How To Buy Diamonds: Cut, Colour, Clarity & Carat

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While many have cancelled their international travel plans for the year, it seems shoppers are finding an alternative way to spend their cash and are turning to high-end jewellery to splurge on diamonds. 

Mr. Patterson – a jewellery boutique owner in South California – told The New York Timesof a recent sale in his store from a local couple.

“They had plans to travel for their 20th anniversary — Europe or maybe Australia — and their trip was cancelled due to COVID, so they decided to upgrade her diamond engagement ring from one carat to four carats,” Mr. Patterson said. “They spent close to $55,000.”

Mr. Patterson, told the New York Times. 
Image: Mark Patterson’s platinum engagement ring with a 3.71-carat oval diamond and two side diamonds.

The global jewellery market is set to be worth over $264 billion, according to Bain and Co.’s The Global Diamond Industry Report 2020-2021, with Luxury Bridal Jewelleryas the top performer. 

When it comes to buying a diamond, most people know they want a big, high-quality rock, but aren’t confident in the specifics. With an average spend price of $15,000 for a 1-Carat Tiffany & Co. diamond, it’s clear this is not a low-cost expedition.

This means choosing a diamond which will retain its value is key. We did some digging, and this is what we found.

The Diamond Shape

The shape of the diamond is the focal point of its design — and this should be the starting point when choosing a stone. A diamond’s shape refers to its geometric appearance, which is categorised in two groups: round diamonds and fancy shape diamonds. 

Round Diamonds

Round diamonds, also referred to as “round brilliant cuts,” are the most traditional and popular diamond shape — around 75 per cent of all diamonds sold are round.

Featuring over 56 facets that reflect light and cast tiny rainbows in a breathtaking show of sparkle and contrast, the round diamond cut optimists maximum brilliance and shine.

Image: Tiffany & Co. Round Diamonds Rings*

Fancy ShapeDiamonds

Fancy shape diamonds refer to any diamond that is not a round brilliant shape. These include the princess cut, the cushion cut, the oval, the emerald, the pear, the radiant and the heart shape. 

Image: Blue Nile
1. The Princess-Cut Diamond

The princess-cut is perhaps the most popular fancy-shaped diamond. With over 50-chevron facets, the princess-cut diamond is loved for its contemporary straight lines and pointed square shape. A simple, yet elegant diamond choice.

Image: Tiffany & Co. Princess-cut Diamond rings*
2.TheEmerald-Cut Diamond

The emerald shape diamond is unique because of its pavilion, which is cut with rectangular facets to create an optical appearance. Due to its large open table and step-cut pavilion, this shape highlights the clarity of a diamond – perfect for those seeking an Art Deco-inspired engagement ring.

Image: Tiffany & Co. Emerald-cut Diamond Rings*
3.The Pear-Shaped Diamond 

The pear-shaped diamond, also known as the teardrop shape, is recognised for its single point and rounded tip. The unique look of the pear-shaped diamond makes it a popular choice. Tip:This diamond shape helps create a subtle slimming effect on the fingers.

Image: Tiffany & Co. Pear-shaped Diamond Ring* Available to purchase for $109,500*
4. The Oval-Cut Diamond 

The oval shape is an elegant combination of the round diamond shape and the marquise diamond. Bold and sophisticated, the oval diamond is a unique shape that also creates the illusion of slimmer fingers.

Image: Tiffany & Co.
5. The Cushion-Cut Diamond

The cushion-cut diamond has been popular for over a century and is traditionally known as the “pillow-cut” diamond shape. Its rounded corners and larger facets increase its brilliance and the reflection of light for a strong shine.

Image: Tiffany & Co. Cushion-cut Diamond Rings*

The Essential 4Cs

Every diamond, like a human fingerprint, has certain distinguishing characteristics. The 4Cs — colour, clarity, cut and carat weight — are the globally accepted standards for assessing the quality of a diamond.

Colour, clarity, cut and carat weight – together with the size of the diamond, will determine the overall valuation of the diamond you choose. So, understanding the 4Cs is the next step.

1. Diamond Cut 

A diamond’s cut indicates the number of facets a diamond has — determining how light travels through the stone. The cut of the diamond is the most important of the 4Cs as it reflects the stone’s final beauty and value.

Facets are the flat, polished surfaces on a diamond. Like tiny mirrors, each facet is precisely cut and proportionally arranged to maximise the diamond’s ability to gather and reflect light. 

Because the diamond cut is an enormous element in determining the beauty and brilliance of a diamond, there are some complexities. Many factors play a role in how a diamond’s cut quality is determined.

Image: A 287-caret, yellow Tiffany & Co. diamond valued at around $30 million.*

These are the three things to remember when choosing the cut of a diamond:

One: The precision and angle of the diamond cut. Two: The symmetry of cut. Three: the polish and outside finish of the diamond. 

