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The Jewelry Hut
A Consumer Guide to Diamond Value
How to get your money’s worth when buying your diamond “piece of forever.”.
The All-Important 4 C’S
Flexibility will be most rewarded as you tackle at he all-important 4 C’s. Consider the jeweler you are shopping. And the diamond cutter, diamond dealer, or diamond manufacturer the jeweler bought diamonds from. The globe trotting diamantaire the diamond jeweler in turn bought from. Even the diamond miner who unearthed the original rough diamond. All, to varying degrees, are constrained by the 4 C’s. Color (whiteness), clarity (flawlessness), carat weight (size), even cut (a mark of the cutter’s skill in turning the rough into polished diamond) determine their margins, ergo the price they can and must charge you. However, you are under no such constraints. Unless, of course, you were born to wear a D/F 5 carats ideal round brilliant diamond. More power to you.
You are looking for value. So it is important to ask: What is a diamond worth? And how do glyphs lie D, F, 5 carats, and ideal round brilliant “RB” tell me what it is worth?
First, it is important to know that is a bit like asking: what is a house worth? Is a 3.5 bedroom, 2 bathroom, worth less than a 4 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom house? It would be nice to know if it had a garage, where it was, if it was termite-free, if it was slapdash or well-built. Flexibility and knowledge give the power to determine value as you soak in the 4 C’s of many diamonds. You must, however, truly look at them, rather than at pictures or diagrams. Only then will value be in he eye of you, the beholder.
Color and The Eye of the Beholder
That D is a grade, given by a trained diamond grader, along a scale introduced in the 1950s by the Gemological Institute of America, “GIA,” the first still most widely used independent diamond lab. It ranges from D, colorless (most expensive) to Z, pale yellow (least expensive). Anything beyond Z is a “fancy yellow,” which, paradoxically enough, may well be more expensive than a D.
The D signifies the diamond is a pure carbon crystal, compressed into a specific lattice formation that makes if gem quality. There are 75 forms of naturally occurring diamond, and only one is a gemstone. It will be icy white when polished, and it is all but nonexistent. Of the 100-plus million carats of rough diamonds mined each year, a handful or two are pure white, ergo the huge cost.
Every other diamond has traces of a gas that was trapped inside the carbon lattice during its creation in a volcano roughly a billion years ago. Usually it is nitrogen, which causes a yellow of brown tint. Varying with the amount of nitrogen traces, that tint can render diamonds everything from “colorless” (D, E, and F) to near colorless (G- J), and on down the color scale to Z diamonds, which appear almost as yellow as they are white.
Color, if you are shopping together, will often be the first test of your flexibility and ability to communicate, for a simple, largely unknown reason. Women have a keener eye for color than men. The difference between a costly F color and a far more common H, while imperceptible to him, may be jarring to her. The bulk of diamonds you are likely to be looking at will be in the G - J range. Color may also be the first time you will really get the importance of looking at many diamonds. On first appearance, there is a very small difference between even a D and an H.
Why bother with the higher colors if that is the case? Simple reason: As the days, months, and years go by, you will see that color ever stronger. It is how the mind’s eye works. There are women who, 10 or 20 years later, could not stand the yellowness of her K color diamond and traded her diamond up. Bear in mind, some mind’ eye find these tints appealing, some very fine ones in fact. A number of jewelers, particularly ones of middle age, are smitten with certain K colors, designing pieces that enhance rather than hide that color.
However, what you will not notice is the importance the importance of having a jeweler with her own trained color eye and experience in the diamond trade. Why?
Remember that trained diamond grader? He made his decision by placing that diamond between two other diamonds, know as “master stones” on a white paper tray, then deciding which of the two it was more like. That simple: More like the G? Or more like the H? Did he do his job well? Almost certainly. However, some diamonds graded correctly as Gs are closer to the G master stone (and more white) than others. Same price, better color. Some Hs, similarly, are closer to G than other Hs. Same price, better color. If the jeweler is good and buys from better dealers, cutters, and jewelry manufacturers, a “cherry picking” will have occurred long before you see the diamond.
