Diamond Grading Guide
When choosing your own unique engagement ring, it helps to have at least a little knowledge of diamond grading practices. Below we have outlined some of the basic characteristics that affect diamond prices. Learning the "Four C's" of diamond grading will allow you to make an informed decision when deciding on a diamond for your engagement ring. A quality diamond is an investment; one that can be passed down to future generations, so make sure you know what you're getting when you purchase yours.
Diamond Carat Weight
Carat weight is the most well-known “C” of diamond grading. In layman’s terms, the carat weight describes how big the diamond is. On the technical side, one metric carat is equal to 200 milligrams. Jewelers may also describe carat weight in “points,” with one carat equaling 100 points, a quarter carat equaling 25 points, etc.
It is important to note that carat weight is Not the only characteristic that affects a diamond’s value. While some like the idea of being able to glance at another’s diamond and “size up” its worth, evaluating a diamond is not that simple. Someone could sport a 2 carat diamond that is so full of inclusions it barely sparkles, while another could don a little morsel of perfection. Most opt for something in the middle, but ultimately, the choice is yours!
TIP: Everything else being equal, there are often significant price jumps at 0.5 ct, 0.75 ct, and 1.00 ct. If you want one of those sized diamonds for your unique engagement ring, try going slightly smaller (0.99 ct VS 1.00 ct). It won’t look any smaller but it could save you money.
The less color a diamond has, the more “pure” its chemical structure and the more valuable it is. Even for a number of color grades below the highest (D), it can be difficult to notice any color at all, unless placed on a solid white surface. Further down the scale, this color becomes more apparant.
TIP: You can get away with a more yellow-tinted diamond in a yellow gold engagement ring setting, since the color isn’t as apparent as it is against a white metal.
Fancy Color Diamonds
Did you know - Diamonds come in all the colors of the rainbow! “Fancy colored” diamonds are yellow or brown diamonds that possess more color than a Z colored diamond, or any colored diamond other than yellow and brown. Depending on a particular color’s availability at the time, these can cost much more or less than a white diamond of the same quality. Fancy color diamonds are a great way to create a truly unique engagement ring.
It takes a lot of extreme heat and pressure to form a diamond. This process can cause cracks, fissures, bubbles, or crystals within the diamond’s structure. Such characteristics found on the diamond's surface are referred to as “blemishes,” while internal deviations are called “inclusions.” Only a small percentage of mined diamonds are high enough quality for use in engagement rings.
In jewelry-grade diamonds, most of these characteristics cannot be seen with the naked eye and magnification (such as a loupe) must be used to see them at all. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare, and it is likely you will never see one! Inclusions can be mapped (as shown below) and serve as a great way to distinguish your own unique diamond from others.
Even with 10x magnification, no blemishes or inclusions can be seen.
Internally Flawless (IF)
Even with 10x magnification, no inclusions can be seen
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 & VVS2)
It's hard for even a skilled grader to see inclusions under 10x magnification.
Very Slightly Included (VS1 & VS2)
Minor inclusions may be only barely noticable under 10x magnification.
Slightly Included (SI1 & SI2)
Under 10x magnification, inclusions can be easily spotted.
Included (I1, I2 & I3)
Inclusions are very easy to see under 10x magnification and may hinder the diamond's brilliance and transparency.
The cut of a diamond is a very precise art and even slight deviations from the “ideal” design
can cause poor “sparkle output.” The idea is to cut the facets (individual planes) so that they:
1. Maximize the light that is reflected out of the enagement ring
2. Enhance dispersion (the scattering of light to form a rainbow of colors)
3. Minimize the appearance of dark areas and inclusions within the diamond
Below you can see a diagram of how pavilion depth alone affects the brilliance of a diamond. If the diamond pavilion is too shallow, light exits out the back of it; if it is too deep, light exits from the side. Only a expertly-cut pavilion angle will allow the light to exit from the top of the diamond, dispersing into the myriad of colors quality diamonds are known for and catching the eyes of any onlookers.
*The better the cut, the more the diamond will sparkle - and the better it will hide inclusions. If you are on a limited budget, focus more on getting a great cut, as this affects the appearance of the other three diamond characteristics!
*The Round Brilliant cut is the most symmetrical, and thus the most sparkly!
*A “poor” cut diamond will oftentimes look smaller than its carat weight would suggest, while an “ideal” cut diamond will actually look larger since more light is dispersing from it.
While there are even more characteristics and nuances involved in diamond grading, these are the "Big Four" that will have the most effect on price. We hope we have armed you with knowledge so while you search for your own unique engagement ring, you will be able to choose a quality diamond with confidence!