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Diamond Education Understanding the Four C’s

Whether you’re just starting to shop for your forever diamond, or you’re a seasoned diamond shopper — you’ve probably heard of the “the four C’s.”

The Four C’s are Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat. But what do those things really mean to you as a consumer? On this blog post, we’re going to talk about all of those crazy letters and why they matter.

Before we get started, I’m not sure if I’ve ever properly introduced myself here on this blog. 

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been a jewelry consultant and designer for HPerry’s since 2013.

After a year of online education and a trip to California for laboratory study, I am now honored to hold the title GIA Diamonds Graduate. Visiting the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California was an amazing and eye-opening experience. I’m going to use the things I learned there to help you better understand the Four C’s and why they’re important.

So let’s get started.

The 1st C: Color

Diamond grading laboratories assign a letter grade to communicate the range of color of a diamond. In the normal color range (meaning white, yellow, and brown diamonds that aren’t in the fancy color range), these grades start at D and go all the way to Z.

D, E, and F are colorless.

G, H, I, and J are near colorless, meaning you can’t see color through the top but you can through the pavilion, or the bottom of the stone.

K, L, and M have some color you can see from the top.

And that color continues to increase all the way to Z.

The right color grade for you is going to depend on personal preference, but usually any diamond above a J in color will appear white unless it has been graded by a more lenient lab. We trust the grading of the GIA laboratory, but we are very questioning of any other lab.

The 2nd C: Cut

This really should be the 1st and biggest C of them all.

Cut is the most important factor when choosing a diamond because cut is what determines whether or not your diamond sparkles. Cut does not refer to shape. Cut refers to the proportions, symmetry, and polish of a diamond. A diamond can have the best color and clarity grade in the world, but if it isn’t cut well it simply won’t be pretty.

The 3rd C: Clarity

The clarity grade refers to a diamond’s unique characteristics.
These characteristics may come from the conditions of when the diamond was formed, or they may be a result of the polishing process, or any number of things that make a diamond truly unique.

Clarity characteristics, which include blemishes and inclusions, are not necessarily a bad thing. They can be great identifiers for your diamond, and under the microscope they give you a peek into the amazing world of diamond gemology. Laboratories and appraisers can use inclusions to learn about the diamond’s origins and treatments. Studying inclusions is truly a science of its own! 

So what do all of those letters mean?

F Flawless is a very rare grade given only to diamonds that have no inclusions or blemishes.

IF Internally Flawless is a grade given to diamonds that have no inclusions, but may have blemishes (characteristics on the surface of a gem.)

VVS1 and VVS2 Very, very slightly included means that there are only minute
characteristics seen at 10x magnification.

VS1 and VS2 Very slightly included means that there are only minor
characteristics seen at 10x magnification.

SI1 and SI2 Slightly included means that there are noticeable inclusions when
evaluated at 10x magnification. If you are not a trained grader, you
probably won’t see any inclusions in an SI (slightly included) diamond
without magnification.

I1, I2, and I3 Included means that there are obvious inclusions when evaluated at 10x
magnification. If you are not a trained grader, you probably won’t see any
inclusions in an I1 diamond without magnification.

So here’s the way to remember all of this:

VVS = minute inclusions under a 10x loupe or microscope

VS = minor inclusions under a 10x loupe or microscope

SI = noticeable inclusions under a 10x loupe or microscope

I = obvious inclusions under a 10x loupe or microscope

The 4th C: Carat

Carat is a unit of weight. This C refers to the size of a diamond, which we usually refer to as a fraction: a “quarter-carat,” a “half-carat,” etc.

They say the average engagement ring diamond is around 1 carat.
We would say the most common size is probably .75 to 1 carat. 

There is no wrong carat size. It just depends on what appeals to you, and what your budget will allow.

So why does all of this matter?

Well. Maybe it doesn’t.

Throw all of that out the window for a second and just look at the diamond in front of you.

Is it beautiful? Does it sparkle? Do you love it?

That is what matters.

Does it have a presence? Does it grab your attention?

These grades and terms help wholesalers and retailers in the pipeline assign a value to an individual stone. Big picture, they matter to the industry because that’s how we categorize and price the diamonds. They matter to consumers too, but different aspects matter to different people for different reasons.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the Four C’s and you’re not sure what to think, forget all of it.

How does the diamond you’re looking to buy make you feel?

If you are in the process of shopping for an engagement ring diamond, it’s most important to see the diamonds for yourself. Come look at them in person at our store, and check out this blog post for more information:

Jordan Rayne
GIA Diamonds Graduate, GIA AJP
Designer and Consultant for HPerry Jewelers since 2013

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