The six C's

You may have heard of the four C's, well, we found six! Here's how to make sure you're spending wisely.

Cut refers to the angles the diamond cutter extracts in transforming a rough diamond into a polished jewel, as well as how much light is reflected from the diamond. The higher the rating, the more light is reflected from the stone. A well-cut diamond shines more intensely than a poorly cut one. A master diamond cutter will have the experience and skill to bring out the fire in any given diamond. Cuts can make a smaller diamond appear larger and more sparkly.

Color measures how little color the diamond has. Generally, the less color and more "white" a diamond is, the better. The rating system works on a range from D (absolutely colorless) to J (color slightly detectable to the naked eye) to Z (colored). Warmer white stones with a hint of yellow look great set in yellow gold and frosty whites dazzle in white gold and platinum. There are also extremely rare, naturally occurring colored diamonds in shades of blue, yellow, orange, green, pink and, the rarest of all, red.

Clarity measures how many "inclusions" a stone has. Inclusions are nicks, cracks, fractures and feathers that occur naturally when a diamond is formed and make up the diamond's unique handprint. To see the inclusions, jewelers and gemologists use a magnifying loupe and rate imperfections on a scale with the highest rating as FL (for "flawless", which is extremely rare) all the way to I1, I2 and I3 (I = imperfect, so I3 is the most flawed).

Carat is the weight of the diamond, not size. The more carats in a single diamond, the more money it costs. If you choose a ring that has one larger stone and another that has two smaller stones of the same carat weight as the single stone ring, the ring with more stones will be less costly.

Certification ensures that your diamonds are authentic and provides you with a reliable safeguard of your diamond's uniqueness. They are generated by independent gem labs that evaluate each diamond and offer a grading report—an objective detailed analysis of an individual diamond. The certification does not appraise the diamonds monetary value, but it does certify the dimensions, rates the 4 C's, indicates flaws, brilliance, inclusions, etc. Certification takes two to four weeks and costs upward of $75 for the first carat and increases incrementally. The most respected and reliable labs include the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL) and International Gemological Institute.

Conflict Diamonds (the unofficial 6th C), also known as "blood diamonds," are stones that have been illegally obtained and sold to fund bloody political conflicts, mostly in Africa. In 2002, an international coalition of governments, non-governmental agencies and the diamond industry banded together to develop the Kimberley Process Certification System, a UN-based process to eliminate the trade of conflict diamonds. Today 99 percent of diamonds are from conflict-free sources.

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