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Richard E. Mampe, Private Jeweler & Consultant

Diamond Grading | Diamond 4 C's | How to Buy A Diamond


Picture of Diamond CutsA diamond's worth (or cost of a diamond), is based on several characteristics known by the diamond industry as "The 4 C's". Although there are at least 12 factors that affect a diamond's value (including symmetry, fluorescence and table percentages), the Four C's are a good starting point for any buyer.

The 4 C's represent the Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat Weight of a diamond. Some of the C's are more significant than the others depending on what's most important to you. Before you shop, take the time to learn the 4 C's so that you know exactly what you're looking for before purchasing a diamond and how your jeweler or online retailer prices them. Below are are the most commonly used criteria jewelers use when grading diamonds, and definitely the ones you want to understand before purchasing the right diamond. Browse our online diamond stock.

Diamond Carat Weight

All gemstones including diamonds are measured in "carats". What is a carat? The carat (sometimes misspelled as Karat) originally was a unit of mass based on the Carob bean used by ancient merchants. Today for gold it represents its purity, and for diamonds it represents weight.

Common carat conversions: 1 carat = 200mg (0.2 grams) | 1 carat = 100 points | 1 gram = 5 carats

Diamond Weight

High carat diamonds are rare. In fact fewer than one in one million mined rough stones are large enough to produce a finished 1 carat diamond. Since larger diamonds are discovered less frequently compared to smaller diamonds, their price rises exponentially to its size. Two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values based on the other "C" factors. That's why it's important to learn what the wearer is set on so you can adjust according to your budget. For example, if the recipient stresses a certain size diamond, then carat weight will probably be the most important factor in your search until the desired size is attained. At that point, you can consider how important the other "C"s are and what they are worth to you.


Diamond Cut

Picture of Diamond CutsThe cut of a diamond ensures that the gemstone has maximum brilliance and liveliness. There are many ways a diamond can be cut determining if it will flash and sparkle, or cause it to look dull. It's somewhat complicated to compare cuts considering all the possible diamond proportions, angles, and percentages that go into cutting a diamond, but let's leave that to the diamond cutter. You can get a pretty good idea of a bad diamond cut by just looking at the stone under a light. If it doesn't catch your eye, it most probably wasn't cut well.

So what are the different diamond cuts? There are many including today's popular round cut and princess cut - each has its advantages. Just keep in mind that aesthetics aren't the only important consideration in choosing a cut. For example, a diamond cut too thin will leak a lot of light and look unresponsive. A poorly cut stone can sell for almost half the cost of an exceptionally cut stone of the same weight!


Diamond Clarity

A diamond is formed within the abnormalities of liquid magma (lava rock) comprised mostly of pure carbon. These precious stones are formed during the crystallization of neighboring minerals and faster forming carbon pieces that often get trapped within the diamond that is forming. These minerals and carbon bits present themselves as "characteristics" that define the clarity of a diamond. The clarity of a diamond is determined by the color, position, number, size and nature of inner characteristics called "inclusions" and exterior features called "blemishes".

Diamond ClarityDiamond clarity is measured on a scale ranging from flawless (pure) to heavily included (I-3). Clarity is graded by using 10X magnification (with proper lighting) by skilled grader. The grader determines the final clarity based on how easy the inclusions and blemishes are to see (to his/her experience eye). Diamonds that are clear are hard to find and generate more brilliance so therefore are higher priced.


Diamond Color

A colorless diamond is the most desirable since it allows the most refraction of light (brilliance). Colored diamonds (off-white) absorb available light which inhibits brilliance (or shine). Diamond color is measured on a scale ranging from colorless (D) to deeply colored (Z). There are even diamonds with color qualities beyond "Z" rich in color sometimes called "fancy colors".

Diamond Color Guide
Most diamonds in the first 8 color grades still look very beautiful when mounted. Setting the diamond in white gold or platinum can make it appear whiter. Or, if the diamond has a noticeable yellowish tint, setting it in yellow gold may help the diamond look whiter and the tint will be much less noticeable.

Color is determined by comparison to "Master Stones" under artificial or natural north daylight by the trained eye or a diamond grader. Although a machine called a "Colorimeter" can be used for color grading there simply is no substitute for the trained human eye.


Diamond Certificates ("The 5th C")

A diamond certificate (aka grading report) is a complete evaluation of your diamond that has been performed by a qualified professional with the help of special gemological instruments. The most common are: the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL). Make sure you review the certificate of each diamond you examine. Each stone bears its own recognizable, individual characteristics, which is listed on the certificate. Mampe & Co can provide an official diamond certificate for any diamond purchased.

Mampe & Co can help you chose the right diamond for the best price. Call us today - before you buy or look at our diamond stock online.