The Vivid White Diamond®

When defining sparkle in a diamond, there are only two things that matter — efficiency and amplified light return.

  • Efficiency rating (E.R.) is a measure of the refracted light entering a diamond that is returned to your eye.
  • Amplified light return (A.L.R) is the number of visible internal light reflections that a diamond has per every ray (signal) of light that enters it.

Weighted Light Return (more commonly know as brightness) = E.R. * A.L.R

A typical run-of-the-mill diamond has an efficiency rating of 35.5% and an A.L.R rating of five (5). Translation: The typical diamond returns 35.5% of refracted light back to the viewer’s eyes; leaks/wastes 64.5% through the pavilion floor of the diamond and only redirects the light internally five (5) times before it leaks out or is returned to be viewed.

A pinball machine is a good analogy here. Think of every ray of light as a pinball. Once the pinball is shot (refracted) into play within the machine (diamond) you score more points (flashes of light) every time the pinball bounces around (internal light reflections) before it is returned back to you in the form of sparkle. Sparkle equals efficiency rating x internal light reflections. So we could say that the typical diamond returns 35.5% of absorbed light and amplifies it five (5) times to give you a sparkle return of 177.5%. You get 77.5% more light then you put in even though there was a lot of waste. This is why most people who see practically any diamond will,at first blush, be impressed. The truth is even bad diamonds look pretty good. But, what if we’re not just looking for pretty good? What if our goal is to have the highest efficiency rating; the highest amplified light return? What would that look like? Well, let’s see, if we are going to hold the most breathtaking diamond in the world we’re going to have to be patient, and I mean really patient! The typical diamond that is cut these days is cut from two types of rough (name for what diamonds look like out of the ground) macles and flats. See below.


These are also called irregulars or preemies (300 to 400 million years old). Preemies are rough diamonds that Mother Nature did not allow to go to full term. Full term crystals, also referred to as sawables, are the most valuable. They are typically found in octahedron, cubic, and dodecahedron shapes. See below


The key to having the best finished product begins by only choosing full term rough. It takes a minimum of 800 million years, not 400 million years, for Mother Nature to deliver a magnificent fully crystallized, full term rough. The irregulars are flat, skipping-stone looking pieces of rough that have an irregular carbon atomic structure. Don’t forget shape determines function! If we don’t have a nice shape to work with we won’t be able to cut the diamond properly.

Ninety-eight percent of the diamonds being sold today are being cut from premature rough and only two percent are being cut from full term rough. So that’s step one. “Better ingredients, better pizza!” Once we’ve got the rare full term rough, we go through a second screening process and throw out any rough that has too much nitrogen or is too heavily included. In order to reach our goal the diamond must not be any lower than a hard graded VS2 clarity or H5 color. By hard graded, I mean the vendor guarantees that no accredited gemologist will ever grade the diamond lower than the assigned grade or you get your money back. Other rating agencies — GIA, EGL, IGI, AGS, etc. all soft grade their stones, which means they don’t guarantee their grades. Once we have the desired full term rough with the correct grades, we can move on to a master cutter. It doesn’t do any good to have the world’s greatest material if we put it in the hands of a poor craftsman. The master cutter will make sure the diamond is cut to class 1 or class 2 specifications (see other article on class of cut for explanation). But, basically, the diamond will have to meet strict proportion guidelines in order to handle the light properly.

Okay. Buy hard-graded full term rough (most expensive) and have a master cutter cut it (more expensive) equals finished product.

The Vivid White Diamond (TM)
The Vivid White Diamond®

The picture you see is a photograph taken with regular light on a black field. What you are seeing is the most efficient, highest amplified light return diamond in the world! The name given to the most breathtaking diamonds has always been vivid! This is The Vivid White Diamond®!

Let’s do the math! The Vivid White Diamond® has an efficiency rating of 91% and A.L.R of 100. So if we want to calculate the sparkle of this gem we multiply the efficiency rating x the A.L.R. — 91% x 100 =9100% light return! 100% goes in; 9100% comes out!

The reason Cartier; Graff; Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston get $35,000 to $56,000 for a single one carat diamond is actually rather simple. They are all vivid white diamonds®! When people run to online consolidators like Blue Nile, Amazon, or Ebay; mall stores like Zale’s, Tiffany’s, Kay’s, Jared’s, Robbins Brothers and big box stores like Walmart, Costco or Sam’s, you’re buying diamonds that are pretty good because you get 77% more light return in good lighting conditions but when you buy a Vivid White Diamond® you are getting 9000% more amplified light. Some old sayings are still true today, “You get what you pay for.” By the way, the #1 complaint a woman has about her diamond isn’t size, its sparkle. So, if you really want to make her happy buy The Vivid White Diamond®.

