GETTING THE diamond facts YOU NEED TO KNOW
Diamonds are statement pieces. Their elegant shape, cut and color variety leave many options for those looking to invest in one. But how do you choose the right one for your occasion? It may not be as simple as finding the ‘prettiest’ one.
Diamonds have been a significant part of culture and people for thousands of years throughout history. In the Early Middle Ages, diamonds were believed to have medicinal purposes. It was believed that if the sick or suffering held a diamond while making the sign of the cross, they would be healed.
Even more, people believed that if they ingested the diamonds they could cure some illnesses. Eventually it was the value that became highly known. By 1074 AD, the first use of diamonds in crowns and royal jewels became a significant moment in history.
With diamonds being considered one of the earth’s most impressive natural materials, it is no wonder they have become so attractive. If it is not for fashion, then they are sought after for their industrial purposes, as well.
Because of their representation of passion, you can find these gemstones representing symbols of love, commitment and romance. Have you ever heard the phrase, “diamonds are forever”? There is a reason for it.
No matter the occasion, you need a perfect fit. The jewel market is a finicky one if not researched properly. As a customer, you would want to make the most informed decision possible. The details matter and in our case, we are here to help you make the best decision.
THE four C'S
A diamond’s quality is determined by the 4C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. They indicate how the diamond will look and the level of quality. These characteristic are naturally known and practiced by professionals, but anyone can dive into them and know what to look out for when diamond shopping.
However, there are some characteristics that become too sophisticated to understand. Even with universal terminology and standard grading, it varies on lab entity. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Of course, prices are a huge factor in determining the worth and quality of a diamond.
As a buyer, the 4 C’s can help with the knowledge behind prices when looking at appearances through the naked eye. There is only so much the naked eye can determine. Let’s dive into these characteristics:
CUT OF THE DIAMOND
This characteristic is known to be the most important aspect of a diamond and its beauty. It is the most obvious, too. On pieces like engagement or wedding rings, the cut is one of the first things you notice. It determines the shape and size as well as the impact of a diamond’s ability to sparkle.
A diamond can be too shallow, ideal or deep, even if they are given the same grade on the cut chart. Sometimes, it just depends on the cutter. A cutter can aim of maximum Carat weight which would leave the diamond either too deep or too shallow.
These two possibilities will affect the light reflection. It is a personal selection with how sparkly a diamond should be for the customer, but most people would be pleased to see a beautiful glimmer on their gemstone.
Even excellent and ideal cut diamonds won’t all look the same. If the cut doesn’t effect it, the color tinting or possible blemishes can get in the way. Or, the same goes vice versa. According to Diamonds.pro, almost 55% of all diamonds sold online are Excellent cuts. But, some are stunning and others are mediocre. It is not a solid, matching finish with every jewel.
COLOR OF THE DIAMOND
This means the diamond is graded in terms of how white or colorless it is. Professional institutions like the GIA, Gemological Institute of America, grade diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless and Z containing a brown or yellow noticeable tint.
Once again, each diamond is very individual. Depending on its cut, carat, weight and shape, the color may appear different among them. One factor that could confuse inexperienced diamond buyers is how the naked eye may not even be able to tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds.
But, the price will be extremely different. A buyer may think, well if I cannot clearly see a difference, why is the price so high/low?
Something else to know with color is how brilliance and sparkle are in the same category. (Even though these two qualities are created from the way the diamond is cut).
A final note on color: these characteristics do not include certain colored diamonds, which can be valued stones like a fancy pink or green diamond. They are very distinct from the traditional white stones.
CLARITY OF THE DIAMOND
Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. When we look at the clarity of a diamond, we must keep these things in mind. Many factors can affect the final appearance.
That process of shaping, cutting and perfecting a diamond can lead to a result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes’ according to GIA.
As previously mentioned in earlier sections, it is close to impossible to create two identical diamonds that are perfectly polished, the clarity has a role in the process of this and the final price as well.
The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale is a well known measure guide for a diamond’s characteristics. Taking a look at it we can learn how to judge clarity:
For a total of 11 specific grades
- Flawless (FL): no inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally flawless (IF): no inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, very slightly included (VVS1 and VVS2) inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly included (VS1 and VS2): inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly included (SI1 and SI2): inclusions are noticeable under a 10x magnification
- Included: (I1, I2, I3): inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance.
So, this scale is very particular and mostly only noticeable by professional diamond graders or sellers. As a buyer, you want to just know the basics.
Overall, many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to really be seen by the naked eye. Therefore, when purchasing a diamond, it won’t be the obvious dealbreaker the way color tinting or cut would be. For example, a VS1 and an SI2 may look exactly the same.
