Almost anyone who has been in the market to purchase a diamond at some time in their lives has learned of “The Four Cs”. What the Four Cs are is quite simple: four character traits that, in their totality, comprise the value assigned to any given diamond. These consist of: Cut, Color, Carat Weight and Clarity.
We recently asked our Facebook community which “C” they favored of the four, and I would guess that some were surprised that the answers came back as varied as they did, with no true winner taking an obvious “first place”. I wasn’t surprised by this, and I’m going to tell you why…
I am often asked which my favorite “C” is, and frankly, it’s not an easy answer for me to come up with. The reason I have such difficulty, and the reason I imagine our Facebook responses to their favorite “C” were so scattered across the board, is because it really all comes down to personal preference. What I mean by this is, to gauge which “C” is your favorite, you have to start out with only one rule: the dollar amount you have to spend on the diamond is a fixed amount. It makes no difference if that amount is $100, $1,000 or $10,000, but the amount has to be fixed. This is often referred to as “The Fifth C: Cost”. So, given that cost is fixed, now we can intelligently explore the pros and cons of each of the Four “Cs”.
Carat (Weight): The easiest of the four to comprehend, as it’s the only “C” that is scientific. You simply place the diamond on a scale, and that’s its weight. The other three “Cs” are, believe it or not, simply an individual’s opinion. As its name implies, Carat Weight refers to the diamond’s weight. Not quite as simple as it may sound, as this is not the diamond’s size, rather solely its weight. Meaning that two diamonds of the same weight can, and often do, have different “size” appearances when looking at the stone from a bird’s eye view (i.e. on someone’s hand). Simply put, weight of the stone can have more volume above the girdle, where the prongs of the ring rest, or below the girdle, for example, depending on another “C” (Cut), but we’ll get more into that later. This makes a diamond of the same weight a different physical size. So, in short, Carat equals weight, which has correlation to its size, but not a complete parallel.
Color: Color simply refers to how much, you guessed it, “color” is in the diamond, with the simple general rule that “less is more”. The reason for this is rarity. A diamond absent of any color, typically referring to a lack of yellow tint in the stone, is the most rare. Some people prefer a stone with a little body color in it, feeling it adds warmth to the gem. Others have eyes which are quite discerning, and find any hint of body color in a diamond distasteful. If you happen to be someone who’s not overly particular about a diamond’s color, you can slide a bit where you hint towards a tinge (or more) of yellow, and bump up your standards on one of the other “Cs”. Remember, the fifth “C”, cost, is fixed.
Clarity: This “C” refers to the amount, size and location of impurities inside the diamond itself. One area that reasonable (and well-trained) minds will often vary on is the clarity grade that they assign to the diamond when grading it. This is an art, not a science. So one well-trained individual may see a diamond one way and their fellow grader sitting next to them may see it differently. Just as different people will make out different shapes when looking at clouds, depending on how their mind works. When grading diamonds, one grader will find a given imperfection more pronounced, or more offensive, or more inert than their counterpart would, and therefore grade it differently. There are many different levels of clarity where the naked eye cannot detect the imperfection(s), and then one needs magnification to detect the impurity. Likewise, there are several levels of clarity where the impurities are increasingly more visible to the eye without any magnified assistance. Where the imperfections are in the stone, how many there are, and their intensity of color all play a role in determining the stone’s clarity.
Cut: Often ignored, wrongfully in my opinion, the proportions of how a diamond is cut determine its sparkle. The reason it’s often ignored is the grading demarcations many jewelers assign to cut can be confusing to interpret and aren’t laid out as clearly to a non-jewelry person as the other three “Cs” are. Diamonds are one of the hardest substances found on earth, and refract light better than anything else. So, a well-proportioned (well-cut) diamond will, like a prism, refract the most amount of light, and therefore sparkle the most. Most will wonder why all diamonds aren’t simply “cut well”. Seems reasonable, but as they don’t come out of the ground in a shape (nor polished, of course) meant to maximize sparkle, the more “cutting” a diamond cutter must do to proportion the stone, the more carat weight is shaved off. So, they’re making the determination whether to trade (sacrifice) carat weight for an improvement in cut (sparkle). This decision is made by the cutter, based on each individual stone, to determine how they can get the most value out of that individual diamond
Most people try to obtain a reasonable balance between the various “Cs”. In other words, they don’t typically want a diamond of very top color yet very low clarity; or vice versa. The better the diamond’s color and clarity, the finer the cut they usually demand. In a lower quality diamond, the color, cut and clarity can all be off a little, and the stone will be more beautiful, with less obvious deficiencies, than one that has a very poor grade in one area and a very fine grade in another. We advise a well-balanced stone, as we find that is what most well-informed consumers typically end up selecting, regardless of their budget.
So, after all of this, which is the best “C” for your money? My personal advice, with all my years of knowledge, is to go into a jewelry store (may I recommend Shane Co. 🙂 ) and find someone with knowledge and passion to educate you with actual diamonds in front of you, comparing and contrasting, while keeping the cost of each stone fixed, and then you are empowered to make that call for yourself!