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Diamonds: The Most Precious of Gems
Diamond jewelry is both a fashion statement and an important investment. Learn all you need to know when it comes to buying the perfect diamond jewelry style.
Diamonds are among the most prized substances on earth. Their incomparable brilliance, elegance, durability and mystery have captivated our imagination for thousands of years. Considering the endless lore and mystique behind this regal stone, it's no wonder that it has come to symbolize the ultimate gift of love and romance.
Not only is a diamond the overwhelming choice for prospective brides and grooms selecting an engagement ring, but the gem is also the birthstone for April. And diamonds are the recommended gift for couples celebrating their 10th, 60th and 75th wedding anniversaries.
Buying a major piece of diamond jewelry such as an engagement ring or anniversary band is one of the most expensive purchases many of us will ever make. That's why it's so important to understand the elements behind the quality and cost of a stone, so you can make an informed buying decision.
When shopping for a diamond, keep in mind that the value of a stone is determined by the "4 Cs" of cut, color, clarity and carat weight.CUT
Cut refers to the execution of the diamond's design, the skill with which it was cut, the quality of its polish, and the overall symmetry of the stone. Diamond cuts are broadly graded as Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Fair or Poor. A well-cut diamond releases the inner brilliance of the stone and projects its maximum amount of fire and sparkle. A poorly cut diamond allows light to leak out the sides or bottom rather than reflecting back to the eye, resulting in a "dull" diamond that may even have some "dead" spots inside.
Color refers to the presence or absence of color in white diamonds. As a rule, the whiter the stone, the greater its value. Even a slight tinge of yellow or brown could have a negative impact on a stone's value. Most diamonds are graded on the GIA color scale that begins with "D" for colorless and continues all the way down to "Z", with the color becoming more visible as you move down the alphabet. Stones in the D-F color ranges are considered the most valuable because they are the rarest.
Clarity refers to the presence of surface or internal flaws within a diamond caused during its formation. External marks are known as blemishes, while internal ones are called inclusions. Diamonds are graded for clarity on a scale ranging from "F" for flawless (no blemishes or inclusions visible under 10x magnification) to "I" for imperfect (inclusions visible to the naked eye), with numerous grades and subgrades in between. The best diamonds, of course, are flawless, but these stones are exceptionally rare and therefore very costly.CARAT
Carat weight refers to the size of the stone. The carat is the measure of weight for diamonds. One carat is approximately 200 milligrams, or 100 "points". A stone weighing a half-carat would be a 50 pointer, and so on. In general, larger diamonds are rarer and have a higher value per carat. However, other factors such as cut, color and clarity come into play as well in determining a stone's value. It's entirely possible for a smaller stone of exceptional cut, color and clarity to be worth more than a larger stone of only average quality in these areas.
Understanding Diamond Carat Weight
What is a diamond carat and how can you choose the perfect diamond size for you? Phoenixjewels.net guide to understand the 4Cs will help you buy the perfect piece of diamond jewelry at the perfect price.
The term "Carat" refers to the weight of a diamond. This measurement is one of The Four "C"s used to determine diamond quality. It is derived from the carob seeds that were used to balance scales in ancient times because of their uniformity of weight and shape.
Carats are also the measure of weight for most gems, with one Carat equaling approximately 200 milligrams (0.2 grams). There are 142 carats to an ounce. Carats are further divided into points, with one Carat equaling 100 "points."
Some common Carat weights, and their corresponding "points," include:
- One Carat = 100 points
- Three-quarters Carat (3/4 Carat, 0.75 Carat) = 75 points
- Half-Carat (1/2 Carat, 0.50 Carat) = 50 points
- Quarter Carat (1/4 Carat, 0.25 Carat) = 25 points
- Melee - tiny stones used in pave or channel settings. Usually weigh 0.15 carats (15 points) or less and are either grouped together or used to augment a larger stone.
Carat weight, combined with girdle diameter (the girdle is the outermost edge of a cut diamond), expresses the exact size of a diamond. Here are some notable Carat weights and the corresponding girdle diameters for round, ideally proportioned, brilliant cut diamonds:
- 10 carats = 14 millimeters
- 5 carats = 11.1 millimeters
- 2.5 carats = 8.8 millimeters
- 1 Carat = 6.5 millimeters
- 0.75 Carat (3/4 Carat) = 5.9 millimeters
- 0.50 Carat (1/2 Carat) = 5.15 millimeters
- 0.375 Carat (3/8 Carat) = 4.68 millimeters
- 0.25 Carat (1/4 Carat) = 4.1 millimeters
- 0.125 Carat (1/8 Carat) = 3.25 millimeters
- 0.0625 Carat (1/16 Carat) = 2.58 millimeters
All properties being equal, larger diamonds are rarer than smaller ones and are therefore more expensive. For instance, a one-Carat stone will generally cost much more than a 95 pointer.