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

Note: All photographs and drawings were taken/created by renowned artist Jose Garcia.

Related Article/Video:

Van Cleef & Arpels: What You Need to Know

Van Cleef & Arpels is a member of the Four Horsemen Club (nickname for the top four jewelers in the world); the others are Cartier, Graff, and Harry Winston. They are also referred to as gild stores after the Gilded Age. The company was founded in 1896 by Salomon Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. Their brilliant business plan was a simple, yet elegant, three prong approach to selling jewelry. First: only use the finest materials in the world! This meant all their rough diamonds were full term crystals (also referred to as sawables in the industry). They bypassed all the macles and flats (cheap, poorly formed & wildly abundant inferior diamond crystals) and only selected the top two percent of what Mother Nature had created. With 49 out of every 50 diamonds being rejected as “not within our standards”, Van Cleef & Arpels quickly got the reputation as being the best money could buy! Their standards for excellence didn’t just stop with diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the world to a palate of colored gems the world had never seen – Aquamarines; Mandarin garnets; rubellites as well as the finest Kashmir sapphires; burmese rubies and muzo chrome green Colombian emeralds. Exceptional stones; exceptional jewelry pieces. Secondly, they hire the finest master diamond cutters and colored stone cutters in the world. Without the master cutter at the wheel a priceless gem could be grounded into a worthless bauble in the blink of an eye! No cutter was ever hired by Van Cleef & Arpels that hadn’t proven himself to be world renowned. The third prong is the mounting. Van Cleef & Arpels knew that how a masterpiece stone is placed into the jewelry was as important as the masterpiece stone itself. For this they coined the term “the mystery setting” as a way to set gemstones into their mount without the use of visible claws. By removing as many obstructions to light as possible, the master stone setters at Van Cleef & Arpels allowed the gemstones the opportunity to take full advantage of the available light. Three simple rules: only the finest raw materials; only the finest diamond and colored stone cutters in the world and wherever possible create an invisible mounting, “mystery setting”, to give the appearance the diamonds and gemstones are just floating on air! If price is no object and you insist on having the most valuable vivid white diamonds and colored gemstones, then search no further.

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

Pillow Tops

Cushions, Asschers, European, Old-miners, Rose cuts; all diamond cuts long gone like the era they flourished in. Gone like the flappers and the Roaring Twenties; gone like the Great Depression and the Zoot suits…or are they? Gadzooks, the Pillow Tops are back!

Practically every jeweler from here to Kalamazoo has resurrected Pillow Tops and is selling them as the diamond your “Nana” used to wear! Well guess what? Your “Nana” got wise and unloaded it when she realized that the Pillow Tops are the most overweight, chubby, least sparkly, worst value of all diamond shapes! Looks like we have to learn the lesson all over again. The lesson: The rounds are the most valuable and the Pillow Tops are just for show. If you want to impress for less bucks than step right up and buy a Pillow Top. If you want to invest in the best then avoid the inexpensive cushions and buy round.
As a nation, we learned these lessons and buried the Pillow Tops over 50 years ago, but just like a bad cold that you can’t shake the Pillow Tops are back.

It kills me to see one customer after another be hood-winked into buying these diamonds that should have stayed buried. This resurrection was made possible by hooking celebrities into buying “estate jewelry” which was later copied by the general public. Please if it’s important to you at all that your diamond be worth what you pay for it, leave the Pillow Tops on your mattress and away from your fingers!

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

Dangerous Metals: The Truth About Tungsten and Cobalt Wedding Bands

Fred Cuellar, The Diamond Guy®, and Dr. Mark Mehaffey discuss the truth about removing wedding bands–including gold, platinum, silver, titanium, stainless steel, cobalt, and tungsten. The equipment to remove or cut tungsten and cobalt wedding rings are not as readily available as some have lead you to believe. Fred shows you how to remove these tungsten and conbalt rings.

