Gemstones – Understanding the Four C’s

Diamond are one of the world’s most valued natural resources, not to mention one of the most highly preferred gemstones. Diamond are naturally made having an enormous variety of characteristics, making each individual diamond unique. The many possible mixtures of these characteristics determine the overall high quality and value of a diamond. Realizing the need for an universal grading program, GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, regarded as the world’s looked upon institute of gemological research, developed the Four C’s. The 4 C’s stand for Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight.
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This internationally accepted diamond grading system offers revolutionized the diamond trade and today is used by nearly every professional in the industry and diamond enthusiasts across the globe. Mainly because individual diamond vary so greatly in quality and price, it is vital for consumers to be familiar with the 4 C’s as well. We’ve outlined the fundamentals of this grading system below, to assist give consumers the resources they have to make educated purchases.


The cut of a diamond may be one of the most important of the Four C’s, and may enhance the overall quality, value, plus beauty of that diamond. There are many different cuts, each having a specific effect on these three attributes:

* Brightness — the amount of light the diamond shows

* Fire – the various colors of the spectrum that a diamond emits

* Scintillation – the luster and brilliance that is produced when a diamond is moved

In a well cut diamond, the light which enters through the table (the top level facet) and travels through to the particular pavilion is then reflected and dispersed through the crown, creating an attractive effect. Unfortunately, in a poorly cut diamond, some of the light leaks out the girdle, which dramatically decreases the diamond’s sparkle.

The quality of the diamond cut is based primarily upon symmetry and polish, as well as the proportions of the table size, crown position, and pavilion depth to one another. Generally, the more facets a diamond has, the more brilliance and sparkle it provides. However the depth of the pavilion also has a huge impact on this. When the depth of the pavilion is either too much delete word enough, the light can be lost out the sides of the stone instead of being directed through the crown.

The particular brilliant round cut diamond is by far the most common of the diamond cuts, although a lot of others are gaining popularity. The brilliant circular cut was designed specifically for use on diamond, and with it’s 57-58 nicely proportioned facets, it’s brilliance and sparkle is more noticeable than on most cuts. Yet with so many variations associated with diamond cuts, many combinations of proportions are possible, directly affecting the beauty of a diamond, and therefore also the value.


Similar to the cut of a diamond, it’s color will either increase or decrease it’s luster and fire. Obviously, diamond along with less color will reflect more light than those with a light yellow or brown hue. This, combined with the fact that nature provides us with less of these colorless diamond, causes them to be more valuable and sought after.

Once more seeing the need for an universal system, the GIA developed the gemstone color grading scale, using the characters D-Z, which is most widely approved today. Diamond are graded below very precise viewing conditions and sometimes compared to diamond of a known color grade to ensure very few differences inside a color grade. A diamond lacking of color is grade ‘D’ and the more color that is contained in the diamond, the further across the alphabet it’s grade travels. Diamond with grade ‘Z’ will have a mild yellow or brown tint, and so will not reflect light as well as a colorless diamond. Fancy colored diamond, although most are irradiated and color enhanced, do not follow this grading scale, and often are more valuable because when naturally colored they are extremely rare.

The most common color grades are G through I, as they are more abundant in nature, and much more affordable. Although diamond of these grades do have a tip of color, it generally basically visible to the naked and unaccustomed eye. Likewise, diamond graded M through M may have a very faint hue of yellow, but with the right jewelry piece and diamond cut, the color may look less apparent (although it barely is to begin with). White gold or platinum settings usually require higher quality diamond, whereas a yellow gold establishing takes away from the yellow tint of the lower grade diamond.

Most company use the GIA Diamond Color Grading Scale [out], and it’s recommended for customers to do the same to better understand the subtle differences in color a gemstone may have, and to better assess the high quality and value of a diamond.


According to the GIA, “diamond clarity refers to the absence of internal inclusions or even external blemishes. ” Of all diamond characteristics, clarity may be the one with all the greatest impact on a diamond’s worth, since flawless diamond are so uncommon. Natural diamond are created deep within the earth under extreme pressure, so it’s not surprising that nearly all diamond have minor flaws. There are two varieties of flaws – blemishes and inclusions. Blemishes are external flaws found on the surface of a diamond, and include potato chips, nicks, and scratches, most of which occur during the cutting process. Blemishes are internal flaws such as bubbles, cracks, or other minerals inside the center of the diamond.

GIA developed an universal diamond clarity grading scale consisting of 11 grades. Gemstone are graded under 10x magnifying, so most of the flaws that impact the clarity grade are barely noticeable to the naked eye. In addition to the quantity, size, and severity of the inclusions, the position and color of the the inclusion are also considered when grading the clarity of a diamond. Since no two diamond are alike, the characteristics of a diamond and it’s inclusions make it entirely unique, and are sometimes used, like fingerprints, to identify person diamond.

The most rare clarity marks are F or FL (flawless) and IF (internally flawless), diamond of these grades are much more valuable because they do not occur as often in nature. The next best clarity grades are usually VVS (very, very slightly included) and VS (very slightly included). These diamond are more common and sought after because they are more affordable than perfect diamond yet still have very small inclusions, most of which can only be seen under magnification by a skilled grader. Likely the most common clarity grade is SI (slightly included). Diamond of the clarity are still considered “eye-clean” and offer an inexpensive alternative. The lowest clarity quality, I (imperfect), has more noticeable blemishes which may affect the brilliance of the diamond.

GIA defines their clarity grading scale as follows:

* Flawless (FL)

No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

* Internally Flawless (IF)

No inclusions and only small blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

* Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)

Inclusions are hard for a skilled grader to see below 10x magnification

* Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)

Blemishes are clearly visible under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor

* Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)

Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

* Imperfect (I1, I2, and I3)

Inclusions are apparent under 10x magnification and may influence transparency and brilliance

Carat Weight

The weight of a diamond is measured in carats, with one carat equaling 200 milligrams or 1/5 gram. You may also hear the term “points” used when speaking of diamond weight. One carat is divided upward into 100 points, so a 1/4 carat diamond would be known as a ’25 point diamond. ‘

Although carat weight is also used to measure gemstones, it is slightly more complex, since gemstone types may have different densities. Because of this, a round 6mm Alexandrite may have a carat bodyweight of 1. 30ct whereas a circular 6mm Citrine may only end up being 0. 70ct.

When written, carat is usually abbreviated as ‘ct. ‘ In a jewelry piece with several diamond, the abbreviation used is ‘ct TW’ meaning carat complete weight (the sum of the carat weights for each diamond), although that’s usually shortened to ‘ctw. ‘ The value of such a jewelry piece might be less than the value of a similar item from the same carat weight with only 1 diamond. Diamond solitaires are much more rare, and therefore, a 1ct Diamond Solitaire ring will be worth much more than a similar 1ctw ring with many smaller diamond.

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