Diamonds And Engagement Rings 101
What is a Diamond?
Extreme pressure and temperature over billions of years turn carbon into diamond deep within the interiors of the earth. However a diamond is more than just pressurized carbon. The mystery, intrigue and fascination attached to it are largely on account of the value it carries. Derived from the Greek word Adamas meaning proper and unalterable a diamond is one of the most valuable gemstones today. In this buyer’s guide we will demystify the process of buying diamonds.
Each diamond is a work of art created by mother nature perfected under extreme pressure and temperature to make it precious no matter what its price. Whether it is a simple round brilliant or an exquisite Asscher cut diamond, whether it’s a top quality D-IF or FL or a more down-to-earth G-H SI1, we will help you discover the inner fire of every diamond.
The Four C's of Diamonds
A diamond is bought and graded on four important criteria, known as the 4Cs – color, clarity, carat weight and cut. Each criteria plays an important role in determining the price and quality, however, you may place more or less importance on any of Cs depending on your personal decision.
Though a colorless diamond is considered most valuable, diamonds do have some degree of color in them, even though they may appear colorless. A color scale established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) assigns a letter to the degree of colorlessness found in a diamond. Beginning with D and ending with Z, each descending letter denotes an increasing amount of light yellow, brown or gray in the diamonds.
E, F: The stone appears colorless. However a gemologist can identify the minute traces of color found in these diamonds. G, H, I: These diamonds have a hint of color that is not noticeable to the untrained eye almost colorless. J, K, and L: Faint traces of color are visible when the diamond is looked at face up. M, Z: The color in the diamond is obvious even to the untrained eye.
It is almost impossible to have a diamond without impurities. Often invisible to the naked eye, these natural blemishes are categorized as inclusions, which are internal, and blemishes, which are external. When the stone was being formed sometimes trace elements or minerals get trapped that result in inclusions that appear as feathers, clouds or crystals. Scratches and chips visible to the naked eye are known as blemishes. While fewer such impurities will make the diamond more valuable the diamond, higher diamond clarity does not necessarily mean that the diamond is more beautiful than a stone of a lesser clarity. But it will make a difference in terms of how the diamond is priced.
The GIA established a grading system to measure the type and size of these imperfections. FL, IF: Flawless, Internally Flawless. There are no inclusions internal flaws or blemishes external flaws. VVS1, VVS2: Very, Very Slight Inclusions. Hard to view such inclusions under 10x magnification. Amazing quality VS1 and VS2: Very Slight Inclusions. An excellent quality diamond. SI1. Usually the best bang for your buck. SI2: Slight Inclusions. Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification and may not be visible to the naked eye when the stone is in the face-up position. Low diamond value I1, I2, I3: Obvious inclusions, which are visible to the naked eye.
- Carat Weight
The weighing unit for a diamond is Carat. Carat comes from the carob tree, whose tiny seeds were known for their uniformity and consistent weight. Carob seeds were used to weigh diamonds. Fun fact: In Asia, rice was used to measure diamonds.
A diamond that equaled four grains of rice weighed 1 carat. Carat is the weight and not size of the diamond. Therefore a 1 carat diamond will not be the same size as a 1 carat sapphire because of the density. One carat is the equivalent of 0.2 grams One carat is also divided into 100 points. Points are generally used to describe increments of weight within a carat. The weight of a 3/4-carat diamond can be shown as .75 carats or 75 points.
Often interchanged with the word “shape”, however the two terms are very, very different. Shape is just that; the shape. Such as round, princess..etc. A diamonds radiance is on account of the cut of the diamond. Cuts are the arrangement of facets in the stone. Cuts that affect the beauty and the cost of the diamond are determined by human skill rather than nature. It is seen by most as the most important of the 4Cs. A diamond cutter will follow precise mathematical proportions relating to the height, width and depth of the crown (top), girdle (widest part) and pavilion (bottom).
