or blemishes, are the most highly desirable — and the most expensive.
Think of an inclusion or blemish as a marking on the diamond perceived by the eyes (with magnification!) as a discoloration or mark. If the marking is within the diamond itself, it’s called an inclusion. If the marking is on the surface of the diamond, it’s called a blemish.
What causes inclusions and blemishes? They can occur while a diamond is forming — minerals can be trapped inside the stone — or when the diamond is cut, polished or set in a piece of jewelry.
When an expert looks at a diamond, he or she uses a gemological hand loupe and microscope to determine the diamond’s clarity. The jewelers’ loupe, a small 10-power (10x) magnifying glass, is typically the tool used to show a customer the characteristics of a diamond and is the standard magnification when assessing diamond clarity.
Most diamonds do have inclusions or blemishes, many of them too small to see with the naked eye. Your decision to purchase a diamond should also take into consideration its cut and color, as well as what is the right setting to display the diamond to its best advantage.
Five factors affecting the clarity grade
Size of inclusions
Number of inclusions
Locations of inclusions (An inclusion located in the center of the diamond will affect the grade more than one in a facet.)
Nature or type of inclusion (If the inclusion might affect a diamond’s durability, its value will be downgraded.)
Relief, the color and depth/placement of inclusions
A diamond’s cut is a very important quality to consider — a good cut truly brings out a stone’s beauty, while a poor cut can make a stone with good color and clarity look dull.
The cut of a diamond is one of its most important qualities, allowing its beauty to shine and downplaying any imperfections. The cut affects how light reflects from, enters and leaves the diamond.
A good cut focuses light back out through the top or crown of the diamond and makes it shine. A poor cut can make a diamond — even one with good color and clarity — appear dull. Just how many facets does a diamond’s cut involve? For a traditional round brilliant diamond, there can be as many as 33 facets in the crown and 25 facets in the pavilion (the section of facets between the midsection and the bottom tip of a diamond — see below). That’s why, when selecting a diamond, its cut should be a top consideration among the 4Cs.
When referring to the cut, jewelers are talking about more than a diamond’s shape. The cut of a diamond also has to do with how the angles and facets are proportioned to one another, the symmetry or precision of its cut, and how well its surface has been polished so that it reflects the maximum amount of light.
Five basic parts to the cuts in a diamond
The top facet, or the flat surface on the top of the diamond.
The section of facets between the table (top facet) and the girdle of the diamond.
The midsection and widest part of the diamond.
The section of facets between the girdle and the bottom tip (culet) of the diamond.
The bottom tip of the stone.
Three basic diamond cut styles
Contain 58 facets. This cut returns the most light out through the top or table of the diamond. Brilliant-cut diamonds include round, princess, radiant, cushion, oval, pear, heart and marquise shapes.
Have facets that are cut like steps down from the table. Most step-cut diamonds are square or rectangular and don’t have a single tapered point at the bottom (a culet). Rather, if you turn a step-cut diamond over, you’ll see a line or ridge running the length of the pavilion. Step-cut diamonds include emerald-cut and baguette shapes.
Are a combination of brilliant and step cuts.
Are the most popular shape; a style that has stood the test of time.
Are a beautiful twist on a traditional round shape.
PEAR-SHAPED (OR TEARDROP) DIAMONDS
Are a subtly unexpected shape for a unique ring.
Add romance and fun.
With their “pointed oval” shape, show off slender fingers to perfection.
Create a classic look that showcases larger stones especially well.
Slender and rectangular, are typically used as accent stones on either side of a center stone.
PRINCESS-CUT AND RADIANT-CUT DIAMONDS
Are square or rectangular in shape and can be incorporated into many different ring settings and styles.
Have larger facets and rounded corners that soften a classic style and impart romance.
Diamond Carat Weight
Diamonds are weighed in units called carats, the easiest of the 4Cs to determine.
A carat is a unit of measure for diamond weight and is evaluated on a point system. One carat is equivalent to 100 points; a half-carat diamond is 50 points, and so on. One carat also equals 200 milligrams, and 142 carats equal one ounce.
It's also important to note that “carat” should not be confused with “karat,” the unit that measures the purity of gold. The term “carat” is derived from the carob seed, the ancient unit of measure for diamond weight. As technology evolved, jewelers began using mechanical balances and electric scales to measure carat weight accurately. Today, most diamonds are weighed using digital gem scales.
Although diamonds come in many weights, one-carat diamonds are found in nature less often than smaller diamonds and are therefore much more expensive. For this reason, a one-carat diamond costs far more than two half-carat diamonds of the same cut, color and clarity.
When choosing the right carat weight, you must take several factors into account. Remember that any diamond will look bigger when worn on a small hand. And the type of setting can affect a diamond’s appearance.
Interestingly, the largest diamond ever found was the Cullinan Diamond, weighing in at 3,106.75 carats (or one and one-third pounds) and mined from South Africa in 1905. For practical reasons, the Cullinan was cut into nine large diamonds and 96 smaller satellite diamonds. Two of these diamonds of the Cullinan are now part of the British Crown Jewels.
A diamond’s body color (from colorless to yellow) is determined by the Gemological Institute of America’s color scale, which ranges from D (colorless) to Z (yellow).
Like the other 4Cs of diamond quality, color is a matter of preference. Some people insist on colorless diamonds for their breathtaking purity and radiance, while others prefer near-colorless diamonds for a warmer look. With higher grades (such as E color, F color or G color) a yellow color is so slight it’s very difficult to see with the eye. Diamonds of H color, I color, J color or below may appear near-colorless.
What causes different diamond colors? The answer is chemistry. A diamond is made up of pure carbon. During its development, other natural elements may be incorporated into the carbon, causing a chemical reaction that changes the color. For instance, traces of nitrogen cause yellow diamonds, while boron gives diamonds a blue color.
Over time, diamonds will never change color, but a diamond’s setting can often influence its appearance. A yellow gold setting makes a light yellow diamond appear whiter. Platinum and white gold settings, however, may make the yellow hue in a diamond more apparent. Similarly, a colorless diamond set in yellow gold may reflect the setting’s yellow tint.
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