The Four Cs Explained

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Unless you’ve only done your searching for diamond engagement rings under a rock or in shipwrecks deep beneath the ocean waves, you’ve probably heard the term “the Four Cs” once or twice. However, knowing what each C actually means is sometimes harder to track down. Sure, Google or the almighty Wikipedia can give you textbook definitions, but that won’t really help you know why the Four Cs really matter. So here’s what each C stands for, and what each C really means.

Carat. Carat, for reasons unfathomable, is the term given to 200 milligrams’ worth of gemstone. It’s just a weight. It’s not always synonymous with size, however, since one of the other Cs can have an even bigger impact on apparent magnitude. But generally speaking, the higher the carat weight, the larger the stone.

Cut. This C has the most impact on appearance, since it refers exclusively to the shape of a diamond. Diamond rings with certain cuts will appear somewhat larger or smaller than diamond rings of different cuts, even if the carat weight is identical. Cuts can be round, square, rectangular, rectangular with rounded corners, pear-shaped, teardrop-shaped, or virtually any shape you can imagine.

Color. The diamond from the movie Titanic was dark blue — but that’s not the kind of color we’re talking about. The color grading of a diamond actually tells you how much color is not in the diamond. The higher the color rating, the “whiter” the diamond is. The lower the rating, the more yellow or straw-colored it will appear.

Clarity. The clarity rating of a diamond refers to the tiny inclusions (also called flaws) within the crystal structure — whether there are a lot of them, and whether they’re noticeable. But clarity is often the most misunderstood of the Cs, because people don’t usually know how it’s measured: the rating is determined by how visible a flaw is under 10x magnification. Inclusions don’t become visible to the naked eye until quite low on the clarity grading scale.

During your search for diamond rings, keep in mind that with the exception of carat, the Cs all deal with very subjective standards. Does this stone look yellower than that one? What does that even mean? And maybe a “yellower” stone gives of more warmth then a perfectly clear one. All that to say: don’t let the Four Cs be your only guide when choosing a ring. Go with what catches your eye, and it’s sure to catch her heart.

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