When shopping for an engagement ring, the 4C's of diamonds will be an extremely helpful guide in deciding the perfect central stone. Whether you're looking at lab-grown or ethically mined diamonds, the 4Cs are an international industry standard that assesses a diamond's carat, clarity, color, and cut.
These quality indicators help jewelers, diamond vendors, and jewelry buyers worldwide speak the same language on a diamond's quality. And, after reading abc Beloved's Diamond Buying Guide, you too will speak the language of diamonds!
Diamonds and other gemstones are measured in carats (ct) using incredibly sensitive scales that are able to determine the precise weight of these precious stones.
Carat is often confused with visual size. Carat is a measurement for the weight of the diamond since it cannot be seen with the naked eye like size can. Carat weight is determined by density, jewel formation, and shape.
A good phrase to look for when shopping is Total Carat Weight or TCW. This unit represents the total weight of all the diamonds and other gemstones in the engagement ring or piece of jewelry. This measurement is especially useful if you are considering engagement rings with pave, 3-stone, or halo settings.
The clarity grade determines the inclusions (internal flaws), blemishes (external flaws), or lack thereof (flawlessness) of the diamond or gemstone. This scale focuses on the purity and rarity of the stone.
Hardly visible to the naked eye, flaws are quite common in diamonds since they are a natural gem from the Earth. Typically only seen under the magnification of a microscope or jeweler's loupe, inclusions and blemishes are assigned a numerical value/clarity grade that is outlined below:
- FL - Flawless - No flaws internally or externally. The ideal standard but are extremely rare (1% or less), causing them to be the highest price per carat.
- IF - Internally Flawless - Some surface blemishes but no internal flaws
- VVS1 - Very Very Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws in the bottom half of the diamond that can’t be seen by the naked eye
- VVS2 - Very Very Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws in the top half of the diamond that can’t be seen by the naked eye
- VS1 - Very Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws that are typically not visible to the naked eye
- VS2 - Very Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws that are typically not visible to the naked eye, but are more poorly placed compared to VS1
- SI1 - Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws that may be visible to the naked eye
- SI2 - Slightly Included - Slight internal flaws that may be visible to the naked eye and are more poorly placed compared to SI1
- I1, I2, & I3 - Included - Flaws that are visible to the naked eye, in varying degrees
SI2 clarity is where you can begin to see the inclusions with your naked eye but it varies from diamond to diamond at that grade. I-clarity inclusions can easily be seen with the naked eye, but some inclusions or blemishes along the edge of a diamond can potentially be hidden if the stone is set strategically in the ring.
The color grade for a diamond is truly about the lack of color. The closer a diamond is to "colorless" the more rare and valuable it is.
In the 4Cs Diamond system, the color scale is organized from D to Z, with D being the most desirable and pure "white" or colorless diamond. With each letter, the color grade gets the slightest bit more yellow as you advance to the letter Z.
- Diamonds D, E, and F - D is the highest and most stunning diamond color. All 3 rankings are still considered "colorless" and look quite similar to the highest D quality to the untrained eye.
- Diamonds G-J - This range of diamonds is considered "near-colorless" and still makes a good center stone for your engagement ring, although I/J diamonds might appear slightly yellowish to the sharp-eyed.
- Diamonds K-M: This is where the yellow tint becomes more apparent in the diamond. If you're planning on setting your diamond in yellow or rose gold, you can sacrifice on diamond color because of the warm tones in the gold setting. These will help you hide the yellow color of lower-grade color diamonds to some degree.
Remember, all 4Cs factor into your diamond’s value: a D-color diamond with poor clarity or a bad cut grade is generally much less desirable than a G-color diamond with a good clarity rating and an excellent cut.
Often mistaken for the "cut" of the diamond's shape or style, the cut standard refers to the quality of a gem's cutting. The diamond cut is a crucial element when selecting a diamond as it refers to the proportion, symmetry, and how well the angles of the diamond reflect light within the stone to maximize brilliance and sparkle.
Incredibly scientific, this 4C can be difficult to analyze and is subjective to the grader's interpretation of visual effects known as Brightness (white light reflected from a diamond), Fire (the prismatic scattering of white light), and Scintillation (the amount of sparkle and pattern of reflections within the diamond).
Some jewelers would argue that this is the most important of the 4Cs because a properly cut diamond unleashes the full sparkly potential of the stone, making it appear whiter (more colorless), larger, and distracting the eye from any flaws.
The art and science of diamond cutting are graded as follows:
- Excellent - This level of diamond cut has the absolute best dimensions and proportions, resulting in the most sparkly and visually appealing gemstone.
- Very Good - This rating means that the stone is cut in a way that allows most of the light that enters the stone to be properly reflected, resulting in a diamond with lots of brilliance and fire.
- Good - The diamond is cut in a way that allows much of the light that enters the stone to be properly reflected.
- Fair - This rating means a lot of the light is escaping from the stone without being reflected so the sparkle is low.
- Poor - A poorly cut diamond lets too much light escape and ends up appearing dull.
A Proposed 5th C: Consciousness
Here at abc, we believe all diamonds must have a 5th "C" that aligns with our sustainable and ethical practices. This grade is Consciousness. When purchasing your engagement ring with abc Beloved, you can rest assured that sustainability and ethical mining are core tenants of our diamond sourcing.
Through partnerships with the most technologically advanced diamond exploration and cultivation companies, abc Beloved is able to offer sustainable choices in our curated engagement ring selection. In doing so, we ensure that the exploration, sorting, cutting, and polishing of our diamonds is undertaken in a professional, ethical, and environmentally-friendly manner.