Diamonds have always been an important part of any jewelry collection — they’re versatile, they’re beautiful, and their sparkle can instantly elevate any outfit. Whether you're in the market for a new pendant, a pair of earrings, or even a diamond toe ring like Rihanna (do you), understanding diamond quality is a great way to make an informed purchase. In this guide, we’ll explore the four factors of diamond quality and provide you with tips on how to shop for diamond jewelry with confidence.
The Four C’s of Diamond Quality
The quality of a diamond technically depends on four different factors: cut, color, clarity, and carat count. These factors are commonly referred to as the four Cs, which is a helpful way to remember them. Let’s take a closer look at what each one stands for and examine how they impact the overall quality of a diamond.
The cut of a diamond refers to how it’s been shaped and faceted. The specific shape (and effectiveness) of the cut will affect a diamond's brilliance, which is a technical gemology term for how much it sparkles. A well-cut diamond will reflect and refract light in a way that maximizes its inherent beauty. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond cuts on a scale from Excellent to Poor. When shopping for a diamond, aim for a cut grade of Excellent or Very Good for maximum brilliance.
The color of a diamond is graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Generally speaking, the less color a diamond has, the more valuable it is. While colorless diamonds are highly prized, diamonds with faint yellow or brown hues can still be beautiful (and also tend to be more affordable). If you’re looking for a nearly colorless diamond, aim for a color grade between D and G.
Clarity refers to the presence of internal or external flaws, known as inclusions or blemishes, respectively. These natural characteristics can also affect a diamond's brilliance. The GIA grades diamond clarity on a scale from Flawless (no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification) to Included (inclusions visible to the naked eye). Look for diamonds with clarity grades of SI1 (slightly included) or better, as they will appear inclusion-free to the naked eye while still offering good value for their price. There are also certain lower clarity diamonds that lean into their imperfections — salt and pepper diamonds are a great example of how natural inclusions can make for a more interesting gemstone.
Carat weight measures a diamond's size and is the element of quality that’s most directly associated with value. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. While carat weight is important, it’s also important to consider it in conjunction with the other factors to determine the diamond's overall quality. A smaller diamond with excellent cut, color, and clarity can appear more stunning (and in turn be more valuable) than a larger one with inferior grades in the other three categories. Consider your personal preferences and budget when selecting a diamond carat weight that suits your needs.
Bonus C: Certification
When shopping for diamond jewelry, it’s always a good idea to look for diamonds that come with a reputable grading report or certification. Some of the most well known and respected grading labs include the GIA and the American Gem Society (AGS). These reports provide an unbiased assessment of a diamond's quality and can help you make an informed decision. Certifications aren’t technically one of the four Cs of diamond quality, but they’re still a helpful tool for anyone shopping for diamond jewelry.
Tips for Shopping with Diamond Quality in Mind
Now that you know this diamond quality terminology, you can begin searching for exactly the type of diamond you want. Here are some more tips to keep in mind while diamond shopping:
- Set a budget: Determine your budget beforehand to focus and guide your search. Remember that a diamond's quality is determined by a combination of factors, and compromising on one aspect, such as carat weight, can allow for a higher quality diamond while staying within your budget.
- Prioritize the 4 Cs: While all four Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat) contribute to the overall appearance and quality of a diamond, you may prioritize certain factors based on your preferences. For example, if brilliance and sparkle are a top concern to you, focus on cut. If size is a priority, prioritize carat count over color or clarity grade.
- Compare prices: Visit multiple reputable jewelers or online retailers to compare prices for diamonds and diamond jewelry with similar characteristics. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, as they may involve low quality diamonds or unethical practices.
- Understand diamond shapes: Different diamond shapes can affect a diamond's appearance, price, and even perceived size. Some popular diamond shapes are round brilliant, princess, emerald, and cushion. Explore different shapes to find the one that speaks to you.
- Seek expert advice: If you are uncertain about selecting a diamond, seek guidance from a reputable jeweler or diamond expert. They can explain the nuances of diamond quality and assist you in finding the perfect diamond that fits within your desired parameters. There are also plenty of helpful guides online — check out our sister company’s blog, Quick Jewelry Repairs, for more insider info all about diamonds.
Diamond jewelry can be a significant investment, and understanding diamond quality will ensure that you make an informed decision that you can be proud of for years to come. By considering cut, color, clarity, and carat weight, you can confidently choose a diamond that aligns with your preferences and budget. Ready for your next piece of diamond jewelry? Browse our collection for pendants, rings, anklets, bracelets, and more. Happy diamond shopping!