Harry Winston Engagement Rings vs. Tiffany & Co. Engagment Rings

I’m constantly asked to compare engagement rings from Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co. “Fred, is the Tiffany Embrace® better than the micro pave Harry Winston? Is the classic Winston better than a classic Tiffany? Or is the double claw prong solitaire of the Winston better than a Butter Cup Tiffany solitaire?” The answer? Depends.

Environment regulates behavior—so what’s your lifestyle? If you are a rock climber or a neurosurgeon, you need a ring that can handle that environment, if that is your choice. Not all wedding ring styles are as resilient as others. A six prong head is more secure than a four prong head; and the more diamonds in the ring the more possibility that one of them may fall out. So what is a person to do?

The task of any setting is to balance beauty and durability. If we want to be 100% sure your diamond won’t fall out, we can bury it in a block of platinum with a wall of metal surrounding the entire perimeter of the diamond. The diamond will be safe but the sparkle will be compromised because of the fortress that you’ve built around it. But today’s popular ring styles leaves the diamond almost “naked.” The shanks (the part that slides on your finger) are very thin and delicate. The head (the part that holds the center diamond) is mounted fairly high and tends to be decorated with a crown (halo) of small diamonds. Less metal and many small diamonds are what is selling these days to decorate the diamond you have chosen. Are they beautiful? Absolutely! Are they easily damaged? You bet! We are back again to the balance between beauty and safety—which is a lot like life. You can buy a castle and hide away in it and be “technically” safe but you will miss some beautiful experiences that always come with their share of risks. So what are my recommendations when it comes to these beautiful settings? Simple, pick what you love, pick what calls out to you. You know that life and rings don’t come with any lifetime guarantee to never fall apart or get hurt. But, if you are in a rock solid relationship with your jeweler they will give you lifetime repair guarantees that will cover any damage you might inflict on your beautiful new ring, at no cost to you, as long as you keep up with annual checkups. So don’t worry, while your wedding ring is a “symbol” of your love for each other and can be damaged, smashed, trashed or even lost, your love for each other is invicible! Have a great day! Hug a diamond. Talk to you next time.

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

The ‘Blood Diamond’ Resurfaces

By MICHAEL ALLEN from Wall Street Journal

CAFUNFO, Angola—On paper, Angola is a poster child for the global effort to keep “blood diamonds” out of the world’s jewelry stores.

International pressure helped end a vicious civil war a decade ago by strangling the ability of rebels to trade diamonds for weapons. Angola is now a leading member of the so-called Kimberley Process, an industry-wide effort to prevent commerce in rough diamonds by insurgent groups. Today, Angola is the world’s fifth-largest diamond producer by value, and its gems are coveted for their size and purity.

But a visit to Angola’s diamond heartland reveals that plenty of blood still spills over those precious stones. Here in the sprawling jungle of northeast Angola, a violent economy prevails in which thousands of peasant miners eke out a living searching for diamonds with shovels and sieves. Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed.

The Kimberly Process has never been more than a country of origin repackaging and rubber stamp. –Fred Cuellar

This sort of violence, which has made headlines in nearby Zimbabwe, is threatening to tear the Kimberley Process apart. Diamond retailers can ill afford more bad publicity about tainted stones. But many of Africa’s diamond-producing nations are wary about any effort to beef up the industry’s policing of human rights.

Around Angola’s mines, tales of confrontation abound. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Linda Moisés da Rosa, 55 years old, denounced the killings of her two sons, both diamond miners. In September, she said, Angolan soldiers descended on a large mine near here to chase away diggers. When some refused to leave, she said, the soldiers caved in the mine, burying alive around 45 men, including her son Pereira Eduardo Antonio, 21. “These kids were stubborn,” she said, adding that the soldiers said that the killings “should serve as a lesson to anyone who wants to come dig here again.”

In February, she said, her oldest son, 33-year-old Tito Eduardo, the family’s sole breadwinner, got into a dispute with private security guards at another mining site. She said the guards had agreed to let local diggers sift gravel for diamonds in exchange for around $30 a day. They accused her son of failing to pay the bribe, and when he argued back, she said, “they killed him with a machete.”

Military officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. Angola’s secretary of state for human rights, António Bento Bembe, blames his nation’s long civil war for creating a climate of abuse. “I know lots of these cases happen, and I know of many other cases you haven’t heard of yet,” he said in an interview in Luanda, Angola’s capital. “It is urgent to cultivate a culture of human rights.”

