The Ultimate Guide to The 4Cs of Diamonds

how to buy a beautiful engagement ring with information and based on 4Cs

A stunning halo diamond engagement ring from White Flash.

For centuries, diamonds have captivated women and are recognized as symbols for status, love and desirability. You also probably heard about the saying “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. In private, I always tell my friends (jokingly) they are a guy’s worst enemy especially if they are first timers in buying jewelry.

And there’s much truth in that…

Did you know that most guys take an average of 2 months from the start of their diamond search to making a final purchase? Despite having spent many hours doing research, most people still find diamond shopping a very daunting process.

You see, purchasing diamond jewelry is not as straightforward as buying a pair of shoes or a new handbag. When we are talking about an item that can cost thousands of dollars, it is paramount that you know what you buying exactly and making a purchase only when you are 100% sure. Otherwise, you may likely end up with buyer’s remorse.

In this section of the website, you will get access to one of the most comprehensive diamond education database on the Internet (and this isn’t an overstatement).

Besides learning fundamental information about the 4Cs, I will also show you exactly how to select and buy the best diamond ring for your budget.

Essential Diamond Education 101 – The 4Cs Explained

 

 

Working with a reliable jeweler like Whiteflash or James Allen will help you buy the diamond ring of your dreams. Besides high quality diamonds, these vendors also offer generous policies like free shipping and money back guarantees.

Cut – Bringing Out the Beauty And Sparkle of the Diamond

how the cut of the diamond affects light rays

Cut is the property that determines the brilliance and sparkle factor of the diamond. In the grading laboratory, a diamond’s cut grade is assessed based on a combination of its performance, proportions, symmetry and polish.

When a diamond is poorly cut, light leaks out from the pavilion facets of the diamond which diminishes its brilliance and sparkle. In a well cut diamond, light that is drawn into the diamond will reflect and refract back into the viewer’s eyes as brilliance and fire.

Cut is arguably the most important factor that affect a diamond’s appearance but sadly, most jewelers or websites only provide a simplistic coverage on cut and don’t offer sufficient information in helping you make the best choices.

That’s not what you get here at Beyond4cs.com as we dig deep into the stuff that really matters. Make sure you read these links to get a comprehensive insight into diamond cut:

Everything You Need to Know About Cut Quality
Ideal Proportions for Round Cut Diamonds
What Are Hearts and Arrows Diamonds?
How to Determine the Cut Quality of a Diamond Objectively

Diamond Shopping Tip: The cut quality ratings assigned by gemological labs are very broad and most GIA triple excellent diamonds actually have mediocre light return. If you want to buy a truly well cut diamond, you need to rely on tangible cut performance data like videos and ASET.

Carat Weight – Size Matters

round diamond size chart

Carat weight is probably the first C that comes to mind whenever people talk about diamonds and most people believe that larger is better. In fact, carat size is often deemed as the most important attribute that women look out for when receiving an engagement ring.

One common misconception that consumers have about carat weight is that it is a measure of the diamond’s size. This isn’t true as carat weight simply refers to how much the diamond weighs. Two diamonds with the same carat weight can have different physical size measurements depending on how they are cut.

In this section, we’ll reveal everything you ever need to know about carat weight. From real life examples you can use for visualization purposes to tips that will help you save money, you’ll learn how to avoid the critical mistakes that others make.

Everything You Need to Know About Carat Weight
Carat Size Charts And How Big They Look Like in Reality
When Would You Start Noticing Visual Differences in Carat Weights?
Setting Designs That Will Help Your Diamond Look Bigger

Diamond Shopping Tip: If you are shopping on a tight budget, you may want to consider buying shy. This means you actually look for diamonds that weigh slightly less than the “magical” weights that everyone else is buying (i.e. 0.5ct, 1ct, 1.5ct, 2ct). For example, buying a 0.9ct diamond instead of a 1.0ct diamond will help you get a diamond that looks just as big but without the high price premium.

Color – Discover the Subtle Differences Between D-Z Grades

comparison of diamonds with different color grades face down

GIA color chart – A representation of how diamonds would look like during grading.

In the jewelry market, “whiter” diamonds are perceived to be better and more desirable. As a result, there are many jewelers also take advantage of this mindset and often peddle high color diamonds just to make you spend more.

Personally, I think there is no need to follow the herd mentality as color is an attribute that is very hard to perceive in real-life. Your personal preference should take precedence instead.

