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Many people have heard of the 4Cs of a diamond, but not everyone fully understands what each C means and how it plays a role in the overall look of a stone. We are often asked, “What are the 4Cs of diamond grading?” While diamond color and clarity are relatively well-known, the other two Cs—cut and carat—are often misunderstood.
Here at Roman Malakov, we’re here to help you. Our diamond 4C chart is a great place to turn for comparisons once you have a grasp of each of the 4Cs. However, if you still have questions after exploring this blog and our 4Cs diamond chart, feel free to contact us for additional guidance. In fact, we can also help you compare the different aspects of diamonds side by side and find the perfect balance of each of the 4Cs to ensure you’re getting the best stone for you.
The 4Cs of a diamond include cut, color, clarity, and carat. Each C covers an important aspect of a diamond’s appearance, but they also affect the quality of the stone, which therefore impacts its price. The 4Cs work together within the stone, and they receive specific grades based on a consistent scale utilized by professionals.
The cut of a diamond refers to how shallow or deep the angles of the diamond are. It’s not about the shape, such as round or princess. Those are not part of the diamond 4C chart, although many people get the shape confused with the cut. Instead, cut is about how well the angles reflect the light, which directly impacts how much a diamond sparkles.
Diamonds that are cut too shallow will see the light basically go right through the diamond, and diamonds with deep cuts will see the light reflect out the side or bottom of the stone. In comparison, an ideal cut diamond is one that allows the light to bounce around inside the stone before reflecting back through the top, bringing about intense brilliance and fire. Diamond cut is labeled as ideal, excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor (currently only for round diamonds).
Diamond color is based on how white or colorless a stone is. The diamond 4C chart grades diamonds on a scale from D to Z, where D is the most colorless and Z has a noticeably brown or yellow tint. While D diamonds will be the most expensive, that doesn’t mean that a lower grade is bad. In fact, most people cannot see a difference between two stones of adjacent color grades.
The most important part of diamond color is how it appears in your particular setting. For example, diamonds set in diamond stud earrings will require a different color grade than those set in a side-stone engagement ring. Also, keep in mind that two stones of the same color grade may look different because cut, clarity, and carat can also impact the way it appears. It’s important to note that fancy-colored diamonds, such as pink or canary yellow, will not be graded in the same way as colorless diamonds and, therefore, don’t appear on the 4Cs diamond chart.
Clarity essentially covers how clear a diamond is. It ranges from Flawless (FL) with no visible inclusions or imperfections to Inclusions 2 (I2), which has noticeable inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye. The most important thing about clarity is ensuring that your diamond is eye-clean. This simply means that you don’t see any inclusions when looking at the stone with your naked eye. You might see inclusions when examining a diamond with a magnifying glass or microscope, but as long as they don’t impact the overall sparkle, minor inclusions are often a non-issue.
It’s important that you see the actual stones when you’re making your decision, as simply receiving a diamond grade won’t give you a solid idea of what the stone looks like. Diamonds with identical clarity may look vastly different due to the way the inclusions show up (or don’t show up) and how the clarity interacts with the other diamond 4Cs.
The final C stands for carat. This refers to the actual weight of the stone rather than its physical size. The shape and cut of a diamond impact how large it actually looks more than the carat does, but a lower carat weight can certainly impact the overall appearance of the final setting that your stone is in.
While many people tend to focus on carat weight, it is more important to consider how the carat interacts with the other Cs in creating the final overall look. It’s not a bad idea to have an idea of what carat weight you’re looking for when beginning your search for a diamond, but it’s best to be flexible and consider some options that may be slightly lower in carat weight but have higher grades in the other Cs.
Diamond quality is not necessarily about good or bad diamonds, but more so about how all the characteristics work together in creating your ideal diamond. While some people may prefer a larger stone with less clarity, others will opt for a smaller stone with an ideal cut to achieve the look they desire. Diamond quality is somewhat quantifiable as it does impact price, but personal preference will always beat out the grades of a stone.
Many people wonder which of the 4Cs is the most important. Generally speaking, cut is the most important. Remember, this is not about the shape of the stone but about the depth of the angles. Ideal cut stones will reflect light beautifully, allowing the diamond to sparkle and shine with brilliance. If you find a poorly cut stone that has great grades in all of the other 4Cs, you will likely be disappointed in its overall appearance due to the poor cut. This one factor impacts the overall look more than any of the others.
In general, you want a diamond with a good balance of each of the 4Cs. You don’t need the best of the best when it comes to clarity or color, but prioritizing cut will make a bigger difference than selecting a stone with a higher carat weight. If you’re still uncertain about the optimal balance of each attribute, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a professional to help you weigh your options and make the best decision.
The jewelry professionals at Roman Malakov are available to help you navigate the diamond-buying process. From exploring fancy-colored diamonds to envisioning stones in your chosen setting, they are happy to help educate you and explore options alongside you. You can schedule an in-person or virtual consultation or simply visit us at our store, located in New York City’s Diamond District. We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you select the perfect diamond for you.