How to Pick a Diamond

It’s every woman’s dream. A man takes her into a high-end jewelry store and says, “Pick a diamond.” The best advice for this woman is to take the diamond and run. With the way this man throws around money, he’s bound to be broke within the next year as a result!

Sure, we’d all like to be able to go into a jewelry store and spontaneously pick a diamond, but the reality is, diamond buying should be anything but spontaneous. A customer needs to know a great deal about the diamond before making such a big investment. Most of that requires a general knowledge of the 4C’s: carat, cut, and clarity of a diamond. However, even if a diamond gets top grades in all of these categories, it does not necessarily make it the best value.

There are lab-created diamonds that are identical to natural diamonds optically, physically, and chemically, but can cost up to 30% to 40% less and the price difference has nothing to do with the four C’s. Here’s a little bit about how you can use your knowledge of the 4C’s to get the best value on your diamond, and how you can increase it by going with a lab-created diamond. This article will discuss:

  • Natural Diamonds
  • Why GIA Certification is Important
  • Investment Buying Vs. Non- Investment Buying
  • Why Lab-Created Diamonds are the Best Choice
  • Carat Size and Picking a Diamond
  • Color Grade and Picking a Diamond
  • Clarity Grade and Picking a Diamond
  • Cut and Picking a Diamond
  • Shape and Picking a Diamond

Natural Diamonds

At first, there were natural diamonds, and they were good, but not perfect. While the high- pressured/high-temperature conditioned diamonds formed deep in the earth, giving them their unique properties, they also took their toll. By the time diamonds reached the earth’s surface, the chance of them emerging unmarked was impossible.

Jewelers judged these diamonds by exacting standards, known as the 4C’s. The 4C’s were meant to inform the customer about the quality of the diamond so the buyers knew whether or not they were getting a good value for their money. The 4C’s as we know them today are carat, color, clarity, and cut.

Why GIA Certification is Important

GIA Certification is often considered the 5th C in diamond buying. While it doesn’t help determine the quality of the diamond, it does ensure the quality of the grading system itself.

Unfortunately, a lot of deception and inflated grading goes on in the diamond industry. When it comes to grading color and clarity, some laboratories can be anywhere from 1-5 grades off. Although sellers may present an authentic looking certificate, the only thing you should focus on is whether or not it has the name Gemological Institute of America on the top. Without GIA certification, the other 4C’s may not be worth considering at all.

Lab-created diamonds as well as natural diamonds are subject to GIA Certification. While certification may be the fifth C, it’s probably the first one you should look at.

Investment Buying Vs. Non-Investment Buying

If you’re buying a diamond as an investment, you want the diamond to grade highly in all four C’s. The highest quality diamonds will give you the best return on your investment. Knowing the 4C’s (or should we say 5?)  is crucial. You want to make sure your diamond will appraise at top value when you get ready to resell.

If you’re not buying your diamond as an investment piece, your main concern is getting the most for your money. In that case, a knowledge of the 4C’s is crucial as well, you may not be looking for the highest grades. If you like what you see, there are ways to use your knowledge of the 4C’s to buy a lower quality diamond without sacrificing appearance.

Why Lab-Created Diamonds Are the Best Choice

However, if quality as well as price is a concern, lab-created diamonds give you the best of both worlds.

Lab-created diamonds are real diamonds. They are made of real carbon seeds and subject to the same high-pressure/ high-temperature growth conditions as natural diamonds do in the earth, only the conditions occur above the earth’s surface. As a result, the lab-created diamond is identical physically, optically, and chemically to the natural one.

They can be sold at a lower price because they occur more frequently. Natural diamonds are a finite source and their increasing rarity drives up their prices. Carbon is one of the most common substances on the planet.  By using carbon to form the diamonds, lab-created diamonds can be sold less expensively than their natural counterparts.

Additionally, lab-created diamonds don’t have to rely on nature for the rare conditions that need to occur to produce a diamond. In a lab, these conditions can be recreated frequently, which keeps lab-created diamonds at a high supply. As a result, lab-created diamonds can be found for 30%-40% less than organic ones.

Quality is never sacrificed in a lab-created diamond. In fact, most lab-created diamonds are of higher quality than natural ones. Because they are made in a supervised environment, gemologists can control the growth process so only the highest quality of stones are produced.

New technologies can create colorless lab-created diamonds that are indistinguishable from natural diamonds, even by diamond aficionados, and lab-created diamonds also tend to receive higher grades in clarity. If things keep going in this direction, the lab-created diamond is on target to turn the diamond industry on its head.

Until then, diamonds are still a girl’s best friend, and the 4C’s are still the consumer’s best friend. Let’s take a look at each one and see how each of the 4C’s can be used to maximize your value on a diamond.

Carat Size and Picking a Diamond

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about carat size is that it’s based on the surface area of a diamond. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond, not the diameter or area. Hence, what looks like the biggest diamond may not be the one with the most carats, and you’re paying for the carat weight.

One rule of picking a diamond is to buy on face value. Depending on the way the diamond is cut, you may be able to find a 4-carat diamond that looks bigger than a 4.5 carat one or a 5 carat one that looks bigger than a 5.5 carat one. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you buy a shallow cut because the emphasis will be on the face of the diamond instead of the depth.

