Diamond Buying Guide: Navigating The 4Cs

Posted: February 24, 2023

While searching for the perfect engagement ring, you’ve likely come across the 4Cs. Each of the 4Cs describes one of a diamond’s core characteristics—its cut, color, clarity and carat weight. The 4Cs are useful for comparing the price of a diamond ring and are a great starting point. However, they shouldn’t be the sole deciding factors, as they do not articulate the beauty of a diamond in person. A standard grading report only tells part of a rings story, there is much more to a diamond's value – and beauty – than just these four traits.

At E.R. Sawyer Jewelers, we believe the engagement ring you chose should be the one they’ll never want to take off their hand. Most importantly, trust your eye and ultimately your heart’s reaction, rather than how a diamond ring ranks across the 4Cs.

We recommend focusing on the 4C’s in proportion to each other, how they impact your budget, and above all else what really matters is what YOU think of the diamond ring. When a ring catches your eye, it’s most likely the sparkle you’ll notice first. There is only one factor that contributes to the twinkle of a gem: diamond cut and therefore at E.R. Sawyer Jewelers we consider the cut to be the most important of the 4C’s.

A Cut Above The Rest

Brilliance, which is the diamond's ability to return light to the eye, is measured solely by the stone's cut (color and clarity have no impact).

What Is Diamond Cut?
Diamond cut refers to the polish, proportions, and symmetry of a diamond, not the stone's shape. The quality of a diamond's cut determines the sparkle and overall beauty of the stone. Per the GIA system, diamond cuts are graded as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.

If a diamond is poorly cut, no clarity grating, color grading, or carat weight will make up for it. The diamond will look dull and glassy.

An Excellent to Very Good cut diamond, allows light to flood into the center of the diamond, reverberate within its core, and be expelled outwards towards the viewer’s eye for maximum brightness and sparkle. This in turn directly improves the face-up size of the diamond due to better edge-to-edge brightness. When a diamond has a better cut, it looks bigger!

Extra sparkle can also hide a multitude of sins! The clarity of a diamond is therefore slightly less important, as the tiny inclusions that can be found within a diamond are undermined by the sheer amount of sparkle in an ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ cut. Color tints can also be hidden by the sparkle.

Making The Other 3cs Work For You

Here are our top tips for how to factor in Color, Clarity, and Carat when searching for the perfect diamond engagement ring:

  • Color

Diamond colors fall under a D-Z scale, with D meaning completely colorless (rarer to find), and Z having a light yellow hue. Standard diamond quality typically falls within the D-J color grade. G color is considered to be the best value for money diamond color. And if you are mounting the diamond in a yellow gold setting and looking to save further - you can go down one more color grade to H. At a J grade and beyond, the human eye can start to detect a yellow tint.

The shape of the diamond also influences its spot on the color scale. A round brilliant diamond, for example, hides color incredibly well, meaning you can go further down the scale without seeing any yellowing. With round, emerald, and Asscher cuts, you can typically go as low as a J grade without seeing any incredibly noticeable color. On the other hand, longer diamond shapes (such as oval, cushion, radiant, pear, princess, marquise, and heart), reveal color much easier and will typically require quality a bit higher on the scale (G and up) so as not to see any color.

Keep in mind, though, diamond color is essentially personal preference and doesn't indicate quality whatsoever.

  • Clarity

This C involves the number of natural imperfections, called inclusions, present in the diamond, and whether you can see them with the unaided eye. The GIA grading scale rates diamonds from Flawless (FL) to Included (I). A stone doesn't have to be at the very top of the scale to look perfect and inclusion-free. It's all about how eye-clean the diamond appears, and often this is what usually surprises people most when viewing diamonds in person.

While each diamond needs to be inspected on its own, an SI1 clarity diamond is considered to be an eye clean diamond - meaning a diamond with inclusions you will only see with magnification. We recommend buying a diamond that doesn’t show any obvious flaws to the naked eye. After all, your friends aren’t likely to come up and inspect your ring with a magnifying glass!

In fact, if an SI1 (Slightly Included) clarity diamond appears perfectly eye-clean, there is no visible difference between a VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included) clarity stone of the exact same carat, color, and cut—except an SI1 diamond will save you money.

If you're after a step-cut stone (Emerald or Asscher), clarity will be more important. These styles are cut to have wide, flat "tables" making smaller imperfections visible to the naked eye.

  • Carat

Diamond carat is the measurement of the diamond’s weight—not its size. Naturally, the larger the carat, the more expensive the diamond. Because no two diamonds are completely identical, carat should be viewed as a guideline, since it only determines the weight of the stone as opposed to the actual size. "You can have five diamonds, let's say oval, all exactly 2.00 carats, all the same color, clarity, and cut, but they will all be slightly different sizes and shapes,"

You can sometimes save by choosing a less common carat size. Diamond prices increase significantly when they weigh the most desired weights: think half and whole carat weights (.50, 1.00, 1.50, etc.). Buy a diamond that is just shy of these common weights, and you can often save money and no one will be able to tell it's a .92 carat instead of a 1.00 carat.

Remember! She Will Fall In Love With Her Ring, Not It’s Rating

The 4Cs will reassure you that you’re buying a quality diamond and getting what you pay for, but remember that they’re really just a tool. Rather than bragging about her “1-ct. E VS1” diamond, your fiancée will exclaim, “Look at my beautiful diamond engagement ring!” And that’s ultimately what matters most.

At E.R. Sawyer Jewelers, we can help you find the perfect engagement ring for every budget and dream.

Get in Touch

For over 140 years, the Van Dyke Family has served the jewelry needs of Sonoma County. So when you need assistance selecting a one-of-a kind engagement ring, repairing a family heirloom, or choosing a new time piece, turn to the experienced E.R. Sawyer Jewelers team for help.

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