When buying diamonds, as with any major purchase, the more you know, the better you can protect yourself from misrepresentation and fraud. With that in mind, Marks Jewelers is providing you with everything you eed to know about buying diamonds.
The Four Cs
There are four essential aspects of a diamond that determine its beauty, quality, and value. These aspects are known as The Four Cs. Traditionally, the four Cs are listed in the following order of importance to the beauty of the stone:
♦ Carat Weight
Cut is the least understood aspect of a diamond and most people are unaware of the major differences between well-cut and poorly cut diamonds. In the diamond trade, the cutting and proportioning of a diamond (referred to as the "make") are of critical importance. The make of a diamond has an enormous influence on the beauty of the stone. Proper cutting and proportioning releases the fire-the intensity and diversity of the rainbow of colors seen-and brilliance (sparkle) that is locked in the rough stone.
While there are standard grades for diamond color and clarity, there are few quality standards and criteria governing cut. As a result, diamonds are sometimes purposely cut to a shallow depth, making them appear larger in diameter than a well-cut stone of the same weight. The result is a "big look" from these so-called "spread stones", but the diamond appears lifeless. Some sellers mask this by using special high intensity lights to make the diamond seem more lively than it really is. Because of this, you should always check to see how a diamond looks in natural light. A well-cut stone will shine and sparkle even if the lighting conditions are poor.
Ask your jeweler to explain the intricacies of proper cutting to you. A good jeweler should be able to show you the differences between well-cut and poorly cut stones.
Color is one of the first things people notice when judging a diamond. Stones that are closer to "white" (that is, clear or colorless) are considered better. However, very, very few diamonds are absolutely colorless and those that are rate a D grade on the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) scale. D is the best color grade there is, although E and F grades are also considered extremely fine and are also called colorless. No other color may be called colorless by the Federal Trade Commission rules and regulations. There are no A, B, or C color grades.
The GIA scale runs all the way to Z, with increasing amounts of yellow and brown associated with each letter. There are several other color grading systems in use, but the GIA is by far the most used and most informative. Ask your local jeweler to show you his master color grading set so that you can see for yourself the differences and make a more educated purchase.
Diamonds, although rare to begin with, are even more rare if they have strong shades of blue (like the Hope Diamond), or red, green, bright yellow, and so on. These diamonds are known as "fancies" in the trade and there is no comparable letter scale to grade them.
Clarity: As a product of nature, very few diamonds are totally flawless. Nearly all diamonds contain imperfections, such as tiny black or white specks, minute cracks, grain lines, and so forth. These imperfections are called:
Inclusions: These are internal to the stone
Blemishes: These are on the surface of the stone
A clarity grade is a rating of the number, size, severity, and type of inclusions that reflect the overall fire and brilliance a diamond has when all other aspects are equal. The fewer and smaller number of imperfections a diamond has, the more fire and brilliance it has. As with the color scale, there are also many different grading systems in use for clarity. The most commonly used clarity scale is the GIA scale. Be very careful of anyone not using the GIA Scale!
The GIA clarity scale is as follows:
FL Flawless. No visible flaws under 10X-loupe magnification.
IF Internally Flawless. No internal flaws. Only minor external blemishes.
VVS1 Very Slightly Included. Very difficult for even trained observers to detect.
VVS2 Very, Very Slightly Included, although a little more than VVS1.
VS1 Very Slightly Included. Inclusions still only visible under magnification.
VS2 Very Slightly Included, although a little more than VS1.
SI1 Slightly Included. Flaws may be visible without magnification on side or back.
SI2 Slightly Included, although a little more than SI1.
I1 Imperfect. Flaws may be seen with the naked eye.
I2 Imperfect. More flaws than I1. Integrity of the stone may be at risk.
I3 Imperfect. More flaws than I2. Integrity of stone usually at risk.
Most diamond consumers avoid the imperfect grades-especially I2 or I3-unless there are compensating factors, such as exceptional color or carat weight.
Carat Weight is the easiest aspect of a diamond to understand. Note that it is a weight, not a size, which is a common misconception. A carat (abbreviated ct.) weighs one-fifth of a gram, or 200 milligrams.There are 100 points to a carat. Therefore, a half carat diamond might also be referred to as a 50 point stone.
Because people commonly associate a carat weight with a certain size of diamond, they expect a one carat diamond to look a certain way. To some extent this is true; however, there are other factors that affect how big a diamond looks, most notably the cut.
As can be expected, carat weight affects price; however, this occurs in a nonlinear way. That is, a diamond twice as big costs much more than twice as much. Larger diamonds are rarer and, therefore, command a higher overall price per carat.
Getting What You Pay For
When purchasing a diamond, you should always get a plot of the stone and a second appraisal from an independent certified appraiser. The diamond plot is a computer-generated diagram showing the facets of the diamond and the location and severity of any flaws. The diamond certificate will show the plot and should include a detailed description of the diamond’s color, dimensions, exact weight, and clarity grade. An independent certified appraiser is someone with no connection (business-wise or proximity-wise) with the seller.
There are a number of techniques used to improve the clarity of diamonds that either remove or hide imperfections. Note that there is a difference in price between untreated diamonds and enhanced diamonds and you should expect the price of an enhanced diamond to be from 25% to 50% less than an untreated diamond. Two very common enhancement techniques are:
Laser drilling Drills out inclusions
Fracture filling Fills in small cracks with chemicals
Many diamonds come from the earth with tiny black carbon specks inside them; these are inclusions. Even if the inclusions are hard to see, they tend to scatter light and reduce the brilliance of the diamond. About 25 years ago, high powered laser beams were first used to burn out these impurities.
To reach the inclusion, a laser drill is used to create a tiny hole reaching deep inside the diamond. Often the laser’s heat vaporizes the speck. If not, acid is poured into the hole, usually dissolving the spot or bleaching it to a less noticeable white color. This process is irreversible and because it has become an industry-standard procedure, it is not usually disclosed by diamond sellers. However, at Mark’s Jewelers, we will always tell you about any treatment used to enhance a diamond sold at our store.
How to Detect Laser Drilling
Laser drilled holes are so small in diameter, it is very difficult to see that the diamond has been drilled. However, looking at the side of the stone in very bright light may show some thin "threads." Diamond grading reports will usually indicate if the stone has been laser drilled.
The Federal Trade Commission has recently revised the Trade Practice Guides for the jewelry industry, and surprisingly, has omitted laser drilling from its list of diamond treatments that should be disclosed to the public.
Normally, the FTC requires disclosure if the treatment:
Is reversible (that is, not permanent)
Requires special care and handling (different from an untreated gem)
Substantially affects the diamond’s value
Laser drilling is permanent, and the treated gems do not require any special care. However, drilled diamonds are worth less than undrilled ones of otherwise equal size and equal grade.
When you spend your hard-earned money on a diamond, you deserve to know the truth about what you are buying.