In this section, you can find out the color distinctions of the various grades in a side by side comparison and see if you can spot the differences. You will also get tips on choosing the best diamond color based on your budget and setting design.

The Ultimate Guide to Diamond Color
Side by Side Color Comparison of Different Grades
Quick Test: How Well Can Your Eyes Pick Up Color Nuances?
Does Diamond Fluorescence Help in Making Diamonds Whiter?

Diamond Shopping Tip: The majority of people cannot differentiate between diamonds that are 3-4 color grades apart. If you want an icy white looking diamond and want to save money, consider buying a near colorless diamond in the G-H color ratings.

Clarity – Insights to a Diamond’s Natural Characteristics

diamond clarity chart

The clarity rating of a diamond is influenced by a combination of factors like type, amount, relief and location of its inclusions. Consumers often place too much weight on the importance of clarity due to misguided beliefs that inclusions are always detrimental to durability and appearance.

The truth is that in most gem-grade diamonds, inclusions are only visible under 10X magnification and are very difficult to detect with the naked eye. In this section, you will discover the secrets to buying a diamond with maximum value as we dissect the myths that are shrouded behind clarity.

Understanding What is Diamond Clarity And Their Grading
How Clarity Grades Affect the Price of a Diamond
Why Do Some Diamonds Look Hazy Or Milky?
Eyeclean Diamonds: What They Mean And Why You Should Care

Diamond Shopping Tip: Uneducated consumers get overly worried about inclusions and tend to buy higher clarity grades because of misplaced fears. The truth is, it is easy to find eyeclean VS2 and SI1 diamonds which can save you thousands of dollars compared to buying an identical looking VVS or IF diamond.

4Cs of Diamond Quality – Which is the Most Important?

4cs of diamond buying

When it comes to buying a sparkly diamond engagement ring, many beginners simply look at the 4Cs and the grading scales/charts to make a purchase decision.

The biggest misconception and mistake that first-time shoppers make is to assume that high clarity (e.g. Internally Flawless) and high color (e.g. D rating) are required for a diamond to be beautiful and sparkly.

As a result, many consumers place their priorities in the wrong Cs and end up paying a lot more for features that their eyes can’t see. In my opinion, CUT is the most important diamond quality you should pay attention to.

Why? Well, having better cut quality means that the diamond has better light return, sparkle and proportions. This directly improves the face-up size of the diamond due to better edge-to-edge brightness (looks bigger!).

As a result of better light performance, clarity flaws and color tints are easily hidden by the sparkle and this can make a lower color/clarity diamond look identical to another diamond with higher color/clarity!

Watch the video below where I compared 3 diamond rings with top of the line cut quality and different color/clarity specifications. The leftmost diamond ring is a D/VVS1, the middle ring is an I/SI1 and the rightmost ring is a K/VS1.

 

 

In real life, the differences in the face up view are minute but the differences in costs due to the color/clarity grades are very significant. Even as a trained professional, I am not able to see any inclusions in the SI1 diamond without using magnification tools and the SI1 diamond sparkles just as well as the VVS1 diamond.

From a practical perspective, it’s just a waste of money to spend it on diamonds with high clarity grades. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a D/IF diamond if you need the symbolic reasons behind it.

But if you are buying a high color/clarity diamond with the assumption that it is going to make your diamond look better, I’m sorry to say you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Putting It Together And Making the Cs Work For You

Over the years, I had purchased a number of diamond rings. My philosophy is always to focus on cut quality when selecting a diamond and to buy from reliable jewelers that have good craftsmanship standards for their settings.

Below, I want to show you the most recent diamond ring purchase I made from White Flash. It is a superbly made Vatche designer ring with a super ideal cut 0.622ct G VS2 round diamond.

 

 

I also want you to watch this video below to find out how a well cut diamond looks like in various real life environments. Hopefully, this will convince you that cut quality is the most important C to pay attention to.

 

 

With that, let’s wrap things up. I hope you found this write up and the reference links useful. With a better understanding of the diamond 4Cs, you can use them to your advantage when you are buying your engagement ring.

If you are still not sure about how to get started on shopping for your ring, you should determine how much you want to spend first. With the budget in mind, my advice is to narrow down your diamond options by prioritizing the 4Cs in the following order: cut, carat, color and clarity.

