Why Do the 4Cs of a Diamond Matter?

When it comes to buying an engagement ring, knowing and understanding the “4C’s” of a diamond can certainly come in handy. Considered the universal method of evaluating a diamond, the 4C’s can help both consumers and professionals determine qualities and classifications of a diamond that differentiates it from the rest. Standing for cut, clarity, color, and carat, these four characteristics are used to help measure the quality and determine the value of a diamond.


The cut of a diamond is the most important factor in determining the beauty and value of a diamond and has the most significant effect on its overall look. When a diamond has an “ideal cut” the light reflected from the diamond is unobstructed and maximizes the brilliance, scintillation, and sparkle of the diamond. Often confused with shape, different types of diamond cuts include round brilliant, princess, pear, old European, marquise and more.


Clarity grades are used to describe internal imperfections of a diamond called “inclusions” and external imperfections called “blemishes.” Both blemishes and inclusions can diminish the light as it passes through your diamond and some can even be seen with the naked eye, appearing as dark specks, white feathers, or “cracks” in the stone. The clarity of a diamond is measured on a scale ranging from F (Flawless) to I (Included).

Images showing VS1 and SI2 clarity diamonds.


The most valuable white diamonds have no color at all. Most diamonds have some tint of yellow or brown in the body of the stone and generally the more color, the lower the value (fancy-colored diamonds are the exception, such as intense fancy yellow). The color grade of a diamond is based on a scale ranging from colorless (D) to deeply colored diamonds (Z).


The carat weight of a diamond is often categorized as size, but it’s the weight of the stone. One carat is divided into 100 points (like a dollar is divided into 100 pennies) so a diamond weight half a carat if 50 points, written “0.50ct.” The larger the carat the rarer the diamond, and rarity drives price. An average of 250 tons of ore must be mined to produce a 1 carat gem quality polished diamond.


Often referred to as the 5th C, the diamond certificate is your guarantee that a diamond’s 4C’s have been confirmed by a reputable laboratory. Since anyone can print an invalid certificate and offer their opinion on the grade of a diamond, it’s important that the certificate comes from a well-known independent laboratory. The best independent laboratories are the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and AGS (American Gem Society).

Buying a diamond engagement ring or any diamond jewelry can be a stressful experience. At Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, our expert sales associates, will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision and feel confident about your purchase. After 43 years of helping our customers invest in the best quality diamonds, we are experts on the 4C’s!