We don’t think you’ve ever gone this deep “technically” before buying literally anything! We realize how important it is for you to get it right; which is why we created this technical comprehensive guide to ensure you have all the knowledge you need before making a diamond buying decision!
What Are The Main Characteristics (The 4Cs) of Diamonds?
Ever wondered why when you start searching for a diamond on ANY diamonds online store, like on James Allen or Blue Nile, the first options to filter your search based on, are the 4Cs: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat?
That’s basically because these 4 characteristics of a diamond are the most important factors that anyone needs to consider, and this is not a market thing to make you focus on what they want, not at all! These 4Cs really determines how your diamond will look like, its quality and how it will reflect light!
That’s why before buying any diamond, either online or in a retail store, you need to know what are the main 4 characteristics of any diamonds, why they are important, and which of them are more important than others!
In this post, and generally in the whole website, we will be learning what your local diamond store doesn’t want you to know! You will learn how to select the best diamond for your budget, without being ripped-off.
Suggested read: James Allen Vs. Blue Nile Full Comparison & Review
Since each C is independent from the others, and it needs to be understood in its sole context, we’ve created 4 separate articles that will explain each one of these 4Cs (And 1 dedicated article for the Round Cut Diamonds, since it’s the most popular shape), grab a coffee, and begin with your favorite C, and once you complete, scroll down this page to read more about the most important C in any diamond characteristic to know where to focus your budget more.
4Cs of Diamond: Quick Overview
It’s important to understand all the aspects related to the main 4Cs of any diamond, so next time you shop, you can easily tell what and where to look:
- Carat: Diamond weight, yes, that’s simple, it’s universally agreed that each carat equals 200 milligrams (0.2 gram). While it’s physically related to the appearance of a diamond, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will identify how “big” the diamond is by knowing its carat. Why?
Because the diamond might have a deep cut that will not be visible to the eye when looking from top! Check out this image here for a visual explanation.
- Color: Diamond color means how “yellowish” is the diamond (If found), color is graded from D as being Colorless, to K as having Faint Color (There are more than this, but this range of grades is the most famous).
Color is considered to be one of the main 4Cs of the diamond characteristics. It’s also one of the most important aspects to look at when considering buying any diamond. Diamond color is graded on a scale from Colorless to Yellow; colorless diamonds being higher priced (and supposedly higher quality).
On a diamond certificate or when looking at diamond characteristics online, you will clearly see single letter notations starting from D for colorless (most valuable) down to J for the lowest graded colorless diamonds. Beyond the Z range, some of the exotic colors exist (most common are yellow and brown)! It’s worth mentioning though, that these have less value than other diamond colors!
One thing to note here: You (or anyone else) can NOT detect a diamond color by just looking at it without comparing it to a known colored diamond next to it, period.
What this means? It means that when a jeweler try to sell you a high grade like E color or even F, you will not be able to tell a difference between both (and even when comparing F color diamond to a G color)
- Clarity: A measure of how “clean” the diamond is. Diamonds are natural minerals and as such will often time have certain imperfections, such as small chips, “feathers”, or “clouds” in them, which may or may not affect the perceived beauty of the diamond, clarity is referred to by a letter code ranging from FL for a Flawless diamond to I3 for one that is Included to the naked eye.
- Cut: We are not here talking about the difference between diamond cut & diamond shape; which was covered previously, cut refers to Diamond cut refers to the proportions of the parts of the diamond and how well the diamond reflects light. Do you know that sparkle that you see when looking at a diamond? Ever wondered why some diamonds sparkle more than others (you might also see this referred to as Diamond Brilliance).
Ever wondered why diamonds are so different in sparking levels (called Brilliance)? Even if all other factors equal! You can get two 1 carat G color SI2 Clarity, but one sparkles way more than the other, why? This image got the answer:
When you examine the diamond’s interaction with light, you’ll notice that this light is the reflection that goes off the diamond’s table facet mainly, and then off the crown facets. It’s worth mentioning that the more symmetric they are (the crown facets), the higher their ability is to reflect light, here is an image that shows different parts of the diamond in order for this information to sink in!