CARAT WEIGHT OF THE DIAMOND
Diamond carat weight measures how much a diamond weighs. The weight of carats is described as ‘points’ when under 1 carat. A metric ‘carat’ is defined at 200 milligrams and each carat is subdivided into 100 points. When the weight is greater than one carat, they are now expressed in carats and decimals. An example would be a 1.08 carat stone described as ‘one point oh eight carats.’
A common misconception is that carat weight is the sole determiner for the price of a diamond. Yes, the bigger stones are more attractive for some and increases the price, but this is more so because a price increases with diamond carat weight because larger diamonds are more rare.
This is countered by the fact that two diamonds of equal carat weight, for instance, can have very different values and prices depending on the other factors discussed above. Carat weight is important, but never the sole determining factor.
THINGS TO CONSIDER before purchasing A DIAMOND
There are some factors to consider before purchasing a diamond and making a well informed decision.
First time buyers may be initially shocked when they realize the true price of diamonds. Having a dream diamond can be someone’s ultimate goal—but budget constraints is very often something that a customer will need to consider.
Take a look at a number of prices among various brands before settling. It can be a time-consuming activity, but it is a must. You should also never compromise! There are ways around this sticker shock and compromising doesn’t mean you should just buy a bargain-priced jewel.
A tip for this is opting for a lower carat weight than if you buy a diamond that seems like a ‘solid deal’. Remember, quality is more important than size.
Another good tip when purchasing a diamond is knowing that negotiating prices is common and definitely suggested. At retail stores this may not be as easy, but it can still be done. Jewelry is simply a prime candidate for price negotiation. Show that you are open to options when purchasing instead of insisting on purchasing one specific item only.
For help, look at a diamond buying guide/chart. A diamond buying chart is the price list for loose wholesale diamonds used by the industry. The prices are arranged by carat weight. Different weights have their own category which is presented in the diamond price charts. This is another simple guide on knowing what to look out for when starting your purchase journey.
WHO ARE YOU BUYING FOR
It is important to always consider who the buyer is purchasing a diamond for. As a gift giver, you are searching to impress and please the receiver. With so many styles, colors, cuts and settings, this can be harder than it seems.
The easiest option is to take the person with you of course. Buying a diamond is a serious financial decision to make, there is little to no room for error in ensuring they like what you buy. For engagement rings, this may not always be possible.
Perhaps couples can start practicing visiting jewelers and actively learning about diamond preferences before one partner pops the big question. Everyone is different—just like every diamond.
The second best thing to do is seek professional advice. Cutters and jewelers exhibit extensive talent in this field of diamonds and gifts. They can show you the diamonds under proper magnification.
If you are not sure about even where to start, asking for advice is always a good first step. The process should not be rushed—it should be fun! The moment when you find the perfect jewel becomes such a memorable one.
Mined diamonds are not the only option. Even though mined diamonds are the traditional route, more and more people have opted for a cheaper option that is very similar in look and durability.
With 70% of millennials considering a lab grown alternative that is considered chemically, physically and optically identical to a mined diamond. They are made using extreme heat like natural mined diamonds, just inside a machine rather than the bowels of the Earth.
It is worth acknowledging that when comparing these two manufacturing styles, the environmental damage is a huge consideration. Mining creates damage not only from carbon emissions, but has been linked to pollution of water courses used by local people due to acid mine drainage. When the minerals from the mined rocks seep into the water supply, it becomes a liability.
Research shows that the total environmental footprint of mined diamonds is much higher than lab diamonds. This makes lab diamonds even more attractive to buyers who wish to pay attention to this environmental concern.
LAB MADE DIAMONDS
Although creating diamonds in a lab is much more ethical and environmentally conscious, this process does have its faults. Common worries in the industry have been that there are cases of fraudulent diamond advertising.
Some companies never label their diamonds, ‘diamonds’ because of not meeting the guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission. Diamonds have to pass the FTC test, and same goes for lab made diamonds.
Still, it is a trend worth looking into. Celebrities and A-listers have waltzed red carpets and stunned cameras with shiny, exquisite diamonds that were made in a lab.
Back when this process was just starting out, machines could not create diamonds larger than 1.5 carats. Now, this is no longer the case. Manufacturing techniques have improved vastly and it is now possible for fancy cuts and colors.
Manufacturing techniques have improved vastly and it is now possible for fancy cuts and colours. Some highly ranked figures who have jumped on this trend: Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Meghan Markle, Jennifer Lopez and Billy Porter. (Can include images of some celebrities wearing diamonds).
