Diamonds : The Most Precious of Gems
Buying a major piece of diamond jewelry such as an engagement
ring or anniversary band is one of the most expensive
purchases many of us will ever make. That's why it's so
important to understand the elements behind the quality
and cost of a stone, so you can make an informed buying
Diamonds are among the most prized substances on earth.
Their incomparable brilliance, elegance, durability
and mystery have captivated our imagination for thousands
of years. Considering the endless lore and mystique
behind this regal stone, it's no wonder that it has
come to symbolize the ultimate gift of love and romance.
Not only is a diamond the overwhelming choice for prospective
brides and grooms selecting an engagement ring, but
the gem is also the birthstone for April. And diamonds
are the recommended gift for couples celebrating their
10th, 60th and 75th wedding anniversaries.
When shopping for a diamond, keep in mind that the
value of a stone is determined by the "4 Cs"
of cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
Cut refers to the execution of the diamond's design,
the skill with which it was cut, the quality of its
polish, and the overall symmetry of the stone. Diamond
cuts are broadly graded as Ideal, Excellent, Very Good,
Fair or Poor. A well-cut diamond releases the inner
brilliance of the stone and projects its maximum amount
of fire and sparkle. A poorly cut diamond allows light
to leak out the sides or bottom rather than reflecting
back to the eye, resulting in a "dull" diamond
that may even have some "dead" spots inside.
Color refers to the presence or absence of color in
white diamonds. As a rule, the whiter the stone, the
greater its value. Even a slight tinge of yellow or
brown could have a negative impact on a stone's value.
Most diamonds are graded on the GIA color scale that
begins with "D" for colorless and continues
all the way down to "Z", with the color becoming
more visible as you move down the alphabet. Stones in
the D-F color ranges are considered the most valuable
because they are the rarest.
Clarity refers to the presence of surface or internal
flaws within a diamond caused during its formation.
External marks are known as blemishes, while internal
ones are called inclusions. Diamonds are graded for
clarity on a scale ranging from "F" for flawless
(no blemishes or inclusions visible under 10x magnification)
to "I" for imperfect (inclusions visible to
the naked eye), with numerous grades and subgrades in
between. The best diamonds, of course, are flawless,
but these stones are exceptionally rare and therefore
Carat weight refers to the size of the stone. The carat
is the measure of weight for diamonds. One carat is
approximately 200 milligrams, or 100 "points".
A stone weighing a half-carat would be a 50 pointer,
and so on. In general, larger diamonds are rarer and
have a higher value per carat. However, other factors
such as cut, color and clarity come into play as well
in determining a stone's value. It's entirely possible
for a smaller stone of exceptional cut, color and clarity
to be worth more than a larger stone of only average
quality in these areas.
There are even fancy natural colored diamonds in reds,
pinks, blues, greens, yellows, browns and other colors.
They vary in color richness or saturation from "faint"
to "vivid", with the latter grade reserved
for stones with the most vivid and deepest saturation.
The value of a fancy stone depends largely on the rarity
of its color (for instance, reds and greens are rarer
than yellows and browns); the saturation of the color;
and the purity of the color (whether the color is bright
and clear or clouded by tinges of other underlying colors).
Top grade fancy diamonds are extremely rare and can
command tremendous prices. Probably the most famous
colored diamond is the Hope, a 45.52-carat deep blue
gem that resides in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
Even though diamonds are the hardest known substance
on earth, rating a "10" on the Mohs scale
of hardness, they can still be damaged if they aren't
handled with care. Since only diamonds can scratch other
diamonds, it's important to wrap and store your diamond
jewelry pieces separately so they aren't touching one
another. Also, diamond jewelry should never be worn
during heavy work, since points are vulnerable to chipping
and the setting can be loosened. Visit a jewelry retailer
every six months to have your diamonds, mountings and
As for cleaning, it's always best to have this done
by a professional. To clean jewelry at home, you can
soak your diamonds in warm, sudsy water made with any
mild liquid detergent, brush with a soft toothbrush,
then rinse and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
Other effective cleaning methods include soaking diamonds
in household ammonia, brand-name liquid jewelry cleaners
and even a glass of vodka.