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Diamond Grading: The 4 C's

The 4 C's, when referring to diamond value, are color, clarity, carat weight and cut. All four factors are equally important in determining the final cost of a diamond. The criteria for diamond grading, most respected internationally, was developed by the Gemological Institute of America (the G.I.A.). The terminology and systems described on this page, are those of the G.I.A.

Following, is an explanation of these terms.


The color of a diamond refers to the relative amount of yellow, brown or gray body color that a stone possesses. The G.I.A. scale starts at "D" and goes through "Z", with "D" being void of any body color, and "Z" having a light yellow, brown or gray color.

Diamond Color Scale

With actual stones, the color difference would appear like this:

Diamond Color Illustrated


Practically all diamonds contain naturally occurring internal characteristics called inclusions. The size, nature, location and amount of inclusions determine a stone's clarity grade and affect its cost. Clarity is determined using 10X magnification. By definition, if something is not visible at 10X, it does not effect the clarity.

Flawless VVS1 VVS2 VS1 VS2 SI1 SI2 I1 I2 I3
Flawless/Internally Flawless= No inclusions visible, by an expert at 10X magnification
VVS1-VVS2= Very, Very slight inclusions very difficult for an expert to find under 10X
VS1-VS2= Very slight inclusions difficult for an expert to find under 10X
SI1-SI2= Noticeable, relatively easy to find under 10X. Not visible w/o magnification in a face-up direction.
I1-I3= Obvious under 10X, may be visible to the unaided eye, I3's inclusions may effect the stone's durability.

diamond clarity

Carat Weight

Carat is a unit of weight, not size. There are 5 carats in a gram. The weight of a diamond is measured in carats. A carat is divided into 100 parts, called points.

1   carat =1.00 carat=100points
1/2 carat= 0.50 carat= 50 points
1/4 carat=0.25 carat= 25 points


At the turn of the last century, it was mathematically determined, what the optimal proportions for a diamond should be to assure maximum brilliance and dispersion. Those proportions are as follows:

tolkein diamond cut

The quality of a diamond's cut makes all the difference in how the stone appears. A poorly cut "D", Flawless stone, can look dead and lifeless, whereas an ideally proportioned diamond of much lower color and clarity will appear radiant and dazzling. So, why aren't all diamonds ideally proportioned? The answer is quite simple. Diamonds are sold by weight. Stones cut to ideal proportions waste more of the diamond crystal, therefore weigh less than stones that are cut to maximize weight.

Here are examples:

ideal diamond cut

The diamond below will weigh more because of the shallow crown, and exaggerated table size. Not to mention, that another diamond of shallow proportions could be cut from the remaining crystal.

shallow cut diamond