CONSIDER THE SHAPE
As a buyer, staying clear of the traditional cuts and shapes can also save you a pretty penny. It is not even uncommon these days as trends have picked up on rarer shapes for items such as engagement rings.
Instead of brides opting for the biggest or sharpest looking jewel, they are looking for a diamond that represents them well within their relationship. Like spoken about before, diamonds are a romantic, elegant way to speak of companionship with someone. Creating your own interpretation of the modern bride is way more ‘in’ these days than not.
As we mentioned earlier, selecting the shape of the diamond is one of the most important and determining factors. Let's take a look at some of the shapes that are available!
Shield Cut Diamond
This style is a newly popular cut and shape among engagement ring shoppers. The elongated shield cut exudes a clean statement while looking larger than its carat weight. For those wishing they can afford a large carat weight, finding a shape that mimics a bigger, heavier stone can be the way to go.
Square Princess Cut Diamond
This style emerged in the 1960s. Like its name, the shape is square or rectangular. It is not as rare as the Shield Cut but the popularity definitely does not match its competition classic round brilliant. To detect a princess cut, you must look for all four sides to be equal when studied from the top.
When speaking to a jeweler, they may refer to this diamond as to having a length-to-width ratio of 1. It is also important to compare this shape to others. Although listening to grading reports and jeweler’s advice, always look and evaluate yourself.
With such sharp and strong corners, the princess cut must be protected by the setting. One good option is to set the stone in V-shaped prongs. This setting will hold its ends securely with metal.
Oval Cut Diamonds
An exquisite and unique shape to consider. What many people like about this one is how the shape elongates the diamond, making it look larger than its carat weight, similar to the shield-cut. It also often makes the hand and fingers appear slimmer when worn in a ring.
Unlike the princess cut, it has no sharp ended corners. This makes it less prone to chipping! Another good fact to note for those on a tight budget—this shape usually prices at cheaper than round brilliants.
The best settings for oval cuts usually have four or six prongs, which perfectly showcases the shape of the diamond. In bezel settings, some oval cut diamond engagement rings encompass three or five stones to feature four to six prongs for the center diamond. There are many options for this cut!
Pear Cut Diamonds
Also commonly known as the tear-drop diamond. It is a brilliant-cut diamond that have an elongated shape similar to the oval cut. Since the main attraction of this cut is a long shape with a rounded top and pointed bottom, it also makes the finger appear slimmer when worn in a ring.
It is a very common choice for engagement rings! It varies in shape however, some are more elongated than others. The length to width ratio generally falls between 1.5 and 2.0. The optimal ratio is usually somewhere between 1.55 and 1.75. For the best value, stick to SI2 clarity or SI1.
Some shoppers struggle with finding the best diamond for them, but with patience and research, there will be some beautiful pear shaped diamonds to keep an eye on. It is a matter of picking the right cut and setting.
Old European Cut Diamonds
A popular new look into diamonds is discovering antique styles. It is like tradition reimagined into modern day jewelry. Along with the name, Old European cut diamonds are considered quite antique. They were popular between 1890 and 1930. They combine the soft, classic look of older diamonds with a modern twist of the round, brilliant cut that many buyers like today.
When technology was not existent to help cutters create the perfect diamond, there was grave dependence on human skill and intuition to do this. That leads to how Old European cut diamonds have a beautiful organic, hand-cut look to them.
They also have unique characteristics that you do not see in modern brilliant diamonds, like the softness and ‘inner fire’ for instance. Just like with modern cut diamonds, this one can have an array of prices based on each diamond’s carat weight, color and clarity grades. Vintage looks are back in, so check out this article about choosing vintage jewelry.
Emerald Cut Diamonds
Emerald cuts give off a ‘hall of mirrors’ effect. These are one of the more rare diamond cuts with a special kind of sparkle. They reflect light in a beautiful and subtle way.
For those consumers with more of a budget consideration, this cut is a great choice. Emerald-cut diamonds can be 12-42% cheaper than rounds of the same carat weight. An H color, VS2 clarity emerald-cut diamond will give you the most for your money. This as well as looking for a shallower stone can help save some money.
The only downfalls are the fact that an emerald is not a brilliant cut, meaning, you can easily see inclusions. They can also seem smaller than they really are because they have a face-up size about 5% smaller than rounds and their lack of brilliance.
DIAMOND SETTING and DESIGN
Everybody has their unique reason for buying such an elegant monumental item. Diamonds are one of the most celebratory gifts that have been around for thousands of years, and to this day, remain high in popularity. But with uniqueness comes many options for buyers.
With an abundance of ways to purchase diamonds, jewelers to lean your trust towards and styles to choose from, how can you possibly choose one diamond? As complicated as it must sound, it can also be much simpler if dissected to create the easiest decision making process.
