The 4Cs When Purchasing Diamond Engagement Rings

Those buying diamond engagement rings for the first time can feel a bit intimidated. There are a lot of things to consider beyond just your budget. Every diamond is unique, as is the person purchasing it and the person who will be wearing it. My husband purchased my diamond engagement ring about 15 years ago. He did it secretly all on his own and bought the most brilliant and romantic diamond that, in my eyes, is something Wonder Woman could have used as a secret weapon to temporarily blind her opponents. A few years later, we had to have the ring appraised to renew the insurance policy. My husband pulled out this certificate (who knew diamond engagement rings came with certificates?) and he told me how nervous he was back then to venture out and make this big purchase all on his own. It was his first foray into what he thought would be an intimidating diamond purchasing adventure. He went to the Mervis location in downtown DC and said he had to walk through a special doorway and worried briefly that he wouldn’t pass muster to go further. But they welcomed him in, sat him down and put him at ease by giving him a little intro on what to look for in a diamond.

The 4Cs -- Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight

CUT: The cut is the most important of the 4Cs. The cut of the diamond affects how much light it refracts and reflects. A meticulously cut and polished diamond will manipulate the light to make for the utmost beauty and brilliance, as light reflects from facet to facet and pours out of the top (or “table”). A poorly cut diamond, on the other hand, will be less brilliant as light spills out of the bottom and sides. The cut goes way beyond the shape alone -- oval, princess, round brilliant, emerald, etc. The cut is the only factor of the 4Cs that is not dictated by nature, so it is important that you seek a diamond that was cut by the hands of a master craftsman. Gemological Institute of America (GIA) assigns grades to the cut: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor. COLOR: “Aren’t all diamond engagement rings the same color?” you ask. No, they aren’t. The ideal diamonds are colorless, like water. They are the most expensive, because they are the rarest. The color of diamonds range from colorless to yellow, and each diamond is assigned a color rating from D (colorless) to Z (yellow). But remember that the 4Cs work together. Just because a diamond is not completely colorless on the scale, it does not necessarily mean it can’t be beautiful. Again, a meticulously cut diamond can make all the difference in the world. Another factor in grading the color is fluorescence, or the emission of visible light when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. On a diamond certificate, you will see fluorescence exhibited as none, faint, medium, strong, and very strong. Flourescence can have a positive or negative effect on the beauty of a diamond, depending on where the diamond is on the color scale I mentioned in the previous paragraph. CLARITY: Most diamonds have tiny imperfections or “inclusions.” The fewer and less detectable those imperfections, the more valuable (and rare) the diamond. Like the previous Cs, there is a grading scale for clarity, ranging from internally flawless to imperfect: IF - Internally flawless VVS1, VVS2 - very, very small inclusions, category 1 and 2 VS1, VS2 - very small inclusions, category 1 and 2 SI1, SI2, SI3 - slightly included, category 1, 2, and 3 CARAT WEIGHT: This seems to be the factor most people emphasize and remember when they talk about diamond engagement rings. “How many carats?” Carat weight is indicated by points, with each carat being 100 points. If a diamond is 150 points, it weighs 1.5 carats. But don’t go by weight alone. As you just learned, there are many factors that affect the beauty of a diamond and it is about so much more than just the number of carats. The 4Cs will help you determine the diamond that sings to you.