Understanding the Diamond Carat Scale
Diamonds are valued based on several factors, the most significant being their carat. To put it simply, carat is a unit of measurement used to weigh diamonds (and other gemstones). A carat is a metric unit of measurement that equals 200 milligrams. Each carat is further divided into 100 points that allow for exact measurements. Sometimes, diamonds weighing less than one carat are described using their points alone. For example, a jeweler may refer to a 0.75-carat diamond as a “seventy-five pointer.” Carats and decimals are used to describe diamonds weighing more than one carat. So, a 1.09-carat stone would be called a “one point oh nine” diamond. A diamond would have to be more than 2,265 carats to equal one pound in the imperial measurement system used here in the United States.
The largest diamonds are, of course, the rarest and most valuable. Even if you have two diamonds of the exact same carat, though, their values could be significantly different. That’s because carat is just one of the “4 Cs” taken into consideration when establishing the value of these incredible stones. If you need help understanding the diamond carat scale, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll be discussing the diamond carat scale and the other factors used to determine the value of a diamond. Let’s dive in!
The Significance of Carat Weight
Whether you are shopping for womens diamond engagement rings or any other type of diamond jewelry, understanding the significance of carat weight is crucial. In addition to ensuring that you select a quality piece, having some knowledge of the diamond carat scale can help you get a great deal.
Despite what many folks think, carats are not used to describe the size of a diamond. These valuable stones are weighed using carats, and experts assess their size by measuring their length and width in millimeters. Because diamonds come in various shapes and sizes, it’s common for two stones of the exact same carat to have completely different appearances. For example, round-cut diamonds have less depth than fancy cuts, like princess diamonds. As a result, a round-cut stone may appear larger than a princess-cut diamond even if it weighs the same (or even less).
Choosing well-cut stones gives you the most bang for your buck when shopping for diamonds. They typically have more spread because they are not cut as deep. This makes them appear larger than their carat weight would suggest.
How Carats Effect Prices
The value of a diamond increases exponentially depending on its weight. Once a stone reaches a critical weight, its value goes up. The critical weights for diamonds are 0.30ct, 0.40ct, 0.50ct, 0.70ct, 0.90ct, 1.00ct, 1.50ct, 2.00ct, 3.00ct, 4.00ct, 5.00ct and 10.00ct. Diamond cutters strive to keep each stone at or above a critical weight to ensure maximum value.
If you want to save some cash on your next diamond purchase, be mindful of “magic sizes.” Specific diamond sizes cost more because they are either a critical weight or in high demand. Upon visual inspection, it’s impossible to distinguish between a 1ct diamond and a stone weighing 0.99ct. The value varies greatly, though. So-called off-size diamonds offer significant savings, so they are a great option if you love the look of bold and blingy men’s diamond rings but are seeking a cost-effective option.
You can also save yourself a bundle by shopping for lab-grown diamonds rather than natural stones. Diamonds grown in labs share the same physical, optical, and chemical properties as their natural counterparts, but they cost significantly less.
The 4 Cs of Pricing Diamonds
Appraisers consider four factors — known as the 4 Cs — when assessing diamonds. Carat is one of the top things buyers consider when shopping for jewelry featuring these precious stones. However, carat weight certainly is not the only factor that matters. To get a piece you love that fits within your budget, you need to consider and balance all 4 Cs — Carat, Cut, Color and Clarity. Let’s look closer at the remaining 3 Cs since we’ve already discussed carat.
Every diamond is professionally cut to enhance its brilliance, sparkle, fire and overall beauty. While they were once cut by hand, modern diamonds are machine cut to ensure precision and quality. The diamond cut scale is used to measure the performance of light when it touches a diamond.
Before cutting, rough diamonds are often opaque on the outside and possess little to no sparkle because they lack facets to reflect light. When light strikes a cut diamond, it bounces around inside the stone and returns to your eyes in what we consider sparkle. The way a diamond is cut significantly impacts light performance and plays a huge role in the stone’s sparkliness. If you are looking for a flashy diamond that’s sure to turn heads, look for one with a rating of “Good” or higher on the cut scale.
Fair and Poor
Diamonds rated “Fair” or “Poor” have significant light leakage, often because they are too shallow or deep in height. They have very little sparkle and are less visually appealing than stones rated higher on the scale. Most reputable jewelers do not sell pieces featuring diamonds rated “Fair” or “Poor” in the cut category.
“Good” cut diamonds have a little bit of light leakage, but they still possess a lot of sparkle. They shine brightly and are often cut to “Good” standards to achieve a certain style or look. If you are looking for diamond jewelry that offers an excellent blend of value and beauty, pieces featuring “Good” cut stones are a great choice.
Cut diamonds rated “Very Good” are brilliant and have minimal light leakage. They capture nearly all of a stone’s full potential. Diamond cutters often cut stones to achieve a “Very Good” grade to enhance their other characteristics, including carat, color, and clarity.
Diamonds cut to “Excellent” standards are the sparkliest and most brilliant gems in the world. They are masterfully cut to produce maximum sparkle and show off the exquisite beauty of high-quality diamonds. Only about three percent of all diamonds fall into this premium category, though they are becoming more prevalent as manufacturing and cutting technology continues to improve.
