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4Cs

Once you fully understand the diamond 4Cs, you can use them to your advantage, learning how to prioritize one over the other to find a beautiful diamond within your budget.

Clarity

Clarity is the degree to which a diamond is free from inclusions and blemishes, which can hinder the light as it passes through your diamond.

Like people, diamonds have natural "birthmarks" that vary in size, shape, position, quantity and color. These birthmarks, or inclusions and blemishes, are formed deep in the earth during the diamond's growth. Blemishes can also result from the diamond cutting process.

Diamond cutters try to cut and polish a diamond to hide these inclusions or work around them, but they're still there - and the clarity grade measures them. The scale ranges from flawless to heavily included:

  • F (flawless inside and out, no blemishes)
  • IF (internally flawless, which means there are blemishes on the surface but not inside the diamond)
  • VVS1 and VVS2 (very, very slightly included - two levels)
  • VS1 and VS2 (very slightly included - two levels)
  • SI1 and SI2 (slightly included - two levels)
  • I1, I2 and I3 (included - three levels)

Color

Fancy color diamonds aside, the best, most beautiful color for a diamond is no color at all. The Gemological Institute of America has created a scale to measure diamond color, ranging from D (colorless) to Z (yellow). Fancy color diamonds are graded Z and higher. Most Jared diamonds are graded near colorless.|

Diamonds never change color over the years. However, a diamond's setting can often influence its appearance. A yellow diamond will appear whiter in a yellow gold setting, while platinum and white gold settings may make the yellow color more apparent. In the same fashion, a colorless diamond set in yellow gold may reflect the setting's yellow tint.

Carat

Diamonds are measured in carats. The carat is the weight of the diamond and is evaluated on a point system. 100 points equals one carat; 50 points equals one-half carat, etc. To think of it another way, one carat equals 200 milligrams, and 142 carats equals one ounce.

As you would imagine, larger diamonds are found in nature less often than smaller diamonds and are therefore more costly. A one-carat diamond costs far more than two half-carat diamonds (provided they are equal in terms of cut, color and clarity).

You will want to take several factors into account when choosing the right carat weight for you. Diamonds on small hands appear larger. And the setting you choose can make a difference in the diamond's appearance.

Cut

Cut refers not only to a diamond's shape, but more importantly to its proportions. A well-proportioned diamond brings out the maximum beauty. A diamond cut too deep or too shallow loses light through the side or bottom, resulting in loss of brilliance.

In a well-proportioned and symmetrical diamond, light will enter and exit through the crown to the eye. A poorly cut diamond, however, allows too much light to escape through the sides and bottom. As a result, a diamond with a poor cut will appear dull, even if it has good color and clarity.

What's the difference between shape and cut?

Many people confuse shape and cut - but they are two very different things. Simply put, shape refers to the shape of the diamond itself (such as round, square, or heart) and cut describes the facets and angles on a diamond that let light shine through and can be used in grading a diamond. There are three basic styles of cut, including brilliant-cut, step-cut and mixed-cut.

Check out a detailed breakdown of shape vs. cut by visiting Jewelry Wise.

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