Buying a diamond involves a lot of trade-offs, and each person wants something different when it comes to carat, color, clarity, cut, and cost. Taking those five “C’s,” pick 4 and we’ll talk.
Carat weight is easy to understand – the bigger the diamond, the more carat weight it has. For an engagement ring, your woman will look at it several times a day for the rest of her life, some estimate a million views in her lifetime, and let’s face it, size matters. A one carat stone where I come from is basically ridiculously enormous, but the effect shoud be to really pamper communicate that someone is ridiculously special to you.
Color is easy to understand as well. The scale goes from D which is completely colorless and for normal jewelry ranges to about J, which has a noticeable yellow tint when you look at it carefully. Go with something in the GHI color category, because these are colorless to the naked eye, but some color can be seen under magnification. If you don't exect to put your ring under magnification or using special equipment most of the time, this is areasonable trade-off.
Clarity has to do with inclusions. Inclusions is an industry word which simply means natural imperfections in the stone. A stone graded as IF is “Internally Flawless” and has no imperfections. VVS1 is Very Very Slightly Included Level 1, VVS2 is slightly more inclusions, VS1 has more, etc. VS2 is the lowest grade at which you definitely cannot see any inclusions with the naked eye. SI1 is the highest grade at which it is possible to see an inclusion, but it’s definitely visible under 10X magnification. I prefer to choose to shop between VS1 and SI1 for clarity. However, the SI1 end of the scale makes me little nervous, and since that’s where I often end up buying, let me explain why.
The cut is the only human-regulated part of the diamond. A diamond cutter gets a raw diamond stone from the mines and has to figure out how to make a masterpiece out of a chunk of carbon atoms. The important factor in the cut is how the cut affects light return. When you look at your ring, will you see something dull and un-amusing, or will it shock you with its brilliance and sparkle? Thankfully, there is science involved in the cut which helps in locating a well cut stone. You can find information about table percentage, pavilion depth, polish, and symmetry anywhere on the net, but I’d like to share some things which really made a difference to my decision. The crown and pavilion angles are not commonly reported on a diamond, but they have an important impact on the light return of a stone. A picture says 1000 words:
When a diamond cutter decides to go the extra mile, he can create an “Ideal Cut” diamond, with proportions within very exacting limits which should cause the maximum light return possible. When you start shopping for Ideal Cut diamonds, some things become apparent. The discount stores rarely deal in Ideal Cuts. The healthy wealthy stores like Tiffany’s and Co. do not deal in Ideal Cuts. Depending on where you live, local retailers are not dealing in Ideal Cut stones. This leaves the consumer to surf the net and try to find a needle in a haystack of options.Even though there is a bit of a premium on Ideal Cut stones, because they take about twice as long for a diamond cutter to produce as a non-ideal stone, personally, I like to choose to maximize on the cut.
Everyone is working with some type of budget. When you decide what you’re going to spend, and which parts of the other 4 “C’s” equation are important to you, it starts coming down to nickels and dimes. Should I buy a D color, VVS2 clarity, ½ carat stone, or for the same price should I buy an I color, SI1 full 1 carat stone? Each person must answer this question for himself, and that’s why you need the knowledge. There are a few sites on the web that sell diamonds from a list of available diamonds in the country. They don’t carry the stones in stock, and they’re all selling from the same list. These sites include bluenile.com and dirtcheapdiamonds.com. You can find some smokin’ deals on these sites, but there is a very important drawback to consider. Service! There’s a world of difference in buying a stone that has all the mathematical proportions correct from a list, and buying from an experienced jeweler who has the rocks in stock and can provide extremely detailed information on light return, as well as the mathematical proportions. In my shopping experience, I did not find this service with list sellers, I did not find this service with Costco’s wholesale jewelry program, and I did not find it with Tiffany’s and Co. Where I found this level of personal service and support is http://www.ExcelDiamonds.com with Barry (Baruch) Gutwein. Barry takes the time to help you understand the parts of the diamond market that were more confusing to me and make recommendations based on my needs and desires. For each of his SuperbCert branded Super-Ideal Cut diamonds, he takes the time to provide all this information:
GIA grading report MegaScope report BrillianceScope report Actual Hearts and Arrows photo Actual ImageScope photo Actual Inclusion photo Additional diamond photos Many sites will show photos of a “similar” stone, which isn’t what you’re buying! Don’t be fooled by this, be very careful as to what you’re looking at in the picture. Once you finally settle on a stone, make sure you put it into something beautiful. Take time to pay attention to the setting. Tiffany’s and Co. invented the classic diamond solitaire setting that is the epitome of elegant style in engagement rings. The classic knife-edge ring in platinum is very beautiful and does an amazing job of setting the stone in a way to maximize the effect of all that light return. Unfortunately, Tiffany’s sells mandatory blue boxes with each ring, and those blue boxes apparently cost as much to produce as the diamond and setting put together. I found that a frugal shopper could spend about ½ the dollars to get a perfect stone and setting without the blue box. Not all replicas are created equally.