If you have questions or need help to pick out an exceptional diamond, feel free to get in touch by email or leave a comment below!

Whiteflash and James Allen are 2 of the best vendors in the world to shop for an engagement ring. Their superb collection of GIA/AGS certified diamonds and vast selections of well crafted ring designs enable you to find your dream ring for any budget size.

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jason Wolf-
    February 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    First, thank you for your excellent website! I’ve enjoyed reading and learning beyond the 4 cs, but I’m still no expert. I would be grateful for your advice on which diamond to purchase for an engagement ring. I hope to secure a quality diamond within a week and plan to propose early- to mid-March. My girlfriend is more concerned with a larger diamond (I bet you’ve heard that before), whereas I’m more interested in quality. In my quest to make us both happy (but mainly her, in the end, happy wife, happy life) below are some constraints that I’ve placed on my search.

    budget (stone only): around $9,500 USD
    ct: 1.4 – 1.55 (round cut)
    color: I-J
    clarity: VS1-SI1 (eye-clean is important since I have decent eyes, but don’t mind inclusions under a loupe) I filter for GIA or AGS reports only and have searched for idealscope/ASET images, H&A images, sarin reports and have done my best to ensure cut geometries fall within your recommendations to better my odds of having the best symmetry and light performance as possible so I’m not shopping online solely by the grading report.

    Below are a few links on what I’ve found and would appreciate your feedback about the 4 Cs. Hopefully the links I provide below allow you access the additional info besides just the grading report for better determining the quality of diamonds I’m considering.

    http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3633151.htm

    This 1.44ct is probably my favorite and within the price range at $9211 via wire transfer. Some questions/concerns are: (on the ideal scope and ASET images) the shafts and pointed tips have slightly different shades. Is this a photography issue or perhaps indicating leakage around the lighter areas? (on hearts image) at the 4 o’clock position, one of the shoulders appears to be pointed, but all other shoulders seem fairly consistent.

    Again, is this a photography/reflection issue and something to raise a flag on? I feel like I’m splitting hairs on the details when in reality this stone probably sparkles very very well (I hope). How do the cut geometries look? I checked the report dimensions with the Sarin report and no flags raised there. Lastly, on the light performance map image in the report should I want to see more red around the outside of the right image, or is that amount of green okay in that area?

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.50-carat-j-color-vs1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2430877

    A light performance map is included in the AGS report and I think it is an essential piece of information for analysis. Is there any concern with the larger green areas at the 10 o’clock position on the light performance map? Also, it’s just above my desired price (but do-able) at $9,771.

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.50-carat-j-color-vs1-clarity-excellent-cut-sku-2473745

    This stone doesn’t have as much additional info as the one on Whiteflash and is just above my desired price (but do-able) at $9,771. The H&A images appear decent to me and the cut geometry from the grading report falls within your recommendations although the crown angle is on the higher end. I would like to see more data like on the 1.44ct from whiteflash. Does any data or information besides the 4Cs look better or worse than the other 1.50ct JA diamond (2430877) that would allow one of them to be down selected?

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.43-carat-j-color-vs1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2460461

    This one is under budget at $8,589 however I notice the hearts image shows unequal gaps between most of the heart shapes and the v-shapes. Also, the arrows image appears to show some leakage under the table facet, as indicated by lighter shades of red. Do you see these same things as standing out as less than ideal performance? Also, on the light performance map from the report, there appears to be a lack of red in the center of the image from the 5-9 o’clock position. Is this less than ideal?

    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.55-carat-j-color-vs1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2216472

    This is a bonus diamond that I came across. A little larger than the specified ct range (the lady won’t mind) and higher than my ideal price at $9,722, but still less than the other two 1.50ct JA’s I’m considering. Lacking some data, but is there any honorable mentions with this stone that may be worth considering based on the geometry and H&A images?

    Thank you in advance if you get around to responding. I hope to purchase a diamond soon and I feel like any of these options are better than most of what I’ve looked at in local shops and certainly price competitive given the size of the stones. I just want to maximize my value based on balancing the diamond 4Cs, but without splitting hairs over details if all of these are likely to sparkle like crazy. I hope you can shed some light on the matter.

