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4Cs of a Diamond: Tips On How to Buy The Best Diamond

Learn these incredible tips on how to buy the best diamond. Before you buy a diamond, it’s important that you understand their value. A simple way to understand the value of a diamond is to understand that there are four qualities that comprise its value.

The value of a diamond may be measured by examining:

  • Color
  • Clarity
  • Cut
  • Carat

And so, as you begin the buying process, be sure that you pay special attention to these four things. Becoming more aware of the 4C’s allows you to prioritize what does and doesn’t matter in your taste preference. And you can also use these traits to help you budget in order to get the beautiful diamond you want in the price range you can afford.

Why the 4Cs Still Matter Today for Buyers

When the system of grading diamonds was introduced in the mid-20th century, it quickly became popular by diamond buyers and jewelers alike. This grading system was changing everything! You have to remember that this was the first time there had ever been a universal means for determining the quality of a diamond. And because of the simplicity it added to the process of buying, diamonds were becoming more popular than ever.

Because of the grading system, it was now easier for people see the differences between diamonds. And so, quickly, the 4C’s had become a simple tool that allowed people to understand why one diamond would be a better purchase than another.

Time has not taken away from the importance of diamond grades. In fact, today the 4C’s are still used by jewelers and buyers alike.

What is a Diamond’s Grade?

The grade of a diamond is determined by each of the 4 C’s. This means that each of the 4C’s are compared in quality, and their is value is thus shown as a grade.

To begin, each C-trait is given an individual grade. Once each of the individual grades is assigned, you can compile all of 4 of the C’s individual grades to get an average grade. By determining the grade, you can then determine the price of the diamond compared to other like diamonds.

Now, the grade becomes an extremely useful tool for shoppers. This is because the more you understand about the diamond’s grade, the savvier you can be when choosing your diamond.

Understanding the Grading Scale

When you start shopping for a diamond, you need to understand how to read the grading scale. Typically, the grade will be represented by a string of letters and numbers.

For example, it might look something like this:

1 ct E VS1.

This example is one that diamond experts would consider to be quite expensive.


People often mistake carats as a measurement of size, but actually carats measure weight.
To help yourself understand this difference, just remember that the abbreviation “ctw” stands for “carat total weight,” which measures the total weight of all the diamonds in a piece of jewelry.

It is also important to know that diamonds are measured in points. So, 100 points equals 1 carat.

Very small differences in carat weight can sometimes result in am unequal spread in cost. To the average eye, you may not be bale to determine the difference between a 1.1-carat and 1.2-carat diamond (1 1/10 carat and 1 1/5 carat diamond). The cost difference between those carat weights, however, can be thousands of dollars!

If you want to begin shaving off the cost on your diamond, start by looking for diamonds that are 10 or 15 points less than the one diamond you actually like. For example, if you love a 1.20-carat (1 1/5 carat) diamond, see what it looks like next to a 1.10-carat (1 1/10 carat) diamond of the same quality. Chances are good that you may not be able to see the difference between these two.


A good rule of thumb for determining a healthy color for diamonds is that “white is right”.
But, because diamonds come from the earth, there is often a wide range of colors between them.

Traditionally, the diamond market has always valued white diamonds higher than others. This trend is seen in the grading scale. The D grade, at the top of the scale, is considered “colorless,” rarest and most expensive. Going down the 23-grade scale from D to Z, diamonds become progressively more yellow, brown or gray.

A D-color diamond is rarely seen and incredibly valuable.

Most diamonds sold for jewelry today are considered “near colorless”, which means they fall between G and J on the color scale. At a J grade and beyond, the human eye can start to detect a yellow tint.

As your progress down the color scale toward H or I, you find diamonds that still appear white, but are more common and therefore more affordable.

Colored Diamonds

It is important to know that colored diamonds have become more valuable as they’ve become more fashionable in society. In other words, because more people want them, there is a higher demand on the marketplace. Colored diamonds, when they occur naturally, are both rare and expensive. However, if you really want a colored diamond, it is possible to get a color treated diamond for a lower cost. This has been a solid and popular option for many people.


The clarity grade of a diamond reflects their natural characteristics. Remember, diamonds come from the earth and are therefore natural. And like all natural things, perfection is rarely found. Like most rocks and minerals, diamonds often are not without their share of imperfections. We refer to these flaws as “inclusions” and “blemishes”.

When a diamond is first brought in, diamond cutters attempt to cut and polish as much as possible in order to hide its flaws. Not all flaws, however, are able to be disposed of and for this reason, the clarity grade becomes incredibly important.

The clarity scale ranges from flawless to heavily flawed and includes:

  • F (flawless inside and out)
  • IF (internally flawless, which means there are blemishes on the surface but not inside the diamond)
  • VVS1 and VVS2 (very, very slightly included – two levels)
  • VS1 and VS2 (very slightly included – two levels)
  • SI1 and SI2 (slightly included – two levels)
  • I1, I2, and I3 (included – three levels)

It may be difficult for you to see inclusions without an experts eye. Flaws are especially difficult to see depending on where they are located within the diamond. Always remember that diamonds suffer from “Snowflake Syndrome”: each one is unique. It is therefore essential that you inspect diamonds on an individual basis when you are shopping.


Recently, there has been an important emphasis placed on the cut of diamonds. This is because the cut of a diamond can cause it to either shine more brilliantly or duller. Learning about varying cuts can help you to prioritize some Cs over others to find a diamond that works within your budget.

A diamond cutter plays an essential part in the quality of a diamond’s cut grade. Today, diamonds are cut in various shapes and sizes. The diamond cutter is able to look at a diamond and determine its fate before it even reaches the storefront for you to look at. This means that diamonds may be cut to specifically disguise any inclusions it may have. Sometimes, a diamond is even cut heavier so that it has a more attractive carat weight for the customer.

A diamond is really nothing more than a prism of light. And diamond companies typically have one main gaol: to cut a diamond so that the prism can obtain its maximum beauty. To achieve this beauty, diamond cutters aim to let the most amount of light as possible shine through each prism.

When grading the cut of a diamond, laboratories evaluate the diamond’s:


The light that reflects from the diamond.


How the light scatters through the diamond to create a rainbow of light, like a prism.


The amount of intense sparkle or flashes that occur across the surface of the diamond as it moves under light.

Diamond cuts are often evaluated as:

  • Ideal or near ideal (meaning that the angles and proportions of the diamond have been cut to produce the ultimate brightness, fire, and scintillation)
  • Excellent
  • Very good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

Using the 4C’s as You Shop for a Diamond

Now that you understand the diamond 4Cs, you can use them to your shopping advantage! As you are comparing diamonds and trying to work within your budget, consider how you might:

  • Get a beautiful, sparkling diamond by focusing on a cut while sliding down the scale a few levels of color and clarity.
  • Get a larger diamond but scale back a fraction of a carat (10-20 points) to save money.
  • Buy a lower-weight diamond but a near-ideal or ideal cut, focusing on the diamond’s radiance and beauty and putting less emphasis on the size.

The 4Cs will reassure you that you’re buying a quality diamond and getting what you pay for, but remember that they’re really just a tool. Rather than bragging about her “1-ct. E VS1” diamond, your fiancée will exclaim, “Look at my beautiful diamond engagement ring!” And that’s ultimately what matters most.