The four C's of diamonds are cut, color, clarity, and carat. They are all important considerations in grading a diamond for sale, and they will influence the eventual price of a diamond, along with any jewelry that it is used in. Consumers should familiarize themselves with the four C's of diamonds if they intend to purchase a diamond, since this knowledge can help someone evaluate a diamond and get the best stone for the best price.
The cut of a diamond refers to the way in which is it cut and polished after it has been mined. The cut of a diamond is very important, as it can literally make or break the stone. A well cut diamond will have a glittering array of facets which sparkle in the light, giving the diamond a rich look. In a diamond with an excellent cut, light will enter the diamond through one of the facets and then refract back, rather than being lost through the sides or bottom of the diamond. There are numerous different styles of cut for diamonds, ranging from table cuts to round cut brilliants.
The color of a diamond, as you might imagine, is concerned with the color of the diamond. Although most people think of diamonds as clear stones, they actually come in a wide range of colors. So-called “fancy diamonds” in rich colors like blue and yellow can command hefty sums, since they are quite unusual. Color is graded on the base of how rich the color is; a lightly tinted diamond, for example, is much less valuable than a diamond with intense color saturation. This is one of the most important of the four C's of diamonds, especially if you are looking at raw diamonds, since a good cut can hide a multitude of sins, but it cannot save a weakly colored diamond. If natural color is important to you, you should be aware that most diamond producers routinely irradiate their diamonds to bring out their color, and it is therefore extremely challenging to find a naturally colored diamond
The clearness of a diamond is graded according to clarity. A very clear diamond with no inclusions is extremely rare, and it can be quite expensive. More commonly, diamonds are sold slightly included, meaning that they have small flaws but they are still reasonably clear and attractive to look at. Heavily included diamonds are used more commonly for industrial purposes, since they are perceived as unattractive by consumers.
The final representative of the four C's of diamonds is the weight, or carat, of a diamond. While one might imagine that larger diamonds are automatically more expensive, this is not necessarily true. A diamond's value is based on assessment of all four C's. For example, a very large diamond with a bad cut would be worth less than a smaller fancy diamond with a cut which emphasizes its color.
If you've spent some time in museums lately, you may have noticed that antique diamonds were often minimally cut, since people wanted to preserve their size, rather than bringing out the beauty of the stone. Some very famous diamonds such as the Hope Diamond have actually been recut several times during their lifetimes, with later diamond cutters trimming the diamond down to create a stunning stone with a more modern look.
The four C's of diamonds also do not address the issue of conflict diamonds, diamonds which are sold to fund terrorism and other acts of violence. Consumers who are concerned about buying conflict diamonds should make this concern clear to a diamond dealer; some dealers participate in programs which are designed to stop the trafficking in conflict diamonds. One of the more reliable sources of cruelty-free diamonds is the Arctic; since Arctic diamonds are entirely separate from the African diamond supply chain, it is easier to certify them as conflict-free.