You know they sparkle. You know they are every girl's best friend. But what makes diamonds so valuable?
Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to mankind. That, along with their brilliance and fire, have made diamonds the quintessential symbol of timeless, enduring love.
The simplest of all the gemstones, diamond consists of 99.95% pure crystallized carbon. A diamond begins to crystallize far beneath the earth's surface among a mixture of liquids, gases, and crystals. Diamonds can, in fact, be from 1 to 3 billion years old--more than two-thirds the age of the earth itself.
In 1477 AD, Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy as a sign of their engagement. He put it on the third finger of her left hand, the finger believed by ancient Egyptians to have a vein that led directly to the heart. She accepted his proposal and the diamond engagement ring was born.
Put simply, there are four universally accepted characteristics that all diamonds are graded by. They are known as the 4Cs, and they are Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat weight.
It is the combination of these four “C’s” that determines a diamond’s value. By changing any of the characteristics, you can dramatically affect the diamond’s value, all other factors being equal.
Understanding Carat Weight
A diamond’s weight is measured in what is known as a ‘carat’, which is a small unit of measurement equal to 200 milligrams. Carat is not a measure of a diamond’s size, since cutting a diamond to different proportions can affect its weight.
(The word ‘Karat’ is used to express the purity of gold, and is not used in relation to diamonds.)
Understanding Diamond Cut
Cut is the human contribution to a diamond's beauty, brilliance and fire. The way a diamond is cut can affect all of the other C's. A well-cut diamond will allow light to enter the stone, bounce off the internal facets and be reflected back through the top, creating the brilliance and fire only a diamond can.
Diamonds can be cut to virtually any shape and size. Some popular diamond cuts include round, oval, marquise, pear, heart, emerald, princess and radiant. There is no doubt that round brilliant is the most popular cut today.
The most important thing to know about color when it comes to diamonds is, in general, the less color a diamond has, the more valuable it is, all other factors being equal.
Diamonds are found in nature in a wide range of colors, from completely colorless (the most desirable trait) to slightly yellow, to brown. So-called ‘fancy color diamonds’ come in more intense colors, like yellow and blue, but these are not graded on the same scale.
The color grading system for diamonds uses the letters of the alphabet from D through Z, with ‘D’ being the most colorless and therefore the rarest and most valuable, and ‘Z’ having the most color within the normal range, and being the least valuable, all other factors being equal.
A diamond’s color is determined by looking at it under controlled lighting and comparing them to the Gemological Institute of America’s color scale, which is based on a set of diamonds of known color.
Flawless. The diamond shows no inclusions or blemishes of any sort under 10X magnification when
observed by an experienced grader. Note: Truly flawless or internally flawless (F or IF on the GIA’s grading scale) diamonds are extremely rare.
Internally Flawless. The diamond has no inclusions when examined by an experienced grader
using 10X magnification, but will have some minor blemishes.
Very, Very slightly included.
The diamond contains minute inclusions that are difficult even for
experienced graders to see under 10X magnification.
Very slightly included. The diamond contains
minute inclusions such as small crystals, clouds or feathers when observed with effort under
The diamond contains inclusions (clouds, included crystals, knots, cavities, and feathers) that are noticeable to an experienced
grader under 10X magnification.
I1, I2, I3
The diamond contains inclusions (possibly large feathers or large included crystals) that are obvious under 10X magnification and may
affect transparency and brilliance.