The issue has plunged the Kimberley Process into the worst crisis in its brief history. Born at a time of great bloodshed on the African continent, the 75-nation Kimberley Process was initially lauded for its commitment to human rights. Rebel movements had seized control of diamond regions in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo and used the gems to finance marauding guerrilla armies. Facing a public-relations nightmare, world diamond companies agreed to buy rough stones only if they are certified by internationally recognized governments. The Kimberley Process says well over 99% of the world’s rough-diamond trade is now “conflict-free.”

The Kimberly Process was destined to fail because you can’t have an industry regulate itself. It’s back to the fox guarding the hen house. Self-regulation doesn’t work when there are piles of money on the table. –Fred Cuellar

But critics say there’s a big loophole in that definition: It doesn’t take into account human-rights abuses in diamond territory controlled by governments themselves. “The Kimberley Process cut the financial lifeline of rebels, but at the same time it gave legitimacy to corrupt governments that abuse their own people,” says Rafael Marques, a human-rights activist who has worked extensively in northeastern Angola.

Much of the recent controversy is focused on Zimbabwe, where the group Human Rights Watch last year reported that government soldiers massacred over 200 people in a fight to control diamond fields in the east of the country, raped local women and press-ganged peasants into mining work. The Kimberley Process temporarily suspended exports from the area on the grounds that the turmoil was allowing undocumented stones to be smuggled into the world market. Last month, a monitor installed by the Kimberley Process recommended that the ban be lifted, kicking off a fierce debate. A Kimberley Process committee has been deliberating the recommendation and the issue will be taken up in a meeting of the entire group in Tel Aviv starting Monday.

Global Witness, a human-rights organization that helped conceive the Kimberley Process, called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the group. “Thanks to the impunity and violence in Zimbabwe, blood diamonds are back on the international market,” said Elly Harrowell, a Global Witness activist.

Jewelers are starting to worry that the bad publicity could spook consumers. Matthew Runci, chief executive of Jewelers of America, a trade group which represents jewelry chains from Tiffany & Co. to Zale Corp., says the Kimberley Process should either figure out a way to incorporate human-rights monitoring into its oversight of member countries or invite an outside organization to do it for them. “It’s essential that the public’s confidence in diamonds be maintained at a high level,” he says. Once a diamond has been cut and polished, it’s virtually impossible for the consumer to tell its country of origin.

Tiffany’s can’t take the human rights stage and at the same time run sweatshops out of Botswana. –Fred Cuellar

Cecilia Gardner, a former New York federal prosecutor who serves as the general counsel of the World Diamond Council, says the Kimberley Process is a voluntary organization and isn’t equipped to enforce human-rights compliance. “We don’t have an army, we don’t have a police force,” she says.

In Angola, which far overshadows Zimbabwe in importance to the jewelry market, the Kimberley Process appears to have little appetite for human-rights issues. Last August, when a Kimberley Process peer-review team arrived to check the country’s compliance procedures, Angolan forces were just mopping up a major operation to expel some 30,000 illegal Congolese miners from Angolan territory near here. According to a U.S. State Department report citing local media and nongovernmental organizations, military and police “arbitrarily beat and raped detainees” and forced them to march to the border without food or water. The government has denied committing abuses and says the army was merely securing the nation’s borders.

A confidential Kimberley Process report on the review visit makes no mention of alleged human-rights abuses, although it criticizes Angola for failing to present a plan to better document the output of peasant mining. The group spent just two days in Lunda Norte, an area near the Congo border that has become a flashpoint for clashes between diggers and security forces. According to a draft of the internal report, the delegation intended to visit the site of a large illegal mining operation but was thwarted by “a last-minute decision to participate in a graduation ceremony for new border patrol security officers.” As the team was preparing to depart, the chairman of the Kimberley Process at the time, Namibian politician Bernhard Esau, pronounced the visit a success and brushed off questions about alleged abuses of peasant miners. “The Kimberley Process is not a human-rights organization,” he told reporters.

The roots of Angola’s current blood-diamond problems have much to do with geology. Unlike in Botswana and South Africa, where multinational corporations use heavy machinery to extract diamonds out of deep shafts, much of Angola’s diamond reserves are alluvial, meaning the stones have been washed out of the earth and scattered across the countryside. They’re available to anyone with a shovel and wood-framed sieve, and are difficult for mining companies to secure. More than a million people world-wide earn a living from artisanal mining in alluvial fields, including tens of thousands in Angola alone.

