So you're in the market for a diamond engagement ring or wedding band? This should be an exciting time but sometimes all the information can make this happy occasion anything but. What you'll need to know first when purchasing a diamond are the 4Cs: Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat Weight. Next, you'll need to decide on mined or lab grown diamonds. Don't worry, we'll explain!
The color of a diamond determines the quality of the diamond. A high-quality, perfect diamond actually has no color. GIA has a D to Z system that determines the color of the diamond under specific lighting. The less color a diamond has, the rarer it is.
Photo Credit: GIA
Most people know the cut of diamond to be the shape of the diamond like round, oval, heart, pear, or marquise. The cut of a diamond actually means how light reflects off of a diamonds facets. This is the most technical of the 4Cs and is also the most difficult to judge. You want the cut of the diamond to create desirable qualities such as brightness, fire, and scintillation. Brightness refers to the amount of light reflected from the diamond. Fire means how the white light scatters into all the colors of the rainbow. Scintillation describes the light and dark pattern created caused by reflections within the diamond.
Clarity refers to the amount of blemishes or particles within a diamond. Determining clarity involves evaluating how blemishes and particles affect the overall look of the diamond. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has created a clarity scale that has 6 categories.
- Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
Keep in mind that most blemishes are so tiny that you won't be able to see them unless you're looking at them under magnification or you're a trained expert.
Carat weight is pretty simple and it means how much a diamond weighs. A "carat" is defined as 200 milligrams and then each carat is divided into 100 points so measuring can be as precise as possible. As you probably already know, as the carat weight goes up so does the price. This is because larger diamonds are more rare and preferable.
Check out this video from GIA that goes over the 4Cs:
Now that you know all about the attributes of a diamond and what you need to be on the lookout for, let's move on to your next decision: mined or lab grown.
Mined Vs Lab Grown Diamonds
Lab Created Diamonds
Lab created diamonds are not imitation diamonds. They are stones that have the same chemical properties of a diamond and are formed in a controlled lab environment using the same basic geological process of a diamond. Lab created diamonds have the same chemical, physical and optical properties as a mined diamond. The result is a diamond that has the same properties of a natural diamond but with much less environmental or social impact.
Mined diamonds certainly have a mystique about them in the sense that each mined diamond has a unique story. Mined diamonds can be found in a variety of colors that are rare and unique and are certainly known to appreciate over time. When looking at mined diamonds, you may want to check to make sure they are ethically sourced and obtained using socially and environmentally acceptable practices.
To read more about the 4C's, check out GIA's website.