The Ultimate Diamond Guide: Understanding The 4 Cs

4 Cs diamond guide Overwhelmed with all the choices? Worried about overpaying for your diamond engagement ring?

When it comes to choosing your diamond engagement ring or separating the best quality diamonds from the bunch, there are four main characteristics to consider: carat, colour, clarity and cut. While we can discuss each of these characteristics separately, the eye perceives them all at once when judging the beauty of a diamond, so it is important to find the perfect balance between them. Above all else, it’s wise to focus on the cut. Two stones with perfect cuts but varying colours and clarity grades can be equally as beautiful. Here’s what you need to know about what makes some diamonds more beautiful and more valuable than others.

For any questions or for help choosing the right diamond, contact Jonathan Stein directly.

What Are the 4 Cs?

 The 4 Cs are the essential characteristics which can be graded on a scale to determine the value and quality of a diamond. The scale may be as simple as the following: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor. Although this grading system is fairly universal, it’s important to note that the results can also vary depending on who’s doing the grading. It’s always wise to request a diamond certification—a document with a full evaluation completed by a third-party lab like GIA, AGS, IGI, EGL, or GSI. Often, maximizing one quality means compromising on another. The grading and certification will determine the pricing of the diamond.

4 Cs diamond guide

Carat Weight

When a friend tells you that they purchased a diamond ring with a high carat count, you likely picture a huge stone. Despite some common misconceptions, a diamond’s ‘carat’ refers to its weight. Two diamonds with quite different sizes may actually be similar in their carat weight. Carat weight is the most straightforward of the 4 Cs because it can be measured very precisely using a calibrated digital scale.

Colour Grade

A diamond’s colour is graded according to its whiteness or colourlessness in relation to its setting. The GIA grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colourless, and Z containing a brown or yellow tint. Sometimes, a diamond may have a tint that interferes with white and coloured light reflections. It may be difficult to detect the difference between diamonds with varying colour grades, but these subtleties can result in major differences in price.

Diamond Colour Grading Chart

Colourless (D, E, F)
Near colourless (G, H, I, J)
Faint yellow (K, L, M)
Very light yellow (N, O, P, Q, R)
Light yellow (S through Z)

Clarity Grade

Diamonds are formed deep below the earth’s surface under high pressure and extreme temperatures. For this reason, practically all diamonds have slight imperfections within them, sometimes referred to as ‘birthmarks’ or ‘inclusions.’ The clarity grade essentially evaluates how many inclusions the diamond has. Most diamonds are closely examined under 10X magnification and graded using the 11-point diamond clarity scale created by the GIA pictured above.

Cut Grade

Cut is often considered the most important characteristic to consider because it determines the sparkle and brilliance of the stone. The ‘cut’ refers to the structure of the diamond—its angles, proportions and symmetry. A cut that’s too deep or too shallow won’t allow for the optimal light reflection.

Understanding what makes a diamond valuable can be daunting and quite technical. Now that you know how we define the 4 Cs, you’ll be better equipped to choose that next piece of jewelry with confidence. For advice from an experienced diamond dealer and jewelry designer with first-hand experience, call Jonathan Stein directly at  416-360-5798.






Diamond Jewelry Maintenance 101

Your engagement ring is not only a valuable piece in your collection but also one of the most sentimentally important. The last thing you want is for your ring to begin to look tarnished because of lack of or improper cleaning. There are many different types of metals and stones, so it’s important to know how to clean your pieces properly.

A diamond may be the hardest natural substance on Earth, but it still requires special care. It’s recommended that you take all your fine jewelry in to be professionally cleaned by a specialist at least once every 6 months, but it’s also wise to do regular maintenance yourself in-between visits. After all, what’s sweeter than watching your freshly polished and cleaned diamond engagement ring sparkle in the light?

How to Clean Diamond Rings

When looking for the best cleaning method, you’ll need to consider the different metals and settings in your collection. Fine jewelry is usually dirtied by common at-home products and cosmetics like lotions and foundations. These products create a layer of film which leaves the metals and stones looking dull. Whether you’re wondering how to clean diamond earrings, rings or any other fine jewelry, the following remedy is a safe regimen for all metal types, including platinum, silver, gold and white gold.

First, fill a medium-sized bowl with warm water and mix in a few drops of dishwashing liquid, shampoo or a gentle body wash. You can soak the ring for up to 20-40 minutes and use a sponge to wipe away any unwanted substances. For pieces that are more tarnished, you can apply a very soft toothbrush or a linen or cotton cloth. Repeat cleanings about once per week to keep your collection sparkling.

What Not to Do:

• Avoid special cleaning lotions and paper towels; they add an unwanted film to the surface of your jewelry.
• Never use household cleaners. Harsh chemicals can be corrosive to base metals.
• Avoid powdered cleaning products; the grains will scratch the surface. This is especially important with solid gold since it is a softer metal.
• Don’t use sharp objects to clean dirt from crevices; it can scratch the metal and potentially loosen a stone.
• Don’t wear your ring while cooking. Oils will catch particles from the air and create build-up.
• Don’t use ultrasonic jewelry cleaners at home. These devices can cause stones to loosen and you may not know what happened until you lose one!

Your diamond jewelry is precious and can be kept for a lifetime if cared for properly. Although it’s ideal to keep up regular cleanings at home, be sure to see your jeweler for professional cleanings at least once every 6 months. He/she will know the best way to keep your jewelry shining based on the specific types of gemstones and metals in your collection.


Why Custom Engagement Rings Are Best

Of all the important details that go into a memorable engagement, your ring is probably the one piece that will never go out of style. Finding the right engagement ring can be daunting, especially for the unconventional bride-to-be who dreams of a more unique engagement. If this sounds like you, a custom-designed engagement ring is likely the best option. Here’s why.

