The Engagement Ring Shopper’s Guide to Understanding the 4Cs of Diamonds

Published date: November 24, 2015

4Cs Shopping Guide




Chances are, if you think of diamonds, these are the first 4C’s that flit through your mind. And why not? The most brilliantly dazzling stone on the planet, diamonds flawlessly represent the most radiant symbol of love. The glittering jewel is sophisticated but sweet, sparkling but exquisite, and bold but romantic. Kings, basketball stars, astronauts, and music giants have all taken the plunge and invested in a splendidly alluring diamond to grace the hand of the ones they love.

Before we get all romantic and dreamy eyed, let’s remember the other 4 C’s of diamonds. These are the components that offer each diamond’s sparkle, and fire, as well as the cost range of the stone. Understanding the 4 C’s is priceless if you will be diamond engagement ring shopping in the near future, as it empowers you to definitively know the quality of diamond you are purchasing.

Let’s begin with one most everyone is familiar with.

#1: Carat weight

Carat weight is another way to answer the question “How big is it?” when it comes to diamonds. A carat is a measurement jewelers use to calculate the size of the stone. Typically the larger the carat weight, the higher the price, because larger diamonds are more difficult to find and in shorter supply.

If you see a ring that is described as “total carat weight,” this is the sum of all the diamonds in the ring added up. A smart way to get a larger overall ring with a smaller budget is to choose one with several diamonds instead of just one solitaire. For example, a 2-carat total weight diamond ring with a smaller center stone and several side diamonds is generally much less expensive than a 2-carat solitaire, even though it offers the same amount of carat weight.

As important as it is for the overall look and statement, the size of the diamond isn’t the only aspect in deciding on the quality and cost of the stone. Another important C is….

#2: Cut

The cut of a diamond varies greatly from one to the next, and the price raises or drops right along with it. The round cut is the most common cut, but other, more exotic cuts like the brilliant cut or cushion cut may drive the price up. This is because it sometimes takes longer to cut these complicated stones, and these cuts demand a higher quality stone to begin with in order to showcase the expected fire and sparkle.

The shape is only one aspect of the cut, with the other being the quality of a cut. According to the GIA, the cut of a diamond is graded from “excellent” to “poor.” This is the most difficult C for a regular shopper to wrap his or her mind around. Basically, each diamond shape has set proportions that it should fit into for maximum fire and dazzle. The ones that fit these dimensions rank higher up on the scale. The ones, however, that miss the marks rank lower. Shallow cut diamonds, even though they may look larger from the top, are an example of a less-than-perfect cut.

#3: Clarity

Carat weight and cut are joined by clarity in properly reviewing a diamond’s quality. Stones are rarely perfect, even if the naked eye sees only luxurious flawlessness. During their formation, diamonds develop small inclusions and imperfections inside, and the presence of lack of these make up the third C of “clarity.”

Jewelers grade a stone’s clarity from the mightily rare “flawless” to “very very slightly included” all the way down to “included.” This scale offers a wide range of clarity grades, and the closer to flawless a diamond ranks, generally the higher the price tag.

It’s important to note that even a slightly included stone can provide exquisite brilliance and make a bold statement. It won’t be as transparent, fiery, or expensive, as a stone graded as very very slightly included, however. Aim to buy as clear a stone as your budget can afford for optimum opulence and distinctive elegance.

#4: Color.

Finally, the fourth C of color comes into play. As with carat weight, most diamond shoppers are able to see if a diamond is nearly colorless or if it contains a hint of color.

The color scale starts at “D” or colorless, and ends at “Z” which is a light yellow color. Diamonds on the lower end of the scale, especially “D” “E” and “F” are practically lacking in color, allowing the full impact of the diamond’s facets to fire and dazzle. The cost of these diamonds reflect their rarity. Folks on a budget may look at stones in the “G” “H” or even “I” color range to invest in a nice looking stone that’s a bit easier on the wallet.

In short, if you are thinking of taking a spin into the world of engagement ring shopping, it’s important you have a working knowledge of the 4 “C’s” of diamonds for one main reason; you don’t want to make an uninformed decision. If you visit several jewelry shops, make certain you compare apples to apples, instead of looking at a high-end top quality diamond at one place, and then a medium range stone at the next. Review your budget and decide what you can afford to spend, and work within the range to find an enchanting piece of artistry that bewitches and delights the wearer for years to come.

Don’t get overwhelmed with the fine points of diamond buying! Visit Janvier Jewelers¬†or call (302) 366-7448 and work with one of our experienced jewelry professionals to choose the perfect stone to fit your love, her lifestyle, and your budget. We have been helping future husbands make great jewelry decisions since 1975.