Diamonds are a beautiful thing to behold. They catch the light in ways that make it dance around a room. They are a picture of beauty and strength in a small package. It's no wonder so many people love them. If you're new to owning diamonds, or are trying to educate yourself, or are in the market for one (or a few) but don't know what to look for- this information is for you!
The Basics of Diamonds
Diamonds are what's known as a precious stone (or gemstone); a highly attractive and valuable piece of mineral or rock. They are named for the Greek word, "adamastos" (which means "invincible"). They are often thought of as colorless, but in reality, a truly colorless diamond is very rare. They are said to symbolize strength and clarity, and they are used as a symbol of love or to show status and wealth.
Part of their uniqueness comes from the fact that they are comprised of a single element- Carbon. Diamonds have other trace elements that can affect their shape and color, but they are 99.95% carbon.
Diamonds gained their popularity in the late 1930s after the diamond cartel De Beers started a marketing campaign with the slogan, "A Diamond is Forever." This was during the Great Depression and the price of diamonds had collapsed. It was during this difficult time in our country's history that his slogan stuck, and to this day it remains. Diamonds have been the go-to choice for engagement and wedding rings ever since.
The Four C's of Diamonds
The Four C's of Diamonds may or may not be a term you've heard before. It is commonly used amongst jewelers to describe and distinguish diamonds. The Four C's of Diamonds are cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. The Grogan WOW Diamond, as an example, is a rare and beautiful diamond that is an incredible balance of all four C's.
A diamond's cut reveals the skill of a jeweler. It is a measurement of how light interacts within a stone and is determined mostly by the number of facets and their angles and proportion to each other. Commonly confused with a diamond's shape (i.e. round, princess, emerald, etc.), a cut measures how light interacts with a stone in three different ways: brilliance, fire, and scintillation.
- Brilliance: The amount of light that enters and exits as observed from the top of the diamond.
- Fire: The number of colors (besides white) that reflect out of the diamond from it acting like a prism that breaks up white light.
- Scintillation: How much the diamond sparkles, creating reflecting patterns of light to create both light and dark areas within the diamond.
A diamond that has been cut well will have a proper balance of these three factors. Each era seems to prize these factors differently. For example, centuries ago, brilliance was very prized. Whereas today, fire tends to be more prized. When it comes to rating a diamond for sale though, all three factors are used.
Diamonds come from the earth and are typically exposed to other minerals and elements such as pressure and temperature. These can cause diamonds to have internal and external imperfections. When determining clarity, jewelers base their assessment of how clear a diamond is by the number of imperfections it has. The fewer the imperfections, the better the clarity rating a diamond will have.
When it comes to clarity, you are highly unlikely to be able to detect the imperfections with your naked eye. Clarity grading is done using magnification and can actually serve as a fingerprint (aka identifier) in case you wish to insure your diamond. There are certain "inclusions" and "internal features" that jewelers will look for to describe a diamond.
Clarity is one of the Four C's of Diamonds that you have to worry the least about unless you intend to sell loose diamonds. For most people, this isn't the case. If you do intend to buy loose diamonds, we recommend learning more about the grades of clarity.
When it comes to diamond color, the less color there is in a diamond the higher the grade it will have. The most commonly purchased diamonds are "white" diamonds, but diamonds can actually be found in almost any color of the rainbow. The rarest colored diamond is red, and the most common to be found have yellow or brown tones. A diamond's color is considered more or less expensive due to rarity rather than beauty. Some people may choose to purchase a diamond with more color if it is more flattering with a certain combination of the other three C's and a particular setting.
Color grades are measured on a scale of D (being the best) to Z (being the worst):
- D-F: The most colorless diamonds available, this range is unnoticeable except by trained gemologists. They are so clear and so rare that they must be put in silver-colored materials to avoid spoiling their clarity
- G-H: These diamonds look colorless to the untrained eye unless they are directly being compared side-by-side with other high-quality diamonds outside of settings.
- I-J: Slight coloration can be seen with these, and many customers actually prefer this grade as it can add a bit of warmth to jewelry.
- K-Z: These tend to be yellow or brown and are not in high demand. Most jewelers don't carry this grade of diamonds, but they aren't completely out of style. They've had their times to shine.
When it comes to color, we recommend that you talk with our jewelers to determine which grade is right for you, because most of the time you won't know what you want until you see it.
Carat weight (not to be confused with karat) is most often associated with diamonds, although it is used for all precious stones. Although it is technically a weight measurement, carat weight actually has little to do with the actual size of a diamond. The other C's play a big factor in how big or small a diamond appears, despite its carat weight.
Something not commonly known is that the word carat is derived from the carob seed, which was used on a balance scale to determine the weight of precious stones and metals. The more seeds needed to balance the scale, the more valuable the stone on the other side was considered to be. Today, carat weight has nothing to do with carob seeds and everything to do with a diamond's weight in grams or milligrams. A carat is equal to 1/5th of a gram (or 200mg). It can be divided up into 100 points to get finer gradations of weight. Diamonds that are 20 points or smaller are typically used as accent diamonds and not center diamonds in jewelry.
Carat weight plays a large role in the pricing of jewelry. This is due to the fact that diamonds produced in nature are typically smaller and larger sizes are rarer, making jewelry that contains larger diamonds more expensive. To give you an idea of how rare large diamonds are: a one-carat finished diamond is usually found in only one in a million raw diamonds. Rarity increases exponentially from there.
How to Choose a Diamond
Choosing a diamond for jewelry is a big decision, primarily because diamond jewelry is bought with the intention that it will last a lifetime or longer. Obviously, choosing which diamond to buy has a lot to do with the Four C's of Diamonds listed above, but there are also a number of treatments and diamond substitutes to consider that rival even the best of what nature has to offer.
Do you remember doing an experiment in school where you grew your own rock sugar crystals? It was pretty mesmerizing, right? Well, imagine scientists doing something similar to grow synthetic diamonds that are incredibly high-quality. They are so high-quality that only trained gemologists with a lab are likely to discern the difference.
High Pressure Heat Treated Diamonds (HPHT)
HPHT is a method for growing diamonds in the lab, but it's also used to correct colors in lower-grade natural diamonds to increase their brilliance factor. It has been used to turn brown diamonds colorless and draw out other colors like pink and blue.
These "diamonds" are actually comprised of silicon and carbon. Moissanite is an extremely rare natural mineral that can easily be grown in a lab. They can look smaller compared to diamonds, but they tend to have more fire than diamonds depending on the cut. It is slightly softer than diamond and is a major competitor to cubic zirconia (another diamond substitute).
Gemologists are able to use lasers and fillings to fix problems in natural stones. This is known as treating diamonds to make them clarity-enhanced. Although most people will never notice the difference between a natural diamond in comparison to a treated one, price is where you'll feel it. Natural diamonds will always be worth more, but if you're looking for a cheaper option then clarity-enhanced is a great choice. When shopping for diamonds, a jeweler will always tell you if a diamond has been manipulated so that you can make an informed decision.
Buying a Diamond
Are you in the market for a diamond for a particular piece of jewelry? We recommend checking out our Diamond Buying Tips to help make the process easier. We also recommend browsing our Diamond Collection to see what captures your attention and feels right. If you'd like to view diamonds in person, visit us at one of our locations! We'd be happy to help you with your search.