The world of jewellery is a whirlwind of sparkle and colour, but nothing makes a statement quite like the dazzle of a diamond. Whether you need a diamond for an engagement ring, a pendant or even multiple diamonds for a special piece of jewellery, it’s important to know what you’re getting.
WHY CHOOSE A DIAMOND?
It’s universally known that a diamond is one of the most sought after gems – especially for engagement rings. Do you know why? In the late 1930s, the DeBeers company began a campaign to encourage diamonds as indicators of luxury. Celebrities of the time began to realise their elegance, and shortly after the rest of the world was also enticed by the idea that diamonds are forever.
Today, diamonds still represent the ultimate in romantic gestures, and they really can last forever if you know how to pick quality. The clarity and sparkle that made us fall in love with diamonds are the characteristics to look for in a quality diamond, and there are four distinct ways to critic this gem.
THE FOUR CS OF DIAMOND BUYING
Upon initial investigation, it can be hard to figure out how to choose a good quality diamond versus a dodgy one. After all, they’re all relatively small and sparkly, so how can they be priced so differently? It turns out, judging the quality of a diamond is actually more of a science than most people imagine. To get a good understanding of where a diamond stands on the quality scale, take the four Cs of diamonds into consideration.
The reason diamonds are so coveted is due to the way they can reflect and transmit light to create an intense sparkling effect. Since diamonds in the rough just look like slightly iridescent rocks, the way this is achieved is through the way the diamond is cut to create its shape and facets. The quality of the cut is both a measure of the stone itself and the craftsmanship of the jeweller, making it one of the hardest aspects to judge. A good diamond cutter has taken into account the inherent characteristics of each individual stone and chose the best way to shape it to accentuate its beauty.
There are three subcategories that can help you determine how to choose a diamond cut:
Brightness: The reflection of white light from the surface and inside
Fire: How light disperses from white into every colour of the rainbow from within the diamond
Scintillation: How much the diamond sparkles which is created by the play of light as the diamond moves
Carat is the weight of the diamond and the metric that denotes its size. Although size is an important factor in determining the value of a diamond (the greater the carat weight, the rarer and more valuable the diamond becomes), the cut, colour, and clarity are equally important.
Natural diamonds are formed when carbon is exposed to extreme heat and pressure deep in the Earth for a long time. When that diamond is extracted and cut, one might be able to see some internal imperfections called inclusions, or external characteristics called blemishes. When evaluating a diamond’s clarity, jewellers look for the size, position and number of inclusions and blemishes, as well as how they affect the diamond’s overall appearance.
The regularity, size, nature, and position of these characteristics is considered and graded on a scale of F (Flawless/no inclusions or blemishes visible) to I3 (inclusions are obvious to the naked eye and may affect the transparency of the diamond as well as its brilliance). These are graded according to The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the worldwide standard for grading gems.
The colour quality of a diamond is based on how little colour it has. A perfect diamond would be completely colourless. The GIA colour scale ranges from D for colourless diamonds (the most prized) to Z for diamonds with an obvious yellow or brown hue. It might be difficult to tell the difference between a G diamond and an H diamond, but the difference between a D grade and S grade would be obvious.
The colour of the metal in a mounting can either mask or enhance the diamond colour. Yellow gold makes slightly yellow or brown diamonds appear more colourless. If a diamond is mounted in white gold or platinum, the colour becomes more apparent. Colour distinction can make a big difference in the value and quality of a diamond.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DIAMOND SHAPE
Picking the perfect diamond isn’t just about the quality of the stone, it’s also about the style. Most diamonds on the market are brilliant-cut, which means that most of the facets are triangle or kite-shaped and radiate outward from the centre of the stone. Here are some of the most popular shapes you’re likely to encounter when trying to pick the perfect diamond.
ROUND BRILLIANT CUT
The Round Brilliant Cut diamond is the most traditional and popular of all the diamond shapes. Many experts consider this shape ideal for a diamond because it maximizes its sparkle. About 75 percent of the world’s diamond market is made up of round cut diamonds – and for good reason. It’s possibly the most cost-effective diamond cut for the brilliance because of its usually uniform facets. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with a round cut due to its symmetry and shape.
The original specifications for the perfect round-cut diamond were created in 1919 by Marcel Tolkowski. His work explained the perfect proportions for bringing out the most brilliance and fire in the diamond, and we’ve been making small modifications ever since. Today’s round-cut diamonds are more brilliant and scintillating than ever, thanks to the introduction of lasers and other modern technology into the diamond-cutting world. This shape of diamond is most commonly used in solitaire diamond engagement rings.
Those on a tight budget need not worry as the round brilliant is one of the most flexible shapes in terms of balancing colour, cut and clarity, while still getting the desired fire and brilliance. This means that couples can go down a few diamond grades without sacrificing the beauty of their ring, a point that cannot be said for step-cut stones.
Second only to the round brilliant diamond in popularity is the square-shaped Princess cut diamond. Originally patented as the Quadrillion diamond, this versatile shape can stand alone as a solitaire, or make a real statement with shoulder accents or a diamond-set band. The ideal princess cut will have length to width ratio is as close to 1.00:1.00 as possible, as princess cut diamonds can range from this perfect square through to almost rectangular.
Keeping the square shape means that about 80 percent of the rough diamond is retained, as opposed to the 50 percent maintained in a round cut. That means the diamond ends up slightly cheaper by weight. Princess-cut diamonds are so popular in part because of their ability to work with practically any setting.
These diamonds have a unique look thanks to their step-shaped cuts and large, flat face. In contrast to the sparkle of brilliant-cut diamonds, Emerald cuts produce an effect that’s more like looking down a hall of mirrors. It is a very elegant cut that catches the eye much differently than a classic round cut would, but the flat surface makes any inclusions stand out more than other cuts.
