What Are the 4 C’s of Diamonds

Its sentimental value chiefly defines the worth of any diamond. But when it comes to physical attributes that double as quality metrics, the 4 Cs of diamonds act as a roadmap to evaluating diamond quality—the monetary value of a diamond is greatly dependent on its cut, color, clarity, and carat. 

Separate from monetary assessment, the 4 C’s also represent a collection of characteristics that greatly impact a diamond’s trademark twinkle. 

Whether you’re looking for that perfect engagement ring or simply to treat yourself to a dazzling diamond jewelery piece, CJ Charles Jewelers is your guide to the 4 C’s bounteous intricacies. 

The 4 C’s: Cut

So, what are the 4 Cs of diamonds? The first is the cut. 

The cut is the most important characteristic of a diamond—in terms of quality and value—and can greatly affect the physical and optical properties of a gemstone.1 

The cutter of a natural diamond physically carves the stone into different diamond shapes, paying particular attention to the diamond’s symmetry and light dispersion. Essentially, the diamond’s cut is how graders assess the gemcutter’s skill and the beauty of the diamond. To evaluate it, diamond graders or gemologists use a 10x magnification loupe to check the diamond cut.  

This assessment then determines the diamond quality, cut grade, and price. 

Other than knowing how to clean diamonds to attain that magnificent sparkle, a diamond with an excellent cut can achieve optimal light dispersion, sending sparkled gleams near and far. A bad cut, on the other hand, may emphasize diamond inclusions or flaws, which decreases the value of the diamond. When it comes to understanding cut, there are a few need-to-know terms that will aid your diamond buying process:

  • Round Brilliant – As the most common type of cut, the round brilliant possesses 58 polished planes (called facets). Each facet is designed to maximize the amount of light reflected off the diamond and into your own glistening eyes. 

  • Girdle – Like the form-fitting garment of yesteryear, girdle concerns girth. In terms of diamond cuts, the girdle is the circumference of a diamond at its widest point. It’s the thin perimeter of a diamond that separates the crown from the pavilion below. A slightly thick and proportional girdle elicits a higher value per standard ratings:

  • Extremely Thin: Prone to chipping or breaking, care should be taken
  • Very Thin: Good gemstone proportion; care should be taken
  • Thin, Medium: Ideal gemstone proportion
  • Slightly Thick, Thick: Excellent to ideal gemstone proportion
  • Very Thick: Good gemstone proportion
  • Extremely Thick: More depth, may cause the diamond to look smaller

  • Culet – The cutlet is the lower point of the diamond situated at the base of the pavilion. It’s assessed by its size and angle. A diamond with a small, unpointed culet is one of the highest values. When rating cutlets, graders refer to the following standard ratings:
      • None (Pointed), Very Small, Small: Ideal, needing great care
      • Medium: Very good, not ideal visually, protected from chipping
      • Slightly Large, Larger: Will affect the appearance of the diamond
  • Extremely Large: Highly visible, affect the appearance of the diamond

  • Additionally, there are four aspects of an ideal cut that affect the diamond’s optical and physical properties2:

  • Brilliance – No, brilliance is not only a measurement of intelligence. Actually, brilliance refers to the amount of white light reflected by a diamond and returned to the eye. Brilliance is one of the most important factors when assessing a diamond’s quality. A diamond with a bad cut may appear dull and lackluster in comparison to those that reflect light sufficiently. 
    • Luster – While brilliance refers to both internal and external reflection, luster refers to both the quality and amount of light that’s reflected solely from the surface of the diamond. It is directly influenced by the hardness and polish of the stone.
    • Dispersion – Have you ever admired the iridescent rainbow reflections that bounce off glass window hangings? Dispersion is a lot like that. A diamond’s dispersion is its display of a rainbow-like spectrum of colors within its interior. It’s often referred to as “fire” and is an excellent indicator of how a diamond is proportioned. 
    • Scintillation – Essentially, it is the diamond’s sparkle when movement is involved—the more sparkle, the more scintillation.

    It’s important to understand the technical aspects of diamond appraisal when embarking on your search for the ideal diamond and price. However, it’s more important that you fall in love with the diamond, too! 

    If scintillation isn’t your thing, don’t be afraid to go after a more muted stone. 

    The 4 C’s: Color

    The diamond color directly affects the price. A rough diamond comes in a spectrum of chromatic tints and hues. The most sought-after is the pure white or colorless diamond. Diamonds with this color grade, of course, are the most costly too. 

