The 4Cs of Diamonds: What Do They Mean?

4C Diamonds

Let’s face it. Shopping for an engagement ring is just always some degree of…

Stressful. At best. 

Terrifying. At worst. 

This holds true regardless of the location or situation. Whether you’re shopping for an engagement ring online. Or browsing around in-store. After all, a diamond ring is a big investment—and you want to make sure you choose the perfect one! But between selecting the diamond and setting the setting, it’s easy to get…lost. Very easy. 

One of the biggest questions you may have might involve the proper procedure, protocol, techniques, and tips when it comes to choosing the perfect diamond. After all, you want to select something that’s not only beautiful…but affordable, too. It’s important to know how diamonds are priced—so you can understand how to get the best diamond for your hard-earned money.

Simply put, there are a lot of factors that determine the market price of a diamond. A diamond engagement ring is a big investment, so experts recommend buying a certified diamond if you’re spending more than $1,000 (and most people are). 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), and the 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 an official diamond certificate, you’ll soon notice four distinct, defining factors:

Color. Clarity. Cut. Carat.

These are known affectionately as…the 4Cs of diamonds.

A Diamond’s 4Cs, Explained

Keep in mind, however: these 4Cs of diamonds can get really complicated. Really fast. So what we’re going to do is break them down for you in this blog post. In truly simple and easy-to-understand terms. That way, you can confidently shop for an engagement ring—armed and empowered with some simple yet strong facts and knowledge. Ready?! Let’s do this.

Diamond Cut

The first “C” we’re going to cover involves 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. More than any other factor, the aesthetic beauty of a diamond depends on its cut.

The cut of a diamond affects its appearance in three ways:

  1. Brilliance – the brightness that’s created by the white light reflected from the surface and the inside of the polished diamond
  2. Fire – how the light disperses visible spectrum colors
  3. 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 highly technical (you’re welcome). If you are looking for an in-depth guide to a diamond’s anatomy, visit the official GIA website.  

Diamonds are graded based on how well they’re cut—a well-cut diamond will always 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 absolutely be a primary consideration when it comes to evaluating a diamond. Cut scales typically vary from “Poor” to “Excellent.”

Diamond Carat Weight

Alright friends, here’s where things get all technical and math-y. 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 measured unit of a diamond’s weight—and is not to be confused with “karat,” which is a term used for defining, weighing, and evaluating gold.

As the diamond’s carat weight increases, so does the price of the diamond. Why? 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, Clarity. Remember when we said that diamond cut was the most important factor of all? 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 may be the exact same carat weight.

Diamond Color

When it comes to traditional white diamonds, less is more—less color, that is. Diamonds come in all sorts of different colors, including pink, blue, and 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 stands as the authority on diamond colors when assessing the 4Cs. GIA uses a viewing environment that’s specifically designed to eliminate not just the color from surrounding surfaces…but 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 this well-established 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 is a white diamond is 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 embedded in a diamonds even more obvious.

The color of a diamond becomes a more important factor as carat weight increases, since color imperfections are easier to spot in larger stones. Just another valuable insight on the 4Cs of diamonds.

Diamond Clarity

When talking about the clarity of a diamond’s 4Cs, we’re referring to absences—meaning a lack of blemishes and imperfections. Diamonds crystalize naturally in the earth as a result of carbon that’s been exposed to absolutely massive amounts of pressure and heat. 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 to which these natural imperfections are present. A diamond with many imperfections is less brilliant. Why? Because the flaws interfere with the light path that runs directly through the diamond.

Almost all diamonds are graded using GIA’s 11-point diamond clarity scale. This scale varies from “flawless” to “included.” When grading the clarity of a diamond for the 4Cs, GIA considers the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of every flaw—that can be seen while 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. The best way to do that?

Purchase engagement ring insurance. 

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

Get your free Zillion quote today—and discover the difference that can be realized when you’re armed with engagement ring insurance that includes superior (and easy-to-afford) coverage, transparency, and ease. When you protect your engagement ring with a Zillion insurance policy, you don’t just wear your jewelry—you wear it with confidence!

Now. And forever. 

Call it a dream union. Or just call us at (844) MY-ZILLION to get going today!


Zillion partners with jewelers to offer their customers lower rates on jewelry insurance. If you don’t see your jeweler on our list, we’re sorry, we won’t be able to offer you a quote for insurance. If you purchased from a Preferred Jewelers International retailer please email us at and let us know the name of the retailer. Thank you.