Breaking Down the 3Cs of Diamonds

When it comes to gifting jewelry pieces, often, it’s the thought that counts—unless they come with gemstones like diamonds. By then, you need to pay more attention to the quality to ensure your money is going toward something of excellent value.

For those buying diamond engagement rings, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) strongly recommends the 4Cs, a mnemonic that stands for the four essential characteristics of a gemstone:

  • Clarity
  • Cut
  • Color
  • Carat weight

While these sound straightforward, over the years, GIA has expanded its meanings to help jewelers provide a more accurate description of the characteristics of the diamonds. This is especially necessary among the top three factors.

1. Clarity

Before the establishment of the 4Cs, jewelers used different words to describe clarity, such as “with imperfections” or “unblemished.” Often, these were based on the beholder’s eyes, so they were prone to misinterpretations and even biases.

To create the standards, the GIA released a clarity grading chart, which should also appear in the grading report when you buy an authentic diamond from a reputable jeweler.

In general, the clarity characteristics still cover both inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions refer to the internal features of the gemstones that may become visible on the surface. They may develop during the natural creation of the gemstone, like the diamond, or during the cutting or polishing stages.

Take, for example, the bearded girdle, or the appearance of featherlike streaks on the griddle surface, which can occur as a result of the cutting process. When one of the feathers breaks away or a crystal that has reached the surface drops out, then the diamond is likely to have a cavity.

Blemishes, on the other hand, are those that can appear on the surface of the diamond. One of the most common is an abrasion, which is a nick on the stone. When a polished diamond features some bumps, the description will say it has bumpy skin.

To help define clarity properly, a grading report uses a plotting diagram that can indicate the kinds of inclusions and blemishes found in the stone, their number, and their location.

The most valued diamond when it comes to clarity is a flawless one. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any inclusion or blemish. However, it may be small enough to be visible.

2. Cut


Not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes it can also be diamonds. But how do you know that yours is a truly sparkly stone? Contrary to popular belief, it’s never about the shape. It is according to the number of facets or flat surfaces and the way they interact with light.

GIA considers at least three essential factors to judge a gemstone’s cut. The first one is brightness, which refers to the quality of the internal and external white light the stone reflects.

There’s fire, which describes the scattering of white light in all colors of the rainbow. Lastly, a diamond’s cut focuses on scintillation, which is the pattern of lightness and darkness the stone’s reflection creates.

With these in mind, the round brilliant diamond seems to be the most coveted as far as the cut is concerned. All of its facets are aligned, so the light handling is optimal and the scintillation is excellent.

Probably coming in second is the heart and arrow, which demands high precision during the cutting process to achieve the desired outcome: the appearance of eight hearts and arrows that seem to alternate on the surface of the diamond.

3. Color

GIA describes the color of the diamond not in the same way most consumers do. Instead of calling them white or yellow, the institute uses a chart that covers up to 23 color grades.

The first scale is D, which stands for colorlessness, and proceeds all the way to Z, where other shades such as yellow or gray may be present. Each color grade then comes with five subcategories that range from colorless to light.

In some cases, diamonds can look alike, but they can still differ in color. You cannot tell the difference, though, because the variation may be too subtle only a trained expert can notice it.

Either way, the most preferred color grade for a diamond is colorless since it means it doesn’t have any visible. Not only do they look elegant, but they are also rare.

You don’t need to be a jeweler to benefit from knowing the extended descriptions of clarity, cut, and color. With your knowledge, you can appreciate your purchase when you are aware of the meanings of the details in the report.

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