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The 4Cs of Diamonds: Guide to Choosing the Perfect Diamond

  • 12 mins

Even if you don’t consider yourself a diamond expert, you’ve probably heard the term “The 4Cs” as they refer to diamonds. The “C” almost everyone knows is carat, but there is much to be explored in terms of cut, color and clarity, as well. At Faithful Platform, we pride ourselves on being the jewelry experts so you don’t have to be. If you’re hoping to find the perfect diamond for an engagement ring, anniversary band, or necklace – we’ve got the full breakdown for you.


The 4Cs of diamond quality refer to the four characteristics that are used to determine the quality and value of a diamond: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. These four factors are important to consider when buying a diamond, as they can affect the appearance and overall value of the stone. Each stone's sticker price is determined by the totality of these contributing factors, and even seemingly minuscule changes in one of the “C” categories can make a big difference in price. So, let’s get into it!


The cut of a diamond refers to the way in which the diamond is shaped and polished. A well-cut diamond will have a balanced proportion, symmetry, and polish, which will enhance its sparkle and brilliance. A stone’s sparkle is all about how the light reflects through it, so a poorly cut diamond will send light out the wrong way and in turn, make the stone appear dull and lackluster. In our opinion, the cut is the most important of the 4Cs. The cut of a diamond can range from excellent to poor, and the quality of the cut can affect the diamond's value.


GIA Diamond Cut Grading Scale, Source: Faithful Platform

Cut can often be confused with shape, but remember- the cut refers to the quality of the shape and polish, rather than identifying the shape itself. Some popular engagement ring diamond shapes are round, oval, pear, emerald, heart, marquise, cushion, princess, asscher and radiant.


Popular Diamond Shape Guide, Source: Faithful Platform


The color of a diamond is another important factor to consider. Most diamonds used in fine jewelry are not truly colorless, as most have a slight yellow or brown tint. The color of a diamond is graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown), with the most valuable diamonds being those that are colorless. Keep in mind, this is specific to white to light yellow/brown diamonds, as colored diamonds and gemstones are graded on a different scale.

Most of our clients think they need a perfectly colorless D-grade diamond to get what they want, but we often find that there are diamonds in the F-I range that also look colorless to the naked eye that can save you a good chunk of cash. Not to mention, there are countless diamonds in the K-Z range that are very beautiful and give off the appearance of a romantic candlelight glow.

Fun fact: When experts grade diamond color, they put the stone face-down to check the color grade. Sometimes, a stone that is a J in color when face-down actually appears more like an I or an H when mounted face-up!


GIA Diamond Color Scale, Source: Faithful Platform


The clarity of a diamond is a measure of the number and size of any inclusions or blemishes that are present in the stone. Inclusions are tiny clarity characteristics that are found within the diamond, while blemishes are marks or scratches on the surface of the diamond. A diamond with a high level of clarity will have few or no inclusions and blemishes, which will make it more valuable. Clarity grades range from I3 - Flawless, with the differences between each grade determined by the number of inclusions visible at 10x magnification. 

We always recommend purchasing a diamond above the SI2 mark. Oftentimes, we see beautiful stones come in that are “eye-clean”, or flawless to the naked eye, but do have inclusions under magnification. You should be aware that with stones graded I1-I3, inclusions will be visible to the naked eye. At Faithful Platform, we won’t sell stones graded this low, but unfortunately, most big-box stores will.


GIA Diamond Clarity Grading Scale, Source: GIA


Finally, the carat weight of a diamond is a measure of its size, and is determined by the weight of the diamond. A carat is equal to 0.200 grams (or ⅕ gram) and is subdivided into 100 points. Even those with little diamond experience understand that as carat weight increases, price usually does as well. This is because the larger the diamond, the more rare and valuable it is likely to be. However, it is important to note that the cut, color, and clarity of the diamond will also affect its overall value. While larger diamonds are harder to come by, an increase in carat weight does not necessarily mean a price increase if you’re decreasing the grade in the other three “C” categories.

Often, we see clients get hung up on the carat “magic numbers” and come to us wanting an exactly 1 or 2 carat stone, not seeing the range of excellent diamonds that fall between those numbers. These magic numbers are certain carat values that mark the points where diamond prices jump: 0.90 cts, 1.00 cts, 1.50 cts, 2.00 cts, 3.00 cts, 4.00 cts, and 5.00 cts. This means that diamonds ranging from 0.01 to 0.90 cts, for example, have around the same price per carat. We’ve saved our clients thousands of dollars over the years by finding them stones just under or above the magic numbers with even better cut and color grades.

Learn What Carat Means and What Diamond Carat Measures | 4Cs of Diamond  Quality by GIA

Diamond Carat Weight Comparisons, Source: GIA

As you can see, the 4 Cs of diamonds are an important consideration when buying a diamond. By considering the cut, color, clarity, and carat weight of a diamond, you can make an informed decision and choose a diamond that will be beautiful and valuable. Finding the perfect combination of characteristics can feel really overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Our team is here to help you through the entire process and act as a broker or advocate on your behalf to make sure you get the biggest and highest quality stones for your budget. If you’re in the market, let us know how we can help by requesting a free quote here.


For more expert diamond buying tips:

Top 5 Engagement Ring Styles

Guide to Ring Metal Types

Moissanite vs. Diamond Comparison

Printable Ring Sizer and Guide