How to Buy a Diamond: Good Diamonds vs Bad Diamonds
Of all the things you don’t want to get wrong, buying a diamond ring is surely at the top of the list. With a little bit of luck, you may buy only one in your entire life!
Or maybe you buy a bigger one after ten years, but in any case, you don’t go shopping for a diamond very often. You want to get this one right, for a few good reasons.
The Four C’s
There are many aspects to consider when shopping for a diamond, so let’s start with the Four C’s: Color, Clarity, Carat-weight and Cut. And these are only the beginning of what you have to look for. Color is pretty obvious and is largely a matter of personal preference, but price may enter into the equation, too. Do you want a white, yellow, pink, black or blue diamond, to name just a few of the colors.
Clarity is defined as the absence of “inclusions” and blemishes. The fewer the number of blemishes and/or inclusions, or foreign material in the diamond, the higher the clarity. You could describe it as purity. You might not be able to see these with the naked eye.
Carat-weight is the measure of the weight of the diamond– not to be confused with karat, which is the relative purity of a metal, usually gold.
Cut is the most complex of the four, and it can make or break the quality of a diamond setting.
The Razor’s Edge
So let’s talk about the cut of the diamond. There may be as many cuts as there are diamond cutters, because this is an art. Okay, so perhaps it’s also partly science, but it is certainly best left to the experts.
A diamond can have beautiful color and clarity and be the perfect carat-weight, but if the cut is bad, you have a bad diamond. You can even have so-so clarity and color. If the cut is bad it won’t matter.
Here we have to get into the various parts of the cut diamond to understand why it’s crucial. There are several surfaces to consider when examining the diamond cut. All the surfaces are called facets. The various facets are
- The table – the flat top part of the diamond
- The culet – the tip at the bottom
- The girdle – the outside edge below the table
- The crown – the slanted edge between the table and the girdle
- The pavilion – the part of the diamond between the girdle and the culet
Why Is the Cut So Crucial?
Each facet of the diamond needs to be cut to reflect and refract light as well as disperse it, and each facet needs to be completely smooth. The reflection and refraction, together with dispersion, give the diamond its brilliance. Reflection is the simple light you can see shining back from a surface like a mirror. The light that enters the diamond is refracted among the different facets and dispersed back out through the table, causing the brilliance diamonds are known for.
Very simply, a bad cut doesn’t allow for proper refraction and dispersion of light. A good cut can even sparkle when it is somewhat dirty. A bad cut diamond will just reflect the light.
Are Shape and Cut the Same?
No, indeed. Here’s what you need to know about shape. Is the diamond’s shape round, square, oval? That’s shape. Cut is how the facets on the ring are formed. Cut is much more crucial than shape, which is largely a matter of personal choice.
The Ideal Cut
Yes, there is such a thing as an ideal cut in diamond parlance. Certain proportions, or dimensions, lend themselves to better reflection, refraction and dispersion, which in turn lead to greater sparkle, and that’s what we’re after in the final analysis, isn’t it?
That said, there are cuts which vary from the ideal because of the complexities of the stone itself. It may have a blemish or inclusion to be cut out or around. A skilled diamond cutter can create a beautiful gem from a faulty base, and it may be somewhat different from the jeweler’s ideal.
You need this information to learn about the specific ring you are considering. Is it an Ideal cut? What are its internal measurements, calculated in millimeters? If it has flaws, what are they, are they noticeable, and do they affect the brilliance of the gem?
Badly Cut Diamonds – Why Do They Exist?
Good question. The explanation goes something like this: the diamond cutter was given a stone that was a little heavier than one carat, let’s say, and told it needed to be at least one carat in weight when finished, because it would bring a better price than one under a carat. However, he discovered in the course of his work that there was a flaw he would have to work around, and the best way he found resulted in a much less than ideal cut. There may be other explanations as well, but this is more common than you may realize.
How You Can Find Out Which Diamond to Choose
You can ask lots of questions. That’s always the simplest way to learn. Being informed about the 4 C’s and their variations helps you to ask the right questions.
Then, you can test the piece yourself. Turn the ring slightly to the left and right to see the sparkle. Then take the diamond away from the brilliant showroom lights – maybe to the bathroom if you can – and look at it under less glaring light. Trust what you see. Compare a couple of rings you are considering. Which one gives you the most brilliant refraction and dispersion, otherwise known as brilliance?
Inspect the ring carefully with your eyes, and with a jeweler’s loupe if you have access to one. Look for chips and minor imperfections on all the facets. Is the culet pointed and not chipped? Is the girdle the same all the way around, and so on.
Now It’s Time to Shop for Your Diamond
Because of this knowledge, you will be lightyears ahead of the uninformed diamond buyer. And, trust me, you will buy a better diamond because of it. Years from now, you will look back on your diamond purchase with a sense of pride, knowing you made the best informed choice you could.