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5 C's of Diamonds

How to choose and buy a diamond

Use this guide to help you understand the basics in buying and choosing a diamond.  Then browse our entire web site including our extensive diamond database.  This will give you  an excellent start in choosing the best combination of size and quality to fit your budget.

Once you've gotten this far you have already probably heard about the "4 C's " of diamonds. Carat, Color, Clarity, and Cut.    The sum of the 4 C's will ultimately determine the "5th C" ...Cost or Cash.  We will give you a brief overview to help you better choose a diamond that is right for you.  But keep in mind, we highly recommend you speak with one of our diamond experts to help you pick the diamond that is best for you and in your price range.

Don't let someone convince you that you need a particular quality.  Everybody has different needs and it is our commitment to find you the diamond that fits you best.

It is best to speak with an expert that is holding the diamond, can see it and describe it while speaking with you.  You are not buying a certificate, you are buying a diamond!


Diamond Secrets   - Good to read after you have read the 5 C's of how to buy a diamond

Carat  is most easy because it refers to the weight of the diamond measured in carats.  One carat is 0.2 grams. It takes almost 142 carats to equal 1 ounce. One carat has what we refer to as 100 "points."  Therefore, a quarter carat would weight 25 "points."  A half carat 50 "points."  And a three quarter carat 75 "points" and so on.

Color is what we refer to as the actual visible "tint" of the diamond.  The highest color and most rare is colorless. Most diamonds sold in retail stores are near colorless to faint or light brown or yellow. There are even what as referred to as "fancy" colored diamonds such as blue, pink and red.  With the exception of the rare fancy colors, colorless diamonds command the highest prices.  The worldwide color scale, derived by GIA (The Gemological Institute of America), starts at D and goes through Z and beyond to the fancy and vivid colors.

diamond colors

Clarity is the degree to which a diamond is free of blemishes and "inclusions."  Inclusions are internal "imperfections" in the diamond. Some inclusions are caused by conditions present when the diamond was formed, others during the cutting process. Since nature makes nothing absolutely pure or perfect those diamonds with few inclusions are rare and command a higher value or price.  The industry wide scale ranges from the low end of "gem quality" diamonds I3 to the best flawless.

how to buy a diamond

Most diamonds have eye visible inclusions.  These range from easily visible, clarity grades I2-I3, to barely eye visible I1.  One must also keep in mind the size of the diamond also greatly influences this generalization.    The industry uses 10x magnification in grading clarity in diamonds. 

  I1-I3 (imperfect), this is the broadest of all categories.  Most gem quality diamonds fall into this range.  This quality basically means you can visibly see imperfections without magnification.  How easy depends on the stone.  However, the lower qualities I2-I3 have so many inclusions they will generally not be shiny.  An I1 stone may not be bad quality.  In fact, this is mostly what you find at retail jewelry stores.  The diamond may still have good to great color, lots of shine and sparkle but if you look very closely you may see a tiny inclusion.  A good value for those who want a big bang for the buck!

SI (Slightly Included), refers to stones that under 10x magnification have noticeable or fairly noticeable inclusions but are generally "eye clean."   Eye clean means that holding a diamond and looking at it without magnification you will NOT see visible inclusions.  Most of our merchandise is SI or  better.  This is a quality diamond that can be compared to higher quality.  The only difference is under magnification.

VS (Very Slightly included), and inclusions are noticeable, by an expert,  under 10x magnification but are minor and small in appearance.  Unless you are  using a microscope and the inclusions are pointed out, the average buyer will probably not see inclusions even under a 10X loupe.   This is very high quality.


The highest grade next to flawless is VVS> (Very Very Slightly included).  Diamonds graded VVS contain extremely small inclusion difficult for even skilled graders to see under 10x magnification.  You will no doubt not see ANY inclusions under a 10x loupe and may not even see any under a microscope.  This is EXTREMELY high quality.  Only a fraction of 1% of all diamonds acheive this grade.

