Diamonds for Dummies

Diamonds for Dummies

Everyone knows diamonds are valuable, but what makes one diamond better than another? I’m sure you’ve heard terms such as “carat” and “inclusion”, but what do they mean? We’re going to break it all down for you. 

Diamonds are so much more than just a piece of stone. In fact, they’re so sought after and studied that a diamond is actually graded on four different criteria. These criteria are referred to as the “4 C’s”- cut, color, clarity, and carat.


Cut is the most important factor when looking at a diamond. It is defined as a diamond’s ability to reflect light. The cut of the diamond effects how the diamond sparkles. For a diamond to sparkle it needs to be able to reflect the light that enters the diamond back through the top of the diamond (this is called the table). 

When a diamond is cut well it is able to reflect the light and really shine. If a diamond is too shallow the light escapes from of the bottom of the diamond. If the cut is too deep the light escapes from the sides of the diamond. In each case it will appear dull.

An ideal cut is symmetrical. When a diamond is cut well it is said to have brilliance, fire and sparkle. Brilliance is the gray and white color that is created from the reflection of light. Fire is the colored reflections from the diamond. Sparkle is the combination of both brilliance and fire and is what you want to see in your diamond. 

The cut of a diamond is measured along a grading scale that includes: excellent, very good, fair and poor.


The shape of the diamond is often confused with its cut. The shape of the diamond is simply the appearance of the stone. A diamond’s shape will not effect its sparkle, meaning one shape will not sparkle more than another. There are a variety of common shapes for a diamond to come in. 




The second most important factor is a diamond’s color. When looking at a diamond you want it to have a lack of color. A colorless diamond is the best diamond. The grading scale for a diamond’s color goes from D and increases to Z as more color appears in a stone. The scale is based on the following guides.

D-F: Highest Quality, Colorless

G-J: Near Colorless

K-Z: Color present 

Colored diamonds do occur naturally. These diamonds are rare. So rare that in every 10,000 diamonds there is ONE naturally occurring colored diamond. These diamonds are graded on a different scale. In a normal diamond you do not want color. In a colored diamond the darker the color, the better. Colored diamonds can occur in many shades such as such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, and purple.




The clarity of a diamond refers to the amount of imperfections on the surface (blemishes) and inside the diamond (inclusions). These imperfections occur naturally and do not effect the diamond’s sparkle. In fact, most cannot be seen with the naked eye. The scale for clarity is called the GIA Clarity Grading scale and ranges from FL (flawless) to I3 (extreme imperfections). Here is the outline:

FL-IF: Flawless, rare

VVS: Almost perfect, high quality

VS & SI: Minor inclusions, most cannot be seen with the naked eye

I1, I2, I3: Many imperfections present, some visible with magnification/naked eye

The diamonds to the right both have minor inclusions/blemishes but they cannot be seen without high-power magnification. 



The final criteria for assessing the value of a diamond is the diamond’s carat weight. This is the most commonly misunderstood diamond term. A diamond’s carat is based on the weight of the diamond, not its size. If a diamond is cut poorly, it can appear smaller than a diamond of the same weight that is cut well. A diamond’s carat weight takes into account two factors: its top diameter (the distance -in mm- across the top of the diamond) and its grade (if it is a properly cut diamond it will appear larger). The top diameter can be found using a micrometer like the one pictured below.

If you’d like a visual the Blue Nile Diamond Carat Size Chart can be found here.

When you put all 4 of these factors together, you will be able to determine the value of your stone. Knowing how to properly assess each of these factors is a skill jewelers have taken years to master. While most people can determine a diamond’s carat weight with a scale, without proper certification from a company you will need the help of a professional appraiser to accurately assess the value of your diamond.

If you’re looking to sell your diamond, or just find the value of it, bring it into our diamond appraiser, Brian. We offer FREE diamond appraisal, 7 days a week. For more information call 315-622-Pawn, or send us an email to 

Back to blog

Leave a comment