When a diamond is cut to the right proportions, light reflects from one facet to another and then disperses through the top of the stone, resulting in a burst of fire and brilliance. Fire is the combination of flashes of color one sees when you look at a diamond; brilliance is its sparkle. Ideal Cut Marcel Tolko-sky devised a mathematical formula for the ideal cut by calculating the optimum combination of angles to maximize the amount of light that enters a diamond and then be reflected out. Ideal cut diamonds are more expensive because of the skill and time involved in cutting.
Different cuts give different results. They are: The Brilliant Cut has 58 facets, 33 on the top and 24 on the bottom and the culet (this is the bottom point). In this cut, all 58 facets appear to radiate from the center out through the top of the diamond. The Step Cut resembles stair steps. This is because three concentric rows of facets are arranged around the table, the pavilion and the culet. The Emerald Cut is an example of a step cut diamond. The Mixed Cut combines elements of both, the brilliant and the step cuts. For example, the crown may be cut as a brilliant cut and the pavilion as a step cut. Learn more about Fancy Cut Diamonds.
Cuts, too, are graded, from ideal to poor. Too many deep or shallow cuts will result in a poor cut diamond. When the cut too deep, light is reflected through the sides and the center of the diamond may appear dark. A shallow cut diamond allows light to escape from the bottom and makes the table appear dull. Too shallow a cut gives the appearance of a black hole, referred to by industry as a fish eye.
A diamond’s distinctive glow when the stone is seen under an ultraviolet light. The fluorescence of a diamond is defined by its intensity as either None, Faint, Medium, Strong or Very Strong. In the very high colors D, E, and F strong blue fluorescence is less desirable. However, in the slightly lower colors of J and below, strong blue fluorescence is desirable, as it makes the diamond appear whiter.
Common Diamond Terminology
- Brilliance:Brilliance is created when light enters through the table, travels down to the pavilion and is reflected back through the table.
- Crown:This is the upper portion of the stone above the girdle.
- Culet:The smallest facet at the lowest point on the bottom of the diamond.
- Depth:The distance between the table and the culet. Measured in millimeters.
- Depth Percentage:Refers to the comparison of the diamond’s depth to its width.
- Facet:The smooth flat surface of a diamond that allows light to enter and be reflected.
- Feather:Small fractures in a diamond. When examined under a microscope, they resemble a feather.
- Girdle:Is the perimeter around the widest part of the stone. This is where prongs hold in your diamond in your engagement ring / ring.
- Graining:A minute flaw that appears milky, or as streaks.
- Inclusions:Internal imperfections in the diamond that can affect its clarity.
- Pavilion:The bottom part of the stone from the girdle to the culet.
- Polish:The finishing touch to the facets. The polish is graded from excellent to poor.
- Scintillation:Gleaming, minute flashes of reflected light.
- Symmetry:The way the facets are positioned and alignment. Diamond Symmetry is graded from Excellent to Poor.
- Table:The largest facet of a diamond that rest in the center of the stone. It is flat.
Common Diamond Shapes
Diamonds come in different shapes and each one has certain characteristics that determine quality. Here we show you how to recognize the most beautiful diamond from the characteristics inherent to each shape.
- Asscher Diamonds
- Round Diamonds
- Princess Diamonds
- Emerald Diamonds
- Marquise Diamonds
- Oval Diamonds
- Radiant Diamonds
- Pear Diamonds
- Heart Diamonds
- Cushion Diamonds
The asscher shape is very much like the Emerald cut except that is is square. It has the same rectangular faceted pavilion as the emerald cut and the recommended length-to-width ratio between 1.00 and 1.05.
This is the most popular of all shapes. Over centuries diamond cutters have used exact mathematical calculations to maximize the fire and brilliance in a round diamond. It is by far the most popular and researched shape.
After the round shape, the Princess is the most popular among non-round diamonds. (Also referred to as Fancy Shaped Diamonds) It has pointed corners and is square in shape. It is generally preferred in engagement rings. These diamonds though generally square can vary in how square or rectangular they are. However there are lengths to width ratios that maximize their brilliance. For a princess diamond shape that is square, length-to-width ratios between 1 and 1.05 is optimal and for rectangular ones a 1.10 or greater ratio is preferred.