Here’s the bottom line: Brilliance is the WoW factor in any diamond, and what makes one diamond more beautiful than another. It’s the arch in a person’s eyebrow as they are nearly blinded by the flash of light coming from your diamond. Of course, a diamond may be Cut well but has poor color and clarity.
You may have got a little bit confused or lost reading too much online while you’re trying to find What is the Most Important Characteristic of Diamonds among the 4Cs? Or you just want to know what is the Order of Importance for Diamonds 4Cs; to spend your money wisely!
What is More Important: Cut? Clarity? Carat? or Color?
Lucky for you, we have a full section in this article to dive into details about the order of importance of the 4Cs and how you can use them to make a wise informed purchase; without getting ripped off!
Look at these two diamonds:
1- 0.9 Carat, H color, VS2 Clarity, currently priced at $4,330 Here!
2- 1.57 Carat, H color, SI1 Clarity, priced at $9,410 Here!
Other than the clarity grade difference, did you notice what else isn’t identical between both? Have you seen the difference in the light reflection in the 360-degree images provided by James Allen?
If you’re given a diamond of the two, and you don’t know their prices, would you be considering number 2?
That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what are the most important factors of a diamond and their order of importance.
In today’s article, we will be focusing on each C of the 4Cs separately, and examine to which extent it influences the diamond’s appearance and light reflection. Keep that in mind the next time you’re diamond shopping: don’t listen to those who want to sell you higher carat claiming that “it’s the most important factor of the 4Cs”!
There’s a lot of fuss around the Carat; because it’s basically the only characteristic that can be seen by the naked eye, yet, what people don’t realize is that diamond brilliance isn’t that much influenced by the diamond weight (carat)!
Every diamond characteristic is important, so you should never ignore any of them, however, the order of importance varies by how much it affects the overall looks and brilliance of your gem.
It’s worth mentioning though that a lot of retailers and even online stores (Like James Allen or Blue Nile will give you “Carat” as the first option to sort your diamond); obviously they will try to sell you a higher Carat as the most important characteristic of a diamond.
In our Diamonds 4Cs section, we tried to cover (in a bit of detail) the order of importance between the 4Cs, we will touch upon the subject with more details here as well and figure out together What is The Most Important Characteristic of Any Diamond.
The Most Important Diamond Characteristic
Some people buy diamond jewelry to express themselves and their dazzling, distinctive, radiant personalities! Others might want to reflect other qualities such as reliability, inner strength, fire, and sparkle! And what better way to show sparkle other than getting a very brilliant diamond with high scintillation?
The one thing that makes people look at the diamond is if they saw a light reflection from the diamond and into their eyes, what determines that?
Do you know that a 2 carat diamond with great clarity and colorless grade might not reflect light as you think? Because it simply has a poor cut; light comes into the diamond and pass-through it, and doesn’t get reflected back through the pavilion facets. Look at this image on the right for some details on the round-cut diamond parts.
Therefore, if you want to make sure that light reflects well, you need to make sure that facets proportions are being “cut” in a good way that reflects the light passing through it.
The Relation Between Cut & Light Reflection
Being the most important factor among diamond characteristics (including the 4Cs), diamond cut is the most frequent specification you’ll be hearing about while searching for your perfect gem!
But Why does Cut have this big influence on diamond brilliance and light reflection?
For all other factors (Carat, Clarity & Color), the craftsman has no influence or ability to change any of them (to some extent), however, with Cut, it’s basically his playground! The end Cut is purely dependent on the craftsmanship applied in cutting the facets of the stone. The artisan attempts to cut a diamond to make the best use of light so it reflects on the best angles. Look at this image:
So when a diamond is Cut to excellent proportions, light is refracted from one facet to another, then dispersed through the top of the diamond. When a diamond is Cut too deep, some light escapes through the opposite side of the diamond.
