How to Buy a Diamond: Guide to the 4C's

A diamond's quality and it's value are determined by using standards that are universally accepted and known as the 4 C's, they are Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight.



Cut doesn't refer to the shape of the diamond. Cut refers to how a diamond's facets are cut. This determines how light is returned to the top of the stone. Ultimately, it is responsible for how “sparkly” a diamond is – its brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

Brilliance is the combination of all of the white light reflected from the surface and the inside of the diamond.

Fire are flashes of color you see in a polished diamond

Scintillation are flashes of light you see when the diamond, the light, or the observer moves.

For the best results, proportions of its facets, symmetry, the relationship of its weight to its diameter, girdle thickness, and quality of its polish have to come together in just the right way.

An ideal cut diamond offers the most brilliance, fire and scintillation.


Color is measured using the GIA® (Gemological Institute of America) D-to-Z diamond color grading system. This system is the most widely accepted for grading. All diamonds are evaluated based on the absence of color.

This lack of color is measured in degrees based on comparisons with masterstones, made while viewing under controlled lighting and conditions. These color distinctions are invisible to the untrained eye and should be left to a trained diamond grader.

This scale illustrates the range of diamond color:


The clarity of a diamond refers to the number and location of inclusions and blemishes. These imperfections can be internal or on the surface. An imperfection can interfere with the reflection of light within the stone, therefore can hinder the brilliance of the diamond.

Internal characteristics = Inclusions
External characteristics = blemishes

This chart shows how a diamond’s clarity is graded: 

diamond clarity


Flawless: No internal or external flaws 
Internally Flawless: No internal flaws


Very, very slightly included: Very difficult to see inclusions under 10X magnification

VS1, VS2 

Very, slightly included: Inclusions are not typically visible to the unaided eye

SI1, SI2 

Slightly included: Inclusions are visible under 10X magnification and may be visible with the unaided eye

I1, I2, I3 

Included: Inclusions are visible with the unaided eye




Carat weight relates to the size of a diamond. The weight of a diamond is expressed in carats. Carat directly correlates to the price of the diamond. This happens because the supply is low (larger = rarer) and demand is high (larger = more popular).

1 Carat = 200 milligrams
1 Point = 0.01 carat = 1/100 of a carat (a 1.0 carat diamond = 100 points)

Diamonds of equal weight are not necessarily the same size. Different proportions and depths will result in different size and weight combinations.





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