The Diamond Buyer’s Cheat Sheet: tips, tricks, and traps

 

The Diamond Buyer’s Cheat Sheet: tips, tricks, and traps

Diamonds are forever or so the saying goes and when considering a forever-purchase, it is important to know exactly what to look for. This does not mean that you need to overwhelm yourself with hours of research before choosing the one.  All you need to know is the 4Cs (cut, colour, clarity, and carat) to make an informed choice. Armed with this information, you will be saved from purchasing an overpriced or compromised diamond. 

Let’s Talk the Four C’s 

There is a universal grading system for assessing diamonds. These are the four Cs which will be listed in order of importance. This system means that every diamond has a particular set of characteristics and these characteristics give it value. This universal language means that if your diamond is considered highly valuable in South Africa because of its characteristics, it will also be considered highly valuable in Japan, for example. (This is not to say that the price you would be offered for the diamond would be the same.) Keep in mind that diamonds must be properly graded by GIA, DIA or HRD and will come with a grading certificate. 

1. The queen of the characteristics: Cut

This does not refer to a diamond's shape but to the faceting proportions. The cut is due to the diamond cutter’s abilities. The diamond cutter must ensure that the diamond is cut in such a way that the light enters the diamond is refracted back through the top of the diamond. When the light refracts through the top of a diamond, it results in its sparkle and you want a radiant diamond. This is the most important characteristic as it determines the brilliance of the diamond. If a diamond is cut so it is too deep or too shallow then this will diminish the brilliance and light will be lost through the sides of the diamond. 

Tip: Very Good (VG) or Excellent Cut (EX) is the best and it is not advisable to compromise on this for a bigger diamond with a poor cut. Regardless of clarity and colour, a poor cut will give you a dull diamond and don’t be convinced otherwise. 

Image source: blog.poggenpoel.com

2. Colour

The colour is the second most important factor as this is noticed after the diamond’s shine. Colour refers to if the diamond is colourless or has a brown or yellow tint. The more colourless the diamond, the greater its value. The colour of the diamond is graded from D to Z with D being colourless, and Z having the most tint. One increase in colour grade can drastically increase a diamond’s value. 

Tips: The diamond may appear colourless but might not be. Make sure to check the colour grading on the diamond certificate. If you are looking for the best value for your budget then choose a diamond of near colourless. This will be less expensive but the difference between colourless and near colourless will not be noticeable to the naked eye. 

Colour Grades

 

 

 

 

D

E

 

Colourless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F

G

H

 

Near Colourless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

J

 

Slightly Tinted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K

L

 

Tinted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N

O

 

Lightly Coloured

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P

Q

R

S

T

U

 

Coloured

 

 

V

W

X

Y

Z

 

 

 


3. Clarity 

Diamonds naturally have imperfections and are not flawless, at least not under a strong magnifying glass. These imperfections are known as inclusions (natural imperfections inside the diamond) or blemishes (manmade imperfections on the surface of the diamond due to cutting). “Flawless” diamonds do not have any blemishes when viewed through a jeweler’s 10 power magnifying loupe. The fewer imperfections, the greater the value of the diamond. The clarity is unique to every diamond and is determined by the type, number and size of the imperfections. It is advisable to purchase diamonds where the imperfections are not visible to the naked eye. 

Tips: The way the diamond is cut and the shape can affect its clarity. Princess, round oval, marquise, pear, and heart-shaped diamonds hide imperfections better than other shapes. But, the bigger the diamond, the bigger the inclusions. This means that even if you are purchasing a round diamond, you should look for better clarity with each size increase of the diamond. 

Diamond Clarity Scale:

F (Flawless)

IF (Internally Flawless)

VVS1 – VVS2 (Extremely Slight Inclusions)

VS1 – VS2 (Very Slight Inclusions)

SI1 – SI2 (Slight Inclusions)

I1 – I2 – I3 (Included)


4. Carat Weight

This is the standard measure of the diamond’s weight and not its size. This means that a 2-carat diamond is not twice the size of a 1-carat diamond but twice the weight. 

Don’t be trapped. Bigger is not always better.  A diamond is without value, regardless of carat if it does not have all of the above characteristics. If all the above is present then the size will increase the value as larger carat stones of this nature are rarer than smaller ones. 

Tips: Cut and carat go hand in hand. The diamond must be cut so that the weight of the diamond is not at the bottom with a too deep cut. Rather, the weight of the diamond must be at the top (which is visible) with a broad diameter that is well-facetted. If your budget is limited than purchasing a diamond with a weight slightly below a full or half a carat, such as 1.9 rather than 2 carats, will save you money without a noticeable difference. 

Finally, don’t let the moment cloud your judgment 

You now have all the information to make an informed decision but this may still not prevent buyer’s remorse. A diamond is so much more than a stone. It is imbued with meaning and that’s why people make the purchase. For some it is the symbol of forever in the form of an engagement ring, for others, it’s a reward for achievement, for others it’s a token of gratitude for the one they love and so on. Whether you are buying a diamond for yourself or someone else, this purchase can be an emotional one. Whatever meaning or moment you have attached to your purchase, don’t let it cloud your judgment. You don’t want to leave the shop with something that isn’t exactly your taste or within your budget. Here are two extra things to keep in mind when making your purchase: 

  1. Decide on your budget beforehand and stick to it. Write down your numbers if you need to and take it with you as a reminder. Writing something down makes it real. This can include writing down your minimum spend and your absolute maximum spend. 
  2. Be true to your taste. If you have always been drawn to an oval cut then don’t be pressurised to take another shape because it is in fashion right now. 

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