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The Four Cs: An Introduction

WHAT IS a diamond worth? How to you know you have a truly precious engagement ring? We all know that size matters (!) — but surely there is more to it than that?

Yes there is.

While size and weight are important, there are three other crucial factors. Jewellers call them the Four Cs: Carat-weight, Clarity, Colour and Cut. (Click on a separate “Little Gem” to read about each of these topics in detail.) A simpler approach is to look for a diamond that is eye-clean and of good colour.

A diamond can be certified, but beware of jewellers handing out impressive-looking documents. Remember: the same diamond can be certified five times. What happens to those extra copies...? So a certificate is not a guarantee of quality. Conversely, a non-certified diamond can be of good quality.

Carat-weight (or simply Carat) is expressed in carats and points: there are a hundred points in a carat. (A paperclip weighs about the same as a 3-carat diamond.)

Clarity is expressed in a scale from FL to I, with FL, or Flawless, being the clearest, and the most free of “inclusions” or blemishes.

Colour is the most widely understood part of the grading system: most people know that the scale is from D to Z, with D being the very rarest and best: pure and clear, with no yellowing.

Cut is an interesting one. Here at CPJ, we love brilliant-cut diamonds, but until about 1920, many engagement-ring diamonds were cut quite differently. They have less sparkle, but some customers think they are more tasteful and restrained.