So you want to propose, now what? Okay, so obviously we were not taught how to classify diamonds in 9th grade Earth Science, and Gemology is not one of the top ten college majors, so the majority of the public are somewhat clueless when it comes to buying diamonds. Yeah, you could look up some of the basics online, but in this guide I will break things down very simply for you. (Please keep in mind that this guide is solely discussing white diamonds, or clear diamonds. The same rules listed below do not apply to colored diamonds.)
So one of the first things people will tell you that you need to know when buying a diamond are the Four C’s. These stand for Carat weight, Color, Clarity and Cut.
Carat Weight- This is basically how big the stone is. Stones with higher carat weights (which is abbreviated “CT”) are larger. Depending on what you can afford, most people buy diamonds between 0.50cts (or ½ a carat) and 2.00cts for their lady’s engagement ring.
Color- So believe it or not, not all diamonds are crystal clear. Some diamonds can be yellow or even brown. Color is measured by letters of the alphabet. The best color grading is D (there are no A, B, or C color gradings). A D colored stone is completely clear or white. The further down the alphabet you go, the worse the color gets. So a K colored stone, for instance, would have a yellowish tint, and a Z colored stone would be totally brown. In my opinion, if you do not want a yellow stone, it’s best to stay above an I color grading.
Clarity- This refers to how clean a diamond is. Stones can often contain what is called “inclusions”. This means there are imperfections in the stone such as black spots or white streaks (known as feathers). Some of these inclusions can only be seen under a magnifying glass, while others are visible to the average Joe’s naked eye. Clarity is also measured in letters, but these letters actually stand for the clarity grade.
FL=Flawless, meaning there are NO inclusions in the stone. An IF stone is also flawless.
VVS=Very Very Slightly Included. This means there may be one or two very small inclusions but they can only be seen under a jeweler’s magnifying glass.
VS=Very Slightly included. This means that there may be a few small inclusions but they can only be seen under a jeweler’s magnifying glass.
SI=Slightly Included. This means there are a few large-ish inclusions that are visible to a jeweler under magnification, but there may also be a risk of some being visible to the average Joe’s naked eye.
I=Included. This means the stone has a lot of large inclusions that can be seen by anyone and everyone.
Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky. Each clarity category has subdivisions. So there are numbers next to the gradings (SI1, SI2, SI3 ETC…). The higher the number, the worse the grading. In other words, a VS2 stone is not as good as a VS1 stone. An SI2 stone is better than an SI3 stone and so forth…
Cut- This can actually mean two things; the shape of the stone, and how the stone is, for lack of a better word, cut. (Although the correct meaning of a diamond’s cut refers to the way it is actually cut, not the shape of the stone, but I will explain both anyway). Now, when it comes to the difference the way the stone is cut makes, just think about the way humans are all shaped differently. Some are short and fat, some are tall and skinny, and others are somewhere in between. The way the stone is cut matters because it affects the sparkly-ness of the diamond. If a diamond is cut wrong, not as much light can get through it, and therefore it will not have a lot of sparkle or brilliance. The cut of a diamond grading is pretty obvious to understand. There is Ideal cut, which is the best, then Excellent cut, Very Good cut, Good cut, Fair cut, and Poor cut.
Some people may also refer to the shape of the stone as the cut. The shape of the stone just may be the most important thing you need to decide before you can even think about all those other things listed above. You need to know if you want a round, princess (square), pear, heart or oval shaped stone. Or maybe you feel like getting fancy and decide to get her a cushion, emerald, radiant, marquise or asscher cut stone. Yes, you do have that many options.
So now that we’ve explained the Four C’s, let me explain another very important aspect of diamond buying: certification. There are different companies that look at diamonds and assign them the gradings discussed above. Obviously, not only are the grading’s based on each company’s own standards, but they are also subjective to the person who is actually looking at the stone. So basically I could be looking at a stone and think it is completely perfect and grade it as a D color and FL clarity, but Bob could look at the same exact stone and see something I didn’t and give it an E color and a VVS1 clarity. Get it? Also, some companies are more strict in their grading procedures than others. The most popular grading companies are GIA, EGL and IGI. Out of these companies, GIA appears to be the most strict in their grading procedures. You definitely want to make sure you choose a stone that comes with a certification, and make sure you receive the certificate as well.
Another big question when choosing a diamond is how much you should be spending on it. The rule of thumb seems to be that you should be spending two months of your salary on her engagement ring overall, this includes the setting and the diamond. So start saving!
To sum it up, when it comes to buying a diamond, you want to get a stone that is the right shape that she wants, yet something you can afford. It should also be colorless, look clean, shine bright, and come with a certificate from a reputable grading company. Easy, right?