The most rare clarity is IF (Internally Flawless).  These are classified as being free of any internal imperfection under 10x magnification.  This is extremely rare and very expensive.  We do not suggest an IF stone because even normal wear can cause this type of diamond to lower in clarity by chipping or abrading.

diamond clarity

Cut refers not to the shape of the diamond but to the proportions to which the stone was polished.  This is a touchy subject because it is difficult to measure "brilliance" in a diamond.  However, there are several theories behind cutting the "ideal" diamond such as Tolkowski.  The AGS (American Gem Society), has come up with a "cut grade" with all their diamond reports.  Based upon this theory and others we can conclude that the best cut diamonds fall into a range.  AGS grades their perfectly cut diamonds 0 on a scale of 0 - 10.  AGS ideal 0 cuts are extremely rare and consequently will cost much more.   Very fine cut diamonds, AGS 1 and 2 grades,  are also rare but also exhibit extreme brilliance and provide a great value.

how to grade cut in a diamond

  ROUND DIAMOND                                            AGS IDEAL "0"                                                     AGS VERY FINE "2"

Depth % 59% - 62.5% 51.4% - 63%
Girdle Thickness Thin to Medium Very Thin - Thick
Culet Size None - Medium None - Medium
Polish Excellent Excellent - Good
Symmetry Excellent Excellent - Good
Florescence None - Faint None - Medium

Cut in fancy shapes

Since fancy shapes are not symmetrical like the round diamond no information has been published as to the "ideal cut" fancy shape diamond.  However, the industry , as well as our experts, has combined information to determine a range for well cut fancy shapes.  This is based on analyzing several thousand stones over years of experience.   A well cut fancy shaped diamond will produce outstanding brilliance. 

FANCY CUTS                            EMERALD                           PRINCESS                             MARQUIS                               PEAR

Depth % 65% - 75% 65% - 80% 59% - 70% 60% - 70%
Table % 50% - 75% 65% - 80% 52% - 60% 55% - 65%
Girdle Thickness Very thin-Thick Very thin-Thick Very thin-Thick Thin - thick
Culet Size None-Medium None-Medium None-Medium None - Medium
Polish Excellent-Good Excellent-Good Excellent-Good Excellent - Good
Symmetry Excellent-Good Excellent-Good Excellent-Good Excellent - Good
Florescence None-Medium None-Medium None-Medium None- Medium
Length/Width Ratio 1.3-1.65 to 1 1-1.3 to 1 1.7-2.2 to 1 1.4-1.8 to 1

What is Florescence?

Florescence is the impact of ultra violet light on the diamond.  1/2 of all diamonds have some sort of florescence, from very faint to very strong.  This means that under ultra violet light the diamond will glow blue.

  Does this have an impact on value?  Some times.  It depends on its noticeability.  Diamonds of high color, sometimes appear milky or cloudy when they have strong florescence.  But not all the time.  The other circumstances when it is noticeable is under direct sunlight, which has ultra violet light in it.  Those diamonds which appear blue under sunlight would be lower in value.  

  On the other hand florescence may add value to a diamond of lower color as it gives the diamond a whiter, brighter appearance.  Diamonds with as high as H color and lower sometimes appear whiter with some degree of florescence.

how to grade florescence in a diamondHere is a chart as to how the industry discounts florescence.  As you can see those diamonds with the higher quality and more strong florescence have the largest discounts.  

Remember, discounts apply to how noticeable the effect is.  Two diamonds of the same quality, both with strong florescence may not have the same discount in price.

In all cases faint florescence has no impact on value because it is only noticeable in a laboratory setting and has no impact on brilliance.


What does Certified mean?

  A certified diamond is a stone that has been submitted to either EGL or GIA for quality analysis.  The lab grades the color and clarity and takes detailed measurements of the diamond.

  The importance of a certified diamond is to the consumer.  You can compare two diamonds that are both "certified" without even seeing them.  If you have two diamond both EGL certified G color, VS2 clarity, you can be confident that they are comparable.

  EGL and GIA are the benchmark in the industry for certification.  The entire industry uses these labs.  How can you compare an appraisal from an independent appraiser with a certificate?  The bottom line is you cannot.

  If you are getting a good quality diamond it is better to have it certified.  This way you can be confident that your diamond's grade will be comparable to any other diamond of the same grade, anywhere.  You can shop for diamonds that are EGL or GIA certified in your area and then call us for our price.  You can be sure, if you are comparing certified diamonds of the same quality, you are getting comparable stones.


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