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The 4Cs of Diamond Quality
Until the middle of the twentieth century, there was no agreed-upon standard by which diamonds could by judged. GIA created the first, and now globally accepted standard for describing diamonds: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight. Today the 4Cs of Diamond Quality is the universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world. The creation of the diamond 4Cs meant two very important things: diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language, and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase.
Cut likely is the most controversial element of the diamond-buying process.
Cut is different from shape as it refers to proportion, facet arrangement, finish, symmetry and polish. There is a faction within the jewelry industry that is dogmatic in its cut parameters. There is also a faction that insists that “ideal” cut diamonds are the only ones worth buying. In fact, the GIA recently concluded an exhaustive study of diamond cutting and determined that there are numerous combinations of facet arrangement and proportions that will yield a beautiful diamond. In my opinion, the concept of “ideal” cut diamonds is a function of great marketing. Looking at several diamonds will help you decide for yourself what cut details are most important to you.
As you can see, the clarity scale goes from flawless to I3. Diamonds from VS1 (very slightly imperfect of the first degree) to flawless are, for all intents and purposes, going to appear the same to the naked eye. The difference between VS1 and VVS1 (very very slightly imperfect to the first degree) almost don’t exist in terms of value. That is, the increased cost isn’t justified by the slight difference in better clarity achieved. For those who want a very clean diamond, VS2 is a good choice. It should be absolutely eye clean. When viewed under 10X magnification, it should be difficult to see any imperfection, though they would be seen with some professional help.
An SI1 (slightly imperfect to the first degree) diamond is also eye clean, but the imperfections will be more readily discernable under inspection. Some SI2 diamonds are eye clean. The classic SI2 diamond is, typically, eye clean on initial naked-eye inspection. When viewed under 10X magnification, the inclusions should easily be seen. After you have seen the diamond under magnification and taken a second look with your naked eye, you will normally see the inclusion because you know what it looks like and where to look. Diamonds that are graded I1, I2 and I3 will have increasing amounts of imperfections.
Between color and clarity, color is much more apparent to the naked eye than clarity, up to a point.
A “D” color diamond is colorless, like a piece of glass. “E” and “F” colors are degrees of “D-ness.” When you get to “G” and “H” color you are looking at diamonds that are white like a piece of paper. “I” and “J” colors are what I refer to as “transitional” colors. That is, they are the transition from diamonds that are patently white to diamonds that are not altogether white. My perception is that “I” and “J” color diamonds are on the border between white diamonds (G and H) and diamonds that have a suggestion of yellow (K and L). So I explain that “I” and “J” colors are to white and yellow as gray is to black and white. When you see something that is the slightest bit gray, you don’t say it is black or white. That’s what “I” and “J” colors are to white and yellow. As you go down the scale, “Z” diamonds become ever more yellow.
Carat weight is the simplest part of the Four Cs. Diamonds are weighed on a decimal scale. A diamond that weighs .10 is a 1/10th-carat diamond. A diamond that weighs 1.25 carats is a 1¼-carat diamond. Pricing is where diamond weight comes into play. There are some natural price breaks that are directly related to weight. As an example, from .69 to .70 there is about a 20 percent price increase between the same qualities.