Marilyn Monroe once said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” History is a testament to that fact.
Diamonds have passed through the hands of many emperors and rulers as their most prized possessions. A walk through the displays of the world’s most famous diamonds at places like the Tower of London in England, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC or the Louvre in France leaves thousands of spectators in sheer awe and amazement every day.
After gold, diamonds are the most valued material on earth. The Gemological Institute of America (the G.I.A.) has developed a system to grade diamonds after a thorough and independent evaluation. Today, that grading system is internationally used and respected to distinguish and price diamonds.
Diamond Grading: The 4 C’s
The 4 C’s of the G.I.A. are carat, clarity, cut and color.
Carats are a unit of weight used to measure the size of diamonds. The term carat is derived from the carob seed, the original unit of measure for diamond traders. As the number of carats in a diamond increases, the price increases at an increasingly higher rate.
In one gram there are 5 carats. A carat can be further be subdivided into 100 parts called points.
Clarity is a measure of the number and size of the tiny imperfections that occur in almost all diamonds. Natural imperfections which occur in diamonds – some even microscopic – are known as clarity. Diamonds with the least amount of imperfections receive the highest grade of clarity.
Starting in decreasing order of the highest clarity, the categories of clarity are:
- Flawless, Internally Flawless (FL, IF): no external or internal imperfections.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2): Imperfections present are seen with difficulty under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2): Imperfections cannot be typically be seen to the naked eye.
- Slightly Included (SI1, SI2): Imperfections can be seen under 10x magnification, and may be visible to the naked eye.
- Included (I1, I2, I3): Diamonds have minor inclusions that can be seen without magnification.
The beauty of a diamond is derived from its cut. Among the 4 C’s, no other characteristic has a higher influence on the appearance of a diamond than the cut. The grade of a diamond’s cut is a measure of its light performance. With a good cut with the right proportions, the light is returned out of the top of the diamond and such diamonds sell at a premium. If the cut is too shallow or too deep, the light leaks out from the bottom or sides and is sold at a discounted rate. The “cut” can also refer to the style and shape of the stone. Certain diamond cuts are round, pear, emerald, radiant, marquise, heart, baguette, oval, cushion and princess. They are referred to in the style of, for example, “princess cut diamond” or “pear cut diamond”.
Cut grades for diamonds according to the GIA are as follow:
- Excellent: Reflects nearly all of the light that comes in, giving the diamond an exceptional sparkle.
- Very Good: Under normal lighting, it appears similar to the excellent cut but has a lower price. The cut properly reflects light within the stone.
- Good: A majority of the light is reflected creating an above average appearance.
- Fair: Much of the light escapes from the bottom or side. This usually happens in diamonds of less than 0.75 carats, as the sparkle is not quite discernible.
- Poor: Most of the light leaves the diamond and it appears dull or lifeless to even the untrained eye.
The ideal and most expensive diamonds are colorless, yet fancy colors like blue, pink or red hold records for the most expensive diamonds in the world.
- White Diamonds
White diamonds are the most popular and widely-known diamonds in the world. Most prominently featured on wedding or engagement rings, these type of diamonds are more commonly seen. The highest valued white diamonds in the world are from the Argyle Diamond Mine in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.
- Pink Diamonds
Anybody who’s watched the Pink Panther knows that the pink diamond is one of the rarest and most expensive kind of diamonds. Only 1% of all diamonds in the world have a pink color, and 95% of them come from the Argyle mines. The color of Pink is popular for romantic gifts as it symbolizes love, fun, beauty and romance.
The Pink Star (formerly known as the Steinmetz Pink) is one of the most sought after diamonds in the world weighing 59.60 carats. In 2013, it was sold for $83,187,381 at a Sotheby’s auction.
- Champagne Diamonds
Champagne diamonds are naturally colored diamonds and are found in a wide range of colors from straw to rich cognac. They are typically light brown with shades of yellow as a secondary color. In recent years, champagne diamonds are increasingly gaining attention from collectors and investors. The recent trend is perhaps largely due to A-listers and celebrities embracing champagne diamonds as jewelry and weaving it into their outfits at high key events.
- Pink Champagne Diamonds
Champagne diamonds with a secondary colour of pink fetch a higher price per carat as compared to typical champagne diamonds. Three different shades of Pink Champagne Diamonds range from light, medium to dark pink.
- Yellow Diamonds
Also known as Canary Diamonds, yellow diamonds are the most common form of coloured diamonds. Its beautiful shine and affordable prices have helped garner immense popularity for the yellow stone. Found in a range of colours, the most intense form of yellow can be mostly found in South African mines.
- Blue Diamonds
Blue diamonds are so rare that many jewellers worldwide have never laid eyes on them. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the Hope Diamond housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. The 45.52 carat diamond is priced at an estimated $350 million and is said to carry a curse of misfortune on its history of owners. The primary source of blue diamonds is inarguably the Cullinan Mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
- Green Diamonds
The green colour in green diamonds is mostly due to radioactive exposure. When these diamonds are furnished, the green colour tends to go away because the penetration of the green colour is not very deep.
- Orange Diamonds
One of the most cherished coloured diamonds is the orange diamond. Anytime an orange diamond is discovered or offered in an auction, a substantial hype is created from collectors worldwide. The Gemological Institute of America rarely ever finds a stone worthy to graded pure orange.
- Purple Diamonds
Usually associated with royalty, purple diamonds are rarely ever found in pure colour. They are often formed with secondary colours of pink or brown. Like their pink brothers, purple diamonds are used for romantic notions but have an added element of mystery.
- Grey Diamonds
Since grey diamonds are often confused with colourless diamonds, this type of diamonds are relatively unknown. Despite the fact that they are ultra-rare – even more so than pink or yellow – they are priced at the lower range of fancy coloured diamonds. They are considered classy and give off a dignified and sophisticated look.
Types of Diamonds
Diamonds are classified into two types– Type I & II – depending on the presence or absence of nitrogen impurities. They are further subdivided according to the structure of nitrogen arrangement. Different types can coexist in one diamond. However, green diamonds do not fall in any type as their colour is the result of radioactive exposure and not impurities.
Type I diamonds contain nitrogen atoms as their main impurity and are the most common of naturally found diamonds. They are primary of two types:
- Type Ia
These are the most common type of diamonds, accounting for almost 98% of all natural diamonds. The absorption spectrum of these kinds of diamonds absorb blue light giving it an almost colourless or yellow appearance. The nitrogen impurities are relatively widespread and are up to 0.03% (3000 ppm). They are further categorized as 2 types: Type IaB (nitrogen atoms are in pairs) and Type IaB (nitrogen atoms are in large even-numbered aggregates).
- Type Ib
These diamonds absorb green and blue light, giving off an intense yellow or brown colour. The Canary Diamonds are of this type. Type Ib diamonds contain up to 0.05% of nitrogen and the impurities are more diffuse.
Type II diamonds do not have any measurable nitrogen impurities. The uncut crystals tend to be found in large and irregular shapes. They too are of two types:
- Type IIa
These kind of diamonds make up for 1-2% of all natural diamonds and are usually colourless. Many large and famous diamonds like the Cullinan and the Koh-i-Noor are Type IIa diamonds.
- Type IIb
Accounting for 0.1% of all natural diamonds, Type IIb diamonds are the most rarest and valuable of all natural diamonds. They are light blue or grey in colour.
Know you understand the varieties and qualities diamonds can possess. We typically use round brilliant diamonds of the highest quality in our designs.