Angola’s artisanal miners, known in Portuguese as garimpeiros, played a pivotal role in the country’s civil war, which lasted for 27 years and left at least a half-million people dead. U.S.-backed troops of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, fighting to depose a Soviet-supported socialist government, controlled much of the country’s diamond territory. To fund their war effort, they enlisted peasant diggers from here as well as neighboring Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While UNITA forces committed plenty of atrocities, some people here in Cafunfo say they generally treated garimpeiros fairly. They allowed diggers to keep a percentage of the diamonds they found and established an immigration policy to bring in Congolese workers on 30-day permits, says Enoque Jeremias, a local human-rights investigator. “It was a fair system,” he adds.

The war’s end led to a surge in diamond production, as large mining companies dusted off old claims and launched new operations. Among the players are Odebrecht SA of Brazil, Russia’s state-owned Alrosa; and a company controlled by Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev, all of which operate in joint ventures with the government diamond company Endiama.

But the garimpeiros were hardly prepared to put away their shovels. There’s little agriculture here and almost no jobs outside of the mining sector. Plus, vast parts of the countryside haven’t even been explored yet, much less mined. The peasants proved adept at finding diamond deposits that the big companies missed, and this so-called informal production continued to account for more than one-quarter of the country’s diamond exports, according to the Partnership Africa Canada, an Ottawa-based nongovernmental agency that deals with mining issues.

To soak up those diamonds, Angola authorized foreign-run buying operations to be established in the bush. U.S. diamond giant Lazare Kaplan International Inc. became a fixture in the area, signing a technical agreement with the government to set up buying houses. Lazare Kaplan says it let the agreement expire in 2008, when world diamond prices collapsed, and is now winding down operations in Angola. Lazare Kaplan Chairman Maurice Tempelsman, the late-life companion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, says the company was trying to bring development to the area and help strengthen Angola’s Kimberley Process controls. “I am strongly committed to the protection of human rights,” Mr. Tempelsman says, adding: “I believe in this imperfect world, involvement in trying to bring about constructive change is the best course.”

Lazare Kaplan’s withdrawal has left a wide-open field for other buyers, including a company controlled by Israel’s Mr. Leviev, as well as a flood of newcomers from West Africa and the Middle East. Their storefronts line the muddy streets of Cafunfo, trying to outdo each other with mirror-signed bling.

For Ahmad Mouein, a Lebanese buyer who bills himself as “Boss Mouein,” it’s a great business opportunity despite the recession in the diamond market. “Sometimes a digger here can sell you a $500,000 stone for $5,000, $10,000,” he marvels. He says the Kimberley Process hasn’t succeeded in its primary mission of halting smuggling. “Kimberley or not Kimberley, my friend, for the diamond, you can do what you want.”

By many accounts, the presence of these buying houses has only fanned the violence by encouraging more peasants to get into the mining business at the same time that government security forces have been tasked with stopping them.

At one such illegal mine, an hour’s motorcycle ride over trails outside of Cafunfo, a Dantesque scene unfolds. Perhaps 500 young men are clambering over a vast pit dug deep into the red earth. They’ve been at it for a year now, and figure they have months to go until they hit a vein of gravel they believe will contain diamonds. Their tools are rudimentary—pikes and shovels—and the work is backbreaking, alleviated only by the homegrown marijuana many smoke and the small sachets of alcohol that can be had everywhere for a dollar.

They live on the site in homemade tents and work in shifts. To support themselves, they say, they make agreements with buyers, especially the West Africans, to split the take.

Caxaculo Milonga, 44, says he’s on the hook with a man he knows as Boss Ibrahim from Senegal. Although Boss Ibrahim paid medical expenses when a run-in with police and soldiers sent him to the hospital, Mr. Milonga complains that the deal is unfair because he has to give Boss Ibrahim 50% of all production, then sell the rest to him at a rock-bottom price. “We work like slaves and they’re cheating us,” he says. “You can’t argue or he’ll call the police.” Another garimpeiro says his sponsor at one time was a police investigator in Cafunfo, making any negotiation pointless.

Concerns about security forces are never far away. Last year, as part of the latest effort to expel Congolese diggers, the Angolan army moved into the area in force. In recent months patrols have paid a visit to the mine, harassing miners and slapping them with the flat side of their machetes, the miners say. The diggers worry that the army is just waiting until they hit gravel so they can move in and take the diamonds for themselves.

