Buying a diamond ring can be intimidating. What do you look for? How much should you pay? Should you buy online or in a store?
Demystify the process by learning about the four C’s: carat, color, clarity and cut. This system of grading diamonds was developed 60 years ago by the Gemological Institute of America.
Then do some research by visiting a trusted or referred jeweler. You can confirm information provided by the jeweler directly with the GIA, or by online research. You’ll soon understand your options. Here’s a primer on the four C’s and other advice.
THE FOUR C’s
—Carat is a weight measurement. A 1-carat diamond weighs 200 milligrams. The key here is a carat is a measure of weight, and does not exactly indicate surface area size. There can be a significant difference in size of the surface of your diamond visible from above. This is where Cut becomes so critical. There is no ideal size for a diamond. It depends on your budget and taste. Some women want a big rock; others prefer a delicate, less blingy look.
Small diamonds of the same quality are of course less expensive than larger diamonds. A ring with three small diamonds totaling 1 carat costs less than a single 1-carat stone of similar quality.
—Color is graded by letter, starting with D for rare, colorless diamonds. E and F are considered excellent, but G or H diamonds will look just as good to the naked eye.
Farther down the scale, you’ll notice differences. “If you put a K color beside a G color, you’ll notice more yellow in the K,” said Russell Shor, senior industry analyst for the Gemological Institute.
—Clarity measures diamond flaws, called inclusions, which might appear as tiny spots, clouds or cavities in the stone. The clarity grade SI stands for “slightly included.” VS is a better grade, “very slightly included.” VVS is even higher, “very, very slightly included.” Most inclusions in the VVS-SI range cannot be seen by the untrained eye “unless someone tells you where it is,” Shor said. Keith Saxe of NYC Wholesale Diamonds adds “most SI2 clarity diamonds will have inclusions clearly visible to its wearer, be careful here”.
—Cut measures workmanship, rather than a diamond’s inherent qualities. The way a stone is cut enhances sparkle and luminosity and can hide flaws. The best cut rating, ideal, is rare. About a third of diamonds are rated fair, good or very good. Saxe adds “Cut determines the sparkle, fire and brilliance of a diamond. Knowledge on what determines that a diamond is an Ideal Cut is the key to diamond buying success”. Shor states “The one thing you should not trade off on is the quality of the cut,”. “Even a nice color stone, if not well-cut, will be dull and lifeless. But if it’s a middle color — like K — and it’s got a real excellent cut, it will pop and flash with all the sparkle that diamonds are famous for.”
After choosing the cut, “balance the color, clarity and carat weight based on your personal preference to find the best diamond for you and your budget,” said Amanda Gizzi, spokeswoman for Jewelers of America.