How to Buy a Diamond: The 4 C’s

And guys, we’re not talking Corvettes, Cigars, CDs and Courvoisier

Somewhere along the line it happened: Your honey went from being your honey to being THE honey of all honeys. A ring starts to weigh on your mind. But before you toss out all your little black books and get down on bended knee, you have to get a *ring*. Creative types might think they can get away with the ring from the Cracker Jack box, but we can’t guarantee an enthusiastic “yes” from your desired spouse-to-be. Most likely, she’ll be looking for something brilliant and white (but not necessarily, keep reading to the end) — a diamond.

Blame it on the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who started the diamond engagement ring trend way back in 1477 when he presented one to his beloved, Mary of Burgundy. Ever since then, men have been saving up to buy one. Although we’re sure there are a few savvy women out there saving up for a man’s engagement ring, or even thrifty brides-to-be who are chipping in for their own! Anyway, although two month’s salary is a good guideline to use in determining how much to spend, it’s a very personal choice and, after all, love tends to blur one’s guidelines a bit anyway.

There are seven basic shapes to consider when diamond shopping: oval, round, marquise, emerald, pear-shaped, and heart-shaped. Most important, however, is the quality of the stone, and to determine quality you must understand the 4 C’s, which are as follows.

Carat weight: The weight/size of a diamond is measured in carats. One carat is divided into one hundred segments called “points.” As in the decimal system, one hundred and twenty five points equals one and a quarter carats.

Clarity: This is the degree to which a diamond is free of inclusions. Where the inclusions lie, their size, and their type determine the value of the stone. Inclusions are rated as follows:

FL = Flawless


IF = Internally Flawless — minor surface blemishes


VVS1-VVS2 = Very, Very Small inclusions


VS1-VS2 = Very Small Inclusions


SI1-SI2 = Small Inclusions


I1-I2-I3 = Imperfect — inclusions visible to the eye

Slight inclusions, although they reduce the value of a diamond, do not take anything away from its beauty.

Color: This is another aspect where scarcity determines value. Colorless diamonds are extremely scarce in nature. Gradations from high white to beginning yellows are not easily perceptible to an unpracticed eye. The exceptions to high value equaling colorless stones lie in the bright-colored diamonds, i.e., amber, red, blue, etc.These diamonds, in the larger sizes, command enormous prices and are quickly snatched up by collectors worldwide.

Cut: Today the art of diamond cutting has been refined to precise mathematical formulae. Most diamonds are cut with 58 facets. A good cut is determined by the stone’s light-reflecting properties and its light dispersion. The cut you finally choose, however, is a matter of personal taste.

Your sweetie’s not the diamond type? Why not consider a different gemstone? Although colored gemstone engagement and wedding rings are unusual in the U.S. today, they are the traditional choice for wedding and engagement jewelry for the royal families of Europe:

Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson both received colored gemstone engagement rings. Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds have been treasured for thousands of years, longer than any other gemstones. This venerable tradition has been revived and is now the strongest new trend in bridal jewelry. A growing number of famous women today — including Ivana Trump, Kirstie Alley, and Jane Fonda — are wearing engagement rings featuring colored gemstones instead of diamonds. Sapphire is the most popular choice for a colored gemstone engagement ring, followed by ruby and emerald.

Gemstones also have specific meanings (besides your eternal love for her, of course):

Sincerity: Sapphire A gift of this gem says you’re not just kidding around.

Electricity: Tourmaline Squeeze this gem and it gives off electricity. Give it and create sparks.

Passion: Ruby The ancients believed this gem contained an unquenchable fire.

Marital Harmony: Aquamarine Say you’re sorry, give her this gem and promise that it will never, ever, happen again.

Fertility: Emerald This gemstone may not help create quintuplets, but twins aren’t out of the question.

Love: Emerald The gem of Venus says love lot more persuasively than a dozen roses.

Hope: Opal Show your faith that things will work out. Now all you have to do is figure out her ring size…


by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®


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