Rectangular facets on the pavilion give the Emerald shape diamonds a unique optical appearance. While these are generally square, a more rectangular shape of the emerald cut diamonds, the Asscher-cut is advisable.
This shape can enhance the size of the diamond for its carat weight, giving a much larger look to the diamond. Marquise diamonds look best when set with round or pear shaped side stones. They also makes the fingers look long. Recommended length to width ratios for Marquise Diamonds are between 1.75 and 2.25.
The brilliance of an oval diamond is similar to that of a round one. These diamonds give the illusion of length to the fingers. For most of the typical oval diamonds the length-to-width ratios are between 1.33 and 1.66.
A rectangular shaped diamond it has its corners trimmed and is used popularly for jewelry. It looks beautiful when set with round or baguette side stones. They vary in the degree of rectangularity. If you prefer a more square radiant diamond, then the recommended width to length ratio is between 1 and 1.05. If you prefer more of a rectangular shape, then ratios greater than 1.10 is appropriate.
The pear has a rounded and single point ends. For the most traditional pear-shaped diamond, preferred length-to-width ratios are between 1.45 and 1.75.
The ultimate symbol of love, the heart shaped diamond is used in a variety of jewelry items. Preferred length-to-width ratios are between .90 and 1.10.
For over a century the cushion shape has been a popular choice. Also known as pillow cut diamonds they have rounded edges and bigger facets that help increase brilliance.For a cushion-cut diamond that is square, recommended length-to-width ratios between 1 and 1.05. For a more rectangular shape, length-to-width ratios greater than 1.15 are good.
Learn More About Cushion Cut Diamonds
Fancy Colored Diamonds and Gemstones
Fancy color diamonds that occur naturally without any “enhancements” are rare and expensive. Yellow is the most common colored diamond, while pink, red, blue and green diamonds are extremely rare. Fancy color diamonds are cut to maximize color, not clarity. Of the 4Cs, color is the most important criterion for “Fancy Color Diamonds and Gemstones“. Generally, the higher the saturation of color, the more valuable the stone. The appearance of color is created from the combined effect of: Hue the predominant color Tone the darkness of the color Saturation the intensity of the color Diamonds get their color from trace elements or internal structural anomalies in the diamond. For example, Brown is caused by a distortion of the atomic structure of the stone. Brown diamonds vary in shades from Champagne to Cognac. A Yellow Diamond gets its color from the presence of nitrogen. Blue diamonds are created from trace elements of boron. Pink diamonds owe their coloring to a phenomenon in the crystal lattice structure of the diamond. Green diamonds were exposed to natural radiation as they were forming billions of years ago.
GIA uses specific grades to identify the ranges of color: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep.
Different Diamond Treatments
Certain treatments can enhance colorlessness or intensify the color of fancy colored diamonds. They can alter the clarity grade as well. Such treatments can give temporary or permanent results, but any diamond that has been treated in anyway, shape or form will always be valued less than the natural thing.
Warning: Be on the lookout for “Appraisals”, “Valued at”, “Retail Price Worth”, etc.. These are common selling techniques used in Auctions and usually used on any gem that has been Enhanced. Be on watch for any diamond you buy online that says Enhanced and then has a some sort of “Retail Price” attached to it, while below it they show their sale price.
Because they are trying to value an altered or enhanced diamond at the non enhanced market price, and there’s no insurance company in the world that would honor such a crazy appraisal. Typically if you see any one of the sales techniques above you can take that number and divide it by 3 or 4, and you’ll get the true value of that diamond or gem.
- HPHT High Pressure High Temperature:(HPHT) In this process 850,000 pounds per square inch at a very high temperature of about 1,600 degrees centigrade is applied to the diamond. This alters the molecular structure of natural diamonds that then greatly enhances their color. Only certain types of diamonds can be affected by this treatment, which can turn a brown diamond colorless. Learn more about HPHT High Pressure High Temperture Treatment.
