“Diamonds are forever” is the popular phrase. This is because of their durability and meaningful history but it could also be because it is a big purchase! Big purchases should be made with confidence so that you know that you made the right choice… forever! This guide is meant to instill confidence so that when you are ready to shop, you can know the ins and outs of the diamond world…diamond universe actually!
We will cover the basics of diamond grading, how GIA certification works, how to shop smart, and how to be cautious of being duped. So, keep reading, follow along with us, and most of all enjoy the journey of getting to know Mother Earth’s most prized gem!
Diamond or Dud?
In the world of diamonds, not everything that glitters is the real thing. There are a lot of red flags to be on the lookout for. In this post, we will give you a full explanation of how diamonds are evaluated as well as what to be leery of when you decide to purchase a diamond. We have dedicated a lot of time to this diamond reference guide. You will want to bookmark it, save it, print it out, and refer back to it when you are in the market to purchase a diamond. Keep in mind, that all of this information is book knowledge and should work hand in hand with your emotional pull to a diamond. Even if a diamond gets amazing marks on the GIA certification or grading report, it doesn’t mean that you should purchase it over the one that just has a wow factor to you!
Let’s start at the very beginning, diamonds have to endure quite a bit before you and I ever get the pleasure of considering to purchase them for ourselves. Diamonds form under the earth with extreme pressure and heat. Then they are forced to the surface, mined, cut, and polished until their natural beauty shines through. Diamonds are the hardest mineral known to man. Although they are not necessarily rare, they are very expensive to mine. Because of the demand for the sparkling phenomenon and the high price tag, there are a lot of conflicts and scams associated with the diamond business. That is where we will pick up on the basics of the breakdown of diamonds and what makes them more expensive than others. We will also cover how the world-renowned experts and authorities, GIA (Gemological Institute of America) plays a part in the grading of diamonds with their GIA certification.
The 4C's of Diamond Quality
First, let’s conquer the 4C’s. This ranking system is the globally accepted standard for grading diamonds. The higher the diamond falls within the ranks of the 4C’s the more valuable and expensive the diamond is. With help from GIA (again the world’s most trusted and unbiased resource), I will break down the meaning of each “C” and purpose of each one. You can check out the GIA website here too.
Diamond color is actually judged on the lack or absence of color in the diamond. Think of a crystal clear drop of water. This scale ranges from D-to-Z. D being colorless and the highest rank held on this scale. Many of these color distinctions are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye; however, these distinctions make a very big difference in diamond quality and price. GIA’s D-to-Z diamond color-grading system measures the degree of colorlessness by comparing a stone under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions to master stones of established color value.
Because diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to high pressure and heat, it can result in a variety of internal characteristics called 'inclusions' and external characteristics called 'blemishes.' Determining the nature, size, number of, and position of these characteristics is the evaluation of the clarity.
Although no diamond is perfect, the closer it gets to perfect, the higher it ranks on the clarity scale. The GIA Clarity Scale has 6 categories, some of which are divided for a total of 11 specific grades:
- Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader.
This usually makes people think of shape like round, princess, emerald cut and so on. But it is actually the grading of how well the diamond facets interact with the light. How does it sparkle? Precise artistry and workmanship from a diamond cutter are required for a diamond to have the right proportions, symmetry, and polish to deliver the most beautiful return of light. Of all the 4Cs, the cut is the most complex and technically difficult to analyze. The GIA Cut Grading System for the standard round brilliant diamond evaluates seven components. The first three, brightness, fire and scintillation, consider the diamond's overall face-up appearance.
- Brightness: Internal and external white light reflected from a diamond
- Fire: The scattering of white light into all the colors of the rainbow
- Scintillation: The amount of sparkle a diamond produces, and the pattern of light and dark areas caused by reflections within the diamond
The remaining four, weight ratio, durability, polish, and symmetry, assess a diamond's design and craftsmanship. The cut scale is excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor.
Diamond Carat Weight
This is how much the diamond weighs or how many carats it is. Each carat can be subdivided into 100 'points.' This allows very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. For instance, the jeweler may refer to a diamond that weighs 0.25 carats as a 'twenty-five pointer.' Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.08 carat stone would be described as 'one point oh eight carats.' All else being equal, diamond price increases as the carat weight increases, because larger diamonds are rarer and more desirable. But two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values (and prices) depending on three other factors within the 4Cs: Clarity, Color, and Cut. It's important to remember that a diamond's value is determined using all of the 4Cs, not just carat weight. Keep this in mind when shopping for your diamond.
