There is so much poetry in diamonds – thousands of years in the making, they will forever bear testament to our love. Their rarity, beauty, and durability symbolizes the qualities we associate with love. Yet their liveliness is fleeting, it cannot be contained – it must be enjoyed in the moment. For all your lives, they will remind you of this time, and of your hopes and dreams for your life together.
Selecting a diamond can be tricky. Unlike apples in the market, they are difficult to assess and evaluate – especially so under the watchful eye of salespeople. So, anyone who’s in the market for diamonds learns about the “4Cs” of diamonds.
We’re going to suggest a crazy thing. Let’s not dwell on the “4Cs” too much. Let’s focus on what’s important to the wearer of a diamond.
By the way, another way diamonds are different from apples has to do with… their price. We talk about it more in our post on affordable diamond and non-diamond engagement rings.
So, back to the visuals of the diamond in front of you. Fundamentally, diamonds are all about light. It is an “obsession with light that has been captured, adapted, reflected and refracted.” They are about the duality, the extremes of the tangible and intangible. Dormant, they come alive in movement, leaving you wondering where the sparkle came from. Was it her eyes that sparkled their way into your heart?…
“It’s so dark right now. I can’t see any light around me. That’s because the light is coming from you. You can’t see it but everyone else can.” Lang Leav, Love & Misadventure.
Diamonds are characterized by ‘fire’ – colored light that flashes from within – and ‘brilliance’ – the colorless sparkle. Fire comes from depth and thickness of the diamond, while brilliance is born in the inter-reflections of light among the many surfaces, each precisely symmetrical and proportional to the others. Fire and brilliance are, to an extent, mutually exclusive – the more fire a diamond has, the less brilliance it will have, and vice versa, but some modern cuts are excellent at maximizing both. If you are looking at diamond rings, study the fire and brilliance by looking at high-quality diamonds before you choose. Keep in mind, though, that a diamond will look a little different in a jewelry store, compared to outside the store. The lighting in jewelry stores enhances both fire and brilliance of the diamonds they sell.
The basic rule for the price of a diamond – and I bet you knew that already! – is the rarer, the more expensive. And here’s where the “4C’s” (carat, color, clarity and cut) come in: they help determine the rarity of the diamond, its fire and its brilliance.
- Carat measures weight. As long as a diamond is properly cut, the more weight it has, the more depth it will have to produce fire and sparkle. Every small increase in weight brings an exponential increase in price. For example, you will find a step change between the prices of diamonds just under 1 carat and just over 1 carat.
- Color measures the degree of purity. Is it like spring water? Blue tinted stones are more expensive. Yellow (champagne diamonds, for example) are a little less so – but, set in a golden ring, they look just as arresting.
- Clarity measures flawlessness. Just like people, diamonds have flaws. They grow under pressure and develop ‘personality’ – identifying marks, or even cracks. Such marks or small cracks are invisible to the eye, particularly if the diamond is set in the ring and kept clean, but they do reduce the reflective qualities of the stone. Also, larger cracks make a diamond more vulnerable to breaking up into smaller, much less valuable pieces.
- Cut determines the fire and brilliance. Just like in a hall of mirrors, the way the diamond is cut should align the surfaces in a way that produces the most inter-reflections. Fun fact: jewelers nowadays use computer modelling to study the way light behaves in a particular diamond (with its particular flaws) and maximize the potential of each diamond. Thus, a diamond with a modern cut will have more sparkle than a vintage cut.
One more measure of a diamond that is relevant in the global world: origin.
Diamonds are sometimes mined on the orders of warlords and sold to finance a war and keep innocent civilians dying. So-called blood diamonds are a serious concern, and the industry has instituted rigorous certification processes (what’s called Kimberley Process) that aims to reassure buyers that they are not buying blood diamonds for their loved ones.
We in Canada have the benefit of ‘buying local’: diamonds mined, cut and polished in Northwest Territories have a unique certification system.
Diamond mining sometimes raises additional sustainability concerns. It disrupts land, pollutes air with carbon emissions, is rather water-intensive and can create a dangerous work environment with work-related injuries.
Synthetic diamonds are real diamonds that never had to be mined – instead, they are grown in a lab using processes that resemble those required for natural diamond formation. Added bonus – certified lab diamonds are 10-15% cheaper than mined diamonds. You can read more on this and much more in our post on affordable engagement rings.