Known as white diamonds, the clear stones typically found in engagement and wedding rings are the most common option. However, both natural and lab-grown diamonds are available in a wide range of colors, including yellow, pink and green. Under the standards set forth by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) for natural diamonds and the International Gemological Institute (IGI), though, the color of a diamond is rated on a D-to-Z scale based on its lack of color. The less color the stone has, the higher its grade. Keep in mind that fancy colored diamonds are rated differently and are not included in this scale.
D is the highest and best grade on the diamond color scale and is reserved for stones that are entirely colorless. Z is the lowest grade. The scale starts at D to avoid confusion as other gemstones’ color is rated on a scale that includes AAA, AA, A and B.
A diamond’s color is evaluated by examining the stone face down on a white background. Gemologists also compare diamonds to a GIA-verified cubic zirconia set with color grade shading known as “master stones.”
Diamond Color D-F (Colorless)
Diamonds rated D-F are completely colorless or have minute traces of color that can only be detected by a gemologist. Fewer than one percent of all diamonds fall into this category.
Diamond Color G-J (Near Colorless)
Diamonds in this range have slight color traces but typically appear colorless to the untrained eye. They have brilliant sparkle and offer an excellent balance of value and lack of color. Roughly 15 percent of gem-quality diamonds fall into this color.
Diamond Color K-M (Faint Color)
Diamonds in the K-M range have a faint brown or yellow tinge. The color slightly dulls sparkle and is usually fairly easy to detect. Forty percent of diamonds are in the K-M range.
Diamond Color N-Z (Light Color)
Diamonds with color ratings of N-Z have an obvious brown or yellow hue. They are the least valuable, and many jewelers do not sell them due to their inferior appearance.
The last (but certainly not the least important) of the 4 Cs is clarity. As diamonds grow — both naturally and in laboratories — microscopic imperfections and impurities can occur. Known as inclusions, these imperfections are common and contribute to each diamond’s uniqueness. They also impact diamonds’ clarity and value because they can reduce sparkle by preventing light from refracting properly. Diamonds with the smallest and fewest inclusions receive the highest grade. However, since many imperfections can only be observed under a microscope, they do not necessarily detract from a stone’s overall beauty.
The diamond clarity scale ranges from FL to I3, with FL being the best rating.
Diamonds with an FL rating have no inclusions inside or on their surface. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare, and less than 0.1 percent of all gem-quality diamonds fall into this category.
IF (Internally Flawless)
IF diamonds have no inclusions but have very minor surface blemishes that are only visible under 10x magnification. The blemishes do not affect sparkle, so these stones are gorgeous.
VVS1 (Very, Very Slightly Included)
A VVS1 diamond has minute inclusions that are nearly impossible to detect even under 10x magnification. While less costly than FL and IF diamonds, they appear nearly the same to the naked eye.
VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included)
VVS2 diamonds also have tiny imperfections, but they are easier to detect under magnification than the inclusions found in VVS1 stones. Again, they don’t detract from the diamond’s brilliance or sparkle and are invisible to the naked eye.
VS1 (Very Slightly Included)
VS1 is a popular clarity range because it offers an excellent balance of beauty and value. VS1 diamonds have minor inclusions that are only visible under magnification and have minimal impact on sparkle.
VS2 (Very Slightly Included)
The inclusions in VS2 diamonds appear slightly larger under magnification than those found in VS1 diamonds. The imperfections remain undetectable without magnification.
SL1 (Slightly Included)
SL1 diamonds sparkle brilliantly despite having imperfections that are usually invisible to the untrained (and unassisted) eye. It is still considered a high-quality grade and allows buyers to focus more of their budget on carat, color, or cut.
SL2 (Slightly Included)
SL2 diamonds are sparkly but have inclusions that may be visible to the naked eye with close examination.
An I1 diamond has visible inclusions but still shines brightly. Diamonds in this category are an excellent choice for anyone looking for budget-friendly diamond jewelry.
I2 and I3 (Included)
Diamonds that fall into the I2 and I3 range have noticeable inclusions that detract from their sparkle and beauty. For this reason, many high-end jewelers do not carry diamonds graded below I1.
Whether you are shopping for a women’s Rolex with a diamond-encrusted face or another high-end jewelry piece, understanding carat is extremely important. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not the only thing worth considering. Also, remember that carat refers to a diamond’s weight, not its size. Sometimes, a lower-carat stone appears larger than one with a higher carat due to its cut.
While carat is the most important of the 4 Cs for some folks, it’s vital to give the remaining 3 Cs equal attention. Finding a diamond with the perfect balance of carat, cut, color and clarity allows you to get a breathtaking stone that suits your tastes as well as your budget.
At Frost NYC, we have top-quality diamond jewelry for every occasion. And the description for every diamond piece includes information about the stone’s carat and quality. We source our diamonds from sights around the world and strive to over top-quality pieces at highly competitive prices. Shop now to find your new diamond jewelry or women’s gold chains!