Skip to content
Click here to Get Started on your Engagement Ring

The 4 C'S of Diamonds

Understanding the 4Cs: The Ultimate Diamond Guide

Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat Weight are the 4cs of Diamonds!

After stalking your partner's Pinterest boards and harassing friends and family, you've finally pegged the perfect ring design for your future spouse. Or, maybe you two tag teamed the ideal engagement jewel together! Either way, next up comes conquering the famed engagement ring 4Cs and determining how you can manipulate each component to get the most bling for your buck when purchasing a diamond engagement ring. The 4Cs stand for color, clarity, carat weight, and cut, and they make up a grading system that determines the quality and price of a diamond.

To make your diamond shopping more enjoyable, we broke down the specifics of the engagement ring 4Cs in no particular order, along with helpful tips on how to make the most of each component financially.

Photo by Elizabeth Cooney

Diamond colors fall under a D-Z scale, with D meaning completely colorless (and the most expensive), and Z having a light yellow color. According to current diamond value system, diamond quality falls within the D-J color grade. The shape of the diamond also influences its spot on the color scale. A round brilliant diamond, for example, hides color incredibly well, meaning you can go further down the scale without seeing any yellowing. However, longer diamond shapes, like oval and radiant, reveal color much easier. Keep in mind, though, diamond color is essentially personal preference and doesn't indicate quality whatsoever.

With round, emerald and Asscher cuts, you can typically go as low as a J grade without seeing any incredibly noticeable color. On the other hand, cuts such as oval, cushion,  radiant, pear, princess, marquise, and heart require quality a bit higher on the scale (G and up) so as not to see any color.


Photo by Elizabeth Cooney

This C involves the number of natural imperfections ,or clarity characteristics, present in the diamond, and whether you can see them with the unaided eye. The GIA grading scale rates diamonds from Flawless (FL) to Included (I). However, a stone doesn't have to be at the very top of the scale—Flawless or Very Very Slightly Included (VVS)—to look perfect and inclusion-free. It's all about how eye-clean the diamond appears, and Mills says this is what usually surprises people most when viewing diamonds in person. In fact, if an SI1 (Slightly Included) clarity diamond appears perfectly eye-clean, there is no visible difference between a VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included) clarity stone of the exact same carat, color, and cut—minus about tens of thousands of dollars.

To get the most out of your diamond for less, finding a balance between color and clarity is key. While that balance varies by diamond shape, you can save money without sacrificing quality by staying on the high end of the color scale, but the lower end of the clarity scale, as long as there are no visible inclusions.



Photo by Elizabeth Cooney

Cut is the only diamond component not influenced by nature, and many gemologists considers this the most important of the 4Cs. This factor refers to the quality of the diamond's cut, not the shape or size (although these can be interchangeable), and how well the stone is faceted, proportioned, and polished. This also determines how the diamond interacts with light. Brilliance, which is the diamond's ability to return light to the eye, is measured solely by the stone's cut (color and clarity have no impact). 

For any diamond shape, visually, cut is the first C to consider, followed by color, and, least as important, clarity (as long as the diamond has no visible imperfections). Per the GIA system, diamond cuts are graded as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. Cut grade doesn't influence the price as much as the other Cs, so we suggest always sticking within the Excellent to Very Good range for a well-cut stone that works best with light. "Any range of color and eye-clean clarity will be beautiful and super bright if the diamond is well cut," he says.



Photo by Elizabeth Cooney

Last but not least, carat refers to a measurement of the actual weight of the diamond. According to the Gemological Institute of America(GIA), one carat converts to 0.2 grams, which is essentially the same weight as a paper clip. Naturally, the larger the carat, the more expensive the diamond. Because no two diamonds are completely identical, carat should be viewed as a guideline, since it only determines the weight of the stone as opposed to the actual size. The shape of the stone affects the perception of size greatly.

A diamond carat is divided into 100 points, meaning a 50-point diamond weighs 0.50 carats. However, a stone with a certain weight may actually look larger than the carat suggests due to its dimensions (measured in millimeters). For example, you could potentially find a diamond that weighs 2.00 carats but appears closer to a 2.20 carat stone. Essentially, you're buying a stone that looks larger without the extra cost associated with a higher weight.