Beyond the 4 C's

Everyone knows the 4 C's of a diamond: cut, color, clarity, and carat. But does following those guidelines really ensure you're getting the best stone? A diamond's 4 C's can look up to par on paper, but getting up-close and personal can tell a very different story. The west village, acclaimed jewelry designer Catherine Angiel has over 26 years of experience in finding the very best diamonds for her clients. She takes us behind the scenes of what is really important when choosing a diamond. 

Before we get into it...

The 4 C's are excellent guidelines for determining a diamond's worth, but there are other variables that influence the appearance of a stone. Gemologists are certified in recognizing these variables and no amount of googling can replace years of experience actually handling diamonds day after day. A diamond can seem favorable on paper based on it's 4 C's ratings, but in person the real thing can fall flat. You can't beat having an expert opinion. Think of it as diagnosing yourself using webMD versus going to the actual doctor. 

Let's start with the basics, shall we?

Have you ever seen a diamond before it's cut? It's called a rough diamond and it's practically unrecognizable from the shiny, perfect lines of the stones you see in jewelry. After some extensive planning, a stone is chiseled into the many cuts you might be familiar with- round, cushion, pearl, emerald, princess, marquise, radiant, oval, heart, or asscher. That's right, 10 different cuts.  

After it's been cut and shined to sparkly perfection, it's packed up and sent off to one of the gemological labs to obtain a grading report. 

How a diamond get's it's grading- the 4 C's


You may think we already covered cut- but that's just the shape! A diamond's cut grade is really about how well the artist cut the stone so that the facets interact with the light. Words like "fire" and "scintillation" come into play here (yes really, scintillation). This can range from "excellent" to "poor" and involves a lot of analysis that we don't need to get into here.


And by color, we mean lack of color. The universally respected system created by the Gemological Institute of America gives diamonds a letter to denote color from D to Z; D being colorless and Z being quite yellow. These color distinctions can be so subtle, they would go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Professionals do it under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions. 


No pressure, no diamond- right? Carbon exposed to heat and pressure from the earth's elements creates a diamond. This process, that takes millions of years, can result in a variety of internal characteristics called inclusions. Determining clarity involves identifying the appearance and location of these inclusions and how they effect the appearance of the stone.These range from flawless (FL), very slightly included (VS), slightly includes (SI), to included (I). 


Carat = weight. It measures a diamond's size. A carat is actually defined as 200 milligrams and can be subdivided into 100 points for very precise measuring. But no matter how many carats a diamond is, if the cut, color, and clarity are poor than it's value is significantly diminished. 

So... what does all this mean?

It means, that all of the 4 C's are open to human interpretation and therefore human error. Even an expert can make mistakes. Here's where we defer to Catherine Angiel to save us from making a very expensive mistake. 

Q: Which of the 4 C's should be given the most weight and consideration when buying a diamond?

Cat: They're all important. But it really depends on what the person wants and how the diamond is going to be used. If it's going to be set in yellow gold, the color of the diamond doesn't necessarily need to be as 'colorless'. The use of the stone should be considered when picking a diamond. 

Q: Why is a buying a certified diamond important?

Cat: Look, you wouldn't buy a designer handbag off of a street vendor. You gotta know where that diamond came from to protect it's value. However, if there is a piece of advice I would impart upon anyone in the diamond market it would be to work with a jeweler that you trust. I've seen diamonds come in with certifications that look great on paper; the cut is excellent, the clarity etc. - you'd think it would be gorgeous. But it was ugly!  UGLY. That means its cut from a cloudy rough. That's why you need a jeweler who is going to look out for you, look at a variety of diamonds in your price range and vet the certifications. Not just sell you the first 1.5 carat they have on hand. 

Q: How should you go about vetting a diamond to buy online?

Cat: You know, I can't recommend that. I just can't recommend buying a diamond online. Those "discount" diamond sites that are so popular nowadays, no one is looking at your diamond. They're taking it off a shelf from the backstock and shipping it out to you without laying eyes on it. That's why it's imperative to go to someone you trust or who is recommended to you. You want someone with years of experience to look at the diamond for you and get the best stone possible. 

Q: What's your advice on where to go to get the best price?

Cat: This is definitely a common misconception. On certified diamonds, there isn't a big profit margin for any jeweler. You're paying for something that took millions of years to create, the people who mined that stone, who transported it, the artist who cut and shined it etc. etc. There is not a huge markup, like with new cars. The price is the price because it holds its value. No one is gonna take 10k off of a new car because of the cost of production. Used is different. But it's the same with a diamond. You get what you pay for.

Q: What do you do if you come across a diamond that had a grading that you disagree with?

Cat: Very politely send it back and kindly suggest someone review. I'm not putting anything but the best stones I can get into the work I do for my clients. 


Have more questions for Cat? Slide into our DMs or send us an email. We'd love to hear from you! 

Happy searching!



*Sourced from the Gemolocial Institute of America