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What to Look For When Buying A Diamond

GIA 4Cs GIA's 4Cs is the gold standard when it comes to rating diamonds.

The 4 C’S. Cut – Color- Clarity - Carat

No, this is not a new boy band. It is the universal scale created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the 1940’s. Before that, diamond sellers had their own unique rating systems. No two were alike, and the consumer had to trust the seller. You can imagine just how confusing that would have been. With the creation of the 4 C’s, buyers were able to choose what diamond quality is important to them and decide if the stone and the price was justified. It also helped take out any guessing one may have on the quality of a diamond.


The cut of the diamond is said to be the most important. There are 58 cuts in a traditional round brilliant cut, so there are basically 58 times that the cutter can make a mistake. Stones can be cut too shallow or too deep which will have an impact on the brilliance and sparkle of the stone. A poorly cut stone will not reflect the light as well as a stone which is cut and rated as excellent. Note, size does not matter on the rating of the cut. A poorly cut 5 carat diamond can seem flat and lifeless, while a 1 carat diamond which is cut properly can radiate fire. The cut scale ranges from excellent to poor.


When describing the color of a diamond, it seems a little backwards, but the highest rated diamond colors are those that are clear. The GIA started with the letter D for colorless (Why not start with A, you ask? The main reason was color grading has been used since ancient times and those scales used rating that started with A’s or 1’s. In order to make sure that there was no overlapping, they decided to start with a fresh letter – hence the D.) A “D” rated colorless stone is most expensive, however, many times the difference is not visible to the naked eye. That is why it is important the diamond is GIA rated so that you know exactly the color you are receiving from a qualified expert.

At what point does color actually become a “Fancy Color Diamond?

You may have seen the trend of Canary yellow diamonds in many engagement rings. When the color inside the diamond is so strong, then the diamond is no longer considered a tinted, colored white diamond, but rather a full-fledged fancy colored diamond. When you are purchasing a fancy colored diamond, the more vivid the color, the more the diamond is worth. Fancy diamonds come in an array of colors and can be stunning.


I think this is one of the most confusing parts in a diamond rating. Clarity measures the how many internal and external flaws the diamond may have. A flaw which is located internally is termed an ‘inclusion.’ A flaw that is on the outside of the diamond is called a ‘blemish.’ Unless the diamond is grown in a lab, Mother Nature probably left her mark on some part of this stone. There are small cracks, mineral deposits and other things that are a part of this natural stone. While there are diamonds which have been found to be flawless, they are both very rare and expensive. This listing below is what you need to know when you buy a diamond so that you understand what the jeweler is selling you.

  • FL: Flawless - No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
  • IF: Internally Flawless - No inclusions visible under 10x magnification.
  • VVS1 & VVS2: Very, Very Slightly Included - Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
  • VS1 & VS2: Very Slightly Included - Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor.
  • SI1 & SI2: Slightly Included - Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
  • I1, I2, & I3: Included - Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance

Remember, when looking at the clarity rating, the inclusions are reviewed under a microscope 10x more powerful than the naked eye.

Another thing to remember when looking at inclusions is that the type and color of the inclusion will have a dramatic impact on how your diamond looks. Here is a good way example. If you have a VS2 diamond with a black center inclusion and compare it to an SI2 diamond which has a scattered white inclusion off to the side, the SI2 diamond will be visually more appealing. What’s even better, the SI2 will cost considerably less than the VS2.


The carat weight refers to the actual size of the diamond. Each carat is weighed and conveyed in 100 point increments. This allows very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place. Diamonds weighed under one carat, are usually referred to by points. (So a quarter carat diamond could be called a 25 pointer.) Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. A 1.35 carat stone would be described as ‘one point three five carat.’

Don’t Hesitate To Ask

While this may seem like a lot to take in, you have to remember that a GIA certified jeweler can help guide you through all these terms. There are many factors to consider, but remember that each person has their own personal criteria when they buy a diamond. What matters to you may not be important to the next guy.

Want to know more about a diamond you see on Gage Diamonds? Feel free to reach out to a us at engage@gagediamonds.com or by calling 312-624-9052 (M - F, 10am to 6pm CST) and a GIA certified jeweler will be more than happy to help you understand more about your center stone.