Be Part of Your Ring’s Story

Most engagement ring seekers spend about 3.5 months shopping around, according to one recent study by The Knot. The same study found that about 45% of rings chosen, incorporate some custom design element. So why are so many people now choosing custom-designed rings?

Large chains sell to hundreds of customers each month, meaning that they can’t possibly devote much time and attention to you and this special transition in your life. A custom engagement ring designer, on the other hand, will make you feel like part of the creative process in the lead-up to your big moment. They simply have the time and motivation to offer a more collaborative, personalized experience that you just don’t get in a conventional retail setting.

When buying a ring from a major chain jewelry brand, you really don’t know much about the history of your ring and its materials. For those more socially conscious fiancées, it may be important to find an ethically-sourced and conflict-free ring. You can simply ask the salesperson about this, but how much do they really know?

A great deal of craftsmanship goes into building your engagement ring. How ideal is it to be able to speak first-hand with the ring designer themselves? Independent designers like Jonathan Stein are happy to answer questions and educate their clientele. Custom engagement ring designers are also more knowledgeable than your average salesperson. Jonathan enjoys educating clients on how the ring is created, from beginning to end.

Create a One-of-a-Kind Ring

Today’s bride-to-be isn’t content with finding the most traditional and popular style available–although traditional styles do often swing back around. Why go for tried-and-true when you can create something bold and new? She knows she can capture some of her personality and unique aesthetic in her jewelry choices.

Today, not only can you be part of the creation of your ring, but you can have complete freedom to choose which elements you love or don’t love, from your gemstones and cut to the colour of your precious metals. There are countless ring settings to choose from. A custom experience gives you time to try them all. You have control over the details. There are many elements you can modify—thickness of the band, size of the stone. Personalize and add sentimentality with embossing or engraving of your fiancée’s initials, for example. Incorporate a piece of your own history by bringing your own vision to your designer and allowing them to bring it to life. If you have a piece of your own—maybe a gem or a piece of metal from an old ring—you can bring it in, and have it incorporated into your chosen band. There are many colours, clarities and cut grades to choose from. Be unique. Get exactly what you want. Think outside-the-box and consider alternative styles.

Commit to Local Craftsmanship

When given the choice between a major jewelry retailer and a small independent jeweller, why not go local? Many neighbourhood jewelry shops are family businesses passed down from one generation to the next. Their story is engrained in the community, and, likewise, they have been a part of countless milestone events. Taking your ring search to someone local—rather than heading out to a major retailer—will only make it more special.

Large chain jewelry brands mass-produce their rings and aren’t likely to give you the whole story when it comes to quality. The process of customizing a ring is immersive and includes drafting original designs, model-making, casting, polishing and stone setting. One difference in the fabrication process of a ready-made ring is that the diamond is usually mounted last. Custom ring designers know however that your diamond is the most important piece and should be placed first. Form should follow function for the perfect proportion and balance. This means the prongs which hold your diamond must be crafted first.

It’s important to understand the Four Cs of custom engagement ring selection and to be familiar with your options for fine quality materials. For example, what’s the difference between white gold and platinum? Which metal best complements your stone? Ring-shoppers are often so focused on their centre diamond that they forget about their secondary and side diamonds. Jonathan Stein takes the extra time to teach you a bit about the materials being used and which fit your style best.

Your custom engagement ring will likely be the first of many special pieces of jewelry you purchase for yourself or loved ones down the road. By finding your match in a custom ring designer, you have access to an expert who not only understands your personal style and preferences, but also your most important personal milestones. When it comes time to buy your wedding band, or other treasures for loved ones later on, you’ll have a consultant who knows you personally. And when you need to adjust the sizing of a ring, your designer will be able to find the perfect fit.

Ultimately, your engagement ring is too special and important a decision to be made in a chain retail store. The best way to ensure quality, personalization and originality is to consult with a custom engagement ring designer.

How to Choose The Right Engagement Ring

The most iconic symbol of a wedding is a diamond – specifically the diamond ring. For centuries, the wedding proposal is made by giving the bride a diamond engagement ring. At Jonathan Stein, we regularly craft custom diamond engagement rings for brides in the Toronto area, in a wide variety of styles. So with all the different possibilities, how do you choose the right engagement ring design? Here are some tips.

Popular Engagement Ring Diamonds

There are many cuts of diamonds and many colours, clarities and cut grades. Let’s talk about diamond cut for a moment.

The most popular cut of diamond is the round brilliant cut, so named because it is the most brilliant reflecting a great deal of light. Most of the other popular cuts are modified brilliant cuts, for example:

  • pear cut
  • marquise cut
  • oval cut
  • heart cut
  • cushion cut
  • radiant cut
  • emerald cut

The most classic engagement ring style features a centre diamond. In part because they are so brilliant and popular, round diamonds cost more than other shapes:

Engagement ring with round centre diamond

Engagement ring: brilliant cut with taper baquettes

Engagement ring with taper baquettes


You also may choose a engagement ring with a unique style style using a different diamond shape:

Princess cut diamond engagement ring

Princess cut diamond ring

Teardrop diamond engagement ring

Diamond Engagement Ring

Choosing the right diamond engagement ring can be a difficult task. At Jonathan Stein we make that task easy for you. We will help you choose the the right diamonds, craft a custom design for your engagement ring and wedding ring, or work with you to design and craft one of your specifications.

Our expertise removes any guesswork and stress from the process of choosing the right engagement ring, from diamonds to design.

When considering diamonds there is much to know, the most important thing to learn is what are known as “the 4Cs” referring to diamond carat, colour, clarity and cut. We will elaborate on these diamond specific details further in future blog posts.

Contact us today and we’ll help you customize your own personalized engagement ring that is sure to impress.