You don’t necessarily have to select a diamond that has the highest ranks on all 4 of the Cs. If you have a certain budget and want a certain size of diamond, your jeweler can help you select a larger diamond for the price that may have a small inclusion in it or a slight color. Instead of thinking of an inclusion as a flaw think of it as a special hallmark on your diamond that makes it special, unique, and easier to recognize. Many times you can get the diamond size that you want with just a small compromise on the clarity and/or color. Some would rather sacrifice clarity over color or size over clarity. You can see that the purchase of a diamond is a very personal experience. Working together with your diamond seller, you can determine what factors in your diamond are the most important to you.
GIA Certification for Diamonds - Simply the Best
Like I mentioned before, GIA is the world standard on grading diamonds. When diamonds have been evaluated by GIA you can trust that what that GIA certification says is the truth. GIA is an unbiased and safe way to know that you are getting what you are paying for. A GIA certification or grading report is not an appraisal and GIA does not sell diamonds or buy diamonds. They are solely an educational institute. The GIA graduate gemologist and jewelry professionals are trained through extensive practice in labs and are provided an on-going knowledge base through manuals and hands-on experience. All graduates are on the same page due to the unbiased integrity and accuracy of every grading report.
There are different types of GIA certification available on diamonds: diamond grading report, diamond origin report, diamond dossier, diamond report, and the diamond focus report. Check out the different types here. The Diamond Grading Report and the Diamond Dossier are probably the most popular or common. They both have the full 4Cs assessment with a plotted clarity diagram of the diamond, The Dossier has the GIA report number laser inscribed on the girdle of the diamond. Some GIA certifications have restrictions on the size of the diamond. If you are going to purchase a diamond that is advertised with a GIA report you can go to GIA’s website and look up the report number to make sure the diamond report is, in fact, a true report from GIA and it matches the diamond specification that you are being sold. The GIA certification is a scientific blueprint of a stone’s exact quality characteristics. All GIA diamond certifications contain security features such as a hologram, security screen and microprint lines that prevent them from being forged or duplicated. In addition to the laser inscribed GIA Report Number, you could opt to inscribe a personal message, symbol or special date for an additional fee. This not only personalizes a diamond but allows for easy identification. The diamond’s report number and all the data captured during the grading process are permanently stored in GIA’s database.
GIA will also notate on the diamond report about possible treatments done to the diamond. This includes color and clarity enhancements. When a diamond has been treated to enhance the color or clarity you need to know about it. These alterations have a huge impact on the price tag of the diamond. You would not want to pay the price for a “G” color diamond only to find out that it had a color enhancement to make it that grade. A natural “G” color diamond is a lot more expensive than a color enhanced “G” color diamond.
Treated, Enhanced, or Lab Grown Diamonds
Diamond treatments are not the only thing that you have to be leery of when purchasing a diamond. There are diamond simulants and laboratory-grown diamonds on the market now that are sometimes trying to be passed as natural diamonds. Simulants are anything that has the appearance of a diamond but none of the same chemical or physical properties. Popular simulants are cubic zirconia and glass. Laboratory-grown diamonds have essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, optical, and physical properties of diamonds found in nature so it is imperative that you know who you are buying from. GIA is at the forefront of knowing the difference between the real thing and other imposters. But as mentioned before, if you know that you are buying a laboratory-grown diamond, it is not a bad thing. You may want one until you are able to afford a natural and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The downfall of laboratory-grown diamonds is when they are being passed off as a natural and with the same price attached.
Always Buy Diamonds from a Trusted Source
With all that information about GIA, you don’t necessarily need a GIA certification or diamond report to be sure of what you are purchasing. While having the report can give you peace of mind, if you have a trusted jewelry store that has a solid reputation, that is well known in the community, that your family has used for decades, you don’t need to put so much weight on the diamond report. You want to select a knowledgeable diamond seller that isn’t afraid to answer all your questions and even walk you through evaluating the diamond together. Sometimes it helps to look at multiple diamonds at one time. You will notice, even without magnification, that some diamonds sparkle or have more fire than others. Some will seem dark or tired. Some diamonds may seem a little yellow or off-color. Others may have too many inclusions that you can see with the naked eye (like little pepper spots or feathers). You may be drawn to different shapes like the princess or square cut or the oval. Different shapes of diamonds have different ways of “sparkling”. Emerald cut diamonds have longer facets and have a more clean, crisp look, while princess cut diamonds have a lot more facets and might draw you in with the sparkle from all angles. While reading over all this good information, keep in mind that it is not meant to be daunting. The pursuit of purchasing a diamond will take time but it can be quite enjoyable. With anything that you devote time to, you usually will end up with a strong attachment to it and diamonds are no exception. You are seeking a precious stone and the right one is out there waiting for you. It is just like finding your true love!
Shop Oaks Jewelry GIA Certified Diamond Engagement Rings & Loose Diamonds
Check out engagement rings and diamond that have a GIA certification here.