How to Evaluate Diamonds: Remember the 4 C’s of Diamonds

by David Robb
The GIA Diamond Cut Chart (see above) grades Diamond Cut on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades, depending on diamond shape, signify proportions and angles cut for maximum brilliance and fire.

We have all been there at some point.  The first time we buy a diamond is kind of terrifying.  Am I getting the right clarity, the right color and cut? Am I wasting my money buyer a brighter white diamond or one with higher clarity?  To be candid, every time I buy a diamond, I have to refresh my memory on those 4 C’s of a diamond.  


The Bottom Line

The 4 C’s (Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat) all play a role in a diamond’s beauty, much like the quality of the furniture and fixtures of a house all contribute to the overall beauty of the house.  While most people focus way too much on the Carat (brides and grooms often brag about the Carat), we suggest a high quality Cut above all else.  The Cut greatly affects a diamond’s brilliance and sparkle, allowing the buyer while balancing the Color and Clarity to get the best most for your money. With the right Cut, even an average clarity stone of SI 1 can be stunning.

It is imperative that you find the right balance of diamond characteristics and value using the 4C’s.  Let’s say you have a budget of $5,000. You have three options: You can go with the absolute best quality possible and then you end up with only a ¾ carat diamond. If focus on Carats and ignore 3 of the other 4 C’s, you could up with a much larger 1.5 carat diamond that hardly sparkles and looks muted. Or you can find the right balance and end up with a 1.25carat that is a good balance and still has the unique sparkle and look by virtue of the quality of the Cut.

 For assistance with evaluating the qualities of a diamond in light of the price, feel free to send us a message at


A diamond’s quality is determined by the 4C’s: 

·       Cut: Quality of the angles, proportions, facets, and finishing details.

·       Color: How colorless the diamond is. 

·       Clarity: How clean the diamond is of inclusions and blemishes.

·       Carat: The weight of the diamond.


These four qualities of a diamond are the key components that impact its beauty and structure. The 4C’s interact with each other within the diamond. They dictate how the diamond appears and how high quality it is. As an example, the diamond’s ability to reflect light back to your eyes depends primarily on cut quality but also on color and clarity. 

The four diamond characteristics are graded by professionals on a consistent scale, giving you a tool to evaluate diamonds. By reviewing the 4C’s of a particular diamond, you can better determine if the diamond is of high-quality.

Gradings of the 4 C’s help determine the value of a diamond and indicate its quality. Diamond sellers often set their prices based on grading reports. Knowing the basics of these gradings is helpful when comparing two similar diamonds, but what remains most important is how the diamond appears to the naked eye—and how attractive the diamond is overall. In this sense, having a foundational understanding of the 4 C’s is imperative as a buyer, so that you can avoid spending your budget on a component that will go unnoticed.

Without finding the right balance between the 4cs, you will end up overpaying for certain qualities of a diamond while not spending enough on others. Let’s say you are thinking of purchasing a one carat diamond. If you ignore finding the right balance you can end up with an inexpensive, but less attractive diamond. Or you can think “only the best” and a handsome fortune on an exquisite diamond. But if you follow our recommendations, you can find the perfect balance of quality and value. 


The ‘Cut’ is perhaps the most important aspect of a diamond quality that impacts a diamond’s beauty. Diamond Cut specifically refers to the quality of a diamond’s angles, proportions, symmetrical facets, brilliance, fire, scintillation and finishing details. These factors directly impact a diamond’s ability to sparkle, along with its overall aesthetic appeal.

The GIA Diamond Cut Chart (see above) grades Diamond Cut on the scale of Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. The Ideal and Excellent grades, depending on diamond shape, signify proportions and angles cut for maximum brilliance and fire.  Please note how light reflects and passes through a diamond in the GIA Diamond Cut Chart above.

Even if two diamonds are given the same grade on the diamond cut chart, cuts vary significantly among diamonds and diamond cutters. At times, a cutter may aim for maximum Carat weight, leaving the diamond too deep or too shallow for optimal light reflection. Other times a diamond may be cut to minimize the number of inclusions, improving its Clarity, but forgoing maximum sparkle. Even an Ideal cut diamond may have a yellow tint that is too noticeable and detracts from the gem’s beauty.

More importantly, though, is ensuring Cut is a focal point of your diamond selection. Even a pristine 2 carat diamond with no blemishes or color tinting can be dull if it’s not cut exceptionally well. Cut is the biggest indicator of beauty, and should be made priority over the other C’s.

It’s essential to note that a top-grade designation on the diamond cut chart, such as Excellent, doesn’t necessarily indicate an outstanding diamond cut. Almost 55% of all diamonds sold online are Excellent cuts. Some are stunning, while others are mediocre.

