Cut is easily the most essential feature of a diamond as it determines the overall appearance and quality of the gemstone. It is also the only aspect of a diamond that is dependent on human manipulation. It is important to have a proper cut in order to optimize a diamond's ability to reflect light and sparkle. A diamond cut too deep or too shallow will not reflect light optimally but will rather leak light through the sides or bottom of the stone, resulting in a lack luster diamond without the brilliance and fire that is distinct in a high quality diamond. A well-cut diamond refracts light directly from within the stone, allowing no light to escape through, which greatly enhances its scintillation.
There are three main segments to a diamond, the crown, girdle, and pavilion, which give a diamond its basic form. Within these segments are the details of a diamond's cut, its facets, which are what allow a diamond to reflect light and cause it to sparkle. A standard diamond will have between 57 and 58 facets, but can have more or less depending on its shape.
Shape is another aspect of cut and is determined by the cutter of the rough diamond. The cutter takes into consideration the shape of the rough stone; the position of its imperfections and how much weight will be lost once the diamond is cut. The most common shape is the round brilliant. Other shapes, known as fancy shapes or fancy cuts include the marquise, pear, oval, emerald, heart, cushion and triangle shapes.
A diamond can be cut in one of three main cutting styles: brilliant-cut, step-cut, or mixed-cut. These cuts arrange the facets in such a way to create brilliance. Brilliant-cut, the most common, is mostly seen in rounder shaped diamonds andcreates a triangular pattern within the diamond. Step-cut is mostly seen on more rectangular shaped diamonds and creates a step-like pattern within the diamond. Mixed-cut incorporates aspects of both brilliant and step cuts, with triangle and step-like patterns visible within the inner facets.
Second to cut, color is the most important factor in determining a diamond's value. The closer a diamond is to colorless directly increases its value. Typically, diamonds range from colorless to having a light yellow or brown tint, and are graded on a scale from D to Z, with D indicating a colorless diamond and Z indicating the clear presence of color.
- D through F grade diamonds are colorless throughout and are the most rare diamonds.
- G through Jgrade diamonds are near colorless, appearing colorless when looked at straight down, but the trained eye can note traces of color.
- K through Mgrade diamonds are a faint yellow color, appearing colorless when looked at straight down, but larger stones will have a visible color throughout.
- Grades Nthrough Rgrade diamonds are a very light yellow color,appearing colorless when looked at straight down, but larger stones will have a visible color throughout.
- Grades Sthrough Zgrade diamonds are light yellow color, appearing so throughout, even to the untrained eye.
While the lack of color increases the value of a diamond, color is ultimately a personal preference and is often indistinguishable between the grades to the untrained eye. Diamonds also come in a wide variety of colors and again increase in value when in the "fancy" color category.Fancy colored diamonds can be found in any color of the spectrum, even in white or black.Fancy diamonds in pinks and blues are especially valuable and the most rare fancy diamonds are red.
Diamonds are created deep within the earth under heavy pressure and often contain fractures or minerals andcrystals that became trapped during its formation. These natural imperfections are called inclusions when they occur internally or blemishes when they occur externally. Any clouds, feathers, crystals or minerals, knots, cavities, cleavage, bearding or graining within a diamond are considered inclusions. Any polish lines, grain boundaries, naturals, scratches, nicks or pits on the surface of a diamond are considered blemishes. The amount of imperfections a diamond has is called clarity. Inclusions and blemishes tend to be invisible to the naked eye and are mostly only visible when magnified. The standard grading system for clarity magnifies a diamond to 10x in order to identify blemishes and inclusions and determines its clarity on an 11-grade scale.
- F and IF: Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds are the most rare, indicating no imperfectionswhen examined by a skilled grader under 10x magnification.
- VVS1 and VVS2: Very, Very Slightly Included diamonds indicate extremely minute imperfections when examined by a skilled grader under 10x magnification and are considered excellent quality.
- VS1 and VS2: Very Slightly Included diamonds indicate minorimperfections that are only visible by a skilled grader under 10x magnification but are notvisible to the unaided eye.