If the diamond is Cut too shallow, light escapes through the bottom of the stone before it can be reflected. In addition, the facets must be placed with precise symmetry for maximum brilliance.
The point is: in order for it to be exceptionally beautiful, a diamond must be of high quality in all 4Cs. But without the cutting craftsmanship of a master artisan, a rough stone will never get the chance to manifest its maximum brilliance and beauty (no matter how good its color and clarity are). So, pay extra attention to Cut. And because the quality of the diamond is so important, you should buy the diamond first before a setting or a necklace.
Cut: The Most Important Factor. What to Look For?
You might be asking yourself: what cut should I be looking for?
Good question, actually it’s a great one! Because jeweler will try to sell you the highest cut possible by convincing you that “Higher is better”, this is not always true, and not only to cut (it applies to other Cs as well), but let’s focus on our most important characteristic now, and then we will go see the Diamonds 4C’s Order of Importance.
In total there are 7 measurements that contribute to the cut but the 2 most important are Table and Depth.
Diamond table is the term used to describe the upper top facet of the diamond stone. It is undoubtedly the largest facet of the gemstone despite the number of facets the stone already has. It is also considered to be the part of the stone that plays the most important role in characterizing its brilliance and light performance.
Diamond depth refers to its measurement from top to bottom.
So far, we have learned that the only way to guarantee a great sparkle and light reflection is by getting an excellent cut, and technically speaking, table and depth percentages are very important factors contributing to the diamond overall cut grade.
The rule of thumb for Table & Depth says that you should look for a 60/60, what this rule states -it’s really more of a general guideline than a rule- is that you should look for a diamond with a table of 60% and a depth of 60%, or slightly higher/lower, the more you get to 60, the closer to a great cut you’re getting.
Generally speaking, for a GIA or AGS Certificate, we recommend you to be looking for a “Excellent” grade, yes you might find wider selection under the “Very Good” grade, but to guarantee a great sparkle, always aim to get Excellent (ideal) cut.
What’s the Order of Importance for the 4Cs together?
Which is more Important, Color Or Clarity?
Is Clarity or Cut or Carat more important than others?
What’s the order of importance for the 4Cs in any diamond?
Since each C is independent of the others and it needs to be understood in its sole context. And because We can’t answer any of these questions without understanding how each one of the 4Cs affects the diamond itself and its brilliance, we’ve created 4 separate articles that will explain each one of these 4Cs.
Yes we explained them quickly above, but if you’re that type of person who loves to understand all details about diamonds, then grab a coffee, and begin with your favorite C: Cut, Color, Carat, and Clarity.
Next, scroll down this page to read more about the next most important C in any diamond characteristic (since we’ve already established that cut is the most important one!); to know where to channel your budget.
Now, If you don’t want your diamond to appear a bit yellowish, then we always recommend getting the best colorless/near colorless grade, we don’t mean to get a D or E, your naked eye will most probably not detect the difference, so always look for something good for the price, and yet colorless or near-colorless, check this image (or see our diamonds color grade chart which shows real diamonds images)
Do you see? Choosing between G or H, or between I or J doesn’t make any noticeable difference! But if you want to choose between F or G, we highly recommend that you read our article on How Diamonds Are Priced?
So you guessed it, Diamond Color comes second in order of importance for any diamond.
We believe you’ve been thinking about this since you started reading this article, when comes the carat!? It’s the most important thing in any diamond! Why is there no mention of it until now?
Let us demonstrate: the difference in size between 1 carat and 1.5-carat diamond is not as you think, because 1 carat equals 200 milligrams diamond, while 1.5 equals 300 milligrams, we’re talking about half of a gram for both of these diamonds! Yes, half of a gram, and yet: it’s that expensive 🙂
We’re not saying: carat doesn’t matter, however, you should not get sold on “Bigger is better”, it’s not always noticeable for people’s eyes.