Remember the advice to consider white metals for white diamonds? It is because yellow gold makes white diamond appear more yellow. Color is thus more difficult to discern in finished jewelry. No grader could tell you right off the bat if a mounted stone was a D or an E (a very good one could pick out an F), or a G versus H. Let him wear it for a week or two, he will know. Similarly, color is more discernible as diamonds get bigger. As you begin to judge smaller diamonds on the basis of color, bear in mind those faint yellow tinges will add up over time in mind’s eye.
Once you have made or narrowed your choice of diamonds, it is advised two “color tricks” before sealing the deal. You might notice a small mood switch as you linger in a jewelry store, a certain brightening of spirit, optimism? Part of it may be due to halogen, a high voltage light that brings out whiteness, even blueness in diamonds. Note also that you will have been looking at diamonds on a black felt, again, accentuating their whiteness. Not a gimmick; why shouldn’t a jeweler show he offering optimally? But not the conditions you will be looking at your diamond henceforth.
As you are sapling, ask for something white to look at the diamond against. Some jewelers will even have a set of master stones and a white tray for your own color appraisal. Then as to see your diamond by a window, even outside.
While not truly related to this first “C,” there is an optical characteristic peculiar to a large number of the world’s diamonds that may offer a terrific opportunity for value. It is known as “fluorescene,” a tendency to exhibit a bluish hue under certain lighting conditions, specifically ultra-violet light, but also direct sunlight and, you guessed it, fluorescent light (actually because such bulbs are high in UV content). In very rare cases, fluorescence can negatively affect the appearance of a diamond; it will make the stone appear less brilliant, even “cloudy.” In all cases, it will make for less expensive diamond. Though diamonds once fetched a premium for this characteristic, fluorescence is not appreciated within the trade. It may not bother you in the slightest. You might very well actually enjoy the occasional bluish tint.
The FL, short for flawless, meant the diamond was entirely free of characteristics; know as inclusion, feathers, blemishes, and graining, when viewed under the 10X magnification of a jeweler’s loupe.
IF, or internally flawless, means there are no such characteristics within the diamond it self, but, perhaps, that invisible graining marks (indication of carbon lattice structure) do exist along the surface.
In VVS, short for very, very slightly include, these characteristics are present but just visible at 10X.
A tad less minutely, though still imperceptibly so, is VS, or very slightly included.
Even less minutely (and probably the bulk of diamonds you will be looking at) are SIs, where small flaws are visible at 10X.
I, for included refers, sadly, to most of world’s diamonds, the content of almost every CTTW jewelry or loose diamonds you will see in the chain jewelry stores and print advertisements, and almost all the CTTW jewelry sold at low prices online. There will be a number after each grade, except FL and IF, 1 being for the better clarity, and to 3, with I and some SI diamonds, bringing up the rear.
Clarity will likely offer your optimal opportunity for flexibility. Diamond jewelry dealers communicate largely in terms of clarity, almost to the exclusion of the other 4 C’s, unless the occasion calls. It is the cross they must all bear, and quality by which most of the world’s diamonds are distinguished from each other.
It need not be yours. These flaws are by no means created equal. Nor are they truly flaws, but rather aspects incurred in the diamond’s volcanic formation. Some can draw you to a diamond, with inclusions that are actually micro-diamonds, or small garnet or even ruby crystal. Some SIs have dark, unattractive inclusions, while others have feathers (tiny internal cracks in the lattice) that may not bother you in the slightest. Same price, better clarity,. One SI2 may riddled with small, barely noticeable inclusions. Another may have a larger on on the diamond’s girdle, the faceted area between upper crown and lower pavilion sections, which may be hidden beneath the prongs or bezels that will secure the diamond in its setting.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide 10x images of clarity characteristics by online jewelry stores. As with cherry-picked colors, a superior online jeweler will enable and even direct you to such choices by virtue of his/her superior eye and buying savvy.