Near another illegal mining site, peasants described a similar scenario. In December, an army patrol swept through the village of Bundo in search of mining tools, says Cazanguia Andre, the 60-year-old deputy chief of the village. He says he ran into them on the way back from tilling his field, and they accused him of being a garimpeiro. They then hit him twice in the head with a rifle butt and struck him with a pole, he adds, breaking his arm. Later, after they discovered shovels at the local church, which Mr. Andre says were being used for construction, they arrested three people.

A lieutenant at a nearby temporary army encampment declined to be interviewed but said his squad hasn’t committed any abuses of the local population and isn’t involved in any mining activities.

Back in Bundo, four garimpeiros give a different story. They say when soldiers swept through they discovered the garimpeiros working with a water pump in a pit. The soldiers confiscated the pump. Then a negotiation ensued, says one garimpeiro, and the soldiers agreed to give back the pump in exchange for $54—as well as a split of the action. “When we hit the gravel, the soldiers will be present to get their share,” he says.

Blood diamonds were bred out of civil wars. The wars maybe over but the corruption has just gone higher up the ladder. Puppet masters of blood diamonds are the governments themselves. If the U.S. continues to barter and trade with corrupt regimes, then the U.S. buying public has no one to blame for the blood that is on our hands. –Fred Cuellar

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Recommended Article: Blood Diamonds

More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®

Color Typing

They’re all diamonds, yes, but color does make a difference.

Let’s start this piece by asking what on the surface might seem like a very simple question, Shouldn’t two diamonds of the exact same weight, same clarity, same color, exact same proportions, non-fluorescent, same purchase date, same lab grading report date, both bonded with the exact same mark up cost the same? Well if you ask the labs or check with any of the major price guides like Rapaport, the answer would be a resounding YES.

But pick up your phone, visit your local jeweler, surf the web and I promise you you’ll find twins that are not the same price. In fact, not only are they not the exact same price but in some cases they’re not even close. You’ll even find two identical diamonds at the same location with totally different prices. Why? How can this be? It’s true not all SI-1’s are created equal. Some have centralized inclusions while others have perimeter inclusions which are certainly more desirable and valuable. But what of the VS’s? I can honestly tell you I’ve never met a VS diamond I didn’t like. So where’s the answer?

The answer is in the color. What the industry has been aware of but hasn’t shared with the rest of the world is “Color Typing”. In the spring of 1999 a wonderful gemological color grading device hit the market. What I’m talking about is the Gran Full Spectrum Colorimeter DC2000fs by Gem Instruments. For the first time we can actually prove that not all H’s, G’s or F’s are created equal. This new colorimeter is so precise we can now actually break down each color grade into five color types. For example, instead of asking someone what color a diamond is, we should ask what is the diamond’s color and type. Example: an H can be an H1, H2, H3, H4 or H5 (H1 being the best borderline G and H5 is a borderline I color). When you combine colors and types with grade bumping, two diamonds can have the perception of being the same but be from different parts of the rainbow.

When will the labs start breaking down each color into types? Who knows! I know the price guides won’t be the vanguard until at least one lab steps up to tell us that not all identical diamonds of the same color are created equal. Naturally an F1 should cost more than an F5. But if the labs won’t tell you, how can you determine a diamond’s color and type without their help? Easy, have the store run a colorimeter tape and attach it to the appraisal so you will know if your G is a strong G or a weak one. Make the sale contingent on an independent appraisal agreeing with the colorimeter tape or your money back.

I wish the labs did color typing since the technology is now available. But “Color Typing” is just not profitable for labs. Jewelers are naturally going to send their stones for a lab grading report where they get treated the nicest and are the least critical. That’s why there are five EG or IGI reports out there for every one GIA report. “Color Typing” may never get recognized by the labs but that doesn’t mean jewelers don’t have the access to colorimeters. Knowledge is power. As the buyer you have every right to know a diamond’s color and type. Just ask.

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

Color Grading

Color Grading Scale

Checking your diamond’s report card.

Diamonds come in virtually all colors of the rainbow, from the “beautiful violet” of the Hope diamond to shades of blue, brown, gray, orange, etc. But colored diamonds are very rare and precious. Chances are, all the diamonds you’ll see in your diamond shopping will be white or yellow, and the whiter the better.

