The 4 C’s
The natural choice for diamonds
All else being equal, the price per carat increases with carat weight, since larger diamonds are both rarer and more desirable for use as gemstones.The price per carat does not increase linearly with increasing size. Instead, there are sharp jumps around milestone carat weights, as demand is much higher for diamonds weighing just more than a milestone than for those weighing just less.
As an example, a 0.95 carats (190 mg) diamond may have a significantly lower price per carat than a comparable 1.05 carats (210 mg) diamond, because of the specific combinations of each stone.
A weekly diamond price list, the Rapaport Diamond Report is published by Martin Rapaport, CEO of Rapaport Group of New York, for different diamond cuts, clarity and weights. It is currently considered the de-facto retail price baseline. Jewelers often trade diamonds at negotiated discounts off the Rapaport price (e.g., “R -3%”). In the wholesale trade of gem diamonds, carat is often used in denominating lots of diamonds for sale.
For example, a buyer may place an order for 100 carats (20 g) of 0.5 carats (100 mg), D-F, VS2-SI1, excellent cut diamonds, indicating a wish to purchase 200 diamonds (100 carats (20 g) total mass) of those approximate characteristics.
Because of this, diamond prices (particularly among wholesalers and other industry professionals) are often quoted per carat, rather than per stone.
Total carat weight (t.c.w.) is a phrase used to describe the total mass of diamonds or other gemstone in a piece of jewelry, when more than one gemstone is used.
Diamond solitaire earrings, for example, are usually quoted in t.c.w. when placed for sale, indicating the mass of the diamonds in both earrings and not each individual diamond. T.c.w. is also widely used for diamond necklaces, bracelets and other similar jewelry pieces.
The next grade has a very slight trace of color, which can be observed by any expert diamond valuer/grading laboratory. However when studded in jewellery these very light colored diamonds do not show any color or it is not possible to make out color shades. These are graded as E color or F color diamonds. Diamonds which show very little traces of color are graded as G or H color diamonds. Slightly colored diamonds are graded as I or J or K color.
A diamond can be found in any color in addition to colorless. Some of the colored diamonds such as pink are very rare and are priceless. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue, or color.
However, in reality most gem-sized natural diamonds are imperfect. The color of a diamond may be affected by chemical impurities and/or structural defects in the crystal lattice. Depending on the hue and intensity of a diamond’s coloration, a diamond’s color can either detract from or enhance its value.
For example, most white diamonds are discounted in price as more yellow hue is detectable, while intense pink or blue diamonds (such as the Hope Diamond) can be dramatically more valuable. The Aurora Diamond Collection displays a spectacular array of naturally colored diamonds, which occur in every color of the rainbow.
Most diamonds used as gemstones are basically transparent with little tint, or white diamonds. The most common impurity, nitrogen, replaces a small proportion of carbon atoms in a diamond’s structure and causes a yellowish to brownish tint. This effect is present in almost all white diamonds; in only the rarest diamonds is the coloration from this effect undetectable.
The GIA has developed a rating system for color in white diamonds, from “D” to “Z” (with D being “colorless” and Z having a bright yellow coloration), which has been widely adopted in the industry and is universally recognized, superseding several older systems.
The GIA system uses a benchmark set of natural diamonds of known color grade, along with standardized and carefully controlled lighting conditions.
Diamonds with higher color grades are rarer, in higher demand, and therefore more expensive, than lower color grades.
Oddly enough, diamonds graded Z are also rare, and the bright yellow color is also highly valued. Diamonds graded D-F are considered “colorless”, G-J are considered “near-colorless”, K-M are “slightly colored”. N-Y usually appear light yellow or brown.
In contrast to yellow or brown hues, diamonds of other colors are more rare and valuable. While even a pale pink or blue hue may increase the value of a diamond, more intense coloration is usually considered more desirable and commands the highest prices. A variety of impurities and structural imperfections cause different colors in diamonds, including yellow, pink, blue, red, green, brown, and other hues.
Diamonds with unusual or intense coloration are sometimes labeled “fancy” in the diamond industry. Intense yellow coloration is considered one of the fancy colors, and is separate from the color grades of white diamonds. Gemologists have developed rating systems for fancy colored diamonds, but they are not in common use because of the relative rarity of such diamonds.