Below, you can learn how to use the following guidelines by learning how to use a jeweler’s loupe and a pair or tweezers. Here are the basics of how to use a loupe.
First, for a loose diamond, have it sitting crown side down, before securing two edges of the diamond girdle in the tweezers, squeezing slightly. Do this with your dominant hand, then transfer the tweezers to your other hand. You will now be using your dominant hand to hold the loupe. You can do this standing up, but it is easier seated .
It will usually be easier with round brilliant diamonds. For many fancy shapes, and diamonds a carat of larger, feel free to eschew tweezers and instead hold the diamond between the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand.
If you are right-hand, insert the index finger through the loupe’s protective case, which now serves as your finger-hold. You will now have three fingers of each hand free. Place them against each other to form a base that feels comfortable, and which leaves a half inch to an inch between the diamond and the loupe. That distance will vary with your eyesight; and yes, feel free to determine whether or not it works best with eyeglasses if you wear them. Then bring the loupe up to within an inch or two of your left eye and start looking.
Looking for what? At this point, you are only looking for clarity’s sake. Do it until you find the SI2 or VS1. Study it, then put the loupe down and look at the diamond with you naked eye. You will now either see, or be bothered by, the flaws you have become intimate with. Or not. You will however, see or rather feel, whether the clarity of this diamond will be a value issue over time as you live with it.
Going beyond the magic sizes
Seemingly a cut and dry C; there is 100 points in a carat. Weight actually offers a number of opportunities to be flexible and find value and the right diamond for you.
Earlier, we spoke of legal tolerance in total carat weight (CTTW) diamond jewelry. A “tolerance” in the loose diamond trade may well save you a pretty penny. Not all carat diamonds are 1 carat. Most, in fact, are not, but rather 0.97 CT, or perhaps 1.02 CT. Given that you are shopping, say for a 1 carat G/SI1, at price range of $4,300 - $6,000 per carat, there is a $215 - $300 swing within that range of tolerances, if measured by point size. Or perhaps you are shopping for a 3/4 CT diamond. The price range may vary from, for example, $2,100 to $3,300, with easily computable savings per point.
There is a far more important trade secret to capitalize on. There are 100 points in a carat, a unit taking its name from the carob seed once used to weigh gems. Formerly, traders weighing gems that fell between full carobs balanced the weighing end of scales with grains weighing four to a carob. The practice survives, semantically and, for all intents and purposes, in trade, where a 75 point diamond is a “3 grainer,” and a 1.25 Carats is a “5 grainer.” Many cutters still cut rough diamonds that result in full, or near full grains, which are known as “magic sizes.”
Note that price of a diamond all but doubled from 3/4 to 1 carat. Will an 88 point diamond be roughly half the distance? On average, no. It will be priced more for its variance from the 75 points range than from the full carat diamond’s range, affording you tremendous flexibility for adding value. As with color and clarity, it is an opportunity found largely with a trusted jeweler. Go to www.thejewelryhut.com/html/diamond.html offering large number of diamonds. You will find more stones falling between magic sizes than any other online diamond jewelry stores.
Until you get up to 2 carats diamonds, which, owing to the nature of the rough they are cut from, will be all over the map. Unless you are a master amateur gemologist, or born under a very lucky star, however it would be wise to purchase such a stone online.
The Performance Factor
By now you are likely wondering, why these huge ranges for identical diamonds? Clearly, they are not identical. In extreme cases, Two G/SI1 1 Carat diamonds may well seem like entirely different diamonds. If the cutter was good, his diamond will appear to be 10% bigger, an illusion that will actually grow the longer you look at it. Why?
For the very reason you are looking at diamonds to begin with. A carat weight 1/5th of a gram. If it is a round brilliant, its diameter is roughly that of a cigarette; take the tobacco out and you could fit a dozen or so 1 carat diamonds in. They are tiny; a fact that will hit like a sledgehammer when you are off on a second day shopping them. Good diamonds get bizarrely, magically big as you look at them. Why?
