The 4Cs of Diamonds: Simplified

Updated: Oct 8, 2019



Shopping for an engagement ring can be stressful, whether you’re shopping for an engagement ring online or in a store. After all, a diamond ring is a big investment and you want to make sure you choose the perfect one! But between picking the diamond and setting, it’s easy to get lost.


One of the biggest questions you might have is how to choose the perfect diamond so you get something that is not only beautiful, but affordable. It’s important to know how diamonds are priced so you can understand how to get the best diamond for your money.


There are a lot of things that go into the price of a diamond. A diamond engagement ring is a big investment, so experts recommend buying a certified diamond if you're spending over $1,000. Some of the more well known certification labs include the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the American Gem Society (AGS), the International Gemological Institute (IGI), or Gemological Science International (GSI).


The next thing that goes into pricing a diamond is quality… but how, exactly, does one determine the quality of a diamond? When you look at a diamond certificate, you will notice four defining factors: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat. These, my friend, are known as the 4Cs of diamonds.

Now, look: these 4Cs can get really complicated really fast. So what we’re going to do is break them down for you in very simple, easy-to-understand terms so you can shop for an engagement ring empowered with some basic facts and knowledge. Ready? Let’s do this.




A Diamond’s 4Cs, Explained


Diamond Cut

The first “C” we’re going to cover is a diamond’s cut. Contrary to popular belief, cut doesn’t refer to a diamond’s shape. When talking about the cut of a diamond, we’re referring to its proportions, the quality of its polish/finish, and the symmetry of its facet arrangements. The beauty of a diamond depends on its cut more than any other factor.


The cut of a diamond affects its appearance in three ways: brilliance (this is the brightness that’s created by the white light reflected from the surface and the inside of the polished diamond), fire (how the light disperses visible spectrum colors), and scintillation (flashes of light and dark; or sparkle, when a light source or diamond is moved). There are a lot of things that go into the anatomy of a diamond’s cut—but we’re not here to get technical. For an in-depth guide to a diamond’s anatomy, visit GIA’s website here.


Diamonds are graded based on how well they are cut—a well-cut diamond will cost more money than a diamond with a poorer cut. A lot of people are willing to pay more for a larger—but poorer cut—diamond versus a smaller, well-cut stone. However, cut grade should be a primary consideration when evaluating a diamond. Cut scales typically vary from “Poor” to “Excellent.”


Diamond Carat Weight

Alright friends, here is where things get all math-y and technical. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole when learning about diamond carat weight, but diamond carat weight is, simply, a term used to measure a diamond’s apparent size. A carat is a unit of diamond weight—not to be confused with “karat,” which is a term used for gold.


As the diamond’s carat weight increases, so does the price of the diamond, because larger diamonds are rarer and more desirable than smaller gems. Now, not all diamonds of equal carat weight are the same. In fact, two diamonds of equal carat weight can have different costs based on the other Cs: cut, color, and clarity. Remember when we said that diamond cut was the most important factor? For this reason, a 1 carat diamond with a high cut grade may cost more than a 1 carat diamond with a poor cut grade, even though the diamonds are the same carat weight.


Diamond Color

When it comes to traditional white diamonds, less is more—less color, that is. Diamonds come in different colors (pinks, blues, yellows), but unless you’re specifically looking for a colored diamond, the presence of a yellow tint will actually lower the price of the diamond.


Like carat weight and cut, GIA is the authority on diamond colors. GIA uses a viewing environment that is specifically designed to eliminate color from surrounding surfaces as well as the light source itself. For this reason, the diamond industry has adopted the GIA diamond color scale. Almost every diamond sold today is rated using the GIA color scale.


GIA grades diamond colors on a scale of D (colorless) through Z (light color). All D-Z diamonds are considered white. True colored diamonds (pinks, yellows, blues) are graded on a completely different scale.


But I mean, a white diamond’s a white diamond… right? Not so fast! It might seem easy to detect a hint of yellow in a plain diamond, but color becomes harder to detect once a stone is set in a ring. A ring’s mounting color can also affect a diamond’s observed color: yellow gold tends to offset a yellow-tinted diamond more, while a white gold band will make yellow tones present in a diamond more obvious.

The color of a diamond becomes a more important factor as carat weight increases, as color imperfections are easier to spot in larger stones.

Diamond Clarity

When talking about the clarity of a diamond, we’re referring to absences—absences of blemishes and imperfections. A natural diamond is the result of carbon that’s been exposed to large amounts of pressure and heat inside the earth. Because of this natural process, diamonds often have internal “flaws” called “inclusions,” and external “flaws” called “blemishes.” The clarity of a diamond refers to the degree of which these imperfections are present. A diamond with many imperfections is less brilliant because the flaws interfere with the light path that goes through the diamond.


Almost all diamonds are graded for clarity using the 11-point diamond clarity scale created by—you guessed it—GIA. This scale varies from “flawless” to “included.” When grading the clarity of a diamond, GIA considers the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of every flaw visible using 10x magnification.


The 4Cs of Diamonds: Your Takeaway

After doing your research and finding the perfect diamond engagement ring, it’s a good idea to protect that investment… and the best way to do that is to get engagement ring insurance.

At Zillion, we offer outstanding engagement ring insurance policies. Unlike homeowners or renters insurance policies, Zillion engagement ring insurance policies protect your jewelry from loss, theft, damage, mysterious disappearance, and natural disasters. Our comprehensive jewelry insurance policies guarantee that your engagement ring is always protected, no matter where you are in the world.

Get your free Zillion quote today and discover the difference engagement ring insurance with better coverage, transparency, and ease makes. When you protect your engagement ring with a Zillion insurance policy, you don’t just wear your jewelry—you wear it with confidence!

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