“If a diamond is cut poorly, it will appear dull, even if it has a high colour and clarity grade. If a diamond is cut well, it will reflect and refract light for maximum brightness and sparkle.”

Tiffany & Co. Model Maker
Source: Tiffany & Co* Diamond Chart

2. Diamond Color Range

Diamond colour is measured using the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA colour scale. Each diamond can be evaluated and graded from D-colourless to Z- light yellow.  

Often the colour distinction is so subtle that it is invisible to the untrained eye so, seeking expert opinions is always advisable before making the final decision. 

Source: GIA Colour Chart *

A pure and structurally perfect diamond has no colour or hue at all, just like a droplet of clean water. These are the diamonds that are most rare and therefore the most valuable.

Source: GIA Colour Chart *

3. Diamond Clarity

Diamond clarity is the assessment of a diamond’s imperfections. A diamond with a low-clarity grade has multiple blemishes or inclusions, which interrupts the retraction of light — directly affecting its sparkle.

These imperfections are natural, created when diamonds are formed under tremendous heat and pressure. As a result, internal characteristics called inclusions develop and ‘blemishes’ are exposed. 

Keep in mind that no diamond is perfectly pure, but the closer it comes to purity, the better the clarity. The diamond clarity scale has six categories, with 11 specific grades. 

Image: Claw-set with a step-cut diamond weighing 17.22 carats, sold at Sotheby’s Auction House for A$1.7 million.

Diamond Clarity Chart

Source: WhiteFlash *

Flawless (FL): Indicates there are no inclusions or blemishes visible to the diamond under 10x magnification.

Internally Flawless (IF): Indicates no inclusions visible to the diamond under 10x magnification with only very slight external blemishes.

Very, Very Slight Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Indicates inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.

Very Slight Included (VS1 and VS2): Indicates inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterised as minor. 

Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): Indicates inclusions are noticeable to the diamond under 10x magnification.

Included (I1, I2 and I3):-Indicates inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect the transparency and brilliance of the diamond. 

4. Diamond Carat

On its own, carat weight does not determine the value of a diamond, however, all else being equal (cut, colour and clarity), a diamond’s price does tend to increase with every carat since larger stones are rarer and, of course, far more desirable.

A diamond carat is the overall weight of the stone and therefore gives some indication of its size.

The world’s fifth-largest diamondsold at an auction last year for around $40 million, weighing in 910-carets.

To put things into context, one carat equals 0.20 grams. Each carat is subdivided into 100 ‘points’ which allows for a very precise measurement to the hundredth decimal place.

Source: Tiffany & Co. Caret Chart*
Image: Set with a cushion-shaped diamond weighing 18.03 carats, sold at Sotheby’s Auction House for A$2.67 million.

“A diamond may have a higher carat weight without appearing larger and two diamonds of the same carat weight can vary in size if one is cut deeper than the other. In other words, it is important to note that carat weight does not necessarily denote size.”

Tiffany & Co. Mary Enright, model maker

6. Diamond Setting

The setting of a diamond refers to how the stone is set and mounted on a ring. The ring setting is meant to highlight the beauty of the diamond. Style refers to the overall design aesthetic that the ring setting helps create. The solitaire, halo and three-stone ring settings are perhaps the most popular.

Solitaire Setting

A solitaire ring highlights the beauty of an engagement diamond. While the round brilliant diamond is the most popular stone for solitaire engagement rings, any diamond shape is a beautiful centrepiece in this classic setting.

Image: Tiffany & Co*
Halo Setting

The halo setting features a dazzling centre stone surrounded by a luminous circle of smaller diamonds. This is a popular style because the diamond halo maximises the visual impact of the centre stone.

Image: Tiffany & Co.
Three Stone Setting

The three-stone engagement ring setting showcases three stones on the setting of the ring. Round and fancy shaped centre stones are paired with complimentary side stones to create a vision of superlative beauty.

Image: Tiffany & Co.

Sotheby’s –one of the worlds largest renowned auction houses for jewels and fine art– saw a fancy vivid purple-pink diamond sell for $26.6 million, at its Magnificent Jewels sale making it the most valuable jewel auctioned in 2020.

Image: The nearly 15-carat Spirit of the Rose diamond, auctioned at Sotheby’s, sold for $26.6 million in November 2020.

“People are looking for hard assets,” Mr. Schuler, worldwide chairman at Sotheby’s said. “We’re seeing it in these and other categories we sell at Sotheby’s: contemporary art, jewels, old master paintings.”

Gary Schuler told The New York Times

In times of uncertainty, luxury collectibles are considered a secure longer-term investment — so, it makes sense to do the groundwork and shop around. 

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