Beyond the 4C's: Other Factors To Consider When Choosing a Diamond

Many websites give information on the 4C’s, but there is much more to choosing your perfect diamond than the almost outdated Carat Weight, Clarity, Color and Cut grading and pricing systems. Yes, it is important to have a working knowledge of the 4C’s, but please consider the Shape, Transparency and Treatment Status of the diamond you are choosing as well. By exploring these additional characteristics, you'll gain a better understanding of what you're buying to ensure you're making the best choice for the special diamond that's going to be part of your story.

First establish a budget and choose the diamond shape you prefer. At Mark Schneider Design, we offer a variety of different shapes: Ideal Cut Round diamonds, Square and Rectangular diamonds such as the Princess, Radiant, Emerald, Cushion and Asscher, as well as Pear, Oval and Marquise shapes. Each diamond shape is an opportunity for personal expression. Your choice extends beyond just aesthetics–it becomes a reflection of your unique style, influenced by both personal taste and fashion trends.

If you are searching for something classic, Ideal Cut Round diamonds are known for their sparkle and timelessness. If you want something more bold and modern, you may want to look at Princess, Radiant, Emerald, Cushion, and Asscher shapes. The Princess cut is all about a modern and angular look, while the Radiant cut mixes the elegance of an emerald shape with the sparkle of a round cut. The Emerald cut diamond has a vintage feel, but tends to sparkle less. Cushion cut diamonds are a perfect mix of rounded corners and bigger facets, while the Asscher is more vintage but still has a lot of sparkle.

Some diamond shapes that were more popular in the 70’s and 80’s are now coming back in style. The Pear, Oval, and Marquise shapes have a romantic appeal and make for a unique engagement ring, as they are not as commonly chosen.

Secondly, understand the 4C’s. Cut meaning cut quality: A well cut diamond should be a priority, as only a well cut or Ideal cut diamond will maximize brilliance and light return to the eye. This aspect of diamond selection is about more than just looks. It's about maximizing brilliance and light return to the observer. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond cut quality as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. At Mark Schneider’s we specialize in perfectly proportioned diamonds, making sure that your diamond will offer maximum light return. We want your diamond to not only meet, but exceed your expectations.

Color refers to the body color of the diamond when compared with other diamonds. Color will affect the price of the diamond. The color of a diamond is categorized on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (more color). There are also fancy color diamonds, which have an intense color of your choosing and also fetch quite a high price tag depending upon the color and quality. Diamonds that are truly colorless (D through F) will command the highest prices per carat because of their sparkle and lack of color. This is a beautiful choice for a diamond, but prepare to pay the highest price for it.

The near colorless, warmer tones, (G through J) are more affordable and look best in yellow gold and rose gold settings. While these diamonds don’t show noticeable color on their own, they are more visible when compared to a diamond that is higher on the color scale. Many people prefer a warm toned diamond, especially if they are pairing it with colored gemstone accent stones.
While determining the best color option for your center stone may be difficult upon first glance, a well trained gemologist will be able to guide you in the right direction with some knowledge about your budget, gold color preferences, and personal style. This information enables the gemologist to narrow down the options and recommend diamonds that match with your criteria.

Clarity refers to the number, shape and type of natural inclusions that may be found in the diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond clarity on a scale ranging from Internally Flawless (IF) to Included (I3). The goal is to find a balance between clarity and budget, since the higher clarity grades typically fetch a higher price tag. The location of the inclusions is also important since they can sometimes be covered by a bezel or prongs if they are located towards the outer edges of the stone. These inclusions may be eye visible (I1 I2 I3) or only visible under 10x magnification, (SI2 grading through VVS1). If there are no inclusions visible under 10x magnification the diamonds will be graded IF or F for flawless. IF diamonds are very rare and highly valued, and for the most part not necessary for the typical engagement ring. Without the necessary tools, it’s almost impossible to discern the difference between an IF diamond and an SI diamond.

Understanding clarity helps you to select a diamond that matches with your preferences. It could be a diamond without any imperfections that you can see, or one with tiny, natural features that make it special. The best part about inclusions is that they make your diamond unique, as there are no two diamonds that are formed exactly alike.

When it comes to pricing for a diamond, size matters. Diamonds are priced by carat weight, with larger diamonds commanding higher prices. However, selecting the perfect diamond involves finding the balance where carat weight matches with cut, color, and clarity to make a well-rounded decision. It's about how the 4C’s come together that make the difference in both the visual appeal and the price of the diamond.

For many people, size is the most important aspect of the center diamond. The bigger the better, and the quality (cut, color, and clarity) is not important to them. If this is your preference, you can likely get a very large diamond that is lower on the color and clarity scale for a fairly decent price.

On the other hand, some people want a specific color and clarity diamond, and don’t care much about the size. In this case, you’ll end up with a diamond very high on the color and clarity scale, but a bit smaller in carat weight. Before you start searching for a diamond, it's definitely important to know your preferences. It will be difficult to find a large diamond with the perfect color and clarity if you have a tight budget, so knowing what your limitations are will assist your jeweler in finding a stone that will be perfect for your ring.

Additionally, measurements of a stone will vary depending upon the shape. A round diamond of approximately 1.00 carat will be around 6.5mm wide, but a princess cut diamond of the same dimensions is approximately 1.50 carat. This is another reason to take into consideration how large the stone will look on the wearer’s finger, especially if you are considering alternative diamond shapes. Some stones are cut deeper than others, so they may look small from the top because the majority of their weight is hidden by the ring mounting. This is a reason to choose a diamond with an excellent cut. Most diamond grading certificates will have this outlined, including the percentages of the different parts of the stone for you to compare.

Transparency, which is often overlooked, is the degree to which a diamond can transmit light. Diamonds can range from transparent to semi-transparent to translucent to opaque, as is the case with black diamonds. Understanding transparency adds another layer to the overall appeal of the diamond you select. In certain instances, a more opaque diamond can prove to create a unique engagement ring and may be exactly what you are searching for, depending upon the goal of your design.

With so many gemstone treatments on the market, it is difficult for the untrained eye and without the proper equipment to establish whether a diamond is natural or has been enhanced for clarity and/or color. There are many types of diamond treatments, which are processes applied to diamonds to improve their appearance. If a diamond has been treated, it can significantly affect the value. Some common types of diamond treatment are:

  • Fracture Filling: filling cracks that reach to the diamond surface
  • Laser Drilling: using a laser to remove dark inclusions in the diamond
  • Color Enhancement: treatments to improve the color of the diamond
  • Annealing: using very high temperatures to improve the color of the diamond
  • Irradiation: using radiation to change the color of the diamond
  • HPHT (High Pressure, High Temperature): subjects the diamond to similar conditions in which it was formed in the earth to improve the color or reduce the inclusions in the diamond.

When purchasing a diamond, it's crucial to obtain a certification from a reputable gemological laboratory that discloses any treatments or enhancements. This information ensures transparency and helps you make an informed decision.
At Mark Schneider’s we believe in selling natural, untreated diamonds for the most important occasions in your life, and after 65 years in the business, we protect our integrity and consider it our most important asset. We pride ourselves on teaching you about diamonds, helping you to make an informed diamond decision. We help you choose your diamond loose, under the correct lighting and grading conditions. We also show you comparison stones and encourage you to “Buy your Diamond the Right Way,” the same way professional diamond buyers do.