When shopping for diamond jewelry, considerations of cut, color, clarity and carat weight known as the "4C's" will guide you to a diamonds quality and value.
The 4 C's
More than any other quality, cut determines the fire and brilliance of a diamond. In order to maximize this fire and brilliance, the diamond cutter must place each of the stone's facets and angles in exact geometric relation to one another. On a classic round brilliant-cut diamond, for instance, fifty-seven or fifty-eight facets must be precisely aligned.
Diamonds come in many colors, but the overwhelming majority sold in the jewelry industry range from near colorless to very light yellow or brown. There are even colors called "Fancy colors" such as pinks, blue, yellow, reds and even greens.
The best color in today's market for a diamond (unless a fancy color) is the lack of color. It is the diamond that is totally colorless that allows white light to pass through it, dispersed as rainbows of color.
Most diamonds look colorless, but there are many subtle shade differences and the closer a diamond is to having no color the more valuable it becomes. D though G colors are the most valuable compared to N through Z colors, and the least desirable. During the diamond's formation, in the extreme heat and pressure, traces of elements such as nitrogen and boron could have been incorporated into the diamond's structure. It is these traces that give color or lack of it. The following chart shows the color grading groups broken out by definitions:
Most diamonds contain tiny identifying marks called "inclusions". The fewer and smaller the inclusions, the less likely they will interfere with the stone's beauty. Like a finger print, every diamond is unique. This could be due to minute traces of other minerals trapped in the diamonds during its formation. The number, color, nature, size and position of any inclusion determines the clarity of a diamond.
The fewer the inclusions, the rare it will be graded, and the more light it will reflect, thus making it more valuable. It is rare to find a diamond that has no inclusions, the closer to flawless the diamond is the greater the value. IF through SI encompass 50% of all gem-quality diamonds. The following chart shows the abbreviations and the definitions:
4. Carat Weight
A diamond's weight is the easiest of its characteristics to measure. The word "carat" originates from a natural unit of weight, namely the seed of the "carob" tree. The pods of the carob, or locust tree, contain seeds which are remarkably consistent in weight. These carob seeds were used by the early gem traders to weight their diamonds. Today, the system has been standardized and one carat was fixed at one-fifth of a gram.
A 1 carat diamond used to equal the weight of a carob seed, but today the carat is a metric weight of 0.2 grams, or 1/42 of a standard ounce. Each carat is divided into 100 points.
Example: a quarter carat = 25 points, written 0.25 Ct.
*Bonus: Different Shapes to Consider
In addition to the traditional brilliant round, diamonds come in a number of shapes. Some of the most popular are: Pear, Princess, Heart, Marquise, Emerald and Oval, just to name a few.
GEMSTONES Maurice European Designs Fine Jewelry will not sell synthetic or lab created gemstones. Most natural colored gemstones are treated or enhanced to intensify color, diminish imperfections or improve durability. The following are examples of the most commonly used and accepted treatments for different types of colored gemstones.
The oiling of emeralds is an ancient process used to enhance the clarity of the emerald. Oil is applied to the emerald which seeps into the fissures, which reach the stone's surface. Along with improving the clarity, this process may prevent brittleness. Oiling is not permanent and may need to be reapplied every few years. Take care not to hit the stone on hard surfaces as this may chip or crack the emerald due to the natural brittleness of the stone. Special care should be taken when cleaning emeralds. Like all gemstones, be sure to keep emeralds away from caustic household cleaning chemicals.
RUBIES, SAPPHIRES AND OTHER GEMSTONES
Heating is a widely accepted enhancement process used on rubies, sapphires, amber, aquamarine, amethyst, citrine, tanzanite topaz and tourmaline. This treatment improves the transparency and/or color of the gemstone. Since heating is generally permanent, heated stones do not normally require special care. All gemstones should be kept away from caustic household cleaning chemicals.
A pearl is the product of a partnership between nature and chance. When a foreign object, such as a grain of sand, is trapped in an oyster or mussel, it is coated with layers of a smooth, crystalline substance known as nacre. Over time, this natural process produces the luminescent gem we know as a pearl. Nearly all pearls sold today are cultured. That is to say, each one is created by deliberately inserting an irritant into the oyster's tissue. However, the quality of cultured pearls varies widely. Unlike diamonds, cultured pearls are not rated by an industry-wide grading system. As with diamonds, however, there are specific characteristics that do affect cultured pearl quality.
QUALITIES OF PEARL
More than any other factor, size determines price. Pearl size is the result of the size of the implanted nucleus plus the thickness of the nacre, which grows layer by layer. A large cultured pearl is of little value if it lacks nacre thickness since a thinly coated cultured pearl will crack and discolor. Nacre thickness can be verified only by an expert.
Perfectly round cultured pearls are the rarest. While most cultured pearls are basically round, only about 1% are perfect spheres. To check a strand, roll it on a flat surface. The movement should be even and smooth.
Pearls occur in a spectrum of shades. The major classifications are white, pink, silver, cream, gold and black. Fine cultured pearls will also have a secondary color or "overtone" — usually rose, green or blue — around the outside of the pearl. Traditionally, cultured pearls with pinkish-white or pinkish-silver coloring are the most highly prized. Whatever the color, it should appear to emanate from deep within the cultured pearl.
A small percentage of cultured pearls display rainbow-like colors that appear to move over the surface.
Luster refers to the surface shine that gives cultured pearls their glowing beauty. Stand with your back to the light; the sharper the reflection of light on the cultured pearl, the higher the luster.
Like any product of nature, all cultured pearls have imperfections. However, a quality cultured pearl should be free of large pits or blemishes.
Every pearl is unique. The type of mollusk and natural elements often combine to produce unusual shapes and colors.