Diamond Information Guide
Their brilliance has intrigued humans from across the globe for centuries. From the mines of seventeenth century India, eighteenth century Brazil and nineteenth century South Africa, to the mines of Australia, Zaire, Botswana and the Soviet Union today; the diamond's rarity has made it the most sought after and precious of all gemstones.
When, in 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy; the diamond became treasured not only for its beauty and as a symbol of invincibility, but for its association with love and romance. The tradition of women wearing engagement rings on the third finger of the left hand stems from the ancient Egyptian belief the 'vein of love' ran from this finger straight to the heart. The diamond possess many qualities that make it the perfect symbol of love; especially everlasting strength, exquisite beauty, and scarcity.
In chemical make up, a diamond is virtually no different than graphite pencil lead. However, under tremendous pressure and extreme heat conditions, the carbon is transformed into the hardest gemstone known.
Two hundred fifty tons of rock are mined each year to find a single carat of gem quality stone. Once mined, a gem quality stone will lose, on average, fifty percent of its original weight. And, like snowflakes, no two stones are exactly alike.
In purchasing a diamond, one's first consideration should always be personal taste and lifestyle. However, there are four other factors generally used to determine quality and value. These are 'the 4 C's' - cut, clarity, color and carat weight.
Cut is what brings brilliance to an otherwise ordinary rock formation and is the one factor that is determined by the diamond cutter's expertise, rather than natural phenomenon. Each stone is cut precisely to yield the maximum splendor by taking light in and forcing it to bend inside, bouncing it within the stone, then refracting the light into the colors of the spectrum. Their are six traditional shapes used by diamond cutter's: round, oval, pear, marquise (pointed at both ends), emerald cut (rectangular in shape), and heart shaped. Of course, other creative options are available.
The degree of clarity in a diamond is based on the number inclusions (traces of uncrystallized carbon) in the stone. Most diamonds contain inclusions to one degree or another. Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds are devoid of internal imperfections all together. Due to their relative scarcity these stones are often priced considerably higher than those who are just a grade below. It is however more common to have some small inclusions in the stone, even these however are not discernible without magnification. Although there are several different standards for measuring the clarity of a diamond, in North America the most widely accepted is the that of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). At the top of the scale is FL (Flawless) followed IF, VVS1-VVS2, VS1-VS2,SI1-SI2, I1-I2-I3. The position, number and size of these inclusions determine where the clarity of the diamond will fall on this scale. The chart below illustrates typical grading. Click on the image for a larger more detailed version.
The third of the 4C's, color, is generally determined based on a GIA scale that runs from D t o Z. A D rating is given to the purest colorless stones while a Z rated stone would have a noticeable brown cast. Traditionally the the most desirable diamonds are colorless or near colorless, as these are the most rare. However, there are also colored diamonds that are even more rare which are sometimes found in shades of green, blue or red. Although less rare, "Champagne" colored diamonds are also becoming popular in fashion jewelry.
The last major attribute by which diamonds are sorted is by size, or more specifically by weight. The Carat weight system is believed to have had its roots in the Mediterranean where seeds from the Carob tree were used as units of measurement. In modern times the weight of one carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. The carat weight is further expressed in decimal points, whereas a one third of a carat stone would be .33 of a carat. These corresponding decimals are in turn referred to as "points", hence the same stone, one third of a carat would be a 33 point diamond.
There is one additional "C" that we would like to add here. This one stands for Confidence. A most important point in selecting the right diamond for you begins with selecting the jeweler whose advice and standards you have true confidence in.