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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The 4 C’s of Diamonds

By Suzanne O'Connor

Most of us don’t know much about jewelry… especially diamonds. So I asked my trusted jeweler, Stan Shane from Shane Jewelry in Westwood Village, to write an article on how to choose a good quality diamond. He’s not just known for his great prices, Shane’s Jewelers has been around since 1970 specializing in platinum, 18k and 14k gold and is famous for the “made on the premises” custom design engagements that are 25%- 50% below retail. Stan Shane is one wonderful jeweler with an amazing amount of knowledge.
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The Four C’s of Diamonds
By Stan Shane

For centuries men and women have found the sparkle and brilliance of a quality diamond expresses their deepest emotions and symbolizes their enduring love. Yet with many beautiful diamonds to choose from, and no two are exactly alike, how do you pick the right diamond while spending wisely? The guidance of a trusted jeweler and knowledge of the 4 C’s will lead you to the right answer.

To establish a diamonds quality, a jeweler examines each of the 4 C’s…Cut, Clarity, Carat weight and Color. The combination of the 4-C’s determines the value of a diamond. For example, a colorless diamond is of the highest value but if it lacks clarity or is not well cut, it will be lower in value. The finest and most valuable stones possess the rarest quality in each of the 4-C’s.

When you start thinking about buying a diamond- and the love it will symbolize- you naturally want the best you can afford. A trustworthy jeweler who is a diamond expert establishes a long standing relationship with their customers and will take pride in finding quality diamonds for them. A good jeweler will explain the 4 C’s as well as show you a selection of diamonds in a range of prices. While all diamonds are beautiful, only by comparing stones will you be able to appreciate what makes one more rare and valuable than another. When you view stones side by side, you’ll understand why diamonds that look similar at a casual glance are priced differently.

CUT
Your jeweler can help you choose a diamond shape that suits your personal tastes. The classic round brilliant, oval, pear, marquise, princess radiant, heart and emerald shapes are among the most beautiful and popular today. A well cut or faceted diamond regardless of it’s shape scintillates with fire. While nature determines a diamonds clarity, carat weight and color, the hand of a master craftsman is necessary to release it’s fire spark and beauty. When a diamond is cut to good proportions, light will reflect from one mirror-like facet to another and disperse through the top of the stone, resulting in a display of brilliance and fire.

Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow lose light that spills through the sides and bottom. As a result, a poorly cut stone will be less brilliant and beautiful, and ultimately less valuable than a well cut diamond.

CLARITY
Also to be considered is the clarity of a diamond. The greater a diamonds clarity, the more brilliant, rare and valuable it is. Virtually all natural diamonds contain identifying characteristics, yet many are invisible to the naked eye. Under the scrutiny of a jewelers 10x magnifying loupe or microscope, natural phenomena called inclusions may be seen.
These are nature’s birth marks and they may look like tiny crystal, clouds or feathers.

Diamonds categorized as internally flawless reveal no such inclusions. Flawless stones are treasured for their rarity and beauty. Diamonds with very, very small inclusions are graded as VVS or VVS2. The larger the inclusion the lower the grade of the diamond. Inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye are graded I1 to I3

The number, color type size and position of the surface and internal birthmarks affect a diamonds value. Major inclusions can interfere with the path of light that travels through the diamond, diminishing it’s brilliance and sparkle… and therefore it’s value.

CARAT
Diamonds are measured by the carat weight. Larger diamonds are found relatively infrequently in nature, which places them at a rare level. Also bigger diamonds show off a stones fine color and cut, and therefore it’s overall brilliance making them very desirable. While larger diamonds are highly prized, diamonds of equal size may vary widely in value and brilliance depending on their qualities of clarity, cut and color.

COLOR
While most diamonds appear white, virtually all display barely perceptible tints of color. Diamonds are graded by color starting at D and moving through the alphabet to Z. Evaluating a diamonds color for grading purposes is done by measuring the degree to which a diamond approaches colorlessness. Although it is difficult for the untrained eye to see these minor variations, a jeweler can demonstrate them by showing you diamonds side by side.

Diamonds graded D, E, F are far more expensive because they are more rare. However, well cut diamonds with good clarity of all color grades can be equally dazzling, as it is the interplay of the 4 C’s that determines each diamonds unique beauty.

If you’re about to buy a diamond engagement ring you may want to consider spending commonly accepted guidelines of two months salary. But it’s up to you to settle on a diamond that will truly represent your deepest emotions and the promise of the future you will share.

How can you be sure to choose the perfect diamond for her? Browse with her at a trusted jeweler where you can share your knowledge of the 4 C’s. Later surprise her with a diamond beyond all expectations.

A one carat diamond or larger should have a GIA certificate and 99 points and below should always be EGL certified. These certificates will tell you the color, carat weight and clarity of the diamond. It will also tell you the symmetry and polish. The cut of the stone, which is very important, cannot be interpreted without a gemologist
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Shane’s Jewelry has two board gemologists on staff and is a member of American Gem Trade, The Jewelry Board of Trade and American Jewelry Wholesalers Inc..
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