For most people, purchasing a diamond is a significant investment, and shopping for one can feel a little intimidating. That's why we created a comprehensive guide to help teach you about diamonds in a simple, straightforward way. At the end of the day, there is no one correct answer when it comes to diamond selection, and your personal preferences will help you decide on the right diamond for you. These guidelines are simply meant to educate and help you get the best value for your money, regardless of your budget.
What is the Diamond Grading Scale?
No two diamonds are exactly alike. Like snowflakes, each diamond has a unique set of characteristics, and there is no "right answer" for how a diamond should look. However, to standardize the evaluation of diamonds, organizations like the International Gemological Institute (IGI) and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) use a system for grading stones under four distinct categories, known as the Four Cs: Carat, Cut, Color, and Clarity. A diamond is given a separate rating for each of the four Cs, and the combination of these ratings determines the purity and value of the stone.
The four C's of diamond quality:
- Carat. A diamond's carat indicates the size and weight of the stone. Carat weights are divided and subdivided into incremental "points," allowing for extremely precise measurements. While the price typically goes up with diamond carat weight, the overall value of a stone is determined by all Four Cs together.
- Cut. A common misconception is that diamond cut refers to the shape of the stone. It actually refers to how well a diamond interacts with light to create desirable visual effects, which is determined by a variety of factors, including the proportions, angles, and symmetry of the cut. A diamond's cut is graded on a 6-step scale from Ideal to Poor and is considered to have the most significant impact on its overall beauty and shine.
- Color. The diamond color scale is based on the absence of color. A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is considered "colorless." Diamond color uses a D-to-Z system, with color grade D representing the highest degree of colorlessness, and color grade Z the lowest.
Note: the diamond color grade does not apply to so-called "color diamonds," where the hue present in the diamond is intentional.
- Clarity. When diamonds are created, either naturally or lab-grown, the process can result in a variety of internal characteristics known as "inclusions" and external characteristics known as "blemishes." While no diamond is perfectly pure, the fewer of these characteristics that exist in the stone, the better its clarity. Because diamond clarity is complex and involves measuring the size, position, and number of these internal and external characteristics, a special system known as the Diamond Clarity Scale is used to evaluate them.
What are diamond inclusions?
All diamonds contain microscopic imperfections, known as inclusions. Diamond inclusions form in or on the stone during the diamond growth process and affect the way the diamond interacts with light. No two diamonds have the same number, size, location, or type of inclusions. Gemologists inspect these tiny unique internal and surface characteristics through 10x magnification and use the Diamond Clarity Scale to assign a clarity grade to each diamond. Here are a few of the most common types of inclusions contained in nearly every diamond:
- Cloud. A cloud refers to multiple tiny pinpoints grouped together that may interfere with how the diamond interacts with light. When a diamond has a large number of these imperfection groups, it is known as a "cloudy diamond."
- Graining. When the crystal development is uneven during the formation process, small white, colored, or reflective lines may appear, known as graining, which causes the diamond to appear hazy.
- Cavity. Cavities form when minerals become trapped in tiny pockets inside the diamond. If the crystal inclusions in the cavities are colored, they can become visible to the naked eye.
- Feather. Feathers are tiny fractures that have occurred in the stone during its formation. They may make the diamond appear opaque in certain places, depending on the angle from which they're seen.
What is the Diamond Clarity Scale?
Diamond clarity grades are defined by the Diamond Clarity Scale. The Diamond Clarity Scale is a system used by the IGI and GIA to determine a diamond's clarity based on the inclusions and blemishes present on the stone. The Diamond Clarity Chart includes eleven categories and subcategories of diamond clarity, from FL to I3.
- FL. FL diamonds are considered flawless and contain no visible external or internal flaws (only 1% of all diamonds are considered "flawless").
- IF. IF diamonds have no internal flaws.
- VVS1-VVS2. VVS diamonds have flaws, but they are very difficult to see, even under 10x magnification.
- VS1-VS2. VS diamonds have small inclusions that are difficult to see under 10x magnification, and most inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
- SI1-SI2. SI diamonds have inclusions visible under 10x magnification, but they may not be visible to the naked eye.
- I1-I3. I1-I3 diamonds have inclusions that are visible under magnification, some of which are also visible to the naked eye
While the Diamond Clarity Scale helps quantify a stone's clarity and purity, it's essential to reiterate that diamond selection is also subjective. There are so few FL diamonds in existence that it's far more important to find the diamond that fits YOUR particular preferences. Some may like the beauty of a slight color hue, the delicateness of a smaller carat weight, or how certain blemishes and inclusions interact with the light. Using diamond clarity grade, color scale, and quality charts can help you find the best value for your money, but which diamond you buy is ultimately a subjective and personal choice.
Rating lab-grown vs. mined diamonds
One of the most important considerations when shopping for a diamond is whether to purchase a mined diamond or one that is lab-grown. Some people prefer a lab-grown diamond over one that was mined for a variety of ethical reasons. While the mining industry provides thousands of jobs and governments around the world have taken steps to improve regulations, there are still concerns surrounding worker exploitation, child labor practices, conflict diamonds funding wars, and the lack of sustainability in mining. Lab-grown diamonds remove these ethical and environmental concerns, as the entire process is performed by scientists and takes place in a lab setting.
If you are considering a lab-grown diamond, it's important to note that they are rated and graded by the exact same Diamond Grading Scale under which mined diamonds are scrutinized. In fact, the IGI and GIA no longer even denote lab-grown diamonds as "synthetic." Whether your diamond was formed under the earth's crust over millions of years or placed through the same circumstances in a lab setting over several months, the result is the same.
At Eterneva, we take the benefits of lab-grown diamonds even further. We create customized, high-quality, lab-grown diamonds using the carbon in the ashes or hair of a loved one or beloved pet that has passed on. We believe that this process offers an empowering and therapeutic way to deal with loss, and provides a tangible symbol and reminder of your loved one to carry with you. Partnering with Eterneva to create a unique and remarkable diamond can be the perfect way to pay tribute to an equally unique and remarkable life.