    When grading the color of a diamond, laboratories assess how far the diamonds deviate from the “purest white.”3ptical and physical propertie The stones are graded on a sliding alphabetic scale, with the most valuable grade being “D”:

    • Colorless: D, E, F
    • Near Colorless: G, H, I, J
    • Faint: K, L, M
    • Very Light: N, O, P, Q, R
    • Light: S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

    Some diamonds, however, come in a vivid variety of colors, from ruby red to plum purple. These stones are appropriately called the “fancies.”

    While white diamonds are appraised for their lack of color, the fancies, bedecked in gaudy hues, are appraised for their depth of color. The more intense the color, the higher the value. 

    Color-Based Pricing

    The price of a diamond can greatly differ depending on the grade. For example, a D-grade diamond is exponentially more expensive than an E-grade diamond.

    G- and H-grade diamonds are highly valued stones that still make a great economical choice. Stones graded I, J, and K are typically considered commercial-grade diamonds and populate many jewelry stores, including our jewelry store in San Diego

    Cape Diamonds, which grade K to Z, are faintly yellow and boldly affordable. Lemon diamonds, those of deep-yellow tones, are graded W to Z and are most often cheapest.  

    The 4 C’s: Clarity

    As a diamond develops, microscopic impurities called inclusions embed themselves within the diamond’s surface, which may affect its shine. This is called a cloudy diamond.

    The amount of birthmarks it possesses determines the diamond’s clarity rating—the fewer imperfections, the more valuable the stone. To that end, the diamond clarity is rated on the following scale:

    • Flawless: FL
    • Very Very Slightly Included: VVS1, VVS2
    • Very Slightly Included: VS1, VS2
    • Slightly Included: SI1, SI2, SI3
    • Imperfect: I1, I2, I3

    Flawless diamonds are incredibly rare and especially expensive. For the most part, however, the naked eye cannot detect a diamond’s inclusions unless the stone is magnified. In this case, SI-quality diamonds are the most cost-effective and seemingly pristine option. 

    In fact, a freckled diamond may be just what you’re looking for, especially if you or a loved one values natural and subtle uniqueness. 

    The 4 C’s: Carat

    While carat does not refer to a vegetable you eat, it does represent the global standard of a diamond’s weight and size measurements. The size is greatly dependent on the diamond shape or cut.

    Actually, the term “carat” refers to the carob seeds used in ancient times to measure the weight of a stone with balanced scales. To put it into perspective, a carat is the equivalent of 200 milligrams, and there are 142 carats in an ounce. 

    However, carats are also exemplified using a point scale: one carat equals 100 points. 

    The larger the stone, the greater the carat. The greater the carat, the higher the value. 

    Easy enough, right? 

    While heftier gemstones are typically considered more valuable, a larger diamond’s carat ranking is not the sole determinant of its price value. As you know, assessors also take cut, color, and clarity into consideration. 

    A diamond cutter can actually influence the diamond carat weight with its cut. Precision is vital, as diamonds are typically weighed to the nearest 0.01 ct.4

    Carat-Based Pricing

    The pricing of a gemstone increases exponentially as the carat measurement increases. In other words, there are vast price differences between each category of carat weight.

    For example, a 0.75-carat diamond is priced at roughly $3,000, while a 1.00-carat diamond is worth approximately $10,000. That’s a noteworthy difference. 

    One Part of a Whole

    Let’s review once more: What are the 4 C’s? From most influential to least, it’s cut, color, clarity, and carat. While these factors contribute to the unique traits of each diamond, it’s important to remember to look at a diamond as a whole, especially if you’re in the market. 

    Ultimately, your unique preference matters, too! 

    The Fifth “C”

    Now that you’re educated in the art of the 4 C’s, we’d like to introduce you to the fifth C: CJ Charles Jewelers.

    Your guide to the world of diamond dynamics is happy to inform you of our very own collection of sparkling diamonds. Here at CJ Charles Jewelers, we offer a wide array of beaming diamond beauties of various cuts, colors, clarities, and carats.

    Specifically, our brand of diamond accessories possesses emerald cuts that weigh in at 4 to 5 carats. In addition to our array of “fancy” colors, we also provide plenty of other offerings too, which go by the name of Cartier, Tiffany & Co, and Odelia. 

    Admire our selection—with a new perspective—of diamonds today.


    Sources: 

    1. The Diamond Pro. The 4 C’s of Diamonds: Evaluating Diamond Quality. https://www.diamonds.pro/education/4cs-diamonds/ 
    2. Jewelers of America. Diamond Cut Guide. https://www.jewelers.org/education/diamond-buying-guide/diamond-cut 
    3. Jewelers of America. Diamond Buying Guide. https://www.jewelers.org/education/diamond-buying-guide/diamond-color 
    4. With Clarity. Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding Diamond Carat and Size. https://www.withclarity.com/education/diamond-education/diamond-carat 

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