When it comes to selecting a diamond engagement ring, there’s a lot that goes into the process. From deciding on a shape, choosing a cut, picking a diamond carat size, and finding the perfect diamond clarity, it takes a lot to finally commit to one that’s right for your lifestyle, aesthetic, and budget. While it can feel pretty tricky, there are a lot of different tactics to utilize when searching for “the one.” With this handy diamond quality guide, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of selecting a gemstone that will shine for all the right reasons.
Each of the 4 cs of diamond quality (carat, cut, color, clarity) plays a role in a diamond’s beauty, and, together, determine the overall quality of the diamond. While you might think that snatching the biggest diamond and forgoing the other characteristics is the key, in reality, it’s important to evaluate each component since they all interact with each other to collectively create the diamond’s overall aesthetic and value.
The carat is the diamond’s physical weight measured in metric carats. While many people think it means the size of the gem, it’s actually how heavy it is. Still, chances are that the heavier the rock, the bigger it looks to the eye, too.
A diamond’s cut quality is the symmetry, angles, and proportions of the rock. The diamond cut also determines its fire, brilliance, and scintillation (sparkle). Cut quality is graded by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) via a rating scale of: ideal, excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor. Many pros feel this is the most important “C,” because, in general, the better the cut, the more sparkle and shine.
Diamond color grade determines how white or colorless the stone appears. The GIA grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless (and pricey), and Z being noticeably brown or yellow.
A diamond’s clarity is how clear and clean it looks. All diamonds contain "birthmarks,” and those small inclusions and blemishes interfere with how light travels through a diamond and can negatively impact a diamond’s strength. To determine a diamond’s clarity, professionals utilize the GIA diamond clarity grade scale. This 11-grade scale ranges from flawless to third level inclusions.
Evaluating each of the 4cs when buying a diamond ring is the best way to find the ideal rock to suit your budget, lifestyle, and personality. Still, that doesn’t mean that it’s smart to just purchase the highest grade of each of the components possible. Before moving forward with any decisions, select the setting color (this is something most brides and grooms have a preference about). Any sort of yellow or rose gold wedding ring setting will make a diamond appear more colorless (which means lower grades can still look white) whereas a silver or white gold setting will highlight tints in the rock (meaning higher grades are important for a colorless look).
Once you know your setting and diamond shape (the outline, such as oval or round), select a cut grade that offers plenty of brilliance but doesn’t break the bank. Oftentimes depending on the shape, this is a great place to save some money. For fancy shapes, a good or better cut should provide ample shine, and for a round, stick to a very good grade or higher.
For most people, it’s hard to determine some of the finer details of a diamond engagement ring. Since diamonds in adjacent grades can look pretty similar, be sure to enlist the help of an unbiased pro (such as those at The Diamond Pro) to ensure that you find a quality diamond that not only looks great, but will also stand to be a solid investment. Be honest with what you want (and can afford) and don’t be afraid to speak up when shopping for the perfect diamond. Just because something is popular or standard doesn’t mean that you have to select it. If you’re on the fence between different criteria, consider going with the lower grade. Oftentimes, going with grades that are “pretty good” across the board will still supply you a gorgeous, quality diamond.
Additionally, since both natural and lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical, physical, and optical properties, they can be graded using the same exact scales (which means if you’re looking to cut costs, consider a quality lab-grown diamond, as they cost considerably less).
While certified GIA diamonds are universally known and recognized as the leading standard of quality diamonds, there are other labs with strong reputations, including the HRD (“Hoge Raad Voor Diamant” in Flemish, which translates to the “Diamond High Council”) and AGS (American Gem Society). Selecting an unbiased, scientific source in regards to a grading report is key to ensuring that you’re actually getting the quality diamond you seek. Before making the purchase, ask for the diamond grading report. While you might think you’re getting a deal from other labs, oftentimes they’ll lower their standards in order to make it appear that they’re selling a higher quality rock for a lower cost.
Ultimately, people aren’t going to be looking at the diamond engagement ring under magnification. Select a beautiful gem that looks colorless and eye-clean (no inclusions visible with the naked eye) and you’ll walk away with a great purchase. Whatever you decide, remember: It’s not the price that determines how special the diamond is, it’s the meaning behind it.