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The 4 Cs … Clarity, Cut, Carat, and Color
Much is made of a diamond’s clarity, but of the Four Cs, it is the easiest to understand, and, according to many experts, generally has the least impact on a diamond’s appearance. Clarity simply refers to the tiny, natural imperfections that occur in all but the finest diamonds. Gemologists refer to these imperfections by a variety of technical names, including blemishes and inclusions, among others. Diamonds with the least and smallest imperfections receive the highest clarity grades. Because these imperfections tend to be microscopic, they do not generally affect a diamond’s beauty in any discernible way.
A diamond’s cut grade is an objective measure of a diamond’s light performance, or, what we generally think of as sparkle. When a diamond is cut with the proper proportions, light is returned out of the top of the diamond (which gemologists refer to as the table). If it is cut too shallow, light leaks out of the bottom; too deep and it escapes out of the side.
- Ideal cut: Represents roughly the top 3% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly all light that enters the diamond. An exquisite and rare cut.
- Very good cut: Represents roughly the top 15% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly as much light as the ideal cut, but for a lower price.
- Good cut: Represents roughly the top 25% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects most light that enters. Much less expensive than a very good cut.
- Fair cut: Represents roughly the top 35% of diamond quality based on cut. Still a quality diamond, but a fair cut will not be as brilliant as a good cut.
- Poor cut: Diamonds that are generally so deep and narrow or shallow and wide that they lose most of the light out the sides and bottom
As the name suggests, carat weight specifically refers to a diamond’s weight. However, much as a person’s weight does not necessarily correlate with height, carat weight, by itself, may not accurately reflect a diamond’s size. To gain a precise understanding of diamond size, we recommend considering carat weight with two other characteristics:
- Distance across the top of the diamond measured in millimeters, and
- Cut grade
It is important to measure the distance across the top of the diamond as this is how we view a stone when set into a ring.
A diamond’s cut grade should also be considered because, as we noted in the cut grade section, when a diamond is cut with the proper proportions, the maximum amount of light (or sparkle) is returned out of the top of the diamond. Therefore, when a diamond is well cut, the light reflected out of the top makes it appear larger. In addition, much of the weight of a poorly cut diamond, for example, may be “hidden” in the base of the diamond, making the diamond appear smaller than its carat weight would imply.
It is possible to have a diamond of a lower carat weight, but higher cut grade, that appears larger than a diamond with a larger carat weight, but poor cut grade.
Once you’ve selected your cut, color, and clarity grade, it’s easy to determine the carat weight of diamond that will fit within your budget.
Much as there are 100 pennies in a dollar, a one-carat diamond is comprised of 100 points. Hence, 50 points is equal to 1/2-carat, and so on.
To choose the best carat weight of diamond, consider the size of the finger, the size of your setting, and your budget.
- If a large carat weight is important to you, yet you’re working within a strict budget, consider a diamond with a good cut, SI1-SI2 clarity, and an I or J color grade.
- Diamond prices jump at the full- and half-carat weights. Diamonds just below these weights cost significantly less, and, because carat weight is distributed across the entirety of the diamond, small size differences are almost impossible to detect.
- Keep in mind that the smaller the finger, the larger the diamond will appear. A 1.5-carat diamond solitaire looks much larger on a size 4 finger than a size 8.
- Not all settings will fit all diamond carats or shapes. If you have already selected a setting, check the diamond specifications of your ring or call us at for help. If you need a special jewelry piece created, we can accommodate almost any request.
Color manifests itself in a diamond as a pale yellow. This is why a diamond’s color grade is based on its lack of color. The less color a diamond has, the higher its color grade. After cut, color is generally considered the second most important characteristic when selecting a diamond. This is because the human eye tends to detect a diamond’s sparkle (light performance) first, and color second.
Choose Your Diamond Shape
Since all diamond shapes are very different, unique characteristics determine quality for each shape. Select your shape below to learn how to recognize the most beautiful diamond.
The round brilliant cut diamond is by far the most popular and most researched diamond shape available today. For almost 100 years, diamond cutters have been using advanced theories of light behavior and precise mathematical calculations to optimize the fire and brilliance in a round diamond. In addition to being the most popular and researched shape, a round diamond will typically give you more flexibility in terms of balancing cut, color, and clarity grades while still getting the fire and brilliance you want.
To maximize the brilliance of a traditional round diamond, select one in the two highest cut grades, ideal or very good, and choose ideal, excellent, or very good polish and symmetry grades.
This is one of the most popular non-round diamonds. Its beautiful brilliance and unique cut makes it a favorite for engagement rings. The princess has pointed corners and is traditionally square in shape. When choosing a color grade, consider that while the price of a J-color non-round diamond is exceptional, color may be slightly visible in its corners. Also, princess-cut diamonds can vary greatly in how square or rectangular they are. This will determine what the diamond will look like when viewing it from above. Here are length-to-width ratios for princess-cut diamond shapes that are pleasing to the eye.