Colour evaluation of these diamonds is quite subjective. When the diamond contains more flat surfaces, having a slightly warmer tone can be easier on the eyes than the coolness of a colourless diamond. As for proportions, there is no ideal. Emerald cuts range from square to rectangle with personal preference governing your choice.
As an Emerald-cut diamond will show practically every flaw due to it’s large, open facets, the imperfections of the stone are much more visible than in any other cut. It is advisable to go for the highest diamond grade possible, paying close attention to the colour of your diamond.
The Oval cut is ideal for those interested in the fire and brilliance of the round diamond, but desire a unique shape. Ovals can also vary in appearance, with some appearing shorter and closer to a round brilliant shape, while others resemble the elongated shape of the marquise. The shape of the oval diamond optimizes carat weight, meaning that it will appear larger than a round diamond of the same weight.
The bowtie effect is a shadow that runs along the width of the oval diamond, usually in the centre. A bowtie will appear to some degree in fancy diamond cuts like ovals, marquises or pears. Unlike round brilliant cuts, ovals are not perfectly symmetrical in shape, leaving these diamonds with an uneven distribution of light.
If properly blended into the body of the stone, a small bowtie can enhance its beauty; alternatively a large bowtie can adversely affect the brilliance of the diamond.
The Marquise-cut diamond is a modification of the brilliant cut that results in an oblong, football-shaped diamond. By carat weight, the marquise cut has one of the largest surface areas of any diamond shape. That means it’s a great option if you’re interested in maximizing the perceived size of your diamond.
The pointed ends make this shape the most fragile and the most expensive of brilliant style cuts. It has a total of 56 facets, construction of which requires a lot of experience and the delicacy of its sharp points demands utmost precaution. Now-a-days this shape is very popular for engagement rings.
Due to its rounded bottom and narrow pointed top, the Pear is also known as the teardrop cut, and is a hybrid of the round brilliant and marquise diamond shapes. The elegance of the cut relies on its precise symmetry; in which its ‘cutlet’ or point must be exactly opposite the apex of the rounded end, and must come to the sharpest point possible. The best length to width ratio is approximately 1.55 to 1.75. Couples searching for the perfect pear shape need to be mindful that any tint of colour on the diamond will show. Either a G or higher on the GIA colour grade scale should prevent tints of yellow showing through on a pear-shaped engagement ring.
This shape is popular for its uniqueness and brilliance. Pear Shape diamond is mostly used in pendants and also a good choice for a hand with smaller fingers. The best setting for a pear-cut diamond ring is a six-prong setting, which has two prongs on each of the pear’s lobe, and prongs at the bottom and top.
THE ASSCHER CUT
The Asscher shape is extremely precise and complicated, but when cut correctly can be truly exceptional. Comprised of 58 facets, the stone displays the stunning sparkle of the round brilliant cut, while its deep pavilion highlights the quality of the gem, displaying its clarity and colour.
This shape is named after Joseph Asscher of Holland who was an eminent diamond cutter. In 1902, his company, Asscher Diamond Co., developed and patented the Asscher Cut, a squarer step cut with an almost octagonal outline. This new cut enhanced the fire and light of the stone; it had a small table, a high crown, wide step facets, a deep pavilion and square culet.
The Radiant cut is a rectangular or square stone with cut corners. This shape comes with 62 to 70 facets and offers the elegance of the emerald shape with the brilliance of the princess shape. Because of its extra facets, the Radiant cut can disperse more light through the stone making it one of the most brilliant of all square- and rectangular-shaped stones. It also hides inclusions more efficiently than other shapes.
As it is a hybrid cut combining the features of both brilliant and step-cuts, the Radiant is the ideal compromise and the perfect solution for someone who wants to “have it all”.
Trimmed corners are the signature of this shape, and they help to make the radiant cut a popular and versatile choice for jewellery. Diamonds with radiant shape look very good when adorned with baguettes or round side stones.
Nothing says love like a Heart-shaped diamond cut. This unmistakable iteration of the brilliant cut is most popular in rings and pendants. It may be unwise to choose a heart-shaped cut if the diamond is less than .50 carats. The heart shape can be hard to distinguish in smaller diamonds, and setting the stone in prongs makes it even more difficult.
The Heart shaped diamond is essentially a pear-shaped diamond with a cleft at the top and it typically contains 59 facets. Due to the complexity of the shape, skilled cutting is necessary to maintain the diamond’s brilliance. Generally people prefer a heart shape diamond for sentimental purposes.
The diamond should be large enough to identify the heart shape, as well as symmetrical. They can come in a range of silhouettes, from narrow to wide. Though the standard length to width ratio for these diamonds is 1 to 1, personal preference and the diamond setting will make the difference in choice. For example, a longer, narrower heart-shaped diamond may look better on a pendant than on a ring, and a wider diamond might enhance a ring setting.
This diamond variation takes the square cut of the emerald and pairs it with rounded edges, producing the pillow-like appearance that gives the cut its name. This cut is more than 200 years old, and for the first half of that time it enjoyed popularity on par with that of brilliant round-cut diamonds today. Until the 20th century, cushion cut was the default diamond shape.
The classical Cushion cut is a square, but other ratios are acceptable as well. Elongated cushion-cut diamonds can look stunning in pendant, earring and ring settings alike.
The Trilliant cut is one of the more unusual cuts and a diamond with this shape displays a very sharp brilliance and has great fire. Trillion cut diamonds are most often used as side stones to compliment larger solitaire stones in engagement rings, although they also make for a perfect solitaire stone themselves considering their unparalleled brilliance and fire. These triangular shaped diamonds may either have pointed corners or more rounded corners.