If you are buying for someone, as much as surprises are lovely, they can also be risky. That is why companionship jewelry is so difficult to choose: you must know what the receiver likes.
Setting is big factor when choosing a diamond. People can mean different things when it comes to this as well. Sometimes you’ll hear jewelers refer to the overall ring as the setting when describing the ring that you choose to have a diamond set into.
To understand this, it’s important to know more about the make-up of items like rings. Rings are made up of two parts: the shank (body of the rings) and the head (the metal that sets the diamond into place). The setting provides not only security for the diamond, but it’s also an important feature for the overall look.
There are a few common ring settings to know:
This style secures the ring’s center stone underneath a rim adorned with pavé. The halo creates a delicate and feminine look for rings, which is common among celebrity rings. They can be either round or squared off on the sides.
Because of the multiple-diamond setting that the halo provides within the security, it can make the center diamond look larger. Of course, this is an attractive trait for those looking for a ring to really stand out.
The only worry is that this setting is known for sometimes having problems with diamonds coming loose.
This setting looks like a row of diamonds, side by side, suspended by individual seats cut into each side of the channel. It is not as common for engagement rings because there is no center stone, but it is common among anniversary, eternity or wedding bands.
The row of jewels symbolize love and commitment. This allows for the diamonds to have safe keeping instead of risking being knocked out of place. Consider if you are buying a ring for an active person.
This setting is great for those with active lifestyles, leaving less worry for a huge center stone from getting chipped or damaged. However, for those on a tight budget, this option may not be the best. Channel setting bands are usually priced high to match the cost of multiple diamonds and gems.
This setting can be pictured like a princess-cut grid. It assembles as square diamonds set side by side to appear as an all-diamond surface. These sets have special channels cut into them and this allows them to be set from underneath. After all, settings are all about holding the diamonds into place. It is more about how a buyer would like the diamonds to appear while seated on a placemat.
The invisible set, just like its name, offers the illusion that nothing is holding them together. It is important to buy these types of jewelry from reputable jewelers because of the expensive side of possible repairs for it.
Some buyers also prefer to especially insure invisible-set rings in case the diamonds get damaged or fall out.
This old fashioned way of setting a gemstone became popular in the late 19th century and then remerged in the 1990s. You can see it more in contemporary jewelry. How is it made?
The bezel-set ring has metal formed around the shape of the diamond. The top of the stone sits flush to the perimeter of the setting. It is necessary to know that there are two options for this setting: a full bezel and a partial bezel.
The full bezel fully encircles the entire stone whereas a partial bezel leaves openings on two sides of the stone while holding together the other two sides. This is a great setting to choose for those who are not as delicate with their rings.
The snug nature presents a clean, modern look that prevents corners from snagging on things or scratching on surfaces. However, some buyers may not appreciate the lack of light across the diamond because of how much metal surrounds it.
WHAT IS diamond certification?
Created by the Gemological Institute of America to evaluate the quality of a diamond, the diamond certification is highly recommended when purchasing a monumental piece of jewelry.
This certification is like buying a car—ensuring your choice of purchase is the best of the best.
The diamond’s qualities and details matter, as we know, and this certification is like the grading system in determining those details. One of the best advantages to buying a certified diamond is precedent. The authenticity graded by a top report like the GIA come sin handy for premier credentials.
The GIA is one of the best and well-known grading systems for certification, but there a few others that can be used and trusted just as much:
American Gem Society: Founded in 1934, this system was created by a group of jewelers in an effort to protect the jewelry-buying public from false advertising and fraud.
International Gemological Institute: They have been around since 1975 and has 18 laboratory locations around the world. They evaluate loose diamonds as well as finished jewelry pieces. The IGI was also the first institute to fully grade lab-grown diamonds starting in 2005.
Gemological Science International: Founded in 2005, they grade both natural and lab-grown diamonds. Their labs employ advanced technology and instruments to capture a diamonds light performance. They also report information about shape, weight color, clarity, and all the minor details that matter for certification.
Hoge Raad voor Diamant: this institute issues certificates for diamonds and gemstones primarily in Europe because they are located in Antwerp, Belgium. This location is know for being synonymous with diamonds.
WHERE TO purchase diamonds
After going through all the specifics of diamonds in their styles, occasion, fashion and history, there comes the final moment of buying your chosen jewel. The research has helped you learn more about this industry, but getting out there at reputable stores is the final step.
