For most people, buying a diamond ring is a big thing and a lot of people ask - where do I start? What do I look for? How do I get the most for my money?

Everyone with a budget who buys a diamond, will have to compromise on something - generally at least one of the " 4 C's " - Carat, Clarity, Cut & Colour. So for example, if a very large diamond is the priority, you might need to compromise colour/clarity for the sake of having a higher carat weight. Alternatively, if a very high quality diamond, with excellent clarity and colour is the priority, you might want to choose a smaller diamond with a lower carat weight.

The 4 C's

The 4Cs of diamond quality is a language jewellers everywhere use to describe the attributes of a diamond, that when taken together, help to determine its overall quality. Quality is ultimately tied to price, so it’s crucial that you learn the 4Cs so that you understand what you’re buying:

Carat

Diamonds are weighed in metric carats. For reference, a small paper clip weighs about two carats. prices of diamonds increase dramatically as carat weight increases. As a general rule, for any given diamond, a 100% increase (2 x bigger) in carat weight = a 200% increase in price and a 200% increase (3 x bigger) in carat weight = 800% increase in price.

Clarity

Please consider that my photographs are 'blown up' massively in size and therefore any inclusions affecting the clarity of the diamond will look much more apparent than in real life.

Diamonds are created by nature under tremendous heat and pressure. Nearly all diamonds contain unique internal characteristics called inclusions and external characteristics called blemishes. Many clarity characteristics are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained gemologist using magnification. The GIA Clarity Scale contains 11 grades ranging from Flawless to Included.

Picture

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed the most widely used Diamond Clarity Grade Scale.  All Grade Descriptions are based on a Skilled Grader working with proper magnification and lighting.  The following list summarises the various Grades:

  • FI = Flawless:  No inclusions or blemishes visible at 10x
  • IF = Internally Flawless:  No inclusions and only minor blemishes visible at 10x
  • VVS1 = Very, Very Slightly Included:  Minute inclusions extremely difficult to see at 10x
  • VVS2 = Very, Very Slightly Included:  Minute inclusions very difficult to see at 10x
  • VS1 = Very Slightly Included:  Minor inclusions fairly difficult to see at 10x
  • VS2 = Very Slightly Included:  Minor inclusions fairly easy to see at 10x
  • SI1  = Slightly Included:  Noticeable inclusions easy to see at 10x
  • SI2 = Slightly Included:  Noticeable inclusions very easy to see at 10x **
  • I1 = Included:  Significant inclusions usually visible  without magnification
  • I2 = Included:  Significant inclusions easily visit without magnification
  • I3 - Included:  Significant inclusions obvious without magnification; may also threaten durability.

I think that when buying a diamond, it is really important to consider that most diamonds have significant inclusions within their internal structure. Many SI2 and I1 grade diamonds have a beautiful "eye clean" appearance. The truth is that many diamonds you will see in most high street jewellery shop windows are probably around the I1 grade for clarity and yet often look stunning! Therefore you don't necessarily need a VVS/VS grade diamond to fulfil your needs.

Its also always worth considering the fact that different diamond grading establishments have different standards of grading. For example for a private high street jewellery shop that grades a diamond as VS1 - the same diamond is more likely to be graded as SI1/SI2 by a strict diamond grading lab such as GIA or IGI. Therefore a diamond graded as SI2/I1 by GIA, may look as though it is fairly low down on the clarity grading scale, but should certainly be considered as a very decent quality diamond. This concept also applies to colour grading too.

I1 clarity graded diamonds come with slight ambiguity, because some have very visible inclusions and some do not, which gives rise to a small spectrum of different I1 grade types (some diamond labs invented the "SI3" grade to differentiate between better and worse I1 grades).

The type of inclusion characteristic is also an important concept to consider. For example, whilst "cloud" might prevent a diamond from sparkling as much - a "feather" might stand out as more obvious, but have minimal effect on the diamonds cosmetic sparkle appearance.

Color

Please consider that when photographing diamonds - camera tend to detect any tint of colour and display this in images. So for any diamonds I have photographed which are below the "near-colourless range" - they will look much darker in the pictures than in real life.

Truly colorless diamonds are very rare and highly valued. The GIA Colour Scale uses letters to represent the absence of color, beginning with D (colorless) and ending at Z (light yellow or brown). Color distinctions can be quite subtle and only visible to the trained eye, but the differences can have a significant impact on price.

GIA Color Grading Scale

I think that when choosing a diamond, it is important to consider that whilst a very "colourless" diamond is generally more sought after and often much more expensive, sometimes it can be difficult to tell that diamonds with tinted colour shades (i.e. K-M) have this colour unless they are compared directly next to a very white diamond. For this reason, purchasing a diamond with a tint of colour, can be an excellent way of making a larger/higher clarity/superior cut grade diamond more affordable. The image, demonstrates an excellent account of real life diamond colour according to the scale. Would you say the K-M colour range looks particularly yellow? If not, purchasing a diamond from this range can be an excellent way to save money.

Cut

While diamonds can be fashioned into different shapes, the term “cut” refers to how a diamond’s complex proportions and angles relate to light. A number of factors influence a diamond’s cut grade, including its overall face-up appearance, design and craftsmanship. The GIA Cut Scale for standard round brilliant cut diamonds ranges from Excellent to Poor.

Often it can be the cut grade of a diamond which can determine how much it sparkles, rather than the clarity grade.

Please feel free to get in touch and ask any questions about this guide.