If you are shopping on a budget, remember that all diamonds sparkle, and the most important attribute of an engagement diamond is the way it makes a woman feel. Diamonds are the ultimate gift of love. Any diamond you choose will make your woman feel cherished.
However, it is important that you do a little homework before you go shopping. The 4C's (Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat Weight) are the basic attributes used to compare diamonds. An understanding of the 4C's will give you a way to compare two diamonds and help you set basic price parameters.
How to Compare Diamond Color:
The finest diamonds are colorless, rare and expensive. On the GIA grading scale below, D-F are considered colorless, G-I near colorless and any grade J or below shows an increasingly yellowish tinge. Beyond the preference for a whiter stone, however, the color of a diamond does not affect its brightness or sparkle.
Fast Fact: Most experts agree that, when mounted, diamonds in the "G-H" range appear colorless and represent a much better value than "D-F" stones which command significantly higher prices.
How to Compare Diamond Clarity:
Diamonds with fewer flaws are rare and therefore more highly prized. In many cases, these flaws (or inclusions) don’t detract from the beauty of the diamond because they are invisible to the naked eye. The GIA grading scale below shows clarity ranges from "Internally Flawless" (IF) to "Very Very Slight" Inclusions (VVS), to "Very Slight" Inclusions (VS), to "Slightly Included" (SI), to "Included" (I).
IF (Internally Flawless)
Internally flawless diamonds have no inclusions and only insignificant blemishes on the surface under 10xs magnification
VVS1-VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included)
Very difficult to see inclusions under 10x magnification. These are outstanding quality diamonds.
VS1-VS2 (Very Slightly Included)
Difficult to see inclusions under 10x magnification. These are excellent quality diamonds.
SI1-SI3 (Slightly Included)
Diamonds with inclusions easily identified under 10x magnification. Finding flaws in this category with the unaided eye is difficult. The gems in this category maintain their integrity, depending on the location of the inclusions.
Diamonds with inclusions which may or may not be easily seen by the unaided eye. The flaws on the stones in this category may have some effect on the brilliance of your diamond.
Fast Fact: Any grade "SI2" or above has inclusions that are "eye clean", not visible to the naked eye. An "I1" grade can be an excellent value, particularly if the inclusion is on the outer edge. "I2" grades can still exhibit a fair degree of fire and light. "I3" grade diamonds are noticeably more opaque or dark to the naked eye.
How to compare diamond Cut, Symmetry and Polish:
More than any other attribute, it is the Cut that makes a diamond brilliant and beautiful. A diamond that is well cut reflects light internally and displays a dazzling shower of light back through the top of the stone. A poorly cut diamond will leak light out of the bottom and sides, as illustrated below. Symmetry is another important factor in the brilliance and beauty of a diamond. A diamond is like a small house of mirrors. If the facets are lined up properly, the diamond returns more light to the viewer’s eye. Finally, a diamond that is well Polished will reflect more light and sparkle from the surface to the viewer’s eye. Cut, Symmetry and Polish are rated on your diamond certificate from Poor to Excellent.
Light enters and leaks out of the bottom Light enters and returns to the viewer’s eye
Fast Fact: The measurements listed on your diamond grading report also give an indication of how brilliant your diamond will be. The formula for cutting a diamond of ideal proportions was written in 1919 by Marcel Tolkowsky. Although it is rather complex, you can find the information by searching his name from within any popular internet search site.
How to Compare Diamond Carat Weight:
About Diamond Value
All diamond rings look bright and sparkling when worn on a woman's hand. And women love to wear diamonds. So don't be too concerned if your budget allows only a lower quality diamond. And, let's face it: for the same price, some women would prefer a larger diamond of lower quality over a smaller diamond of higher quality.
How to Choose the Best Diamond Value:
While choosing a diamond is a matter of opinion, we have our preferences. For the price, larger is better as long as the diamond does not fall below your expectations for brilliance and beauty, which are determined by the Cut, Symmetry, Polish, Clarity and Color ratings.
The images below show a range of diamond qualities viewed under a microscope.
This is an F color VS1 clarity diamond with an "Excellent" Cut and Symmetry. It has no flaws visible to the naked eye. It will display a shower of fire, scintillation and brightness when moved under a source of light. Nearly all of the light entering the diamond is reflected back to the viewer's eye through the table and crown of this diamond.
This is a G color I1 clarity diamond with a "Very Good" Cut and "Excellent" Symmetry. It has a flaw (near the top) that would be visible to the naked eye. However, a diamond like this can be a very good value for the price and the G Color is virtually indistinguishable from the highest color (D) after the diamond is mounted.
This is a G color I2 clarity diamond with a "Good" Cut. It has several flaws and it looks a little dark overall, but there is plenty of light reflecting through the table, and it will show flashes of fire and scintillation when it is moved under a light source.
