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The 4CS

The 4Cs

In the sphere of diamonds, there are 4 sine qua nons that rule supreme. The head honchos that anchor the industry, these are the infamous 4Cs; Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat.

Cut

The cut of a diamond is not synonymous with its shape. Rather, it refers to the overall polish, proportion and symmetry of the stone. Although, the shape of a diamond does play a massive role in determining the quality of its cut, the two cannot be used interchangeably.

The luminosity and brilliance of a diamond are significantly affected by its cut. An ‘Ideal’ cut diamond would have the most desirable diameter to depth ratio. If a diamond is cut too Shallow or too Deep, its brilliance and sparkle are compromised.

A diamond chiseled from the rough requires a proper balance between maximum yield while maintaining an optimal cut. Most customers are drawn to diamonds of a larger yet poorer quality cut rather than a well cut stone of a smaller size. This coaxes cutters to concede on the symmetry and proportion of the stone in an attempt to retain the size of the diamond.

Diamond cuts are broadly classified into Deep, Shallow and Ideal. If a stone is cut too deep, light entering it bounces off the first pavilion facet at the perfect angle but hits the second pavilion facet at too low an angle, causing it to leak out the sides and bottom of the diamond. Hence, a Deep cut stone would lack that alluring sparkle due to less than optimal light reflections.

If a diamond is cut too shallow, light entering the stone strikes the first pavilion facet at too low an angle. Instead of reflecting onto the second pavilion facet, the light refracts and escapes through the sides and bottom of the stone. Such diamonds would appear dull and lifeless as a result.

An Ideal or well cut diamond showcases an awe-inspiring light performance. Light entering the stone reflects off the pavilion facets perfectly and exits through the table. In a superior cut diamond, the viewer perceives that breathtaking fire which inferior cuts lack.

GIA grades diamond cuts on a system ranging from Excellent to Poor. An 'Excellent' cut stone displays a magnificent brilliance, fire and sparkle. This cut reflects nearly all of the light entering it leading to a beautiful play of light across the stone. A 'Very Good' cut is a tad inferior to its predecessor. It does, however, produce superior brilliance and fire, reflecting most of the light entering it.

Diamonds graded with a 'Good' cut showcase a slightly above average aesthetic. While it does reflect most of the light entering it, it cannot compare to the higher cut grades. A 'Fair' cut diamond allows for most of the light entering the stone to escape through the bottom and sides. To wit, it exhibits an inferior light performance which ultimately contributes to its less than optimal brilliance and fire.

'Poor' cut stones have an extremely dull and lifeless appearance owing to the fact that most of the light entering these diamonds escapes through the bottom. Even to the unaided eye, these stones demonstrate a very prominent absence of fire and brilliance.

COLOUR

Diamonds come in a wide spectrum of colours such as white, red, pink, blue, green, etc. Some of these coloured stones are highly valuable depending on their rarity. When it comes to white diamonds; the more transparent / colourless the stone - the more valuable it is.

Stones with a yellow / brown tint will automatically be of a lesser worth than a chemically pure diamond that has no hue. Of course, the worth of a gemstone isn't solely dictated by any one C, rather, it takes heed of all the 4Cs while gauging the overall quality and price of the stone.

The most popular scale for grading a diamond’s colour was introduced by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and consists of the letters ranging from D to Z. Even though the physical distinction between diamonds of consecutive grades might be extremely subtle, especially when viewed with the naked eye, their colour plays a massive role in determining price and quality.

Diamonds are studied under certain standard viewing conditions and subjected to controlled lighting to help determine their colour grade precisely.

Prior to establishing the D - Z colour grading system, GIA had a couple of other loosely applied methods, one of which included grading the diamond's colour with letters ranging from A – C.

'A' being reserved for the best colour and 'C' being for a more compromised colour. As a result of the restrictive and inaccurate nature of this set-up, GIA decided to start afresh with a new colour grading system that had no bearing with the previous one. Hence the D – Z scale was initiated.

Diamonds bearing the grade D to F are deemed 'Colourless'. These are pure white diamonds and are extremely rare. The differences in colour between a diamond assigned a D grade, one with an E grade and another with an F grade are negligible and can only be detected by a trained gemologist when compared side by side with the aid of magnification.

