The importance of the 4Cs

At first glance, two diamonds might look very similar, but have very different values. So, which one is worth more? And, how can you tell?

The answer lies in the 4Cs – carat, colour, clarity and cut. Together, the 4Cs form a universal method of describing diamond quality that is understood by everyone in the industry. It’s a transparent way of determining the value of a stone, especially when differences aren’t clear with the naked eye, so you know what you’re buying.

Let’s take a look at the 4Cs to find out more:

  • Diamond carat

Diamond carat refers to a diamond’s weight, not its size, and is often measured in points. 100 points equals 1 carat, which is 0.2 grams.  

  •  Diamond colour

Diamond colour might be called ‘colour’, but it actually refers to the diamond’s lack of colour. The highest grade – D – is considered to be ‘Exc. White +’ (“Exceptionally White +”). The scale goes down, in 23 steps, from D to Z as the diamonds become progressively more yellowish, brownish or greyish.

Most diamonds used in jewellery are ‘rare white’ to ‘slightly tinted white’, rated between G and J on the scale. Beyond grade K, a human eye can detect a yellow tint. Fancy coloured diamonds are valuable due to their rarity. Red, orange and green diamonds are the most expensive, followed by pink, blue and yellow diamonds.

  • Diamond clarity

This covers the microscopic flaws that (almost) all natural diamonds have. Even though these flaws, known as internal and external characteristics, are usually only visible under 10x magnification, diamond cutters try to cut and polish a diamond to hide these flaws or work around them. 

The scale for diamond clarity is:

LC – Loupe clean

VVS1 and VVS2 – Very, very small inclusions

VS1 and VS2 – Very small inclusions

SI1 and SI2 – Small inclusions

P1, P2 and P3 - Piqué

  • Diamond cut

The cut is the largest influence on a diamond’s sparkle. The diamond’s cut is based on three grades – proportions, symmetry and polish – which all have an impact on how your diamond dazzles. Each grade is evaluated separately and given one of four results:

  • Excellent 
  • Very good
  • Good
  • Fair

Diamonds can be cut in many ways, for example to maximise carat weight or minimise internal characteristics (see clarity). However, if it is not cut properly, it will lack sparkle and have a lower result (and value).

Popular diamond cuts include: brilliant, princess, marquise, oval, heart, pear, emerald and cushion.

Diamond certification

The 5th (and unofficial) C, is certification. Diamond certification from a trusted and unbiased expert, like HRD Antwerp, is an easy way to discover exactly what you are buying for peace of mind. And, as it gives an independent summary of your diamond’s quality, the certificate can also be used for your insurance.