Diamonds 101: How Diamonds Are Graded and Priced

Lorein Abenhaim

diamond101 Diamonds 101: How Diamonds Are Graded and PricedFor a range of reasons diamonds sit on the top of the gems chain. But just how well do you know diamonds? Can you see one on a person’s hand and estimate its worth, or do you assume because it’s big it’s valuable? Picking out diamonds is no easy task. With the four C’s we present to you a diamond education.
CUT
This is the most important aspect of grading a diamond. A cut determines the diamonds ability to grasp light, which gives it that sparkle that makes diamonds so hypnotizing. A proper cut involves light entering through the top flat part of the diamond and traveling to the base, where it reflects to both sides and then back out through the top, giving that perfect shine. A poor cut causes the light to seep out from the base sides, offering less light to shine from the top. Being that some diamonds are cut better than others, it’s best to know the grading system:
Ideal: Only big bucks get you this cut. Round diamonds are the sole shape that can be ideal.
Premium: Still a beautiful and pricey cut and much more common than ideal.
Very Good: Tend to be larger diamonds. While still providing ample shine and brilliance, it loses some light at the base.
Good: Instead of shaving a diamond to a smaller size in order to give it more brilliance, this cut keeps the diamond at its largest possible scale. This cut sacrifices shine for size, but remains at standard quality.
Fair and Poor: A small portion of the light that goes into a diamond in this cut comes back out through the top. These diamonds tend to remain at their maximum carat weight, which proves that size isn’t everything.
CLARITY
Like all things, diamonds have flaws. Just how many make a serious impact on the value of a diamond. This is where clarity comes in. For a jeweler, a flaw translates to blemishes (scratches or chips on the surface) and inclusions (diamond material on the inside, from air bubbles to cracks). The more visible the blemishes and inclusions on a diamond, the less clarity it holds and the cheaper it will cost. Here are the different grades of clarity:
F & IF: As rare as they come. These diamonds have no internal flaws. While IF are easier to find, wow are both of these grades expensive.
VVSI & VVS2: You’ll see very few inclusions through a microscope, although it will be difficult. While more common, these are still dangerously expensive.
VS, VS1 & VS2: Small inclusions that can only be seen with a loupe. These are still great diamonds and become more affordable from here on down.
SI, SI1 & SI2: Include tiny inclusions that can’t be seen unless through a loupe.
I, I1, I2 & I3: The runt of the litter. While still a diamond, these babies are full of dark spots. Here the inclusions are bigger and obvious to the naked eye. The type of LI depends on the cut.
COLOR
It’s a bit deceiving, because color to a jeweler actually means the absence of color in a white diamond. Imagine a piece of glass—the clearer it is the more light that will come through it. Same goes with a white diamond and lets get real, we’re paying for the sparkle. The levels of color start at D, because it is believed that even clearer diamonds might one day be found. As of now, D is as colorless as we’ve seen, making it the best. From that point down hints of yellow appear darkening the diamond and dropping its value. Here’s your color roadmap.
D –F: Colorless and incredibly rare.
G –I: Nearly colorless, especially to the untrained eye.
J: These diamonds are a little fickle and can sometimes be nearly colorless or have some faint yellow.
K- M: Faint yellow.
N-Z: Start at light yellow and end at brown.
*This scale only applies to white diamonds. Anyone who has seen Titanic or Blood Diamond knows that fancy color diamonds are the most rare and expensive.
CARATS
For diamonds, the bigger the rarer. However, pay mind that size is the least important aspect of a diamond, because a big diamond with poor color, clarity, and cut will likely be way cheaper than a small diamond with an ideal cut, a D color, and an F clarity. Nevertheless, you can’t help but be taken aback by a large diamond. Size in the diamond world is broken down into milligrams and grams. Five carats equal a gram.

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