Also, you might have heard about triple ex diamonds (excellent cut, polish and symmetry). A lot of people think that these diamonds are worth the premium some jewelers are charging but the reality is a bit different.

Because Cut is so important to a diamond’s fundamental beauty, it’s crucial to review a diamond’s Cut carefully.


Diamond Color is graded in terms of how white or colorless a diamond is. The industry grades diamonds from D to Z, with D being the most colorless, and Z containing noticeable brown or yellow tint. The diamond color chart below shows how each grade looks next to each other. 

GIA color scale

In most cases, the naked eye cannot tell the difference between two adjacent color graded diamonds, though the price difference may be significant.

Brilliance, or sparkle, is created from the way the diamond is cut. It is not advantageous to purchase a diamond that distracts from this important principal characteristic.

Note: Certain colored diamonds, like the ones we have on our website are valued stones, like a fancy pink, fancy yellow or green diamond. Color grades for these diamonds are distinctly different from traditional “white” diamonds and don’t appear on the diamond color chart.


A Diamond’s Clarity grade evaluates how clean a diamond is from both inclusions and blemishes. Clarity is graded by the industry on the following diamond clarity chart:

·       FL (Flawless)

·       IF (Internally Flawless)

·       VVS1 (Very, Very Slightly Included 1)

·       VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included 2)

·       VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1)

·       VS2 (Very Slightly Included 2)

·       SI1 (Slightly Included 1)

·       SI2 (Slightly Included 2)

·       I1 (Inclusions 1)

·       I2 (Inclusions 2)

Note that each diamond differs slightly. Rather than sticking to a particular grade on the diamond clarity chart, review each diamond to see if you notice imperfections.  Not all imperfections are visible to the naked eye. That’s why it’s important to look at each individual diamond.


Internally Flawless (IF)

Internally Flawless / Flawless – No internal or external imperfections. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare.  Depending on the size, location and darkness of blemishes and inclusions, these imperfections can interfere with light as it passes through the diamond. When this happens, the brilliance and beauty of the diamond is dulled, taking away from the high-quality Cut.

For Clarity, our primary recommendation is to ensure the diamond is eye clean, and that inclusions are not interfering with light reflection.

Review the stone to see if it is eye clean. A certificate will not tell you how a diamond’s blemishes will impact the stone’s appearance and brilliance.


Eye-Cleanliness is Paramount

In our opinion, a consumer’s goal should be to find the cheapest (in regards to clarity; other factors matter as well) “eye-clean” diamond you can find. We use “eye-clean” to describe diamonds that may have inclusions if you look at them with a magnifying glass (or microscope or loupe), but the typical person can’t see the inclusion with their naked eye.



Often when people hear the term “Carat Weight,” they think it refers to the size of the diamond. In actuality, Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, not how large the stone is. A 1 Carat Diamond equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams—and weighs about the same as a quarter of a raisin. Depending on the diamond’s shape and how it is cut, two 1 Carat Diamonds might be quite different in size.

While Carat weight is an element to consider when buying a diamond, the overall appearance and brilliance should carry more importance. For example, a mediocre 1.5 Carat diamond will not shine as brightly—or draw as much attention—as a stunning 1.0 Carat diamond, no matter how much more it weighs. Rather than sticking to a certain number on the diamond carat weight chart, choose a diamond with an Excellent cut or Ideal cut in the shape you desire. 


Each of the 4 C’s contribute to the overall beauty of a diamond and make each stone unique. A Diamond, however, should be viewed as an organic whole. Because the eye has difficulty differentiating one diamond characteristic by itself, such as Clarity or Color, it is important to consider how the 4 C’s impact each other.

Which is the most important of the four C’s?

·       Cut: The most important of all the diamond characteristics as it most readily impacts a diamond’s beauty. Look for high levels of brilliance and fire, and be willing to reduce your spending in other areas like Clarity or Color to ensure an exceptional Cut.

·       Color: The second most important aspect to focus on. A diamond should look white or colorless to the naked eye. Ensure the Color does not distract or interfere with white and colored light reflection.

·       Clarity: The third most important characteristic on the list. Choose a diamond that is eye clean. Blemishes and inclusions should not distract from the brilliance or fire of a diamond.

·       Carat: Last but not least. Consider what is important for you and the one you love, but remember that brilliance and beauty will outshine mere weight each and every time. Be open to lowering your Carat weight to ensure you purchase a stunning diamond.


With these fundamentals in mind, remember that a diamond is a precious whole, and should be looked at in totality. The four main qualities of a diamond all play an important role in how the diamond looks.


If you’re unsure how to evaluate a diamond and want to purchase an exceptional diamond that’s within your budget, send us an email at for assistance. is currently running Valentine’s sale of up to 50% off on some of our jewelry. This a big opportunity to save on Valentine’s Day purchases.