This is a J color I3 clarity diamond with a "Fair" Cut. It looks opaque because there is very little light reflecting through the table. This is a result of both a shallow Cut and several cloudy flaws inside the stone. Stones like this can look fairly dull.
Guidelines for Making your Diamond Selection:
For those on a budget, we would recommend a diamond with a Good Cut and Symmetry rating, a Clarity rating of I1, and a Color rating of I-J. The Cut and Symmetry rating have the greatest effect on the brilliance of a diamond. While a Clarity rating of I1 means that the diamond has a flaw visible to the naked eye, it may not detract from the overall beauty, especially if the flaw is near the outer edge of the stone and could perhaps be hidden under a prong. The Color rating does not affect the brilliance of a diamond, so we’ve chosen to compromise a little more on this attribute in order to lower the cost.
For those seeking an exceptional diamond, we would recommend an Excellent Cut and Symmetry rating, a Clarity rating of VS1 or better, and a Color rating of G or better. The Excellent Cut and Symmetry will return an extraordinary shower of fire, scintillation and brilliance to the viewer’s eye. A Clarity rating of SI or better is "eye clean", meaning that no flaws are visible with the naked eye. A Color rating of G or better is nearly impossible to distinguish from the more costly D Color after the diamond is mounted.
Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Diamond Certification
The Gemological Institute of America has distinguished itself internationally as the preeminent source of gemological knowledge and professionalism. By extension, the GIA Diamond Grading Report and the GIA Diamond Dossier are considered the world's premier gemological credentials. Diamonds of all shapes and sizes are sent to the Institute from every corner of the globe for analysis and grading.
American Gemological Society (AGS) Diamond Certificate
The AGS Laboratories have provided modern diamond grading services to the jewelry industry since 1996. The AGS continues to provide these services while adhering to their own stringent consumer protection ethics and standards. Consumers benefit from AGSL documents because they are empowered with detailed information about their diamond, and can rest assured that the report is the industry's most thorough and consistent.
Gemological Science International (GSI) Diamond Certificate
Gemological Science International (GSI) is an independent commercial gemological laboratory. They combine state-of-the-art technology with deep professional expertise. GSI has facilities in the United States, India, Israel, Belgium and Botswana. From New York City to Antwerp and Mumbai, GSI works in close proximity to their clients in jewelry manufacturing, fabrication and distribution. GSI’s goal is to make gem lab services as reliable and convenient as possible for leading companies in the gem and jewelry trade.
Hoge Raad Voor Diamant (HRD) Diamond Certification
The Hoge Raad Voor Diamant (The Diamond High Council), best known as the HRD, is the officially recognized representative of Belgium’s diamond trade and industry. The HRD headquarters are located in Antwerp and in the World Diamond Center, a private foundation which represents the Antwerp diamond industry worldwide. HRD Antwerp has been serving the international diamond industry for more than 30 years. HRD Antwerp stands for quality, tradition and the highest industry standards.
EGL USA (EGL) Diamond Certification
EGL USA has more than 20 years experience in grading diamonds and places an exceptionally high premium on judgment, competence and experience. EGL USA's reputation and acceptance of its certificates means you can buy diamonds with greater confidence. EGL has always been in the forefront of innovation, particularly when it comes to its certificates. The diamond certificate records all the relevant information pertaining to the diamond, including carat weight, color grade, clarity grade, measurements and physical properties as well as plotting diagrams.
International Gemological Institute (IGI) Diamond Certification
International Gemological Institute (IGI) Diamond Reports give an accurate assessment of a diamond's cut, color, clarity and carat weight according to strict inter- national standards. IGI Diamond Reports are issued for diamonds of any size. A graphic representation of a diamond’s proportions and a plotted diagram of its characteristics appear on many of our documents. IGI Diamond Reports have a variety of formats and presentations, customized to serve a wide range of consumer demand in our different worldwide markets. Regardless of format, every IGI Diamond Report is issued according to the strict international standards and security features for which IGI is known.
GemEx is the global leader in diamond brilliance, fire and sparkle certification. By using GemEx when buying a diamond, you can select a diamond with superior brilliance, fire and sparkle. The bar graphs on each GemEx certificate show the diamond’s rating compared to all other diamonds of the same shape. GemEx set the scales for each diamond shape by measuring tens of thousands of diamonds to determine the range of brilliance, fire and sparkle possible. These measurements show how the diamond will look when it is worn. What makes a diamond show its brilliance, fire and sparkle is the way the diamond plays with light. This is measured by moving the diamond or the light. The higher the GemEx ratings, the more brilliance, fire and sparkle for that diamond. GemEx ensures accuracy in its certification by measuring the diamond at multiple light positions.
Diamond Sizes and Shapes