But other factors such as cut, color and clarity come into play as well in determining a stone's value. It's entirely possible for a smaller stone of exceptional cut, color and clarity to be worth more than a larger stone of only average quality in these other areas.
It is this balance of preserving the greatest possible weight from the original rough diamond vs. producing a stone with the best possible quality in terms of cut, color and clarity that presents the most difficult challenge to the diamond cutter. Therefore, it is the cutter's experience and skill that is the determining factor in preserving the beauty of a diamond while maintaining its size and value - and it is the cutter's job to give you, the consumer, the finest quality stone, and largest Carat weight, for your money.
Understanding Diamond Clarity
How clear is your diamond jewelry? Understand how to evaluate diamond clarity and how it affects the quality of your diamond jewelry investment.
Clarity, one of The Four "C"s of judging diamond quality, refers to the presence of surface or internal flaws within a diamond caused during its formation or during the cutting process.
When the marks occur on the surface, they are known as blemishes. The most common types of blemishes include naturals, a small part of the original rough diamond's surface which has been left on the cut diamond; surface graining, transparent stress lines that appear on a diamond's surface; and extra facets, that are usually cut to remove a near-surface inclusion and raise the clarity grade of a stone.
When these marks occur internally, they are called inclusions. The most common types of inclusions include crystals, tiny bubbles representing small minerals that were absorbed into the diamond while it was growing; pinpoints, crystals so tiny that they only appear as little dots under 10x magnification; needles, needle-shaped included crystals; knots, an included diamond crystal that reaches from the inside to the surface of a polished diamond; chips, small, shallow openings on a diamond's surface; cavities, larger chips often created when an included crystal is removed from near the surface, leaving an indentation; feathers, small stress fractures within a diamond; internal graining, stress lines inside a diamond; and clouds, a grouping of inclusions that resembles a cloud under magnification.
All diamonds have such flaws. These imperfections serve as the "fingerprint" of a stone and make each one unique. However, inclusions and other flaws can interfere with the passage of light through a stone, diminishing its sparkle - therefore, the fewer (or smaller) the inclusions, the more valuable the diamond.
In the rarest and most expensive diamonds, the inclusions are too tiny to see even at 10x magnification in good light, which is why these stones are called "flawless" (FL) or "internally flawless" (IF) according to the quality analysis system of the Gemological Institute of America. At the other end of the scale are "imperfect" stones (I grades) with visible faults that mar their natural beauty. Here is the GIA clarity grading system:
- FL (flawless) - No external marks or internal inclusions visible to a trained eye under 10x magnification.
- IF (internally flawless) - Only minor surface blemishes but no internal inclusions visible to a trained eye under 10x magnification.
- VVS1, VVS2 (very, very slightly included) - Few, very small inclusions and/or finish faults, difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification. Typical flaws include tiny pinpoints, faint clouds, tiny feathers, or internal graining.
- VS1, VS2 (very slightly included) - Very small inclusions and/or finish faults, somewhat difficult for a trained eye to see under 10x magnification. Typical flaws include crystals, feathers, distinct clouds and groupings of pinpoints.
- SI1, SI2 (slightly included) - Small inclusions and/or surface blemishes easily seen under 10x magnification, but not visible face-up to a naked trained eye. Typical flaws include crystals, clouds and feathers.
- I1 (imperfect 1) - Inclusions and/or finish faults visible under 10x magnification, but hard to see with the naked human eye. Little effect on the brilliancy of a stone.
- I2 (imperfect 2) - More and/or larger inclusions and surface blemishes easily seen without 10x magnification. Some diminished brilliancy within stone.
- I3 (imperfect 3) - Many and/or very large inclusions and surface faults easily seen without 10x magnification.
Understanding Diamond Color
Diamond jewelry may look white to the naked eye, but diamonds come in a variety color qualities. Learn what all the jewelers know about evaluating the color of your diamond jewelry.
While most people think of diamonds as being white or colorless, they come in every color of the rainbow. The body color of a white diamond can range from colorless to light yellow.
As one of The Four "C"s of judging diamond quality, color refers to the presence or absence of color in white diamonds. As a rule, the whiter the stone, the greater its value. Even a slight tinge of yellow or brown could have a negative impact on a stone's value. Most diamonds are graded on the GIA color scale that begins with "D" for colorless and continues all the way down to "Z," with the yellow tint becoming more visible as you move down the alphabet. The best way to see the true color of a diamond is by looking at it against a white surface.