Another way to get your money’s worth is by knowing the magic numbers. The half carat, three-quarter carat, and one-carat sizes are the sizes with the most significant price jumps. Therefore, while there’s not much visible difference between a 0.99-carat diamond and a one-carat diamond, there may be a very noticeable price difference. If you can deal without the extra 0.1 carats, you can get a good deal on a diamond.

Color Grade and Picking a Diamond

Rubies are red, emeralds are green, amethysts are purple, and diamonds are colorless, right?

Ideally, they are, but unfortunately, not all things in life are ideal. When diamonds form under high-pressure/ high-temperature conditions, all sorts of gases and impurities can sink in causing the diamonds to take on color.

In colorless diamonds, a yellow tint from nitrogen exposure is more the rule than the exception. Almost no diamond is completely colorless and the stronger the amber tint, the less desirable the diamond is considered.

The GIA Diamond Color Scale rates diamonds according to their color on a scale from D-Z. The D to F category represents the colorless category and the most highly prized. Most diamonds don’t meet this exacting standard, but if you’re a savvy diamond buyer, there are ways you can work that to your advantage.

Color distinctions between categories are difficult to spot. That’s why the grading system is in place. It tells consumers exactly how much color is in their diamonds, so they know what they’re paying for. Otherwise, they would probably have no clue, and that’s where the fix is in.

If you go by appearance rather than grading, G and H diamonds are identical to D-F diamonds to the naked eye. If you’re not telling, we’re not either. The bottom line: If you find a G-H you may be finding real value. Only you and your jeweler will know the truth.

I to J diamonds may not be as highly desirable, but they look stunning in a yellow gold setting. The setting of a diamond alters the perception of the color of the diamond. As long as the diamond looks white in relation to the setting, they will appear clear and radiant. In this case, setting trumps color. You can save tons by choosing a diamond with a low color grade and placing it in the right setting.

Clarity Grade and Picking a Diamond

After spending 1-3 billion years in the earth’s mantle where temperatures rise to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, not even Beyonce would emerge flawlessly. When natural diamonds are exposed to these kinds of conditions for such long periods of time, the chance of them coming out without a birthmark is impossible.

Most diamonds contain flaws, internal flaws are known as Inclusions, surface flaws are blemishes. The location size and number of these flaws determine the diamond’s overall clarity rating on the GIA Clarity Grading Scale. The fewer the number of Inclusions the diamond exhibits and the less noticeable they are, the higher the clarity grade of the diamond.

At the top of the diamond clarity grade scale are the IF-Fl rated diamonds. These have no internal or external imperfections. They are extremely rare and priced according. Next comes the Very Slightly and Slightly Included.  These are the ones most commonly found in natural diamonds. The Included or (I) diamonds are the least desirable and are also priced accordingly.

When looking to get the best value on a diamond, it’s the category that the GIA does not use that you should be most concerned with and that’s eye clean. Eye clean refers to a diamond in which no imperfections can be seen with the naked eye. IF (Internally Flawless) to SI (Slightly Included) diamonds all come under that category, which means you can buy a low clarity eye clean diamond that looks identical to a flawless one to the naked eye. If it looks good to you, ask about its clarity grade, it may be lower than you think. If it is, you’ve got yourself a good deal.

Cut and Picking A Diamond

The cut of a diamond is the diamond buyer’s hero. It unleashes the diamond’s sparkle and if that sparkle is intense enough, it can blind you to some of the diamond’s other imperfections.

The GIA Diamond Cut Scale is based on how well the diamond interacts with light. When a diamond displays an even pattern of bright and dark areas, the diamond cut is considered excellent. As the dark areas increase, the grading gets lower. After excellent comes very good, good, fair, and poor.

A diamond’s cut grade is determined by three factors: its brightness, fire, and scintillation. Brightness refers to the white light reflected from a diamond, fire is the scattering of that light to produce colors of the rainbow, and scintillation is the amount of sparkle of jewelry.

Even after the clarity and color ratings are assigned, the final beauty of the diamond is not determined until it’s been cut. In either natural or lab created diamonds, a good cut can put a lower quality diamond over the top.

Shape and Picking A Diamond

Shape may not be one of the 4Cs but it does mean a lot when it comes to picking a diamond. Most obviously because it’s something that can be seen by the naked eye. Diamonds are not graded according to shape, but the diamond’s shape does have an effect on price.

The highest priced and most desired shape of a diamond is round. Round diamonds reflect light the best and round diamonds are known for their extreme radiance. All other diamonds literally pale in comparison.

However, you can save a great deal of money buying a fancy shaped diamond. Fancy shapes. Such as marquise, pear, and oval have the edge over round because they give the diamond an elongated appearance which makes them appear larger. Heart shaped diamonds have the quality of novelty which may draw even more attention than the sparkle of the round diamond. If you’re willing to sacrifice the brilliance of the round diamond, it may be worth a savings of over 25% compared to diamonds of similar quality.

Even if you used the 4C’s to get more value on your diamond, you won’t get the maximum value until you’ve bought a lab-created diamond. No matter how much money you saved by cutting corners on the 4C’s you haven’t gotten your money’s worth until you take an extra 30% to 40% off by buying a lab-created diamond. So, the next time someone tells you to pick a diamond, pick a lab-created one. It’s going to make a world of difference in price without making a difference in quality.

Would you increase your savings on a diamond by choosing a lab created one? Are lab created diamonds the wave of the future or are they too good to be true?

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