The online world of buying diamonds has emerged as a very popular option, but every jeweler and diamond professional would say seeing the jewel in person is much better. Still, there are a few high end and well known online stores to check out:
jamesallen.com was founded in 2006 and is known for revolutionizing the way diamonds are sold through their exclusive Diamond Display Technology. With an advanced online system that ensure proper viewing of their products through interactive 360º videos, they are a great option to check out.
It is all about being able to examine the details if seeing them in person is not possible.
This retailer is the largest one in the world. bluenile.com was created in 1999, making history as the first company in the world to sell diamonds online. They are an American company but does offer worldwide shipping that makes it easier for smaller countries to successfully purchase from without hassle.
Specifically for consumers based in the UK and Europe, Blue Nile is said to be the best option to buy from.
This retailer is known for top selling, budget friendly, lab diamond engagement rings. All diamonds on their site are lab created. They are a young company that emerged in 2017 but have already established reputability for high quality loose diamonds saving up to 50% more than buying mined diamonds of the same grades.
Similar to James Allen, their gallery offers 360º viewing with blown up controllable viewer that allows the consumer to see all diamond characteristics. With a return policy of 100 days, they aim to ensure full satisfaction from their consumers.
As for in-person buying, check out local jewelers and the reviews on them. Every city has reputable places and lower scale places that buyers should identify by using these tips on how to buy a diamond.
Now, you will keep in mind the quality differences, importance behind seeing the diamond through magnification and proper insurance coverage while officially looking in person. Ultimately, jewelers want to make a sale.
At the end of the day, you make the last call for your special new diamond. There should not be any pressure to choose a jeweler’s diamonds if they are not right for you.
PROTECTING your diamond PURCHASE
Just with any large purchase, you need to know the policies about refunds, insurance, proof of purchase and warranties. Diamonds are one of those items that very much need to cross those things off the list before you swipe that credit card.
INSURE YOUR PURCHASE
What happens if you loose a piece of jewelry? If it gets stolen? If one of the diamonds comes loose on your engagement ring? The financial protection that diamond insurance can offer is worth looking into.
Replacing a lost possession is never the same as having the special, unique original one. Like auto or home policy, rates for this vary. Most policies provide a customized rate based on individual risk characteristics.
The cost on average changes due to: value of your ring, where you live, the theft rates in the area and whether or not your policy has a deductible.
For extra resources on how to insure diamonds, blogs from common insurance companies like Sunlife are a great addition to your personal research. For example, Sunlife offers a version of diamond insurance that would add to the house insurance policy. Their website states:
"The cost of adding scheduled jewelry to your home insurance typically ranges from 1½ to 2% of its appraised value. (Because diamond jewelry tends to appreciate over time as diamond prices rise, insurance companies commonly require a new appraisal every five years.) So, depending on your insurer’s rates, your $5,000 engagement ring could cost between $75 and $100 per year to insure. It’s up to you to weigh the expense against the protection it buys.”
A good tip to make sure you have the best possible rate is knowing which questions to ask:
- Can you choose who repairs your ring?
- What happens if a suitable replacement cannot be found?
- Which, if any, circumstances are not covered?
- Will your insurance continue while being out of the country?
- Does the policy cover both damage and loss/theft? Or just one?
- What types of repairs contribute to the deductible?
GET AN APPRAISAL
An appraisal accounts for all the key elements of value. With diamonds in necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, this helps protect that value. The key elements of value include: carat weight, cut, color, clarity, quantity of diamonds, types of metal and weight, shape and carat weight of other stones and any distinctive markings, model numbers or stamps.
Most insurance companies will provide this information on the value of your item if it prices at higher than $5000. The easiest way to secure a proper appraisal is to do it at the same time you purchase your piece.
As long as the appraiser has accurate and reputable credentials, there should be no issue with finding the right policy for you! The trust in them is extremely important.
How do you know who has good credentials? First, they should hold a graduate degree in Gemology. Second, to be a member of a national appraisal society.
Now, where do you get an appraisal? Often, a local jeweler, gold or diamond exchange or pawn shop near you will provide an appraisal for free, especially if you are a regular customer. Keep in mind that an appraisal is often inflated above what you might pay for the same item at a jewelry store, but can be useful for insurance or tax purposes.
AN EXTRAORDINARY PURCHASE: choosing the perfect diamond
Congratulations on completing a brief knowledge session of knowing how to buy a diamond. Everything you need to know about choosing the best piece for your special occasion ends here.
Now you are ready to go out there and find some beautiful diamonds. We encourage having an open mind and heart that the perfect diamond is just waiting for you. Between personalized name necklaces, birthstone necklaces or custom sports jewelry, there are plenty of options for every person looking for a cherished gift.
September 8, 2021 by Conor Daniels