What You Need To Know: The 4 Cs of Diamonds

Clarity, color, carat and cut determine the price and quality of your stones

By Terrichele Bradley

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When choosing the diamond for your engagement or wedding ring, consider the four Cs: clarity, color, carat and cut. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed its color and clarity scales in 1953, which have become part of the universal four Cs grading system to evaluate and compare the quality of diamonds, the most popular stones for engagement rings.

4Cs Uses

The combination of clarity, color, carat and cut determines a diamond's quality and value. The larger, more flawless and colorless the diamond is -- combined with an extraordinary cut -- the more costly it will be.


Almost all diamonds contain small imperfections called flaws. Clarity describes the extent that a diamond is free of flaws. The location, size, quantity and type of imperfections go into describing a diamond's clarity.


Color in diamonds is caused by trace amounts of elements that combine with carbon during the diamond's formation. For instance, nitrogen causes yellow coloration and boron causes blue. Color describes how much the stone has been influenced by chemical elements other than carbon. Color may range from colorless to hues of yellow or brown. Fancy pink and blue diamonds are not graded on this color scale.


The carat of a diamond describes the weight of your stone. "Carat" should not be confused with "karat," which is the unit of measurement for pure gold. A diamond's carat is also frequently confused with its dimensions, but carat is the measure of the diamond's weight. Carat influences the price of your stone because smaller diamonds are found in nature much more often than larger diamonds. Diamonds larger than one carat are more rare than stones smaller than a carat.


The cut of the diamond refers to the symmetry, proportions and angles created when transforming a rough diamond to a polished diamond. Cuts include brilliant, step and mixed cuts. All of them come in shapes such as round, princess, emerald and marquise.

About the Author

Terrichele Bradley is a freelance writer with experience in weddings publishing.

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