If you’ve researched engagement rings at all, you’ll have no doubt stumbled across the phrase “the 4 C’s”. If you are opting for a diamond engagement ring, the 4 C’s should be your basis for studying and selecting a diamond based on its quality and beauty. The 4 C’s are all factors that contribute to the value and rarity of a diamond, and they are: cut, clarity, carat and colour.
Quite simply, this refers to the colour of your diamond. The most valuable diamonds have no colour at all, but shades can range from clear through to a light yellow. Truly colourless diamonds are rare, and are therefore treasured for their quality and beauty.
However as trends move towards more unusual and unique engagement rings, this has caused an increase in demand for alternative coloured diamonds. There has been a rise in the popularity of the yellow diamond, making them more valuable than they have been historically.
The grading of colour runs backwards from letters of the alphabet Z-D: a diamond graded D is colourless, therefore the highest quality grade, while one graded Z will appear slightly yellow.
D - Absolutely colourless, the highest colour grade and extremely rare.
E/F -Colourless and a rare, small traces of colour can be detected by an expert gemmologist.
G/H - Almost colourless, often difficult to detect unless compared to better grade diamonds of better grades.
I/J - Near colourless and good value with slightly detectable warmth or tone.
K/Z - Noticeable saturation.
The cut of a diamond refers to its proportions and how the facets on the surface of the diamond are placed, determining its overall brilliance and sparkle.
When a diamond is cut well the light rays are reflected up through the top of the stone, giving a blaze of light and spectrum colours. But if a diamond is badly cut then the light rays leak through the bottom and sides of the stone, making it appear dull and affect the sparkle.
Please keep in mind the ‘Cut’ of a diamond is different to the ‘Shape’; the two can quite often be confused. You can read more about the shape of diamonds and gemstones on our engagement ring buying guide.
A diamond’s clarity is graded on a scale ranging from ‘Flawless’, signifying no internal or external imperfections, to ‘Included’.
These ‘imperfections’ (or ‘inclusions’) are totally natural and can be caused by the pressure which is placed on diamonds as they for. However, they can interfere with the passage of light through the stone. Flawless diamonds are exceedingly rare and priced accordingly.
Most often, the inclusions in a diamond can only be spotted through professional magnification, meaning the clarity of your diamond will not necessarily affect the beauty of the stone to the naked eye.
Historically people would stay away from diamonds with 'imperfections' but trend changes have lead to a rise in popularity for the 'imperfect diamond'. We are now seeing more rings featuring a 'salt & pepper' diamond, which put a focus on these inclusions.
See the different clarity grades below;
FL - Flawless with no visible blemishes
IF - Internally flawless with very slight blemishes
VVS1, VVS2 - Very, very slightly included
VVS1 - Few miniscule inclusions
VVS2 - Slightly more miniscule inclusions
VS1, VS2 - Very slightly included. Minor inclusions ranging from difficult to somewhat easy to see.
SI1, SI2 - Slightly included.
SI1 - Has inclusions and are occasionally visible to the keen eye without magnification
SI2 - Inclusions are typically visible from the pavilion, and often seen from the top without magnification
I1 - Included
Often mistaken as the size of the diamond, the carat is actually a measure of a diamond's weight. The higher the carat, the heavier the diamond (and the heftier the price tag!).
If the ring you choose features a cluster of diamonds, all diamonds are weighed together to produce the overall carat of the item of jewellery.