Stones in the D-F color ranges are considered the most valuable because they are the rarest. Here are the color ranges for white diamonds, based on how visible its body tint is to the naked eye:
- D through H - If a trace of color is present, it is visible only to a trained eye.
- H through L - Small stones are colorless; larger stones are tinted.
- L through Q - Stones show an increasing yellow tint, even to an untrained eye.
- R through W - Stones appear yellow, even to an untrained eye.
Even though stones in the D-F color grades are the most valuable, you can still obtain great value (and save considerable money) with diamonds graded G-H, since no color is visible to the untrained eye. Even stones in the J-M range, which have a very faint hint of yellow visible to the untrained eye, can appear colorless in the right jewelry setting. As a rule, yellow metal (gold) hides traces of color in a colorless diamond, while white metals (white gold, platinum, silver) will enhance it.
Although the great majority of diamonds come in shades of white, there are also "fancy" natural colored diamonds in red, pink, blue, green, yellow, brown and other colors. Fancies are valued for their depth of color, just as white diamonds are valued for their lack of color. They vary in color richness or saturation from "faint" to "vivid," with the latter grade reserved for stones with the deepest saturation.
The value of a fancy diamond depends largely on the rarity of its color (for instance, reds and greens are rarer than yellows and browns); the saturation of the color; and the purity of the color (whether the color is bright and clear or clouded by tinges of other underlying colors). Top grade fancy diamonds are extremely rare and can command tremendous prices.
Though fancy colored diamonds rarely occur in nature, laboratories can easily create them through irradiation and heating. This process can permanently turn a natural colorless diamond into a fancy in a wide range of colors. Treatments have also been developed to make lower-color white diamonds whiter. Irradiated colored diamonds have a significantly lower value than natural fancy diamonds and can be detected in a gem laboratory.
Understanding Diamond Cut
Does your diamond jewelry make the cut? Learn about the most misunderstood but most important of the Four C's.
Like most gemstones, diamonds require cutting and polishing. The skill of a diamond cutter is required to unlock the extraordinary and unique beauty of a diamond. Many gemologists believe this is the most important - though most misunderstood - of The Four "C"s that determine a diamond's quality and value. Even if a diamond has perfect color and clarity, a poor cut will cause it to lose sparkle.
Cut refers to the execution of a diamond's design, the skill with which it was cut, the quality of its polish, and the overall symmetry of the stone. Key factors include the stone's roundness, depth, width, and the uniformity of its facets.
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 square.
Each diamond is cut according to an exact mathematical formula. 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.
Although there are several systems for determining the quality of a diamond's cut, they can be broadly characterized as Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor. Ideal and excellent cuts represent the top of the line; most or all of the light that enters the diamond is reflected back to the eye. A stone with a very good or good cut grade reflects nearly as much light as the ideal and excellent cuts, but is available at a lower price. Fair cuts are still considered quality diamonds, but have considerably less brilliance than good cut grades. And a poor cut is a diamond which is off in its proportions and subsequently loses most of its light out the sides and bottom.
In other words, a well-cut diamond has the right angles and proportions to release the inner brilliance of the stone and project its maximum amount of fire and sparkle. A poorly cut diamond is a "dull" diamond that may even have some "dead" spots inside.
A diamond's proportions, particularly the depth compared to the diameter, and the diameter of the table (the largest and topmost facet of the diamond) determine how well light will travel within the diamond and back to the eye.
Two keys to a diamond's brilliance are its crown and pavilion. The crown is the top portion of a diamond extending from the girdle (the outermost edge of a cut gem) to the table. The pavilion is the part of the diamond below the girdle. Above the girdle of a brilliant cut diamond are 32 facets plus the table. Below the girdle are 24 facets plus the culet, or point. Just a few degrees off the standard can have a drastic impact on a stone's brilliance. But there is some leeway. Cutters can compensate by adjusting crown angles, table sizes and pavilion angles to produce the best possible results for each stone.
Diamonds: Finding the Right Shape
Diamond jewelry comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Phoenixjewels.net defines all available diamond cuts and shapes so you can choose the diamond jewelry piece that 'makes the cut' in your eyes.
When most people think of diamonds, what comes to mind is the modern round brilliant cut - and with good reason. Many experts consider this the "ideal" shape for a diamond because it maximizes a stone's sparkle. According to the Diamond Promotion Service, more than 75% of all diamonds sold are round.
