Rare and fascinating, mysterious and magical, the diamond has ignited romantic passion throughout history. The word alone conjures up a thousand images of rare, precious, desirable, beautiful, sparkling tokens of love. Created deep within the core of the earth more than 3 billion years ago and brought to the surface by volcanic eruption, most of the diamonds sparkling on fingers today are more than 100 million years old!
An Early Fascination
Even before these magnificent creations of nature were mined in profusion toward the end of the 19th century, they were a source of fascination and value to early man. The Romans thought diamonds were splinters from falling stars, while the Greeks regarded the sparkling gems as tears of the gods. It is a derivation of the Greek word “adamas,” meaning unconquerable, that gave the diamond its name.
The diamond claimed its place as the primary token of love toward the end of the 15th century, when Austrian Archduke Maximilian gave the first diamond engagement ring to his betrothed. It was placed on the fourth finger of her left hand, because that finger was believed to course with the vein of love that passed directly to the heart. Five centuries later, the diamond remains one of the most luxurious and desirable gifts for any romantic and celebratory occasion, a gem whose purity and brilliance symbolizes lasting love.
What Makes a Diamond Special?
Beauty – The beauty and inner fire of the diamond has made this precious gem prized for centuries. Each stone’s complex characteristics cannot be duplicated, and no two diamonds can ever be the same. Each stone, like its owner, is endowed with a personality and character uniquely its own.
Durability – A diamond is the hardest substance known to man, making it resistant to deterioration. When cared for properly, diamond jewelry can be worn every day and passed on as an heirloom to the next generation.
Rarity – Although new resources for diamonds are being explored and discovered, the supply of these gems remains limited. Further, not all rough diamonds are suitable for gem cutting.
Enduring Value – Gem-quality diamonds have consistently retained their value, and most often have increased in value, after years of being worn and enjoyed.
How to Buy a Diamond
There are four factors that determine the value of a diamond, collectively known as the “Four Cs.” The combination of the “Four Cs” determines each diamond’s value.
Carat – This word for the measurement of a diamond’s weight is derived from the carob seeds that were used to balance scales in ancient times. Today’s metric carat is equal to 200 milligrams, or onefifth of a gram, and there are approximately 142 carats to an ounce. Carats are further divided into points. There are 100 points in a carat. A half-carat diamond may be referred to as a 50-point stone . Because large diamonds are rare, they generally have a greater value per carat.
Color – Diamonds come in every color of the spectrum, but the most popular gems are colorless. Truly colorless, pure white diamonds are extremely rare and therefore the most costly. Stones are graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and most other international laboratories according to color and given designations based on how far they deviate from the purest white. Colorless stones are graded D, E, or F. All three grades are considered colorless but with slightly decreasing transparency. Color grading continues down through the alphabet, with each letter designating a slightly darker or warmer tint. The best way to see the true color of a diamond is by looking at it against a white surface. Although the great majority of diamonds come in shades of white, yellow, and brown, the gems also come in a spectrum of majestic colors, from red and canary yellow to blue, green, and purple. These colorful diamonds, known as fancies, are valued for their depth of color, just as white diamonds are valued for their lack of color. Diamond color grades are determined by professionals under ideal circumstances, a situation seldom duplicated outside of a laboratory. Choose a diamond based on its appeal to you, rather than on a technical color scale.
GIA Color Grade Description
D, E, F: (Colorless)
G, H, I, J: (Near colorless)
K, L, M: (Faint yellow or brown)
N to Z: (Very light to light yellow or brown)
Clarity – A diamond’s clarity is affected by any external and internal characteristics created by nature when the diamond was formed or as a result of the cutting process. Characteristics such as internal spots or lines are called inclusions. Although these marks make each stone unique, the fewer and smaller the inclusions, the more valuable the stone. Inclusions can sometimes interfere with the passage of light through the stone, diminishing the sparkle and value of the diamond. According to the quality analysis system of the Gemological Institute of America, clarity is graded on a scale ranging from Flawless (Fl) to Imperfect (I). Only a tiny percentage of diamonds ever achieve a grade of Flawless. It is important to remember that both color and clarity are ranges. Think of a color or clarity grade as your age. If you’re 34 years old, your 34th birthday may have been yesterday, or your 35th birthday may be next month. But when someone asks your age, you simply tell them you’re 34. It works the same way with color and clarity grading. For example, a diamond with a G color grade could, in fact, be very close to an F or to an H. The same principle applies to clarity grading.
Cut – Each diamond is cut to very exacting standards. The most common cut, the round brilliant, has 58 facets, or small, flat, polished planes designed to yield the maximum amount of light to be reflected back to the viewer. This reflection, known as brilliance, is an extremely important factor in evaluating the quality of a diamond’s cut. A poorly cut diamond will actually lose light and appear dull. The widest circumference of a diamond is known as the girdle. Above the girdle of a brilliant cut diamond are 32 facets plus the table, the largest and topmost facet. Below the girdle are 24 facets plus the culet, or point. Cut is also used to describe the shape of a diamond. In addition to the round brilliant, other popular cuts include emerald, marquis, pear, oval, and triangular.
A diamond’s cut impacts four aspects of the stone’s optical and physical properties:
Luster – The quality and amount of light that is reflected off just the surface of the diamond. Luster is directly related to the hardness of the stone and the quality of its polish.
Brilliance – The amount of white light that is returned to the eye from both internal and external surfaces. Brilliance is determined by the quality of the diamond’s proportions and polish and the number and size of inclusions inside the gem.
Dispersion – The display of spectral or rainbow colors seen coming from the inside of a diamond. Often referred to as “fire,” dispersion is directly related to how well the stone is proportioned.
Scintillation – A diamond will show scintillation, or “sparkle,” when movement is involved. The viewer, the light source, or the diamond itself must be in motion for scintillation to happen. The most important part of buying a diamond is to choose one that appeals to you personally. While it is important to understand the technical aspects of diamonds, it’s most important to fall in love with your diamond.
Technological advances in recent years have made it possible for natural diamonds to be enhanced, which increases their beauty and affordability. Diamonds can also be grown in a laboratory environment. These synthetic diamonds have the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as natural diamonds but lack a natural diamond’s rarity and value. It’s important to discuss with your professional.
Guide Courtesy of Jewelers of America.