What are the Four Cs of Diamonds?

Written By Allie Perry April 12, 2024

What are the Four Cs of Diamonds?

Purchasing a diamond can be daunting, especially when there are so many factors that consider. When you start to research or shop for diamonds, you’ll almost immediately come across the term "the Four Cs”, but what are they? In short, they’re the key factors that determine a diamond's quality and value. Let's look at each C to understand what they are, what they mean, their importance, and their pros and cons.

1. Cut:

What generally comes to mind for most people when they hear the word cut is the outline the stone has been cut into. This is actually the shape of a stone. You’ve probably heard of round, princess, pear, or marquise, but there are many more- each of which has not only a different overall outline but different effects on the appearance and cost of a stone.

When referencing diamonds, cut refers to how well light performs when interacting with a diamond. This is evaluated by the proportions, symmetry, and polish that have been achieved during the cutting process. If a diamond is cut correctly, light will enter the stone, essentially bounce around against the facets, and shine back out through the top of the stone creating sparkle. If a stone is cut too shallow or too deep, light will enter through the top of the stone and exit through the bottom or sides, making the stone appear dull and lifeless.

Importance: The cut is arguably the most crucial C as it directly impacts the diamond's brilliance and overall beauty. A well-cut diamond can make even a lower-grade stone appear more attractive.

Pros: A well-cut diamond maximizes light reflection, enhancing its sparkle and fire. It can also make the diamond appear larger than its actual carat weight.

Cons: Diamonds with excellent cuts usually come at a premium price. Additionally, poorly cut diamonds may appear dull and lifeless, diminishing their value and beauty.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to splurge on any of the four Cs, cut is the one that will have the most impact on the look of the stone.

2. Color:

Diamond color refers to the absence of color in the stone. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond color on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Colorless diamonds are rarer and, therefore, more valuable.

Importance: Color significantly influences a diamond's appearance and value. A colorless or near-colorless diamond tends to be more desirable and commands a higher price.

Pros: Colorless diamonds appear brighter and more brilliant, especially in larger sizes. They are also more versatile and can complement any setting or metal color.

Cons: Colorless diamonds are more expensive. However, some people prefer diamonds with a hint of color for their unique character, which can be a pro depending on personal preference.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to enhance or mask the color in a diamond, consider different metal colors for the mounting you choose. Stones with color may look better in yellow metal, while stones with no color will look better in white metal.

3. Clarity:

Clarity refers to the absence of internal quality characteristics (inclusions) and surface blemishes (blemishes) in a diamond. The GIA grades clarity on a scale from Flawless (no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification) to Included (inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye).

Importance: Clarity affects a diamond's purity and brilliance. A higher clarity grade indicates a rarer and more valuable diamond.

Pros: Diamonds with higher clarity grades are more visually appealing and command higher prices. They also tend to have better light performance and durability.

Cons: Higher clarity grades come with a higher price tag. However, some inclusions are not visible to the naked eye and may not affect the diamond's beauty or durability, making slightly lower clarity grades more budget-friendly.

Pro Tip: If you’re purchasing a diamond with a small inclusion near the edge of the stone, ask your jewelry if setting the stone in a different orientation will mask the appearance of the inclusion.

4. Carat Weight:

Carat weight measures a diamond's size, with one carat equal to 200 milligrams. Larger diamonds are rarer and, therefore, more valuable per carat.

Don’t be confused by carat weight versus total carat weight! Carat weight refers to the weight of an individual stone. Total carat weight is the combined weight of all of the diamonds in a piece of jewelry, including the center stone and any accent stones.

Importance: Carat weight directly impacts a diamond's perceived size and value. However, it's essential to consider carat weight in conjunction with the other Cs to ensure overall quality.

Pros: Larger diamonds make a bold statement and are often preferred for engagement rings and other jewelry pieces. They can also be a status symbol, showcasing wealth and luxury.

Cons: Larger diamonds come with a higher price tag. Additionally, focusing solely on carat weight without considering other factors like cut, color, and clarity may result in sacrificing overall diamond quality for size. For example, larger stones are more likely to show color than smaller stones. It’s also important to understand that the same carat weight will look different across different shapes.

Pro Tip: Outside of certain specialty cuts, carat is the C that will usually have the most impact on the cost of the stone. You can save a lot of money by buying a stone that’s just under your target carat weight, like .90 carats instead of one carat, or 1.9 carats instead of two carats. You’ll likely never see the difference in size with your naked eye. Considering fancy shapes other than round may be another way to save money on a diamond.

What else should I consider?

The look of any loose diamond is inherently affected by the Four Cs; but its appearance is also affected by the mounting it’s set in. Here are some examples:

Accent stones: A halo setting has small diamonds that go all the way around the center stone, making the center stone look larger.

Band Width: A thinner band will make a diamond look larger, while a wide band will make a diamond look smaller.

Finger Size: A one-carat stone will look larger on a size five finger than it will on a size nine finger.

Metal color: White metal generally makes a white stone look better. Using a white setting in a yellow ring accommodates people who have their heart set on a yellow ring but still want their diamond to look its best.

The most important thing to do when buying a diamond is to make an informed decision. While each C plays a vital role in a diamond's beauty and value, it's essential to find the right balance that fits your preferences, budget, and desired outcome. Whether you prioritize brilliance, purity, size, or any combination of those, remember that the perfect diamond is the one that holds meaning and significance for you or your loved one.

And if you’re ready to add some diamond jewelry to your own collection, click here to see what I have available for sale!



Allie is the owner and goldsmith behind Allie Perry Designs.

Learn more about her here, or connect with her on Instagram!

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