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Your Go-To Guide for the 4Cs of Diamonds

Before going shopping at jewelry stores in Pittsburgh, be sure you understand the 4Cs of diamonds

Lisa Marie Kotchey Jewelry
February 23, 2022

Whether you’re shopping for jewelry for the first time or just want to understand more about the quality of diamonds, understanding the 4Cs of diamonds ensures you’re selecting a gem you’ll cherish forever. So, what are the 4Cs of diamonds? When grading the quality of diamonds, carat, color, cut, and clarity are taken into consideration. Before you shop at any jewelry stores in Pittsburgh, you’ll first need to understand how each category is judged and how you can use the 4Cs to determine what gems fit your needs. 

Why Do the 4Cs Matter?

Use the 4Cs method to determine which ring is right for you when shopping at jewelry stores in Pittsburgh

Woman wearing a ring resting her hand on a book
The 4Cs of diamonds can help you determine the quality of a gem and determine which gem makes the most sense for your budget. 

When it comes to diamonds, the 4Cs not only determine the quality of a diamond but also the price. Before the 20th century, there was no unified way to determine the quality and price of diamonds. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) established a system to grade the quality of diamonds, which is now accepted as the universal grading system. 

While a diamond with a high grade in every criteria will cost the most, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the perfect gem for you. What matters most is what you think of the diamond and how well it fits within your budget. When shopping at a jewelry store in Pittsburgh, you can use the 4Cs as a tool to decide between gems to determine which gem is right for you. 


Discerning the difference between size and weight of a diamond

Diamond held by long nose tweezers
Carat weight is measured on a points system. 

Oftentimes, people mistake carats as the size of the gem, but carats actually measure the weight of a diamond. When diamonds are measured, that measurement will always be shown in points. One carat equals 100 points and weighs 1/5 grams. Using that metric, diamonds are then priced by multiplying the carat weight by the price per carat. 


Understanding the range of color of diamonds

Diamond ring
Diamonds are ranked based on the lack of color in the gem. 

When examining the color of a diamond, the GIA technically looks for the lack of color. When diamonds are found naturally, the color of the diamond can range from a yellow hue to clear. The clearer the diamond, the higher the value of the diamond.  GIA uses a scale from D-to-Z, D meaning the diamond is perfectly clear with no hue. 


Considering the quality of which a diamond is cut

Diamond held by long nose tweezers
The cut of a diamond is judged on the quality of the cut rather than the shape of the gem. 

Out of the 4Cs, the cut of the diamond is the only factor that isn’t influenced by nature. This rank takes into account the quality of the cut and how well the diamond is faceted, proportioned, and polished. When thinking about the cut of a diamond, be sure not to confuse this with the shape of the diamond. The particular style of the diamond’s shape is completely up to your own personal preference. So, what goes into examining a diamond’s cut?

  • Symmetry: Diamonds of high value are completely symmetrical meaning that the facets of one side of the diamond perfectly match the opposite side. 
  • Proportions: Using Marcel Tolkowsky’s Diamond Design principles, the standard for the modern round ideal cut of the diamond was established. A mathematician, physicist, and an engineer, Tolkowsky used his research to improve the light performance of diamonds. Now, that system is used to judge a diamond’s proportions for optimal light reflection. 
  • Polish: When diamonds are cut, flaws are inevitably created on the diamond. Without proper polishing, these flaws can impact how the gem reflects light. Using diamond dust and other abrasive materials, diamonds are polished to fix those imperfections to ensure that the gem is as reflective as possible. 

Taking these factors and more into consideration, gemologists assess the design and craftsmanship to give it a grade of either Excellent (EX), Very Good (VG), Good, or Fair (F). 


Taking a deeper look at the inclusions within a diamond

Emerald cut diamond ring
The clarity of a diamond impacts how the diamond reflects light. 

The clarity element of the 4Cs is determined by the natural imperfections of the diamond. The fewer imperfections, the higher the clarity of the diamond. This is determined by taking a look at the diamond under a microscope at 10x magnification and naked eye visibility. Professional graders will look for the diamond’s blemishes and inclusions, which are essentially birthmarks of diamonds when they’re found naturally. Five factors play a role in evaluating the diamond’s blemishes and inclusions. 

  • Size: Size acts as one of the biggest determining factors of a diamond’s clarity. When a diamond is larger in size, there’s more opportunity for imperfections that will impact the overall appearance. 
  • Number: The number of inclusions has a huge impact on a diamond’s appearance. So, the fewer inclusions on a diamond, the better the quality. 
  • Nature: The nature of the gem is the type and depth of inclusions within a diamond. 
  • Location: The location is where within the diamond the inclusions are located. When inclusions are closer to the center of the gem’s table, the imperfections are much more visible whereas when imperfections are closer to the girdle of the gem, these are less likely to be noticed. 
  • Relief: Relief of the diamond compares the contrast between the diamond and the inclusions of the diamond. With a high relief, dark colors of imperfections are more noticeable. 

Using these factors, clarity of diamonds is ranked on a scale between Flawless or Internally Flawless (FL/IF) to Included (I1). 

How Can You Prioritize the 4Cs to Fit Your Needs?

When ring shopping at a Pittsburgh jewelry store, you can prioritize the 4Cs to fit your budget

Diamond ring posed under a leaf
While the 4Cs determine the quality and price of a diamond, personal preference is what really matters. 

Now that you understand each element of the 4Cs, it’s time to figure out how to make those work within your budget. There’s no right or wrong gem based on the 4Cs, so selecting a gem is truly up to personal preference. That being said, the 4Cs will determine the price of a diamond. So, how can you prioritize the 4Cs to work within your budget when shopping at jewelry stores in Pittsburgh?

  • Carat: A small difference in carat weight can increase the cost tenfold. If you’ve found a gem you like but it’s not within your budget, try finding a gem with a carat weight of 10-15 points less. 
  • Color: In the color grade, scaling down to an H-color or I-color will be more affordable while still appearing white. Anything below a J-color will show more of a yellow hue. 
  • Cut: The cut of a diamond can vary heavily. It’s best to stick within a range of Excellent to Very Good to find a gem that reflects light the best. 
  • Clarity: When diamonds are naturally sourced, they will rarely be perfect. Take a look at diamonds within the scale’s ranges. If you can’t notice inclusions on a lower-range diamond, you can likely choose a diamond with a lower clarity to save on cost. 

When shopping for rings at jewelry stores in Pittsburgh, the most important factor is finding a gem you will love forever. At Lisa Marie Kotchey Design, we will work with you to find the perfect gem that fits your budget and your preferences. Get in touch with us today to get started with crafting the perfect ring for you.