The grades G, H, I and J are deemed 'Near Colourless'. They contain slight traces of colour. Diamonds falling under this grade range are more common when compared to diamonds bearing the aforementioned grades (D – F). Diamonds with grades ranging from K – M are deemed as being of a 'Faint Colour', having a yellow tinge more easily detectable by the naked eye.

Diamonds assigned with a grade ranging from N – R are deemed by GIA as having a 'Very Light Colour'. These are much less expensive when compared with higher grades. The brownish / yellowish tinge in these stones is quite apparent. Grades S - Z come with a vivid yellow or brown tinge. They are deemed as being of a ‘Light Colour'.

The above colour grading system is not applicable to fancy coloured diamonds. Rather, these stones are graded on a scale ranging from Faint to Fancy Deep.

When it comes to fancy coloured stones, the more saturated their hue; the more valuable the diamond. Here, it is important to note that not all fancy stones have the same depth of colour. To wit, yellow diamonds are available in an eclectic range of colours whereas blue diamonds are not.

Owing to the tricky and specialized nature of grading fancy coloured diamonds, it takes an extremely skilled laboratory grader to complete the task accurately.

CLARITY

A diamond's clarity is associated with its visual appearance. Diamonds are created in the Earth's mantle under severe pressures. This naturally leads to the formation of birthmarks in the stone. These birthmarks take the guise of Inclusions or Blemishes. Inclusions are flaws present inside a diamond whereas blemishes are those present on its surface.

The brilliance of a diamond is significantly affected depending on the number and size of these birthmarks as they interfere with the passage of light through the stone. The position of an inclusion in a diamond plays an important role in its appearance. Cutters usually exert every means at their disposals to ensure that these inclusions are not easily perceivable through the stone's table.

GIA grades diamonds based on the degree to which these defects are present in a diamond. A stone with several apparent imperfections would typically receive a lower grade.

FL

Flawless

No visible blemishes or inclusions under 10X magnification and standard lighting conditions. These are extremely rare.

IF

Internally Flawless

Miniscule blemishes on a diamond's surface with no inclusions inside the stone when viewed under the aforementioned conditions.

VVS

Very Very Slightly Included

Minor inclusions that are barely visible even by an expert under magnification and in standard lighting.

VS

Very Slightly Included

Inclusions that may be relatively easy and / or difficult to discern by an expert under magnification.

SI

Slightly Included

Inclusions that are easy to perceive under magnification and can be detected by the naked eye as well.

I

Included

Inclusions that are large and / or medium and can be observed by the naked eye in standardized lighting.

CARAT

Most people incorrectly assume that carat refers to a diamond’s size, however, it is actually a unit to measure diamond weight. 1 carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams / 0.2 grams. Each carat is distinguished as having 100 points. A diamond weighing less than 1 carat would be described by its points alone. Although, the carat weight is loosely connected to the stone's size, it does not always accurately depict it.

Carat is often confused with the term Karat. While the former refers to the weight of a stone, the latter alludes to the purity of gold. The price of a diamond elevates with the increase in carat weight. The syllogism behind this is pretty simple; the larger the diamond, the more unique and rarer it is.

Rough stones capable of producing 1 whole carat are uncommon and amount to less than one in a million. With an increase in carat weight, you will effectively be shelling out more on a price-per-carat basis as well as in total. Price-per-carat is a measure to compare between diamonds of similar carat weights. It is acquired by dividing the total price of the stone by its carat weight.

To elucidate further, the table below elaborates the increase in price in conjunction with the increase in carat weight.

Carat Weight 1.00 2.00 3.00
Price-per-carat
(The approximate price-per-carat for a G Colour VS 2 Clarity diamond)
Rs. 4,00,000 Rs. 6,70,000 Rs. 10,05,000
Total Price
(The approximate total price for a G Colour VS 2 Clarity diamond)
Rs. 4,00,000 Rs. 13,40,000 Rs. 30,15,000
Carat Weight 1.00 2.00 3.00
Approximate Size
Diameter (mm) 6.50 8.20 9.40
Crown (mm2) 33.2 52.8 69.4

As seen above, the price of a stone elevates with an increase in carat weight. However, the size does not necessarily increase proportionately. You will come to find that as carat weight triples, the perceived size as depicted through images roughly triples as well. However, the diameter and crown area of the stone do not elevate to match that increase. Rather, the latter is doubled.

When determining the most suitable carat weight for you, take into consideration the size of your finger (when shopping for rings), the shape of the stone as well as your budget.