How to Prioritize the  4Cs? Diamond Clarity vs Color vs Cut

How to Prioritize the 4Cs? Diamond Clarity vs Color vs Cut

How to Prioritize the 4Cs? Diamond Clarity vs Color vs Cut

Posted by Sharif Khan on 7th Feb 2021

prioritize 4Cs

How to Compromise on the 4Cs – The 4 Scenarios

When it comes to buying loose diamonds, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Diamonds are naturally formed over millions of years, each being unique and deserving a unique assessment. The 4Cs and other related factors are helpful in terms of making the assessment process easier.

Here are the four scenarios that shoppers often considered while shopping for diamonds over the past decade. You can take to them as a guide to obtain the best option for your particular budget range.

Scenario 1: They wanted the highest quality diamonds available in the market

According to this scenario, shoppers prioritize quality over size. Accordingly, what they would often choose are investment grade GIA or AGS diamonds failing in the range of flawless to VVS clarity and D to F color, carrying an excellent/ideal cut with none fluorescence, and weighing at least 1 carat. The two factors that render these diamonds investment grade are their rarity and scarcity. In our estimation, less than 1% of all naturally mined diamonds would have high enough quality in terms of all 4Cs and fluorescence in order for them to qualify as investment grade.

Below are two examples of investment grade diamonds:

GIA 1.5 carat D IF ideal cut. Follow link

AGS 1.72 Carat D VVS1 ideal cut. Follow link

What diamonds qualify under this range?

  • Lowest carat weight: 1 carat
  • Lowest color: G color (at the top of the near colorless range).
  • Lowest clarity: VS1 clarity
  • Lowest fluorescence range: none
  • Lowest grading labs: GIA, AGS, GCAL

James Allen

Scenario 2: While quality is important to them, they also want a big stone

Shoppers in this category like to take a balanced-approach. In doing so, they want to maximize on all four Cs instead of prioritizing the highest grades under each C. We prefer this approach and think that diamonds within this category do fall within the investment grade range. So, what would be the ideal options under this category?

Generally, shoppers aim for 1.5 carat weight instead of 1-1.2 carat and choose a G/H color diamond with VS2-VS1 clarity, excellent cut, and tolerance for up to faint or medium blue fluorescence: shoppers still, however, 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

AGS 1.5 H, VS1, ideal cut. Follow link

What range qualifies under this scenario?

  • The lowest carat: 0.8 carat
  • The lowest color: G color (top of the near colorless range).
  • The lowest color: I color (near colorless range).
  • The lowest clarity: SI1 clarity.
  • The lowest fluorescence: none to strong blue fluorescence.

IGI or HRD certification is adequate as well.

Scenario 3: Carat weight is more important to shoppers than quality, but they still want a diamond with an optimal brilliance and fire

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

Shoppers under this category do not mind a slight yellow tint and low clarity grades such as SI1/SI2 clarity as long as the stone is eye-clean in terms of inclusions, albeit the fact that they still prefer the cut to be in a very good to excellent range. Because, as contended before, they do not mind a slight color in the diamond, they are willing to go even for a strong blue fluorescence - fluorescence in I, J, K and lower color ranges is a positive factor.

Resultantly, such shoppers would choose a carat weight of 2 for their diamonds instead of 1.5 carat, SI1 or SI2 clarity, I/J color: a good to excellent cut with very good to ideal proportions and up to strong blue fluorescence. But, despite the compromise, it is of absolute importance to buy GIA graded diamonds as other labs play games when they grade lower clarity and color grades: do not even go for AGS in this range.

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

GIA 2.5 carat SI1, J, excellent cut. Follow link

GIA 1.5 carat, SI2, I, very good cut. Follow link

What range qualifies under this scenario?

  • The lowest carat weight: 0.5 carat
  • The lowest color: J color (bottom of the near colorless range)
  • The lowest clarity: SI2 clarity so long as the stone is either entirely or at least 90% eye-clean
  • The lowest fluorescence: none to strong blue fluorescence (presence of fluorescence is usually preferred in this range)
  • The lowest grading: only GIA

Scenario 4: One C needs to be ignored entirely, in order to buy a large diamond within a given budget range

Buyers in this scenario decide to ignore the importance of one C entirely in order to buy a big diamond within a tight budget range. In what follows, they evaluate as to how they can still get a brilliant diamond with great fire and scintillation after compromising on a particular C. What C would that be? For us, per this specific approach, the C that is compromised is color. Diamonds in high color grades but with low clarity grades are the I2-I3 ones that look awfully ugly. Conversely, diamonds that are in low color grades such as K-M but possess high clarity grades such as VS/VVS range will have beautiful fire and scintillation if they are cut right. Thus, the 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 and containing a very strong blue fluorescence. Do not worry: it’s acceptable to go with IGI or HRD certification as low color and high clarity grade diamonds are relatively well graded by these labs.

Here are a couple of good examples in this range:

GIA. 1.53 carat round VS1, L color. Follow Link

GIA. 3 carat VVS, L, blue fluorescence, 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—presence of fluorescence is preferred in this range
  • The lowest grading labs: GIA, AGS, GSL, HRD, IGI, PGS

GIA Certified Diamonds


To put it candidly, everything depends upon your budget. If you have a good budget, we would advise that you purchase very high quality diamonds—investment grade type stones—because the chances of their maintaining their, or even incrementing in, value as they age are very high owing to their rarity. Mining costs increase, and as such diamonds will become greater in demand amid their prices’ increasing. Thus, an investment here can prove very beneficial for you in the future. Furthermore, these diamonds have the best brilliance, fire and scintillation; and we would always recommend that you go for the best.

But if not so, then go for a balanced-approach if you can afford to; this means you do not have to compromise excessively on either C so that you can prioritize equally on both quality and size. These types of high quality and large size stones are greatly in demand and presently have the best resale value because they are easier to sell than their counterparts in other price tags. Also, such diamonds have high circulation and demand since more people can afford to buy them as opposed to best quality investment grade diamonds that fewer people can afford.

Be that as it may, if your budget is limited and size is important to you, then you can compromise on clarity and color to a certain degree to get your desired stone. However, know that you will have to do a lot of due diligence and to identify the right stone with the right inclusion type/location and fluorescence. In such a case, it is important to ensure that the stone is eye-clean and without such imperfections as can affect the brilliance of the stone. In other words, make sure 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 in order to get a big diamond, we recommend that you compromise on color and maximize on clarity and cut; for, even if the stone is slightly yellow, it will still have a lot of fire and brilliance. Additionally, because some people actually prefer warmer colors, a slight yellow hue may be preferred. If you find yourself lurking in this range, kindly make sure you follow our fluorescence guide if you are compromising on color as it can be a helpful ally. (A friendly advice: blue is a complementary color to yellow, and so blue fluorescence can make yellow diamonds appear whiter than their actual grades.)

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.