- SI1 and SI2: Slightly Included diamonds indicate noticeable imperfections when examined under 10x magnification, but may also be visible to the unaided eye.
- I2, I2, I3: Included diamonds indicate obvious imperfections when examinedunder 10x magnification as well as by the unaided eye. The amount of imperfection may hinder the diamond's ability to reflect light and affect brilliance.
The amount of imperfections is significantly noticeable in different grades of the same category. While the imperfections in a VS1 and VS2 may be equally visible, the amount of imperfections in a VS2 stone will be greater than in a VS1, and similarly for other categories.
Because most inclusions and blemishes are microscopic, they tend to not affect the overall beauty or value of a diamond. Imperfections can also be masked by the diamond's setting andwon't significantly affect its clarity. Whenimperfections are obvious under 10x magnification or to the unaided eye, it may directly affect a diamond's brilliance and value. However, depending on the cut, some diamonds can still be beautiful and valuable despite obvious inclusions
Carat is used as a measurement of weight for diamonds and other gemstones. Carat is derived from the word carob, a seed, which was used in ancient civilizations as an equivalent weight of measure for diamonds. Because merchants used carob seeds to balance their scales when weighing diamonds, one carat equals one carob seed. One carat equals 0.3 grams or 0.007 and is also roughly the same weight as a paper clip.
The weight value of a carat is broken into 100 points and is equally rounded to the nearest hundredth of a carat. A .75-carat diamond is also called a 75-pointer or three-quarter diamond. Similar popular carat measures such as the half-carat or full carat can greatly increase a diamond's price. There can be a significant price difference between a 0.99-carat diamond and a full-carat diamond.
While carat can affect a diamond's price, clarity, cut and color must also be taken into consideration. Two diamonds of the same carat weight can have substantially different values depending on the quality of their cut and the grades of their clarity and color.
The carat weight of a diamond does not affect its size. A diamond can appear larger or smaller depending on its cut or the setting in which it's placed. The appearance of a diamond can also be affected by the size of the ring and the finger that wears it, with a 1-carat diamond on a size-5 ring appearing larger than a 1-carat diamond on a size-7 ring. Diamonds for jewelry are commonly 1-carat or less, however, a diamond with more carats will be more rare and valuable.
A "carat" should also be distinguished from a "karat," which is a measurement of gold purity and not a measurement of weight. This is why a ring can have a 1-carat diamond, set in 24 karat gold.
Buy from reputed sellers
Buying a diamond is a crucial investment that must not be entered into ignorantly. Everyone wants the best quality diamond for their money, but sellers also want to get the highest price for their diamonds and jewelry. This is why it is essential to do as much research as possible about all aspects of the diamond and jewelry buying process. The single most important decision in the process is choosing the right seller. Making a bad choice in a seller can cost you thousands of dollars and leave you with a diamond of far less quality than you expected. Be prepared to shop around for sellers before you even begin shopping for diamonds.
Never buy from the first seller that you go to. Always go to several different sellers and compare not only their prices, but also their practices. If you compare several sellers and then find that the first is the seller with whom you would like to do business, then at least you know you've made the most secure choice. Here are some preliminary questions to ask to ensure that sellers you are considering are honest and reputable. Only continue to pursue business with sellers who can answer positively to all of these questions.
- How long has your company been in the diamond business? Only do business with sellers who have been in business for at least two years.
- What kind of jewelry do you specialize in? Only do business with sellers that specialize in fine diamonds and jewelry as opposed to gems, crystals, class rings and sports watches.
- What is your standing with the Better Business Bureau? Only do business with sellers that have few or no unresolved complaints from the BBB. Contact the BBB yourself to confirm whatever the seller says.
- Do your diamonds come with a grading certificate from a reputable and independent gem lab? Only do business with sellers that can provide a grading certificate for every diamond, from a respected, independent laboratory, such as ABCG, that has no affiliation with any seller.
- Can you show the Rapaport price list for the diamond I am interested in? Only do business with sellers that can provide a Rapaport, which lists the wholesale price for any diamond or gem.