Because of this, the third most important characteristic of a diamond is Clarity.
You want your stone’s surface to be as clean as a whistle (with some feathers or clouds as they call them, but most probably not visible to the naked eye).
Diamond clarity levels are categorized into about eleven individual groups as they appear in this image. We can also group them into two broad classes: Eye-clean and Visible Inclusion.
Our personal preference when it comes to clarity is getting an eye-clean diamond with SI1 clarity in most cases for diamonds around 1 carat or less. It is really a great choice, don’t get sold to above unless you have good reasons for that, like getting a higher carat.
And finally, we come to the 4th important characteristic of diamonds (The #1 in jewelers’ point of view), which is Carat, and by now, you know very well why it comes last.
4Cs of Diamonds Order of Importance Summary
The goal of this article was to enable you to judge the quality of a diamond, compare it with others, and assess how much it is worth, or its fair market price value.
Asking to see the certificate attached to the diamond is key! Diamond certification is the written proof of a diamond’s attributes. Certificates usually come from an independent gemological laboratory, such as IGI, AGS, or GIA, if you got a diamond with an EGL certificate, read why you should avoid EGL certificate diamonds.
Certification shows the precise grading for each of the 4Cs and, therefore, the diamond value. When she, her family, friends, and everyone she knows looks at her diamond, what they’ll notice most is:
- Diamond Brilliance: how flashy and light-reflecting is the diamond, this factor hugely determined largely by the Cut then clarity.
- Diamond Color: Is it showing any yellowish color?
- Diamond Size: This is determined by Carat weight mainly.
Which is More Important: Size or Quality?
A valid question that comes from time to time from readers, I want a bigger diamond, and that’s it!
If we look behind the reason for having a bigger diamond, most probably we will see that the answer is somewhere around “To have the diamond easily seen by anyone, to get it notable in the crowd”, let’s see if that’s the case always.
Diamond Carat Chart is a system of measuring the weight of a diamond particle, how it looks, and how large or small it is! The chart is one of the factors considered when choosing a diamond piece because it’s one of the main characteristics of diamonds (4Cs).
Determining which of the 4Cs is the most important is, in part, a matter of taste. It’s subjective! If the size is key, then carat weight will count most to you, but remember that size is not related to the beauty of the stone.
A smaller diamond that is more masterfully cut and features greater clarity and better color will be more beautiful and brilliant than a larger stone of the same price that does not meet the same standards for cut, clarity, and color.
Also, if you have a larger diamond, but has lower clarity & cut, people will see it IF they look at her hands, but if the cut is superb, people will unintentionally look at this brilliance source when it hits their eyes, whether they were looking at the diamond or anywhere around.
In other words, a big diamond is not necessarily a beautiful diamond. But if the size is really important to you, look for a diamond that offers the largest visual appearance and more brilliant than a conventionally cut round diamond of comparable color and clarity.
We hope that you’ve reached the peak of understanding of the four main characteristics, and you know exactly where to focus when you shop for a diamond.
Happy diamond shopping!
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About the Author
A distinguished expert in the diamond industry with an unwavering passion for exceptional gemstones. With a keen eye for quality and a wealth of experience, Alexander has established himself as a prominent figure in the world of diamonds.
From an early age, Alexander was captivated by the allure and brilliance of diamonds. He embarked on a journey to understand the artistry and craftsmanship behind these precious gems. Through years of hands-on experience and collaboration with renowned diamond experts, Alexander has acquired comprehensive knowledge in diamond grading, sourcing, and jewelry design.
Driven by his desire to share his expertise, Alexander has created a captivating website dedicated to diamonds. Through this website, he imparts his wisdom and provides valuable insights on diamond education, trends, and investment opportunities.
With his impeccable reputation and extensive knowledge, Alexander Knight continues to leave a lasting impact in the dynamic world of diamonds, guiding others towards the discovery of their dream gemstone.