For a princess diamond shape that is square, look for length-to-width ratios between 1 and 1.05. If you prefer more of a rectangular shape, look for length-to-width ratios greater than 1.10.
What makes this shape different is its pavilion, which is cut with rectangular facets to create a unique optical appearance. Due to its larger, open table, this shape highlights the clarity of a diamond. If you choose an emerald-cut with a lower clarity grade, such as SI, be sure to review the clarity plot on the diamond certificate. Also, emerald-cut diamonds can vary greatly in how rectangular they are. If you’d prefer an emerald cut with a squared outline, look for an Asscher-cut diamond. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For the classic emerald-cut shape, look for a length-to-width ratio between 1.30 and 1.40.
This beautifully unique shape is nearly identical to the emerald-cut, except that it is square. Also, this shape has a pavilion that is cut with rectangular facets in the same style as the emerald-cut. If you choose SI-clarity be sure to view the clarity plot on the diamond certificate, because this shape highlights the clarity of the diamond. When choosing a color grade, consider that while the price of a J-color non-round diamond is exceptional, color may be slightly visible in its corners.
The shape of a marquise diamond can maximize carat weight, giving you a much larger-looking diamond. This brilliant-cut diamond looks beautiful set with round or pear-shaped side stones, and the length of the marquise makes fingers appear long and slender. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For the most traditional marquise-cut diamonds, look for length-to-width ratios between 1.75 and 2.25
An oval diamond has beautiful brilliance that’s similar to a round diamond. Oval diamonds are also very popular as their length can accentuate long, slender fingers. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For the most traditional oval diamonds, look for length-to-width ratios between 1.33 and 1.66.
Trimmed corners are the signature of this diamond, and they help make the radiant-cut a popular and versatile choice for jewelry. A radiant-cut looks equally beautiful set with either baguette or round side-diamonds. Radiant-cut diamonds can vary in their degree of rectangularity. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For a radiant diamond shape that is square, look for length-to-width ratios between 1 and 1.05. If you prefer more of a rectangular shape, look for length-to-width ratios greater than 1.10.
This brilliant-cut diamond is also called a teardrop for its single point and rounded end. The unique look of the pear shape helps make it a popular choice for a variety of diamond jewelry. If you choose an elongated pear shape, the length of the diamond creates a subtle slimming effect on the fingers.
To understand what the diamond will look like when viewing it from above, look for the length-to-width ratio on each diamond’s detail page. For the most traditional pear-shaped diamond, look for a length-to-width ratio between 1.45 and 1.75.
The heart is the ultimate symbol of love. The unique look of the heart-shaped diamond helps make it a distinctive choice for a variety of diamond jewelry. When choosing a color grade, consider that while the price of a J-color heart shaped diamond is exceptional, color may be slightly visible in its corners. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For a more traditional heart-shaped diamond, look for length-to-width ratios between .90 and 1.10.
This unique shape has been popular for more than a century. Cushion-cut diamonds (also known as “pillow-cut” diamonds) have rounded corners and larger facets to increase their brilliance. These larger facets highlight the diamond’s clarity, so if you choose an SI clarity grade, be sure to review the clarity plot on the diamond certificate. Cushion-cut diamonds are available in shapes ranging from square to rectangular. The length-to-width ratio will determine the diamond’s outline, or what it will look like when viewed from the top.
For a cushion-cut diamond that is square, look for length-to-width ratios between 1 and 1.05. If you prefer more of a rectangular shape, look for length-to-width ratios greater than 1.15.
Here are answers to a few of the questions about diamonds we’ve received.
Q. How do we determine the amount we’ll pay?
A. Price is determined by a number of important factors:
- Color & Clarity
- Carat Weight
- Cut & Proportion
Our professional appraisers will evaluate your diamond on these factors in full view while you watch & wait to determine their value. A cash offer will then be made. There is never any obligation or pressure for you to sell. If you accept our offer, as most people do, we will pay you with INSTANT CASH.
Q. What are appraisals & the values they represent?
A. An insurance appraisal represents a high estimate for replacing the diamond at a retail jewelry store. It reflects replacement cost of your item which includes the jeweler’s expenses & profit. An insurance appraisal does not represent the actual cash value.
If you have items for sale you need cash offers not an appraisal. An offer is the actual cash price someone will pay you on the spot for your jewelry & diamonds.
A consignment is not an offer. Most often, items that are on consignments do not sell or they may take many months or years to sell.
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Gold Star Jewelry & Coin Co is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM. We’re located at 7048 N. Clark Street, Chicago IL 60626; Phone: 773.942.6556.