But for those who want something a little different, a little more unique to express their individual style and personality, there are options. There are many other types of diamond shapes available. These non-round cuts, called fancy shapes, are beautiful in their own right, and one of them may very well be the cut of choice for you.
Here are some of the more common fancy diamond shapes:
- This 58-facet cut features a facet arrangement that appears to radiate out from the center of the diamond toward its outer rim, maximizing its brilliance.
- A square or rectangular shape with cut corners. Known as a step cut because its long rectangular facets resemble stair steps. Inclusions and poor color are more apparent in this cut, so make sure to select a stone of superior clarity and color.
- A modified brilliant cut in the shape of an oval. A style popular for women with small hands, because its elongated shape gives the illusion of length to the hands and fingers.
- An elongated, boat shaped cut with curving sides and pointed ends, developed in France in the 1740s for the Marquise de Pompadour, a mistress of King Louis XV.
- A variation of the brilliant cut, and a hybrid of the oval and marquise, with a teardrop-shaped girdle outline and 56 to 58 facets. Like the oval, a good choice for a hand with smaller fingers.
- A square or rectangular modified brilliant cut, usually with 57 facets. This relatively new cut has been quite popular recently. Requires more weight to be directed toward the diamond's depth in order to maximize brilliance.
- A rectangular or square brilliant cut with 70 facets that combines the elegance of the emerald shape with the brilliance of a round. Like the princess, requires more weight to be directed toward the diamond's depth to maximize brilliance.
- A modified brilliant cut in the shape of a heart with a table, 32 crown facets, 24 pavilion facets and a shield-shaped culet. Essentially, a pear-shaped stone with a cleft at the top.
- A triangular-shaped cut developed in Amsterdam, with 25 facets on the crown, 19 facets on the pavilion and a polished girdle. Can either have pointed corners or a more rounded triangular shape.
In addition to these more common fancy shapes, there are a myriad of other innovative and whimsical cuts, including star, flower, cloverleaf, kite, baguette, barrel, bullet, crescent, half moon, shield, trapeze, pentagon, hexagon, keystone, epaulet, and calf's head, to name a few. Many of these types of cuts are used for smaller side stones that accompany the center stone of a ring. There are also countless variations of the standard shapes.
Caring For Your Diamond
Caring for your diamond jewelry will make sure its sparkle never fades. Follow these simple tips to protect your diamond jewelry from chips, scratches and dirt damage.
Diamonds are the hardest known substances on earth. With the proper care, they can last a lifetime and can even be handed down as heirlooms to future generations without losing any of their luster. But they can still be scratched, chipped or dulled if not handled correctly. So here are some tips that will help preserve the life and beauty of your diamond:
- A diamond can scratch another diamond, as well as other jewelry pieces, so store diamond items separately. If you need to store diamond items together, make sure they aren't tangled together so they won't scratch one another. Diamond jewelry pieces are best stored in a fabric-lined jewel case or in a box with compartments or dividers.
- Never wear diamond jewelry while doing heavy work. Even though a diamond is extremely durable, it can be chipped by a hard blow, and even everyday activity can loosen a setting.
- Don't let your diamonds come in contact with chlorine bleach or other chemicals because they can pit or discolor the mounting.
- Clean your diamonds regularly. If using a commercial jewelry cleaner, use a brand name and follow the instructions on the label. You can also soak your diamond jewelry in a small bowl of warm, soapy water made with any mild liquid detergent. Gently brush the piece with a soft toothbrush while it is in the suds to dislodge any dust or dirt from under the setting. Then, rinse under warm running water. Pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. And remember to always put a stopper in your sink! Another cleaning option would be a half-and-half solution of household ammonia and cold water. Place your jewelry in a small bowl of the mix for 30 minutes. Lift out and gently tap around the front and back of the mounting with a small soft toothbrush. Swish in the solution a second time, then rinse and drain on tissue paper. Finally, you can clean your diamonds by soaking them in a glass of vodka.
- If your diamond has been treated or altered in any way, it may need special attention and care. Diamonds can be colored, tinted, coated, irradiated or heated to improve their appearance. Inclusions are sometimes removed with lasers, while fractures are filled with a glasslike compound. Some of these procedures are not permanent - for instance, the epoxies used in fracture-filled diamonds can melt away if the stone is heated. Ask a jeweler you trust to let you know if your diamond's natural appearance has been altered and to advise you of any special care procedures.
- Take your diamond jewelry to a jeweler every six months to have it professionally cleaned and to have it checked for loose or bent prongs and wear.