  2. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    February 21, 2017 at 2:22 am

    I’ve reviewed each of the diamonds and evaluated them on the basis of cut quality as a priority and a balance of the other 3Cs. If going for the best of the best cut quality matters to you, the clear winner here is this diamond. Everything checks out in terms of cut precision and light return for the WF diamond.

    http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3633151.htm

    This would be my 2nd choice and both diamonds will look very similar in real life: https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.55-carat-j-color-vs1-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2216472

    Truth be told, once the diamonds are mounted into a setting, the differences between these 2 are insignificant and can only be picked up with a very trained eye. There are some diminishing returns here at this level of cut quality and without using any scope analysis, it would be extremely hard for trained personnel (like myself) to differentiate them.

    My advice is to let the choice of setting be the primary reason with whom to work with. If carat size is your priority, go for the second diamond.

  3. Avatar
    David T.-
    May 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Your website is so helpful. Your posts have pointed me in the right direction and helped me narrow down my choices.

    I plan to purchase a ring by the end of this week. Can I get your opinion on the following ideal cut diamonds, and which one (if any) you would pick for the best value for the money? The diamonds I chose below vary from $14,380 – $17,013 and ctw vary from 1.792 – 1.92. Are there any in my selection you would absolutely stay away from? They’ve all scored between 1 and 1.2 on the Holloway Cut Adviser.

    1) $14,380 1.8 ctw I VS2 Ideal cut
    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.80-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2154027

    2) $14,780 1.83 ctw I VS2 Ideal cut
    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.83-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2154028

    3) $15,889 1.792 ctw I VS2 Ideal cut
    https://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3587740.htm

    4) $16,650 1.92 ctw I VS2 Ideal cut
    https://www.jamesallen.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut/1.92-carat-i-color-vs2-clarity-ideal-cut-sku-2519459

    5) $17,013 1.803 ctw I VS2 Ideal cut
    https://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3801982.htm

    Thank you for everything so far.

    -David

  4. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    May 16, 2017 at 2:18 am

    All the diamonds you pick are good options and are eyeclean. The White Flash diamonds are generally better cut and would be my top picks.

  5. Avatar
    Zack-
    October 24, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Paul, I am looking for an engagement ring around USD 8’000 – 9,000 – I visited tiffany and they proposed a 0.71 ct H VVS2 for USD 8’530 (tax included) and another one 0.86 ct G VVS2 for USD 11,180 (taxes included). I almost made a purchase but decided to have more time to mull over the decision before I came to your website. And I’m glad I did! What would be the right mix? 0.85 ct sounds good as a size, but regarding cut, clarity and color for what I have to look? THanks

  6. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    October 25, 2017 at 5:31 am

    Believe it or not, I often get emails from people who only seek advice or go looking for more information after they had paid for a purchase. Don’t you think it is a little too late to start looking for help or advice at that point in time? So, I’m glad you decided to do more research first to be sure about what you are buying.

    As for the 2 rings, it’s really up to personal preferences. I typically try to stay above G color and VS2 clarity to get better value for money. I would just add that Tiffany is grossly overpriced and their diamonds are not necessarily any better than what you can find elsewhere for less than 40% in costs.

  7. Avatar
    Uttam Kedia-
    May 21, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Hello,
    The Diamond Education post is very good and full of useful informations.

    The best part which i did not know was the Importance of “Cut” in a Diamond. Usually the Jewellers give least emphasis to the Cut.

    Thanks

  8. Avatar
    Mike Sexton-
    December 4, 2019 at 11:52 pm

    First, thank you for a very educational site.

    I am considering the purchase of an engagement ring, but I’d like to use a less traditional stone such as a ruby or emerald. I am assuming that items like the 4 C’s have analogies in the colored stone world. For example, cut would be important because of the light refraction properties in both worlds. I was wondering if you can point me to a site similar to yours that discusses colored stones and the similarities and differences from buying a diamond.

  9. Avatar
    Paul Gian-
    December 5, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Other gemstones do have their versions of the 4Cs with the exception of cut quality. They don’t go to the level of depth compared to buying diamonds and I don’t see any sites that provide the level of information in colored gemstones. However, I do have some limited knowledge on this subject. In general, for colored gemstones, you largely look at color and shape appeal. Most gemstones will be heat treated to even out the color and this the “norm” in the industry and you may want to look at James Allen for their education section as well as their gemstone listings. Their videos allow you to see exactly what you will be buying on top of generous sales policies.

    => https://beyond4cs.com/go/ja-gemstones/

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