- Do you offer a 30day, money back guarantee than I can get in writing? Only do business with sellers that provide a written guarantee that any diamond or jewelry can be returned for a full refund within 30-days if you are not satisfied.
- Do you have an in-house gemologist to whom I can direct questions? Only do business with sellers that have on staff a gemologist who is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and is trained to answer any diamond question you may have.
- Do have a microscope that will allow me to view diamonds under 10x magnification? Only do business with sellers that provide a microscope that allows you to inspect a diamond as a gemologist does.
- Can I view diamonds under a full-spectrum diamond light? Only do business with sellers that allow you to view diamonds under a standard color grading light, as opposed to the bright showroom lights that enhance diamond color and brilliance.
- Do you have a master set of color grading stones with which I can compare diamond colors? Only do business with sellers that can show that the diamond you're interested in is the color they claim with a standard set of stones used for grading diamond color.
These questions will allow you to test the diamond knowhow of the sellers you are considering and will also let the sellers know that you are an informed consumer that cannot easily be fooled.
Beware of the unscrupulous
Even if the buyers you are considering pass the preliminary test, it is still easy to be fooled by fancy words and good deals. It is especially important to be wary of tricks that sellers use to try and make the most profit off of their diamonds and jewelry. If you spot any of these scams and tactics being used on you, discontinue business with that seller immediately.
- Sales. Don't fall for sales with major price markdowns of 50% of more. In these cases the seller has probably marked the original price up so high that even with a 50% discount, they will make a sizeable profit at cost to you. Also be especially wary of liquidation and "going out of business" sales. Many places may not be going out of business at all. It's best to just avoid sales at all costs.
- Total Carat Weight. Don't fall for sellers who only advertise the total carat weight of all the stones on a ring and do not indicate the carat weight of the center stone. Sellers do this in order to charge more for a ring than the center stone is worth. Smaller side stones may equal or exceed the carat weight of the main stone, but those stones may not be of the same color or clarity quality as the main stone, drastically decreasing their value in comparison. Always ask to know the weight of the center stone before any other stone on a ring.
- Blue-white diamonds. Don't fall for sellers that advertise blue-white diamonds as a better quality diamond. Blue-white diamonds indicate that the diamond has florescence, or a glow caused by ultraviolet radiation that makes the stone to appear blue in natural or fluorescent light, but it may appear milky or oily in sunlight. This indicates that the diamond is actually of a low quality. Blue-white is actually an old term that should no longer be used due to its regulation by the Federal Trade Commission. Simply do not due business with any seller that uses this term.
- Lighting tricks. Don't fall for when sellers use bright fluorescent lights in their show rooms in order to enhance the color of their diamonds. Lighting tricks can make yellow diamonds appear more white or can make diamonds appear blue (when sellers try to advertise blue-white diamonds). Ask to view the certificate of the diamond you're interested in to confirm its color and whether it has florescence that could be affected by showroom lighting.
- Grade bumping. Don't fall for sellers who exaggerate the color or clarity grade of a diamond. Because the Federal Trade Commission allows sellers to list diamonds within one grade of accuracy, they may bump the color or clarity by just one grade. However, that bump can increase the price of a diamond that is already of particularly fine quality, costing you unnecessarily. Insist on confirming a diamond's color and clarity grade by viewing its certificate, which should be current and from a respected, independent laboratory, such as ABCG, that has no affiliation with any seller.
- Fraction inflation. Don't fall for sellers who exaggerate the carat weight of a diamond. Because the Federal Trade Commission allows sellers to round off the weight of a diamond, a stone can weigh slightly more or less than its listed carat weight. Because diamond prices increase significantly at certain "magic" weights such as 0.25ct, 0.50ct or 0.75ct, you could lose money paying for a diamond that weighs a few points less than its listed carat weight. Insist on confirming a diamond's carat weight by viewing its certificate, which should be current and from a respected, independent laboratory, such as ABCG, that has no affiliation with any seller.
