Selecting a Diamond

When selecting a diamond for an engagement ring there are several criteria to consider.  These benchmarks are commonly refered to as the four C’s.  Below each are defined.  For more detailed information on each topic, click on the term.

Term Definition
Color The diamond’s color usually refers to the absence or presence of a yellow tint.  A color grade of “D” means that a diamond is colorless and a color grade of “Z” is the darkest yellow.  Diamond color progressively gets more yellow from D to Z.
Carat Weight A carat is not the physical dimensional size of the diamond but rather its weight, or more precisely its mass. 1 carat = 200 milligrams = 100 points
Cut The diamonds cut refers to the dimensions and proportions to which the diamond is cut.  Cut is critical in order to obtain maximum diamond brilliance.  Sometimes cut is often confused with or associated with style and shape.
Clarity The clarity of a diamond is the absence or presence of flaws, scratches, or mineral deposits inside the stone.  Click the clarity term to see the grading chart.


These criteria have been used for years to help customers understand the uniqueness of diamond and how that uniqueness equates to price.  Any jewelry retailer worth visiting will be able to relay details about a specific piece in their shop by using the terms listed above.

After you have determined the criteria of the diamond you want, be sure to look at the diamond’s certification to ensure those qualities.


Clarity refers to a diamond’s absence of flaws such as fractures, cracks, mineral deposits, or scratches.  Such flaws are often referred to as inclusions.  For convenience, the amount of flaw in a diamond has been somewhat standardized by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS).  Each has its own system which is shown below in the table.  On a diamond’s certificate it will usually have one of the grades below as a clarity grade.

Gemological Institute of America American Gem Society Explanation
FL (flawless) 0 No internal or external inclusions can be seen with a 10x microscope to a trained professional.
IF 1 Internally Flawless.  No internal inclusions, however there are some minor irregularities on the surface that can sometimes be removed with a polish.
VVS1 Very Very Slightly Included 1.  One tiny inclusion present under a 10x microscope.
VVS2 2 Very Very Slightly Included 2.  Two or three tiny inclusions visible under a 10x microscope.
VS1 3 Very Slightly Included 1.  Very Small inclusions visible with a 10x microscope.
VS2 4 Very Slightly Included 2.  Very Small internal flaws.
SI1 5 Slightly Included 1.  Small inclusions visible with a 10x microscope.
SI2 6 Slightly Included 2.  Small inclusions easily visible with a 10x microscope but not quite yet visible to the naked eye.
I1 7-8 Imperfect 1.  Inclusions easily seen under a 10x microscope and barely visible to the naked eye.
I2 9 Imperfect 2.  Many inclusions easily visible to the naked eye.
I3 10 Imperfect 3.  Many large inclusions very easily visible with the naked eye.


I highly recommend going to a local dealer and seeing these different grades for yourself.  Take time to look through the microscope at several diamonds.  This will help you if you decide to go with a dealer who does not use one of the appraisal systems above.

NOTE:  The 10x microscope that most dealers have is known as a loupe.