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A Quick Guide to the 4cs of Diamonds

Learn what makes diamonds valuable before you buy a diamond

The brightest part in many a woman's life is diamond. It's an allotropic form of carbon and (paradoxically), one of the darkest elements in the periodic table. Yet, it's one of the most desired and most brilliant forms on Earth.

The most fought for of all the gems, diamonds, have a long romancing history. Welcome to the exciting world of diamonds.

Diamond's many facets illustrated
In addition to diamond's carat, clarity and color, the cut is the most important,
ideally being of 57 cut and polished faces - 33 on the top and 24 on the bottom.

Diamonds in History and Today

Diamonds have had a bloody history right from Cleopatra to the famed Koh-I-Noor. This famous diamond, at the earliest recorded date in 1526 AD, weighed 793 carats before being reduced to 186 carats by the lapidary Borgio.

Today De Beers monopolizes most of the world's diamond production and trade, which is around 130 million carats annually, according to some estimates.

A diamond is weighed in units of carats. The carat originally meant the weight of one carob seed. However, the present standard carat is metric and equals 0.2 grams (200 milligrams) in mass, or 1/42 of an ounce. See more below, under Carat heading.

What are the 4Cs of Diamonds?

If you have ever taken an interest in diamonds, or have bought one, you would have heard of the 4Cs of diamonds. What are the 4Cs?

Diamonds are mostly mined in South Africa, Russia, Australia and Botswana. They can't sold directly as such, as they're raw - dirty looking and imperfect. Instead, they have to be professionally cut into chosen shapes, which will then determine their individual value.

The 4Cs stand for: carat, clarity, color and cut of diamonds. These four characteristics of each diamond determine the quality and price of these gems. Here's some more info about each of these characteristics.

1. Carat

When it comes to weight, one carat equals 0.2 g (grams), or 200 mg (milligrams) in metric measures. This is important to know when you want your diamond's weight expressed in grams.

However, one carat is usually divided into 100 points, to make it more precise in measuring the actual weight of diamond. Thus, for example, one quarter of a carat equals 25 points and it's written as 0.25 ct. You will find that a diamond's weight is almost always in fractions of carats.

2. Clarity

The next thing that matters for diamond's value is its clarity. The clearer the diamond, the more brilliant it is, and the higher is its value. Tiny inclusions (impurities due to presence of other minerals) mask the brilliance.

When determining the cost of a diamond, the numbers of inclusions, their colors, and their positions are considered. Fewer inclusions in the stone mean greater is the reflection (brilliance) and higher is the value. Diamond's clarity is graded on the scale from I3 to VVS1, starting from Very Noticeable Inclusions to Very, Very Slightly Included, listed in decreasing order.

3. Color

The best color for a diamond is having no color. White light passed through it will come out in rainbow colors. Although most diamonds look colorless they are slightly yellow or brown with subtle shades. Proximity to being colorless raises the value.

But there are exceptions to this, especially when it comes to larger diamonds of fancy color. This is sometime reflected in the extremely high prices fetched by such diamond sales at auctions.

4. Cut

Cut is the dictator of a diamond’s value. A best cut diamond reflects all the light without allowing it to pass through, giving it the brightest of shines. The best cut diamond has 57 facets (cut and polished faces) with 33 of them being on the top half, crown, and the rest on the pavilion, bottom half.

Mathematically this gives diamond the total reflection. The best cut diamond will have a round shape with the pavilion having an included angle 600, albeit there is a complex guidance chart for cutting diamonds.

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Guide to the 4Cs of Diamonds
Guide to the 4Cs of Diamonds
Tips for Choosing Diamonds
Tips for Choosing Diamonds