One of the most basic facts about a diamond is that it is a mineral created by Nature. It formed around 100 miles beneath Earth’s surface, under conditions of immense heat and pressure. It was carried to the surface by volcanic eruption of awesome power. All of this occurred millions – and in some cases, billions – of years ago.
Diamond is almost pure carbon, and the arrangement of atoms within a diamond crystal is almost perfectly symmetrical. This combination of chemistry and structure is the inner source of a diamond’s beauty, durability, and other remarkable characteristics.
The exact conditions surrounding diamond’s formation are also critical to the nature of the mineral as we see it. Only about 20% of diamonds are gem quality. The rest are used for industrial or technical purposes – as abrasives, for example. Slight variations in chemistry, structure, or the conditions of formation determine whether a diamond becomes a dazzling gem or a functional drill bit.
Because of these complex variables, every diamond is truly unique. At the same time, all diamonds share certain types of distinguishing features. Four of these are primary factors in determining diamond value. They’re Known as the 4Cs: – Carat Weight – Clarity – Colour – Cut.
Cut and Proportions
A diamond in its natural, uncut state is described as a “rough diamond”. Its natural appearance so resembles a glass pebble that most people would pass it by without a second glance. It is the skill of the diamond cutter that unlocks the brilliance for which diamonds are renowned. If two identical diamonds are placed side by side and one is less brilliant and fiery than the other, the fault lies in the cutting.
Such a stone cannot demand as high a price as a well-cut diamond. It is important to distinguish between cut and shape. Some of the more popular shapes of diamonds include Round Brilliant, Oval, Marquise, Pear, Heart and Emerald. Within each of these shapes, however, it is the cut that determines the quality of the stone.
A diamond’s colour is one of the most important factors in determining its value. The nearer a white diamond is to being absolutely colourless, the more rare and valuable it is. The graduations in colour are so subtle that intricate international grading scales have been devised. Diamonds are graded into categories defined by letters. Colours range from exceptional whites (categories D, E and F) to tinted colours (categories M to Z). The best way to pinpoint a diamond’s true colour is to place it next to another diamond that has previously been graded. There are also fancy coloured diamonds (PINK, CHAMPAGNE, GREEN , BLUE , YELLOW ) which are graded according to their intensity of colour, not lack of it.
During the formation of a diamond it is possible for minute particles of non-crystallised carbon or non-diamond crystals to be caught within the diamond. These imperfections are called inclusions and provide each individual diamond with unique characteristics. Inclusions may not always be visible to the naked eye; but if they are large enough they will interfere with the passage of the light through the diamond.
Therefore the fewer inclusions a diamond has, the more valuable it is. Like colour, clarity is also categorised using international grading scales. The categories of clarity are based upon the number, size and position of the inclusions within the diamond. Gradings range from flawless, and internally flawless, through very small and small inclusions, to imperfect.
A carat is the unit of measure used to determine the weight of a diamond. The term “carat” is derived from the original method of using carob tree seeds to weigh diamonds. One seed from this tree was equivalent to one carat. The actual weight of one carat is now established at 0.2 grams. To assist in accurately describing the weight of diamonds each carat is divided into 100 points. Diamonds of less than one carat in weight are known as “pointers”. For example, a 0.15 carat diamond would be called a “15 pointer”.
Diamonds are usually weighed prior to setting for more accurate measurements. Diamonds are priced per carat, according to their size and quality. Although the carat weight of a diamond is indicative of its size, it is not necessarily indicative of a diamond’s quality. Therefore, where two diamonds have the same carat weight, the one of better quality will command a higher price per carat.