It is of the utmost importance to be educated in diamond specifics when considering a purchase. Many aspects of a stone can affect its quality as well as its price, and sellers will take advantage of any ignorance in order to make a profit. Be prepared to ask lots of questions to show that you are knowledgeable about diamonds and cannot be taken. Here are some good questions to consider asking your seller when buying a diamond.
What is the cut of the diamond?
Cut is the first thing about a diamond that you want information about because it's the most noticeable aspect of a diamond. Cut influences the diamond's shape and can even influence its brilliance and sparkle. A well-cut diamond can also give the illusion of being bigger for its carat weight and can influence the clarity in such a way that inclusions and blemishes are less prominent. When talking about cut, you want to ask:
- How many facets does the diamond have?
- What are the measurements of the crown, girdle and pavilion?
- What is the diamond's length-to-width ratio?
- What is the shape of the diamond?
- What is the cutting style of the diamond?
- How symmetrical is the diamond?
These questions give a basic outline of the diamond. While cut is not the most pertinent indicator of price, a seller will know to charge more for diamonds with a higher quality of cut.
What is the color grade of the diamond?
Color grade is not only one of the primary aspects about a diamond to question, but it is also a big indicator of price. The closer to colorless a diamond is the more expensive it will be. Be prepared to ask your jeweler to show you diamonds only within a certain color grade range, such as D to F if you are looking for a perfectly colorless, or as close to colorless diamond, or G to J if you don't mind diamonds that have traces of color as long as its not visible to the naked eye. Unless you are looking to by a fancy diamond, be wary of any diamond grades K through Z with high prices. The prices of diamonds greatly diminish with the presence of color, until they reach the fancy category. When talking about color, you want to ask:
- What is the color grade of the diamond?
- Is this diamond within the colorless grade range?
- Is this diamond within the near colorless grade range?
- Is the diamond a fancy diamond?
- Does the diamond have fluorescence?
- Can I compare the diamond to a master set of grading diamonds?
- Can I view the diamond away from the fluorescent show room lighting or under a standard grading light?
- What are the highest and lowest color grades offered at the store?
Because there is such variety in the color spectrum in diamonds, asking these questions will allow you to disconcert between high and low color grade diamonds and choose a grade that suites your taste.
What is the clarity grade of the diamond?
It is important to be informed about the clarity grade of a diamond. Even though it is recommended not to buy a diamond with of a very high clarity grade for every daywear, you also don't want a diamond that is of such poor quality that is lacks brilliance and beauty. Diamonds in the VS, very slightly includes and SI, slightly included categories are recommended for fine jewelry, with VS diamonds suggested for the finest of jewelry and SI diamonds suggested for jewelry that will be worn more regularly. When talking about clarity, you want to ask:
- What is the clarity grade of the diamond?
- What are the diamond's blemishes and inclusions?
- How many blemishes and inclusions does the diamond have?
- Is the diamond eye-clean?
- Could a setting help to conceal any of the blemishes or inclusions?
- Can I view the diamond with a loupe?
- Can I view the diamond with a 10x magnification microscope?
- What is the difference between a VS1 and VS2 diamond (or VVS1 and VVS2, SI1 and SI2 or I1, I2 and I3)?
Despite the fact that you will more than likely be buying a somewhat imperfect diamond with some blemishes and inclusions, clarity remains a pertinent indicator of a diamond's beauty as well as price. These questions will allow you to decide how much imperfection you are willing to accept in a diamond.
What is the carat weight of the diamond?
Carat weight is an extremely important indicator of price in a diamond. The price of a diamond can vary greatly with just a one-point difference, therefore it is important to be aware of the exact carat weight of the diamond you are considering buying. It is also important to remember the "magic" carat weight numbers that increase diamond price significantly. These weights are: 0.50ct, 0.75ct and 1.0ct. Prices also increase significantly by the carat after 1.0ct. When talking about carat weight, you want to ask:
What is the exact carat weight of the (center) diamond?
While carat weight can be the most straightforward aspect of a diamond, it can be the biggest indicator of price. Unless the color or clarity grade of a diamond is extremely high, carat weight will most likely be the biggest influence in the price of the stone. In questioning diamonds, be sure that carat weight is among the first aspects about which you inquire