The cut of a diamond describes the quality of workmanship and the angles to which a diamond is cut. Often diamond cut is confused with “shape”. There are mathematical guidelines for the angles and length ratios at which the diamond is supposed to be cut in order to reflect the maximum amount of light.
Round brilliant diamonds, the most common, are guided by these specific guidelines, though fancy cut stones are not able to be as accurately guided by mathematical specifics. The techniques for cutting diamonds have been developed over hundreds of years, with perhaps the greatest achievements made in 1919 by mathematician and gem enthusiast Marcel Tolkowsky.
He developed the round brilliant cut by calculating the ideal shape to return and scatter light when a diamond is viewed from above. The modern round brilliant has 57 facets (polished faces), counting 33 on the crown (the top half), and 24 on the pavilion (the lower half). The girdle is the thin middle part.
The function of the crown is to refract light into various colors and the pavilion’s function to reflect light back through the top of the diamond. Tolkowsky’s calculations included some approximations.
He calculated the ideal dimensions to be:
Table percentage = 53%
(corner-to-corner diameter of the table divided by overall diameter)
Depth percentage = 59.3%
(overall depth divided by overall diameter, not including adjustments for the culet height and girdle thickness)
Pavilion Angle = 40.75 deg
(angle between the girdle and the pavilion main facets)
Crown Angle = 34.5 deg
(angle between the girdle and the crown’s kite facets)
Pavilion Depth = 43.1%
(depth of pavilion divided by overall diameter)
Crown Depth = 16.2%
(depth of crown divided by overall diameter)
The culet is the tiny point or facet at the bottom of the diamond. This should be a negligible diameter, otherwise light leaks out of the bottom. Tolkowsky’s calculations included neither a culet nor a girdle.
However, a girdle is required in reality in order to prevent the diamond from easily chipping in the setting. The thick part of the girdle is normally about 1.7% (of the overall diameter) thicker than the thin part of the girdle.
The further the diamond’s characteristics are from the Tolkowsky’s ideal, the less light will be reflected. However, there is a small range in which the diamond can be considered “ideal”. Tolkowsky’s calculations can be repeated for a narrow range of pavilion angles. Such calculations show a slightly larger table percentage, and a trade-off between pavilion angle and crown angle.
Today, because of the relative importance of carat weight in society, many diamonds are often intentionally cut poorly to increase carat weight. There is a financial premium for a diamond that weighs the magical 1.0 carat (200 mg), so often the girdle is made thicker or the depth is increased.
Neither of these tactics make the diamond appear any larger, and both greatly reduce the sparkle of the diamond. So a poorly cut 1.0 carat (200 mg) diamond may have the same diameter and appear as large as a 0.85 carats (170 mg) diamond. The depth percentage is the overall quickest indication of the quality of the cut of a round brilliant. “Ideal” round brilliant diamonds should not have a depth percentage greater than 62.5%. Another quick indication is the overall diameter.
Typically a round brilliant 1.0 carat (200 mg) diamond should have a diameter of about 6.5 mm. Mathematically, the diameter in millimeters of a round brilliant should approximately equal 6.5 times the cube root of carat weight, or 11.1 times the cube root of gram weight, or 1.4 times the cube root of point weight.
The number, size, color, relative location, orientation, and visibility of inclusions can all affect the relative clarity of a diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and other organizations have developed systems to grade clarity, which are based on those inclusions which are visible to a trained professional when a diamond is viewed under 10x magnification.
Diamonds become increasingly rare when considering higher clarity gradings.
Only about 20% of all diamonds mined have a clarity rating high enough for the diamond to be considered appropriate for use as a gemstone; the other 80% are relegated to industrial use. Of that top 20%, a significant portion contains one or more visible inclusions. Those that do not have a visible inclusion are known as “eye-clean” and are preferred by most buyers, although visible inclusions can sometimes be hidden under the setting in a piece of jewelry.
Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not affect the diamonds’ performance or structural integrity. When set in jewelry, it may also be possible to hide certain inclusion behind mounting hardware such as prongs in a way that renders the defect invisible.
However, large clouds can affect a diamond’s ability to transmit and scatter light. Large cracks close to or breaking the surface may increase the likelihood of a fracture. Diamonds are graded by the major societies on a scale ranging from flawless to imperfect.