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.