The Art of Diamond Buying
You’re celebrating a momentous occasion and decide that a diamond is the perfect way to symbolize that moment. It may be the first diamond you’ve ever purchased, or maybe you are upgrading to a larger diamond. You should be beaming with excitement, glowing with a smile so wide it hurts, but for some reason, you are anxious, sweaty and twitchy. This is an important and costly purchase. You want to get it right — no room for error. What do you know about buying a diamond? Who do you trust? What do you believe?
I’d like to unlock some of the mystery of the diamond, debunk some myths and help you make an informed decision so that this eternal symbol of love, commitment and achievement isn’t clouded by doubt and fear. Most people have heard of the 4 C’s —Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat — but what do these words really mean and what’s the most important? I’m going to avoid the textbook descriptions and spell it out in layman’s terms.
The first thing you should know is that these things are, contrary to popular belief, measures of RARITY, not beauty. Just because something is deemed rare doesn’t make it pleasing to everyone’s eye. “Sometimes, a client believes the highest clarity means rarer and more beautiful,” says IDC sales associate Robbie Blue. “Sometimes, the clearer of color is better. I oftentimes look for balance of all the 4 C’s for the most balanced, pretty look.”
D E F
G H I J K L M
Very Light Yellow
N O P Q R
S T U V X Y Z
Color is the absence or presence of body color in a diamond. The scale that most people are familiar with starts with D (for diamond) and goes down the alphabet...D. E. F. G., etc. all the way to Z. There’s an assumption that D is the best. No, D is the rarest. God made fewer D, E and F color diamonds than the other shades. It’s also a range of shades. Have you ever tried to buy white paint only to realize how many shades of white there are? Studies have shown that when looking at diamonds without being prejudiced by the grading of a diamond, many people prefer a diamond with a little body color or a little warmth. Many beautiful and lively diamonds are actually in the H to K range.
How a stone is cut is truly what unleashes the fire and brilliance in the diamond. When a cutter is given a diamond to facet, he’s faced with a decision to either save weight or sacrifice the weight to achieve ideal or near ideal proportions. “While diamond prices are largely based on the characteristics of the individual diamond as it refers to the four C’s, the most expensive cut is generally the round brilliant diamonds,” says IDC diamond sales associate Ryan Weaver. “It is because a round diamond produces the most waste of a diamond rough, meaning that to cut a round, you have to discard a large portion of the diamond due to its exacting requirements.” When a diamond loses precious carat weight for the sake of ideal proportions, the price of the diamond is usually higher for the finished product, even though it eventually ends up weighing less.
Clarity denotes what is going on inside and on the surface of the diamond. I like to make Clarity very easy. What does it look like with the naked eye? First, study it hard without any aid of magnification. Do you see any distinguishing characteristics that distract from the brilliance of the diamond? That’s the most important thing. After all, how often will you or your friends be magnifying your diamond? Then study it with magnification. A loupe is what is commonly used at the sales counter.
|Very Very Slightly Included||Very Slightly Included||Slightly Included||Included|
“Diamonds are graded at a 10 power-loop magnification in terms of clarity and not to the naked eye,” says IDC sales associate Adelina Raileanu. “I find it very helpful while explaining to let the customer’s experience the way a certain diamond clarity appears under the magnification, and at the same time, appreciate the diamond brilliance without the loop.” Think about your kitchen window. You can focus your eyes on the window to see the fingerprints and spots on the window, or you can look through the window to see who’s in the front yard. Do the same thing to the diamond. Look through the windows. Look to see if you see any identifying characteristics or what I call “birthmarks.” I never use the word flaws. They aren’t flaws. Sometimes it’s little white lines, sometimes it’s clouds. You might see little black spots. Did you know that those little black spots are called “included crystals” and if you magnified them, they would reveal themselves as tiny diamonds or garnets trapped inside your diamond!? Two for One! The grading scale of Clarity refers more to how noticeable these characteristics are rather than how many are inside the diamond.Again, this is a rarity issue, however, if the diamond is too included, it will decrease the brilliance and beauty of a diamond.
Carat is the unit of measurement for the weight of a diamond. It got it's name from the Carob tree. The seeds of the Carob tree were used on the balance scale because of their uniform size and weight. So what carat weight is best for your diamond? That’s strictly a personal decision. For some, a larger stone is the dream and they might be willing to give up a little on color or clarity to stay on budget. To others, the color, cut and clarity trump size. There is no right answer.
BEYOND THE 4 C'S
Beyond the 4 C’s, many other questions have come across our sales counters. One is about shape. What shape is the most expensive? The answer isn’t so simple. In larger diamonds, all things being equal, the Round Brilliant is still the king. It’s timeless. It’s the most brilliant and in the highest demand.
“Round brilliant diamonds are more expensive than fancy shape diamonds, generally speaking,” Raileanu says. “Since the beginning, round diamonds were, and still are, the most desired shape.” As fancy shapes such as the Princess, Emerald, Marquise and Pear float in and out of demand, prices, though stable, may fluctuate based on their popularity.
Another C is in regard to diamond grading reports, commonly called certs. This is actually an incorrect term, as they are not certifications but reports. There are a variety of diamond grading labs that produce these reports. AGS, GIA, FDI, etc. These are used to give the consumer an independent opinion and description of the diamond. The important word here is opinion. Each gem lab, even though they might use a common alphabet, has a different language or set of standards for their reports. Not all reports are the same between companies. This can cause confusion not only to the consumer, but to the sales professional.
“No jeweler or diamond professional feels comfortable judging a diamond’s beauty or value based upon what a certificate says,” Blue says. To prove this point, we have sent the same stone to several labs only to get different opinions of color and clarity. This is why I stress to trust your own eye, not a piece of paper. I was once told that choosing a diamond by searching a pile of diamond reports was like choosing your fiancé from a stack of driver’s licenses. Every diamond is unique. You have to see it and experience it.
There’s another C that isn’t mentioned very often. Confidence. Confidence in yourself. Confidence in your ability to recognize what you find beautiful. You don’t need someone else to tell you what is beautiful. You need a jeweler that will help you by answering questions so you can make an informed decision, but ultimately, no one can tell you what your taste is or what your preferences should be. Just ask yourself these things: Do I love it? Does the diamond do what the diamond is supposed to do? Will I ultimately be thrilled with my decision? If so...then breathe.