How to choose a diamond
When it's time to choose a diamond, you want the perfect stone. Whether it's for an engagement ring, a wedding band, a right hand ring or a pendant, you want a diamond with all the fire and brilliance that makes this stone so precious.
Diamonds come in many shapes, sizes and prices. In order to get the best diamond at the best price, it helps to understand the 4-Cs: Cut, Clarity, Carat and Color. If you master these essentials, and throw in a few valuable shopping tips, you'll be on your way to finding the right diamond for your needs and tastes.
The way that a diamond is cut refers to the way that it gathers, reflects and disperses light. If a diamond is cut well, light is reflected inside from one small surface to the next, and then released through the top of the diamond. A well-cut diamond will offer the most sparkle.
Diamonds can be cut in a variety of styles - oval, pear, emerald, brilliant, marquise, heart, round and princess are a few of the more common modern cuts. Estate diamonds may feature cuts that are no longer as popular, but equally lovely.
The round and brilliant cuts are two of the most popular choices for modern stones. These cuts maximize the number of facets or faces on the stone, and thus increase the sparkle. To some they may seem smaller than other shapes in the same carat weight – if you prefer a larger look, consider oval, emerald or marquise shapes.
The clarity of diamond depends on the number of inclusions or flaws that a cut stone has. Inclusions are not mistakes, but rather natural birthmarks that appear on a diamond as it forms.
Most inclusions on jewelry quality stones can only be seen with a jeweler's loupe, magnifying glass or microscope. Unfortunately, the more inclusions of any size a diamond has, the less brilliant it will be. A diamond with very, very small inclusions is labeled as VVS1 or VVS2 (one very, very small inclusion, or two very, very small inclusions.) Such a diamond would be considered near perfect. An internally perfect diamond has no visible inclusions, even at 10x magnification.
If the inclusions are visible to the naked eye, the diamond will be marked as I1, I2, or I3. A good cutter can often design a stone to maximize clarity and minimize inclusions, but this may require cutting away more of the diamond, resulting in a much smaller finished stone. Some people prefer a larger stone, and will accept inclusions as a price for the size.
Your jeweler should provide you with information about the clarity of the diamonds you are considering, and an opportunity to view all inclusions with a loupe.
Carat The weight of diamonds is measured in carats. Each carat is divided in 100 points. This means that a diamond with 50 points is .50 carat, or 1/2 carat. You may find two diamonds that have the same weight but a different price tag. This is because other factors, such as cut, clarity and color, also determine the value of a diamond.
The color of most diamonds ranges from nearly colorless to a faint yellow. Rare colors, such as pink, red, deep blue and green, also exist, but tend to be very expensive. Each diamond receives a grade from a color scale. This scale ranges from "D," which has no color, to "Z," which is quite yellow. The average jewelry diamond in the U.S. is an "I" or "J" – not clear or blue-white, but bright with a very slight yellowish tint.
For a smaller stone, a slight change in the shade of a stone can significantly increase the price without significantly affecting the appearance of the stone to the naked eye. If you're looking for a larger stone, a change from an "I" to a "G" or "F" will be noticeable brighter and clearer in color.
From time to time, certain colored diamonds have been in style. Bright yellow canary diamonds, or deep red blood diamonds are popular choices for those seeking the brilliance of a diamond with the depth of color usually reserved for other gemstones. In the wake of the Titanic movie, the demand for blue diamonds increased, but these rare stones remain very expensive and out of reach for most diamond buyers.
By understanding the 4-Cs, you will be able to choose a diamond that will bring you joy for years to come.
As you begin to shop, you'll see that a small stone may have a higher price tag than a larger one, due to differences in the shape, the number of impurities, and the color. Or a lovely "E" color stone may be almost valueless because of large inclusions or a poor cut.
Unless you are buying diamonds as an investment, choose a stone that fits your tastes. A two-carat diamond may be very large but lack brilliance if it's cut poorly. A beautifully cut 1 carat round diamond may have plenty of sparkle, and yet appear too small on a large hand. You may want to try on rings or compare loose stones and look at a variety of diamonds to help you decide which is best for you.
Be sure to shop reputable jewelers and insist on full certification on any stone before you buy. The mall stores are a good place to see a variety of stones and settings, but may not offer the finest stones or the best prices. Ask around and find a jeweler you trust for this special purchase.
By taking your time and shopping carefully, you will be able to find the perfect diamond for yourself or that someone very special.