To put it ever so fancifully, it is because diamonds are alive! When a diamond jeweler, dealer, and eventually, you, the diamond buyer, look at a polished diamond the first time, what you are looking for is life. Not a conceit, by the way, but an actual term. Life in a diamond is measured by the way it handles light, and that is strictly a function of the way it has been cut. Formerly, that was an almost entirely subjective measurement. A number of machines and software programs now calibrate this life with extraordinary accuracy and repeatability.
What is so endearing about a diamond, and what offers you the greatest flexibility for determining value as you choose your diamond, is that diamond life; more properly known as performance, is still highly subjective. As you might value a person for any number of virtues, diamonds perform and handle light, differently, giving them personalities.
You will not see it right away, but performance occurs (or fails to) in three ways. Brilliance is intensity of the light you see coming out of the diamond. Simply ask yourself this question: How bright is that light? Ask yourself when you first see a diamond, again as you get to know it, then again after you have seen other similar diamonds.
As you ask it, bear in mind that you are currently holding a diamond. Probably rigidly, for fear of dropping it. Worn diamonds are almost stationary. Breathing will cause sufficient movement to make a diamond in necklace, or stud, perform. As you hold the diamond, move it ever so slightly. Because what yo are looking for is a brilliance that continues to change, the result of what is now understood as contrast between darker and lighter flashes of light.
Is that really important? It is crucial as a measure both of whether this diamond was well cut and whether it will continue to have value for you. Some diamonds return a great deal of light; they will pop right out the moment you see them, but will lose interest quickly. They have less life, but it may take a while for you to know that of them.
Fire, or dispersion, occurs when white light is refracted, in essence deconstructed into its component colors, because a skill cutter arranged some facets he cut into the diamond. Facets act either as portal or mirrors for light (good) or holes for light leakage (bad).
The contrast you looked for to delineate a diamond’s brilliance has two analogues with dispersion. They are more difficult to see, and require more time with the diamond to appreciate. The first is vividness of the color flash. The second is its sharpness/duration. Both, optically speaking, are a function of the width of that flash. The vividness of a flash can change dramatically with light conditions. Face the diamond to north sunlight for optimal viewing, though to catch full vividness, try to find light that is a tad obscured; say through the leaves of a tree. If the flashes continue to be small (pin-like), it is because the diamond’s white light return will, in essence, have blinded of dulled you to it.
Scintillation is the diamond’s sparkliness and how much it glitters as you, the light source, and the diamond itself moves or is moved. If a diamond’s scintillation moves you, what you will be seeing are sharp white and/or colored flashes alternating with darker ones. Contrast is crucial to scintillation, and only superior diamond cutting achieves it.
As with fire, differing lighting conditions can help you ascertain the longevity of the appeal your diamond’s scintillation will have. Let your head block some, or all, of the overhead light source. Turn your eyes away from the diamond, then look back suddenly, in essence, making the diamond take you by surprise. Turn your back to the light, so that it is illuminated only by the light obscured by your shoulders. Look at it near a window, and outside. Very often, you can appreciate scintillation optimally by even cupping your hand partially, almost fully, over the stone. Sparkle are the last thing you will expect to see there. but you often will with a very good diamond.
Which is better: brilliance, fire, or scintillation? Many particularly appreciate brilliance, which subtly, canmake a diamond feel more expensive. Others favor fire, which make diamonds fascinating, as tough they are harboring some great secret. Still others find a diamond’s glitter captivating. Trained gemologist, diamond cutters, diamond dealers, diamond jewelers, all trained to appreciate balance between brilliance, dispersion, and scintillation in a well-cut diamond, often privately favor one or the other.
Bear in mind that these optical events and impacts will be subtle. They can, will, and should, however, be final tools to reach your goal: of finding what it is that you, truly, value in a diamond, and then finding it in that certain diamond you will spend your life with. Consider it a bit of a Rosrschach, test, and one that you simply can not fail.
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