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What should you look for when buying a diamond?

Tuesday, September 27th

What Should You Look for When Buying a Diamond?

Many of the natural diamonds used in fine jewelry around the world today formed billions of years ago, but they only started being mined in the 1860s. Today, diamonds are the preferred jewel for engagement rings and wedding bands. You can find them in necklaces, bracelets, watches and even in royal crown jewels. While diamonds are coveted in areas around the world, not all diamonds are the same. As you prepare to buy your next diamond, what should you look for?

Cost

When many people think about diamonds, they assume that bigger diamonds cost more. However, did you know that the cost of a 1-carat diamond can range between $2,500 to $18,000? Whether you buy gemstone jewelry online or in person, it is important to remember that the actual cost of a diamond will vary by what the diamond world calls the four C's. These are cut, clarity, color and carat. Carat refers to the weight of the diamond rather than its size. Because of these combined factors, you could easily find a smaller diamond with a much higher price tag than a larger diamond. It is often difficult to determine the true quality of a diamond with the naked eye. However, when you buy your diamond from a certified jeweler, you can review all relevant data before you make your final selection.

Cut

One of the first things that you will notice when you start shopping for diamonds is the cut. At first glance, you may assume that the cut is a purely aesthetic matter. After all, it relates to the shape of the diamond. However, the precise cuts and angles of the diamond will impact how light reflects in the diamond. This plays a role in its brilliance.

A big favorite among the most popular diamond cuts is the Round Brilliant cut. This cut shows off a round shape with 57 facets. These facets enable ample light to enter the stone and for that light to be beautifully reflected. There are a variety of other popular cuts as well. Some of these are Cushion, Emerald, Oval, Princess, Marquise and others.

It is important to keep in mind that the style of the setting and the metal used for the setting can impact the overall look of the diamond as well. Some settings, for example, have many prongs, and these can interfere with light reflection. Likewise, a yellow-gold setting behind a colorless diamond can make it look tinted. While you do not want the setting to interfere with the diamond's brilliance, the right setting will hold the gemstone in place without interfering with its beauty.

Clarity

Another factor that directly affects a diamond's brilliance is its clarity. Natural diamonds are formed deep in the earth, and various other minerals and elements may be embedded in the stone as a result of the natural formation process. Clarity is a term that describes how pure a stone is. With fewer imperfections, a diamond is purer and rarer. The classification system for diamond clarity is dependent on the characteristics that can be seen at a 10-times magnification level. This means that some diamonds may appear to be pure with the naked eye, but they may actually be significantly imperfect under magnification.

The rarest and most expensive diamonds are classified as Flawless, which means they have no imperfections when viewed under magnification. This is followed by classifications for an increasing number and size of internal and external flaws. The least valuable diamonds are those rated at SI1 and SI2. These diamonds have many flaws that are easy to see, including some that can be seen with the naked eye. Keep in mind that diamonds with many small flaws may be called cloud or grainy. Some imperfections create a cavity or a feathering effect.

Whether you buy a diamond online or in person, you should be able to view a diamond plot before you make your purchase. This plot is a map of that specific diamond. It shows where the flaws are and how large they are.

Color

Just as a diamond's imperfections can impact its clarity, these imperfections can also tint the gemstone. Generally, the rarest diamond is crystal clear with no hint of color. This means that it does not have imperfections or minerals that would tint its color. Often, these colorless diamonds are described as having brilliance or fire.

When diamonds absorb minerals during the formation process, factors like the tone, color and saturation must be taken into account. Diamond colors range from white and yellow to pink, blue, brown and even gray. Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of the color. Saturation refers to the depth of that color. White diamonds are graded on a scale that ranges from D to Z. The D rating refers to a fiery, colorless diamond. The Z rating refers to a deep-yellow diamond. Generally, diamonds that have a rating of N or worse are not incorporated in jewelry.

Keep in mind that the color difference between a D, E and F rating are only visible to a gemologist. G, H, I and J ratings are described as being near colorless. It can be difficult to differentiate between these color ratings with the naked eye, so choosing a more affordable color rating is a great way to save money if you are shopping on a budget.

