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The 4C's of Diamonds

A diamond’s rarity, beauty and price are all ultimately determined by four attributes: a combination of cut, color, clarity and carat weight. These characteristics are known as the 4C’s of diamonds.

The 4C’s of diamonds are critical to understand when shopping for the right diamond for you. Cut, color, clarity and carat – these are the characteristics that determine a diamond’s quality and value. If you’re in the market for a diamond ring or other piece of jewelry, it’s important to understand the 4C’s of diamonds so you can choose the right stone.

GIA anatomy of a diamond

Contrary to common belief, a diamond’s cut does not refer to its shape – pear, round, oval. A diamond’s cut grade specifically refers to the proportions and angles of the stone, and how those facets reflect light. A diamond’s cut includes factors like the depth, angles and other proportions. A well-cut diamond will be bright and sparkly, while a poorly cut diamond will be dull and lackluster. The better the cut, the more expensive the diamond.

It takes a master diamond cutter to reveal the truest epitome of a diamond’s beauty. 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 brilliant fiery display.

GIA anatomy of a diamond
diamond color guide
diamond color guide

After cut, color is generally considered the second most important characteristic when selecting a diamond. A diamond’s color is established by a D-to-Z grading scale implemented by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). A D-grade recognizes colorless diamonds, as color increases, a reaches a Z-grade. Thus, the less color a diamond has, the higher its color grade. The rarer the diamond, the more expensive it is.

Color differences can be so subtle that diamond colors are graded under controlled lighting conditions and are compared to a master set of stones for accuracy. While truly colorless Grade D diamonds are treasured for their rarity, diamond color is widely personal preference.

GIA clarity scale for mobile

A diamond’s clarity is the measurement of the number and size of the tiny imperfections called inclusions and blemishes that occur in nearly every diamonds. Many of these imperfections are microscopic, and do not affect a diamond’s beauty in any discernible way. By GIA standards, evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone. The greater a diamond’s clarity, the greater it’s value and rarity.

GIA diamond Clarity Scale with green and orange font symbolizing clarity, one of the 4 c's of diamonds
diamond carat scale

Carat weight is perhaps the most straightforward of the 4C’s. It simply refers to how much a diamond weighs. The heavier the diamond, the more carats it has. Diamond prices increase exponentially as carat weight increases, so a 1-carat diamond will be much more expensive than two half-carat diamonds of equal quality.

One metric carat is two-tenths (0.2) of a gram. A metric carat is divided into 100 points with one point comprising one hundredth of a carat. This permits the most precise measurement of a diamond’s weight. By carat size, larger diamonds are worth more than smaller diamonds, because of their rarity. For example, a 1-carat diamond would weigh the same as four 0.25 ct. diamonds, but is considered more valuable because the larger size of a 1-carat diamond is more rare than the four smaller 0.25-carat stones.

4C's of diamonds image of diamond with Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat
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