- Laser Drilling:Lasers are used to minimize the appearance of flaws and make them less visible. The results of laser drilling are permanent. Drilling does leave colorless cavities in the diamond. The whole process is actually called Clarity Enhancement, and although the drilling is permanent what they fill the drilled hole with is not.
- Irradiated Diamonds:Irradiation is a process used to produce fancy colors in diamonds, especially blues, greens and deep yellow.
- Synthetic Diamonds:Applying HPHT to carbon can produce a synthetic diamond in about three and a half days. Of course this is a very, very simple explanation of the process. Synthetic diamonds exhibit the same chemical and physical properties as a natural diamond, however they cannot completely replicate natural diamonds nor their brilliance.
Types Of Jewelry Settings
The setting for the diamond is a matter of personal taste. Try different settings to see which one suits your stone the best. Prong Frequently used in solitaire rings, prongs around the diamond hold it in place. They may be pointed, rounded, flat or V-shaped. Generally a four-prong setting is used. Larger diamonds are generally set with six prongs.
Channel: Same size diamonds are lined up and set in a groove between two strips of precious metal. There is no visible metal between the stones. Bezel: The edges of the diamond are closed over by the edges of the metal to hold it in place. Normally, only the upper portion of the diamond from the girdle up is visible. Tension: Special alloys are used in a tension setting where the diamond is held by creating a tension in the band. This setting requires sophisticated technology. Pave: A paved effect is created by setting smaller diamonds as close together as possible so there appears to be no metal between the stones. Bar: A long thin bar placed between the two stones holds them in place. Is similar to channel settings.
Types Of Precious Metals
- Gold:Gold is naturally yellow but since it is very malleable it has to be mixed with other metals to increase its strength and durability. But this mixing can affect it natural color. Generally gold is mixed with nickel or copper. A high concentration of nickel or palladium creates white gold, while rose gold gets its color from a high percentage of copper. –> Difference between 14K Gold and 18K Gold
- Platinum:Platinum is the strongest among the precious metals and is also hypoallergenic. It is thirty times heavier than gold and its natural white sheen enhances a diamond’s brightness. Unlike gold, platinum is often 90 to 95 percent pure. It is frequently alloyed with gold, nickel, iridium, palladium, rhodium, or ruthenium.
l–> Platinum Engagement Rings Explained
- Palladium:Palladium is a metal from the platinum family. Costs about the same as 18K gold, and is becoming widely popular in the jewelry industry. –> Palladium Engagement Rings Explained
- Sterling Silver:White and shining sterling silver is soft, like gold and has to be alloyed copper generally.
- Titanium:Titanium is a lustrous metal that resists corrosion, is extremely tough, looks great, and costs less than most precious metals.
How to Care for your Jewelry
Every year it is advisable to get your jewelry examined by a professional. They will check for loose stones, bent prongs or signs of wear. You should also have your jewelry professionally cleaned at this time. You can even clean your jewelry at home by using over-the-counter jewelry cleaners. Pay careful attention to the instructions; these cleaners may not be suitable for pearls or other gemstones. Prepare a mixture of half cold water and half household ammonia and soak jewelry for 30 minutes. Gently rub with a soft brush. Let dry on a paper towel. This mixture may not be suitable for pearls or other gemstones. Soak your jewelry in a small bowl of warm water with a drop of mild liquid detergent. Gently rub with a soft brush. Carefully rinse under warm water. Pat dry with a soft lint-free cloth.
Warning: Be advised that if you have a clarity enhanced diamond you will want to take special precautions, as most jewelry cleaning treatments at home, or at a business will ruin the clarity enhancement process, and your diamond will take on the look it was before they treated it. Which will result in you having to send your diamond in to someone who specializing in enhancing and re-enhancing diamonds. There will usually be a hefty charge for this.