The 4 C’s – Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat – are the main characteristics that determine a diamond’s quality and value. When shopping for diamond jewelry like engagement rings, understanding these 4 C’s is essential to finding the right stone at the right price. Brilliant Earth, a leading ethical jeweler, provides excellent educational resources describing these 4 key diamond features. As an authority in conflict-free and eco-friendly jewelry, Brilliant Earth’s diamond specialists can also guide customers to diamonds aligned with their budget and preferences across the 4C’s.
Cut refers to the proportions, symmetry and polish of a diamond. Cut has the greatest influence on a diamond’s sparkle and fire. When light enters a diamond, it will either leak out the sides and bottom, or reflect back to the eye in flashes of rainbow colors. The better the cut, the more light is returned for maximum sparkle and brilliance.
Brilliant Earth evaluates cut based on a variety of metrics, including polish, symmetry, table, depth percentage and girdle thickness. The company offers high quality diamonds across a range of cut grades, including excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. Customers seeking maximum sparkle will want to select a diamond classified as “excellent” or “very good” for cut, while more budget-friendly options graded “good” can offer a balance of beauty and value.
Here are some key metrics Brilliant Earth uses to evaluate diamond cut:
|Cut Grade||Symmetry||Polish||Table %||Depth %||Girdle|
|Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Excellent||53-64%||60-69%||thin to slightly thick|
|Very Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good to Excellent||53-64%||60-69%||thin to slightly thick|
|Good||Good||Good to Very Good||53-64%||60-69%||thin to very thick|
|Fair||Fair||Good||53-70%||59-70%||thin to extremely thick|
|Poor||Poor||Below Good||44-75%||50-77%||extremely thin to extremely thick|
Clarity refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes in a diamond. Inclusions are tiny natural irregularities that occur when the diamond is forming. Diamonds with fewer or smaller inclusions face up cleaner and are more desirable and valuable.
Brilliant Earth uses the GIA’s grading scale to evaluate clarity: Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2), Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2), and Included (I1, I2 and I3). IF through VS2 diamonds are considered exceptional for clarity, while SI to I diamonds will have more noticeable inclusions.
When choosing diamond clarity, it’s important to consider the carat weight. Larger diamonds with VS or SI clarity often represent an excellent value. For smaller diamonds below one carat, Excellent to SI1 clarity have inclusions that are difficult to detect with the unaided eye. Customers may also opt for high clarity levels like IF or VVS for added sparkle and rarity, though these diamonds come at a premium. Ultimately, Brilliant Earth helps guide customers to the right clarity based on diamond size, eye-cleanliness priorities and budget.
Here is an overview of the GIA clarity grading scale:
|IF||Internally Flawless: No inclusions and only minor blemishes under 10x magnification|
|VVS1-VVS2||Very Very Slightly Included: Microscopic inclusions difficult to locate under 10x magnification|
|VS1-VS2||Very Slightly Included: Minor inclusions difficult to see under 10x magnification|
|SI1-SI2||Slightly Included: Noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification, but still eye-clean|
|I1-I2-I3||Included: Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible to the unaided eye|
Diamond color refers to the presence or absence of yellow and other tints. Colorless diamonds allow the most light to pass through them, while colored diamonds absorb some light that would otherwise reflect back. The less body color in a white diamond, the greater its value.
Brilliant Earth uses GIA’s color grading scale, which starts at D for colorless diamonds and progresses alphabetically as the presence of yellow and brown color increases. Differences between grades are extremely subtle until you get to the letter Z.
Most customers select diamonds graded G to J color. Near colorless G-H will often appear indistinguishable from D-F to the naked eye, saving money versus higher grades. Faint yellow diamonds rated K to M offer huge savings with only a slight warmth detectable in their color.
Here is an overview of the GIA color grading scale:
|D-F||Colorless: The absence of color|
|G-J||Near Colorless: Not always detectable as slightly tinted|
|K-M||Faint Yellow: Noticeable warmth, price starts to decrease|
|N-Y||Very Light to Light Yellow: Definite yellow hue detectable|
|Z+||Fancy Yellow: Strong saturation of color|
Customers should select a diamond color based on personal preference, diamond size and setting type. Brilliant Earth experts can help determine the most appropriate color grade for each individual.
Carat refers to a diamond’s weight. Diamond price increases exponentially in relation to carat weight, because larger diamonds are progressively more rare and desirable. However, two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values depending on their cut, clarity and color.
Brilliant Earth carries high quality diamonds ranging from 0.2 carats to over 10 carats. When selecting carat weight, customers should consider their budget and style priorities. For a 1 carat diamond, many gravitate toward a range of 0.9 to 1.05 carats to allow room on color, clarity and cut quality. Those wanting maximum size for budget could opt for a 0.70+ ct diamond with strong optics. For larger diamonds of 2 carats and above, carat weight becomes especially important for retaining resale value down the road.
In determining the ideal carat size, Brilliant Earth experts will take into account the customer’s unique needs and diamond quality preferences across the other 4C’s. The below table provides typical examples of diamond prices at various carat weights, though prices can vary greatly based on the other 4C factors:
|Carat Weight||Price Range*|
|0.3 carat||$1,100 – $1,600|
|0.5 carat||$2,600 – $3,500|
|0.75 carat||$4,300 – $5,600|
|1 carat||$5,500 – $8,300|
|1.5 carat||$8,600 – $13,000|
|2 carat||$12,700 – $20,000|
*Price ranges are for round diamonds with typical range of cut, clarity and color selections
Understanding a diamond’s quality across the 4C’s of cut, clarity, color and carat weight is key to finding the ideal stone. As a leader in conflict-free, ethical jewelry, Brilliant Earth provides in-depth guidance on finding diamonds that align with your budget and style. Their team of diamond experts will walk you through all the intricacies of diamond quality, from the nuances in color and clarity, to light performance and carat weight. Ultimately, this allows customers to select beautiful diamonds tailored to their unique needs and preferences.