The yellow color in diamonds comes from nitrogen, and as a rule, the more yellow the stone, the less value it has. There’s a good reason for this. The yellower the stone, the less sharp and sparkly it appears. A whiter stone lets more light pass through it, making it sparkle and shine.

The exception to the rule is the canary diamond, which is a beautiful bright yellow and very expensive. Some people are more sensitive to the color of diamonds. What may appear slightly yellow to you may look clear to another person, so it will take a higher color grade to satisfy you.

The best way to judge the color of a diamond are to use either a Gran Fall Spectrum Colorimeter by Gem Instruments or compare it to a master set..

FRED’S ADVICE: Go for grades H or I. Once mounted they’ll look just as good to the average person as the higher grades, without costing a bundle. The average diamond purchased in the U.S. is color grade M or N, but the customer is usually told it’s higher.


D, E, F: Colorless
G, H, I: Nearly colorless
J, K, L: Slightly yellow
M, N, O: Light yellow
P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X: Darker yellow
Z: Fancy colors

Even though there are several grades in each category, there are slight differences between the letter grades. D is the clearest and most valuable, X is a dingy yellow and least expensive. Z grade-colored diamonds are the rarest and most expensive. A diamond so saturated with nitrogen that it becomes a deep, rich yellow is as rare as a colorless diamond.



Fluorescence is a diamond’s reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light. Some diamonds glow in different colors under UV light, and the general rule is to avoid them. If you put a diamond under UV light and it glows strong blue, the diamond may look dull in the sunlight. Diamonds with strong fluorescence may be worth up to 20% less than diamonds which do not fluoresce. Faint fluorescence which doesn’t fog the diamond is OK.


Corresponding grading means matching clarity grades with color grades. For every clarity grade, there’s a color grade that corresponds, or makes the best match in determining value. Diamonds that have corresponding grading sell for higher prices originally, and they also appreciate in value more than diamonds that don’t, and therefore have higher resale value. Buying a diamond with non-corresponding clarity and color grades is like buying a pink Porsche: it’s okay as long as you don’t try to resell it. The market for pink Porsches just isn’t as good as the market for, say, red Porsches.

Here’s a list of clarity grades and their corresponding color grades. Notice that for each clarity grade there’s a perfect match, and a high and low color that also works well.


D (Perfect) ó 10.00%
E (Low)

D (High)
E (Perfect) ó 9.25%
F (Low)

VS1, VS2:
F (High)
G (Perfect) ó 8.50%
H (Low)

SI1, SI2:
H (High)
I (Perfect) ó 6.50%
J (Low)

No corresponding color grades

The value of a stone is always based on the lowest clarity or color grade and its highest corresponding grade. For example: Let’s say you purchased a stone with a clarity grade of SI1 and a color grade of G. You can see above that G is not a corresponding color for an SI1 stone. The SI1-G diamond will cost you more than the SI1-H, but will appreciate no more over time than the SI1-H.

When you don’t correspond the grades ó say you buy high clarity and low color, or high color and low clarity ó you’ll never get your money back for the higher grade. For example, an SI1-F would resell no higher than the value of an SI1-H, and a VS1-I would resell no higher than the value of an SI1-I. A diamond that is not correspondingly-graded could be expected to appreciate 2% to 4% per year.

Clarity Grading

Clarity Grading Scale

I can see clearly now

The clarity of a diamond depends on how clear or clean it is ó how free it is of blemishes and inclusions, when viewed with the naked eye and with a 10X loupe, or magnifier. Let’s define our terms.

BLEMISHES: Imperfections on the outside of a diamond

Chip: A little piece missing, caused by wear or the cutting process. Scratch: A line or abrasion.

Fracture: A crack on the diamond’s surface.
Polishing lines: Fine lines on the stone’s surface formed during the polishing stage.

Natural: An unpolished part of the diamond.

Extra facets: Additional polished surfaces that shouldn’t be there and spoil the symmetry of a diamond.

Bearding: Very small fractures on an edge of the diamond.

INCLUSIONS: Imperfections inside a diamond.

Carbon: Black spots inside a stone.

Feather: Internal cracking.

Crystal: White spots inside a stone.

Pinpoint: Tiny spots, smaller than a crystal.

Cloud: A group of pinpoints, which may give the impression of a single large inclusion.

Loupe: (pronounced loop) a small magnifying glass used to view gemstones. Any good jeweler will let you use one, and show you how. They should be 10X, or 10-power magnification, and the housing around the lens should be black so as not to distort the color of the stone. The Federal Trade Commission requires diamond grading to be done with a 10X magnifier, and any flaw that can’t be seen under 10X magnification is considered nonexistent.

