Understanding DiamondsIt can get difficult when picking the perfect diamond for your engagement ring, which is why we’ve put together a useful guide to help you understand your diamond(s).
Diamonds have long been regarded for their exceptional beauty and have been used to symbolise love and devotion throughout history. Creating a source of fascination for centuries, diamonds are the most precious and enduring of all gemstones. It is only when a diamond reaches the earth's surface, after billions of years in the making, that the true brilliance of each individual stone is known. With only a small number of stones surviving this long and with a difficult journey, even fewer will be suitable to be made into exquisite pieces of jewellery.
This rare and beautiful gemstone is surrounded in mystery and steeped in legend making it highly desirable and sort after by men and women of all ages. First used as a symbol of marriage over 500 years ago when the Archduke of Austria gave a diamond to Mary of Burgundy, diamonds are still the most popular of all gemstones to be used in engagement rings today. Derived from the Greek word “adamas” meaning “indestructible”, diamonds are said to represent strength and courage and their purity and everlasting beauty quickly made them a popular gift of love. Found in varying deposits around the world including Australia, Ghana, Russia, the USA and Brazil, large scale mining and the development of effective cutting techniques has led to diamonds becoming a luxury affordable by all.
Diamonds possess many qualities that make them an ideal gemstone for setting into many types of jewellery. Used with a variety of precious metals from silver to platinum, diamonds are available in a range of different shapes and carat weights (sizes). Their durability and lasting sparkle has meant that diamonds can be cut into many different shapes, from the traditional round brilliant cut to the more modern emerald and princess cuts. This versatility enables them to be used in a large variety of designs from simple solitaires to extravagant clusters and fancy pieces.
In their rarest and therefore most desirable form, diamonds are completely colourless and flawless. Flawless diamonds are so rare that most stones do contain small inclusions, also known as “natures finger prints”, but it is these that makes every stone so unique. Some of these inclusions are more visible than others, appearing as dark spots of carbon or white feather like inclusions within the diamond.
The 4 C’sWhen shopping for diamond engagement rings, most customers want to gain an understanding of the Four C’s. The Four C’s provide a guideline for the quality of your diamond and can be split into the categories of clarity, cut, colour and carat. These four aspects provide a better way to understand your diamond and will normally be recorded on your diamond certificate.
The colours of diamonds do vary, but generally diamonds are colourless or near colourless. Some diamonds have tones of yellow or brown, which can work well in contemporary styles. We use the GIA scale (set by the Gemological Institue of America) to measure the colour of a diamond. This contains letter-graded colour grades from D being colourless to Z, which will have a yellow tint. Diamonds with distinct colours, such as very yellow or deep brown tones, are classed as 'fancy diamonds' and are graded separately to colourless to clear diamonds.
All diamonds are unique and will contain naturally occurring inclusions or small flaws. Often minor and formed when the diamonds were created in the earth, some inclusions are hardly visible to the naked eye however the clarity of your diamond is worth considering, especially in relation to the position the diamond will be set in the ring. Clarity is also graded on a lettering scale from FL (flawless) to I3 (inclusions 3).
A common misconception is that the carat indicates the size of the diamond – instead, it indicates the weight. Depending on the cut and setting of the diamond, it can appear a lot larger than its actual carat weight. However, carat represents the true diamond weight. Often, in cluster rings or jewellery with multiple diamonds, the carat weight indicates the combined weight of all of the diamonds in the piece of jewellery. This is graded in parts per thousand, so a 10pt diamond is given a carat weight of 0.10ct and a 3/4ct diamond will be written at 0.75ct etc.
Cut refers to both the style and shape the rough crystal is skilfully crafted into. A good diamond cut can bring out the brilliance of a stone, taking into consideration symmetry and proportions to ensure the light is reflected throughout the diamond. Different shapes and cuts create different effects, but a well cut diamond will noticeably sparkle as it catches the light.
Popular cuts include the classic round brilliant cut, which works beautifully in the recognisable solitaire engagement rings. Princess cut diamonds are equally popular, offering a contemporary square shape that works well as both a focal point or set along a band. Cushion cut diamonds are most frequently seen with fancy diamonds. This is a curved rectangular or curved square design, designed to draw light into the diamond and show off its gorgeous colour. Other cuts include marquise cut diamonds, emerald cut diamonds, heart cut diamonds and pear cut diamonds. Each cut has been carefully designed to accentuate a different feature of the diamond and can work well in a number of ring styles.