As more and more people shop for diamond wedding rings and diamond engagement rings online, the Four Cs are becoming more and more important. They provide a kind of summary of what to expect from any particular stone, before your ever set eyes on it. If you simply can’t get to a jewelry store, you can use the Four Cs to guide your online purchase, and even if you do plan on going to the store, you can browse their online selection and let them know in advance the particular stones you want to see, which can be an immense time saver. But first, you have to know what the Four Cs actually mean.
- Carat. This is simply the weight of the diamond (one carat equals 200 milligrams). Many people equate carats with the apparent size of a diamond, and while that is true to a certain extent, the cut of a stone can have a significant impact on its weight. Shallowly cut diamonds will weigh less than a deeper cut with the same diameter. Similarly, a round cut will weigh more than a princess cut with the same diagonal measurement.
- Cut. Diamonds can be cut into a wide variety of shapes, but only a few of those shapes stand the test of time when it comes to ideal reflection and sparkle. The round cut is the most popular, with very specific ratios governing the ideal depths, angles, and diameter. Next is the princess cut, or square cut, which provides a distinct visual difference in the internal reflection of the stone, just as the other cuts — emerald, cushion, baguette, marquis, et al — provide their own unique pattern of light and sparkle for engagement and wedding rings.
- Color. This is a rating (on a scale from D down to Z) that describes how “white” a particular diamond is. Diamonds graded D-H are very nearly colorless, while diamond further down the scale will show a slightly straw-colored tinge. The color of a diamond can impact the kind of metal you choose for your wedding ring or engagement ring setting — a “whiter” diamond will be better suited to a platinum or white gold setting, while “yellower” diamonds will coordinate better with rose gold or yellow gold.
- Clarity. No diamond is absolutely flawless, but in some cases, the flaws are not noticeable even under a microscope. Clarity refers to the presence of blemishes or inclusions (outside or inside the stone, respectively), and how visible they are under 10x magnification. Ratings go from “F” (flawless) all the way down to “I” (included). Inclusions can also affect the strength of a diamond, if they occur at points within the crystal structure that could result in fractures.
These characteristics can help you narrow down your search for the right stone for your engagement or wedding ring, but seeing is always believing. If at all possible, look at and hold the stones before you purchase them. A supposedly “better quality” stone, by the ratings, may not capture your interest as much as a “lower quality” stone, for aesthetic reasons that simply can’t be quantified and categorized. More research here.