Carat

While a diamond's carat weight and size seem to go hand-in-hand, it is important to note that these are not directly correlated. This is because several factors will impact weight, and the visual size of a diamond is only one of those factors. For example, the presence of imperfections can impact the density and weight of the stone. The diamond's shape or cut may give it a wider appearance on the top and more visible end, but it may have little depth compared to other stones.

Another important factor to keep in mind as you shop for diamonds is the total carat weight, which may also be described as TCW. If the piece of jewelry that you are interested in buying has more than one diamond, the combined carat weight for all diamonds may be listed together. This can make it challenging to determine how large the main diamond in the setting actually is.

Sustainability

Before you finalize your diamond selection, you may also consider the difference between lab-made diamonds and natural diamonds. Natural diamonds are made in the earth over billions of years. They are then mined or harvested, cut and prepared. Lab-made diamonds are man-made over the course of a few weeks. Generally, they are cheaper to buy, and they are slightly different in chemical composition. Natural diamonds have a trace amount of nitrogen that is not found in lab-made diamonds.

With lab-made diamonds, there is less concern about sustainability and the impact that harvesting that diamond has had on the environment. On the other hand, there may be a concern about the durability of lab-made diamonds because of their subtle difference in composition. There are both pros and cons to natural and lab-made diamonds. It is important to understand their differences fully so that you can make a selection that is in your best interest.

Do Your Research

You may not be able to see a difference in color, carat weight, clarity and other factors with the naked eye, but that does not mean that two seemingly identical diamonds are the same. Before making your purchase, take time to research and understand how the four C's and sustainability impact cost. By understanding how these factors tie in together, you can make a well-informed selection for your next diamond purchase.

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Diamond Store FAQ

One of the most sought-after gemstones in the world, diamonds are one of the hardest substances known to man. Diamonds form from carbon under high pressure and temperature.
Fun backstory: diamonds weren't commonly used in engagement rings until 1947, when the British mining company De Beers featured them in an advertising campaign! The rest, as they say, is history. Diamonds now represent financial success, long-term commitment, and status.
Cut, carat, color, clarity. Cut is the only human "influence" on a gemstone: round, princess, cushion, marquise and oval are some of the more common shapes given to diamonds. Carat represents the weight of the diamond, with 1 carat equal to 200 milligrams. Color evaluates the stone using letters of the alphabet; the closer to "A" , the whiter the stone, though most people find stones in the G-H rating to still be icy-white in appearance. Clarity is a little more difficult for the average consumer to see, especially without magnification: the categories measure inclusions, or irregularities that happen during the formation of the diamonds but are hard to see without magnification, as well as blemishes like scratches or chips.
The names say it all: natural diamonds come from the earth, while lab-created or synthetic diamonds come from scientists! But, other than their origins, these two types of diamonds are exactly the same chemically and optically: even expert gemologists have a hard time telling them apart without using a jeweler's loupe! And, as you might imagine, synthetic diamonds are usually much more affordable.
These acronyms all refer to gemological societies and institutes with diamond grading scales used throughout the industry: Gemological Institute of America, American Gemological Society, European Gemological Laboratory, and International Gemological Institute. Generally speaking, GIA and AGS are seen as the most accurate and scientific, so if you're buying a higher-priced stone you may want to ensure that it's been graded by one (or both!) of those two systems.
If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind piece, you're not going to find it by buying the first pretty ring or solitaires you see at your local jewelry store. Many customers want something with a story that can be handed down as an heirloom: the shape of the stone chosen to match her eyes, the setting selected to complement his personality, and so on. Buying loose diamonds is the first step in a truly unique piece of jewelry.
While you'll find no shortage of companies wanting to sell you diamonds as an investment, most experts say that the average consumer isn't likely to profit from them. Unless you're buying extremely large diamonds (e.g. 20 carats or more) or ones with a noteworthy history (like being owned by a celebrity), you may have a hard time selling the diamonds you buy for more than you paid. If you're planning on spending a significant amount of money for a diamond, do it because you appreciate the beauty or want to own (or give) something precious - but save your investments for more reliable means of generating profits!
Absolutely. Of course, you shouldn't buy a diamond from an online retailer without doing your research: choose a business with a well-established history, preferably with a high rating from the BBB, and be sure that the diamond you buy has been rated and certified by one of the independent institutes or laboratories mentioned above. You can rest assured that the diamond retailer will take every measure to get your stone delivered safely, including tracking and insurance.
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