Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

You’ve met the love of your life and you’re thinking of proposing but you have no idea how to choose a diamond ring? Fret not for this is a mini guide to help you with the basics (enough to not make you look like an idiot) for picking the right diamond for your special someone.

When choosing a ring, remember the 4Cs:


All diamonds have “birthmarks” with small imperfections which are called inclusions and on its surface called blemishes. This is caused as diamonds are formed deep within the earth under extreme heat and pressure. Clarity refers to the degree of imperfections present. Diamonds which have more inclusions or blemishes have less brilliance because the flaws interfere with the path of light through the diamond.

Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

Flawless: Extremely rare, less than 1 in 5000 jewellery quality diamonds are rated FL.
FL – IF: Appear identical unless viewed under 10x magnification by a skilled grader. Less than 3% of jewellery quality diamonds are rated IF.
VVS1 – VVS2: Inclusions are typically only visible from the bottom of the diamond (pavillion) while VVS2 inclusions are visible from the top (crown). The inclusions are invisible to the eye, appearing identical to the higher grades unless viewed under 10x magnification by a skilled grader.
VS1 – VS2: Inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. Perhaps 1 in 100 untrained observers can detect VS2 inclusions with the naked eye, on close inspection under ideal conditions.
SI1 – S12: SI1 is the lowest grade with flaws often invisible to the naked eye. SI2 inclusions are usually visible to the naked eye, although they will require close inspection.
I1 – I2: Have inclusions that are almost always visible to the naked eye.


Diamonds come in a variety of colours, some of them highly prized (pinks, blues, yellow). However in a white diamond, the presence of a yellow tint will lower the price of a diamond. The less body colour in a white diamond, the truer colour it will reflect, the greater its value.

Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

D, E, F: While there are differences in colour between D, E, and F diamonds, they can be detected only by a gemmologist in side by side comparisons, and rarely by the untrained eye. D-F diamonds should only be set in white gold / platinum. Yellow gold reflects colour, negating the diamond’s colourless effect.
G, H, I, J: While containing traces of colour, G-J diamonds are suitable for a platinum or white gold setting which would normally betray any hint of colour in a diamond. Because I-J diamonds are more common than the higher grades, they tend to be a great value. An I-J diamond may retail for half the price of a D diamond. Within the G-J range, price tends to increase 10-20% between each diamond grade.
K, L, M: Beginning with K diamonds, colour (usually a yellow tint) is more easily detected by the naked eye. Set in yellow gold, these warm coloured diamonds appeal to some, and are an exceptional value. Others will feel they have too much colour. Due to its perceptible colour tint, a K diamond is often half the price of a G diamond.
N – R: Diamonds in the N-R colour range have an easily seen yellow or brown tint, but are much less expensive than higher grades.
S – Z: For almost all customers, S-Z diamonds have too much colour for a white diamond.


The word “carat” comes from the “carob” seed, the original unit of measure for diamond traders. Today, a carat is equal to exactly 0.2 grams (about the weight of a paper clip). Carat weight is unrelated to the similar sounding karat, which refers to gold’s purity.

Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

Two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different costs based on other factors such as cut, colour, and clarity. In order to understand the importance of carat weight, you must know what she likes. If her heart is set on a certain size diamond, then carat weight will probably be the most important factor in your search. Most women can tell you the carat weight and shape of their ideal diamond, and most men can tell you the price.


Virtually all diamond cuts sold for use in jewellery are one of ten round or fancy diamond shapes. The most popular diamond shapes are the following.

Diamonds: Guide to the 4Cs

The receiver almost always have a cut/shape preference. While other factors (such as price and quality) should be determined by the purchaser, find out her preferred cut. This is especially true for fancy shape engagement diamonds.

Before being purchased, many diamonds are sent to a third party laboratory for an evaluation, a process known as diamond certification. A reputable lab is one staffed by professional gemmologists who specialize in diamond grading. Each diamond certificate issued is uniquely numbered.
Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) is the world’s oldest, largest, and one of the most respected independent laboratories. GIA actually developed the 4 C’s diamond grading system to provide a standards in the evaluation of a diamond.

Only buy diamonds which have been certified by a reputable lab. Do not accept certifications created by retailers, even if they claim to be GIA trained. Keep your diamond certificate in a safe place. It provides security in the case of loss, trade or resale (helping to establish the quality and size of diamond required for replacement). Whenever the diamond must leave your possession (for example, to be cleaned), always let the party taking possession know you have a certificate to positively identify your diamond in case of fraud such as switching your bling with a lower grade one. A copy of your uniquely numbered GIA certificate is kept permanently on file with the GIA, and can be replaced at any time if it is lost or destroyed.

FREE Jewellery E-Book JDMIS

Tanja Sadow, Dean of the JDMIS, has created a brief introduction to the fascinating world of Gems and Jewellery! Learn about how jewellery is designed and manufactured, how gemstones are valued and even how to identify some imitation gems is this great FREE E-book!

I hope this helped you with choosing the right diamond for your special someone. Its hard to say no to a beautiful ring. All the best for your proposal!

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Isabelle is the blogger behind Love Bella Vida, a Singapore Lifestyle Blog covering reviews, guides and her personal journey.

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