Prioritizing the 4Cs of Diamonds

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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When it comes to buying diamonds, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While the 4Cs and other related factors help make the assessment process more efficient, because diamonds are naturally formed over billions of years, each stone is unique and deserves an individual assessment.

Below, we have outlined four scenarios first-time diamond buyers often consider while buying diamonds. Use them as a reference to select the best option within a particular budget range.

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Scenario 1: Buying the Highest Quality Diamonds

Under this scenario, shoppers prioritize quality over size. Accordingly, they often buy "investment grade" GIA or AGS diamonds with flawless or VVS clarity and D or E color with excellent/ideal cut and no fluorescence, weighing at least 1 carat. The two factors that qualify diamonds in this range as investment-grade are rarity and scarcity. In our estimation, less than 1% of all naturally mined diamonds with ideal 4Cs and no fluorescence qualify as investment grade.

Below are two examples of investment-grade diamonds:

GIA 1.7 carat D VVS1 Super Ideal Cut. Follow link

AGS 1.5 Carat E VVS1 ideal cut. Follow link

What diamonds qualify under this range?

  • Lowest carat weight: 1 carat
  • Lowest color: E color
  • Lowest clarity: VS1 clarity
  • Lowest fluorescence range: None
  • Qualifying grading labs: GIA, AGS, GCAL

Scenario 2: Prioritizing Quality and Carat Weight

Shoppers in this category take a balanced approach. They want to maximize all four Cs instead of prioritizing the highest grades under each C, which is often preferable. Some diamonds under this category might even fall within the "investment-grade" range. What is the ideal option under this category?

Generally, shoppers aim for a 1.5-carat weight instead of 1-1.2 carat and choose an F or G color diamond with VS2 or VS1 clarity, excellent cut, and tolerance for up to faint fluorescence. However, shoppers still stick with either GIA or AGS certification.

Here are a couple of examples of diamonds within the “balanced-approach” range:

GIA 1.2 carat G, VS2, Excellent Cut. Follow link

GIA 1.5 carat F, VS2, Ideal Cut. Follow link

What range qualifies under this scenario?

  • The lowest carat: 1 carat
  • The lowest color: G color (Near Colorless range)
  • The lowest clarity: SI1 clarity
  • The lowest fluorescence: None to Faint Fluorescence
  • Qualifying Grading Labs: GIA or AGS

Scenario 3: Prioritizing Carat Weight with Optimal Brilliance

In this option, buyers want a big stone at the cost of the other 3Cs, although they do not prefer buying an ugly-looking stone. This implies that, in a sense, they are willing to take a calculated risk.

Shoppers under this category do not mind a slight yellow tint and low clarity grades, such as SI1/SI2 clarity, if the stone is eye-clean in terms of inclusions and the cut is very good to excellent. In addition, because they do not mind near colorless diamonds, they are willing to consider strong blue fluorescence (fluorescence in I, J, K, and lower color ranges is often a positive factor).

As a result, these shoppers would ideally go for a 2-carat diamond—instead of 1.5 carats—SI1 or SI2 clarity, I/J color, good to excellent cut with very good to ideal proportions, and up to strong blue fluorescence. Buying only GIA or AGS graded diamonds in this range is imperative. Other labs are inconsistent when they grade lower clarity and color grades (avoid even AGS in this range).

Below are a couple of examples of good large stones with lower clarity and color but with brilliant options:

GIA 2 carat SI1, H, Excellent Cut. Follow link

GIA 1.5 carat, SI2, I, Excellent Cut. Follow link

What range qualifies under this scenario?

  • The lowest carat weight: 0.8 carat
  • The lowest color: J color (Lowest Colorless Range)
  • The lowest clarity: SI2 clarity so long as the stone is entirely or at least 90% eye-clean
  • The lowest fluorescence: None to Strong Blue Fluorescence (the presence of fluorescence is usually preferred in this range.)

Scenario 4: Ignoring One C Entirely

Buyers in this scenario often ignore the importance of one C entirely to buy a big diamond within a tight budget range without compromising on fire and scintillation. What C could that be? For us, the C that should be compromised is Color. Diamonds in colorless grades with low clarity look dull and lifeless. Conversely, diamonds in low color grades, such as K-M, but with high clarity grades, including the VS/VVS range, still have great fire and scintillation, especially if they are well-cut. Therefore, the best approach to this scenario—assuming your budget is 5K—is to go for a 1.5-carat K-M color diamond with VVS/VS clarity and excellent cut (even strong blue fluorescence is acceptable). IGI or HRD certification labs are also sufficient for this range as they are consistent in grading low-color and high-clarity grade diamonds correctly.

Here are a couple of good examples in this range:

GIA, 1.53 Rarat Round, VVS1, K color. Follow Link

GIA, 3 carat VS1, L, Ideal Cut. Follow link

What range qualifies in this scenario?

  • The lowest carat weight: Any
  • The lowest color: K-Z Color (faint to light yellow)
  • The lowest clarity: Flawless to VS1 Clarity
  • The lowest fluorescence range: None to Very Strong Blue (the presence of fluorescence is preferred in this range.)
  • Qualifying grading labs: GIA, AGS, GSL, HRD, IGI, and PGS

How to Read a Grading Report

In addition to the obvious 4Cs, buyers must pay attention to the following important sections in a grading report:

  • Measurements: This section displays the surface size of the diamonds.

  • Proportions: This section measures the cut quality of the diamond.

  • Clarity Characteristics: This section shows the type of inclusions and where they are located.

  • Fluorescence: This section indicates if the diamond has fluorescence and its intensity.

  • Comments: This section usually contains additional information about the diamond, especially if the diamond is clarity-enhanced and/or treated.

GIA Grading Report

Final Thoughts

What you prioritize depends on your budget. If it is substantial, we advise that you purchase high-quality diamonds—investment-grade ones—because their chances of maintaining value as they age are high, owing to their rarity. Mining costs increase, and as a result, diamonds will become harder to mine, and their prices will increase. Thus, investing in a high-quality diamond can prove very beneficial going forward. Furthermore, these diamonds have the best brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

The second scenario is as good as the first one. There is no harm in opting for a balanced approach, not compromising excessively on any C, and equally prioritizing quality and size. These high-quality and large-size diamonds are in high demand and have the best resale value. They also have increased circulation since more people can afford to buy them instead of high-quality investment-grade diamonds that few people can afford.

If your budget is limited and size is essential, compromising clarity and color might help you obtain a decent-quality diamond. However, it is crucial to do high due diligence and identify the right diamond with the proper inclusion types (location) and fluorescence. Furthermore, we strongly emphasize that the diamond be eye-clean in this scenario. Please ensure you spend enough time learning about the details of the 4Cs before considering this option.

Finally, if you are willing to compromise on one C to get a big diamond, we recommend you compromise on color and maximize clarity and cut. Even if the diamond is slightly yellow, it will still have good fire and brilliance. Some buyers prefer warmer colors, so this might not be a bad option if you are okay with a slight yellow hue. If you consider this scenario, follow our fluorescence guide. Please note that blue is a complementary color to yellow; blue fluorescence can make yellow diamonds appear whiter than their actual color grade.

Diamond 4Cs Scale