It doesn’t matter if it’s for an anniversary, engagement or for no event at all—buying a diamond can be traumatic. For something that comes out of the ground, there sure are a lot of things to know before you can buy a diamond with confidence! You can simplify the diamond buying experience if you have a firm budget and do your homework in advance.
The most important characteristics of diamonds are known as the four “Cs”: cut, clarity, color and carat. Cut refers to the shape of the diamond. Clarity refers to the level of flaws in the stone. Color refers to the purity of the diamond's color. Carat refers to the weight of the stone.
Buy with a clear conscience���purchase only “conflict free” diamonds certified to be mined in areas free from violence, human rights abuses, child labor or environmental destruction.
The only way to be sure of a diamond's quality is to buy one that comes with a certificate of authenticity from the Gemological Institute of America or other accredited agency.
For a confident buying experience, only deal with online merchants who sell certified stones, have ironclad return policies and will ship merchandise via an insured carrier.
Lab created diamonds (typically called HPHT or CVD diamonds) are made with technology that simulates the natural diamond formation process���creating stones that are virtually identical to the real thing.
Diamonds may be sold in many styles of jewelry including watches, rings, necklaces and earrings. Diamonds may also be sold “loose,” which means the stone is sold by itself without a setting.
Popular brands of diamond jewelry include pieces by David Yurman and Roberto Coin. Many companies including Bulova, Scala and Movado sell diamond watches.
Diamonds may be paired or set in many materials. White and yellow gold are popular choices, while sterling silver can be an inexpensive alternative. Exotic metals like platinum and titanium are also used to create unique diamond settings.
Diamonds come in a number of different shapes and configurations designed to bring out the shine and sparkle of these magnificent gems. Pave diamond settings feature small diamonds set close together.
Diamonds are also often paired with other stones. While sapphires and topaz stones are popular diamond companions, rubies, emeralds and even pearls can also help diamonds shine.
Created underground by tremendous heat and pressure, diamonds are composed of almost pure carbon arranged in a cubic matrix. The strength and beauty of diamonds have made them one of the most sought after gemstones in all of history.
In order to comfortably invest in the substantial cost of a diamond, you need to arm yourself with knowledge. Knowing what to look for will help you buy the most diamond for your money.
The characteristics of a diamond that are most important are called the four “Cs”. These characteristics are used to grade and price diamonds���knowing your way around the four “Cs” will help you buy a quality stone without getting ripped off. Here’s what to look for.
Cut. Although diamonds come in many shapes, it is the shape of the bottom of the diamond that has the most effect on its brilliance. This lower cut is responsible for reflecting light back to the viewer. A well-cut diamond—the best cuts are called “ideal” or “fine” cuts—will reflect back the most light. Cuts that are too shallow or too deep will allow light to leak away under the diamond.
Color. Ironically, the color of a diamond is actually measured by its lack of color. The clearest diamonds allow the most light to pass through them and are thus valued the highest. Color ranges alphabetically from D (the most colorless) to Z (visibly yellow). To add more irony, actual colored diamonds—such as blue, green or deep yellow—are extremely rare and worth more than colorless diamonds.
Clarity. Most diamonds have some flaws—they are natural creations, remember. Flaws may be on the surface (called blemishes) or internal (called inclusions). It is the amount or visibility of the flaws that determine a diamond's value. The clarity scale goes from the extremely rare “F” (flawless) up to “SI.” These ratings are for flaws that can be observed under magnification. “I” flaws are noticeable to the naked eye and should be avoided.
Carat. The weight of a diamond is determined by a carat. One carat is 200 milligrams. Diamonds that are a fraction of a carat often have their weight referred to as “points.” There are 100 points to a carat. A piece of jewelry that is made up of multiple diamonds will have the weight listed as “TDW” which stands for Total Diamond Weight.
The only way for a non-expert to be sure of the value of a diamond is to purchase one that is certified. Diamonds are certified by members of several gemological societies who will issue a printed document that list the characteristics of an individual diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), The International Gemological Institute (IGI) and The American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL) are three popular diamond certification groups.
There are several alternatives to natural diamonds available. Some of the more popular diamond alternatives include:
Lab created diamonds. Various methods exist that use technology to simulate the natural forces that simulate diamonds. Exposing carbon “seeds” to tremendous heat and pressure creates High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) diamonds. Layering a mixture of carbon, hydrogen and methane gases to build the diamond up from a small kernel creates Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) diamonds.
Moissanite. This naturally occurring mineral, made from silicon carbide, looks and performs like diamond. It is a much closer replica than other alternatives and can cost significantly more.
Cubic Zirconia. This long-time diamond alternative can be inexpensive, but many people (including non-jewelers) can often spot this simulated diamond.
“Enhanced” diamonds. Some natural diamonds have been enhanced to fill inclusions or to add extra color. Although these enhancements don't alter the overall structure of the diamond, a reputable dealer will clearly mark the diamond as enhanced.