Here are the CLARITY GRADES OF DIAMONDS, as established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA):

FLAWLESS: Free from inclusions and blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification. Very rare and very expensive.

INTERNALLY FLAWLESS: Free from inclusions; may have slight blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification. Also very rare and very expensive.

VVS1 AND VVS2 (VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has minute inclusions or blemishes the size of a pinpoint when viewed under 10X magnification. Rare and expensive.

VS1 AND VS2 (VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes smaller than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification. No carbon, fractures or breaks. High quality.

SI1 (SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes larger than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification, and these inclusions can be carbon or fractures. Almost all SI1 diamonds are eye-clean, which means the flaws can’t be seen with the naked eye. Good quality.

SI2 (SLIGHTLY INCLUDED): Has inclusions or blemishes larger than a grain of salt when viewed under 10X magnification, and some of these flaws may be visible to the naked eye. Borderline diamond.

I1 (IMPERFECT): Has inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye. Commercial grade. Not my taste!

I2 (IMPERFECT): Has inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye that can make as much as one-fourth of the diamond appear cloudy and lifeless. Same as above.

I3 (IMPERFECT): Has many, many inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye. Not a pretty diamond. Very little luster or sparkle. Bottom of the barrel.

FRED’S ADVICE: Aim for an SI1 diamond. Many people unwittingly buy I1 and I2 stones, but if you shop carefully you can buy an SI1 stone for the same price that most I2 stones are sold for.

True Weight

Weighing the Facts:

The “True Weight*” of Diamonds

One-carat diamonds offered for sale rarely truly weigh one carat if cut correctly.

Let me explain. Diamonds are a lot like people. They come in all shapes and sizes, and just like people, they can carry a little extra weight. In fact, in the community of diamonds, more diamonds are “overweight” than in the community of people: Up to 88% of all diamonds. The sad part is that it’s the diamond industry that is purposely producing all of these chubby diamonds! In 1919, over 90 years ago, a gentleman by the name of Marcel Tolkowsky determined that the diamond industry as a whole was cutting diamonds incorrectly and adversely affecting the diamond’s sparkle. Mr. Tolkowsky released a paper on the correct way to cut a diamond so it would have maximum sparkle (light return); no excess body fat. The Tolkowsky cut ended up becoming the American ideal. Subsequently, in the 1950’s, a gentleman by the name of R.W. Ditchburn applied the same mathematics in order to trim the fat off the other shapes (marquise, pear, oval, etc.). For decades if you asked for a well cut “Ideal” diamond of a particular size, you got it. Then the marketeers convinced the public that a one carat diamond or more was the dream size. That’s where the problems crept in. Diamond cutters all over the world started inventing their own criteria for “a well proportioned stone” so they could fatten up the diamond. Clearly we have a problem when 75% to 88% of all one carat diamonds are overweight! Just like in the Wendy’s commercial where there was a whole lot of bun and very little meat, we are running into the same problem today with diamonds that should be 1 carat but are cut fat so they will tip the scales over one carat.

Solution: The only way the problem is going to be solved is for the diamond buying public to start asking for the diamond’s “True Weight,” (a diamond in which the crown height plus max girdle thickness plus pavilion depth equals the total depth percentage and whose proportions meet class I or class II criteria.) I’ve never met a jeweler who will volunteer to the consumer that the device used to measure the diamond’s vitals (sarin or megascope machine) also has a fat content measuring button! It’s called the re-cut feature. Once a diamond has been analyzed, all the grader has to do is enter the recorded data into the re-cut program, enter the desired results, (like a plastic surgeon showing you what your nose will look like after the surgery) and click the mouse. In seconds the re-cut program will announce what the diamond should have weighed if it had been cut correctly vs. its current weight. Practically every diamond I see is overweight by 20%-30%!

It is the diamond’s “TRUE WEIGHT” we should be paying for, not extra love handles left on by the cutter. If enough of us demand to only pay for a diamond’s “True Weight” versus its “over-weight” then maybe some day the cutters will get the message.

*If you would like to determine your diamond’s “True Weight,” please call the National Diamond Helpline at
1-800-275-4047 with your diamond’s vitals and we’ll tell you what your diamond should have weighed.

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