What are the 4 C's?

What are the 4 C's?

October 26, 2018

The 4 C’s of diamond grading was created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and have become the globally accepted standard for assessing the quality of a round white diamond. No matter where the diamond is from or where the diamond ends up, it will be judged by the 4 C's standards.

Gemstone buyers will need to understand a slightly different grading method. Have a look at our post about determining a gemstone's quality here.

Any buyer looking for a diamond will hear a lot about the 4 C's. So, what are they? The 4 C’s refer to cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.

It’s is a common misconception that the cost of a diamond is based on the diamond’s size alone. But it’s important to remember that a diamond’s value is based on all four categories, not just how big it looks. Each ‘C’ contributes both to the overall look and value of the diamond so when it comes time to buy a diamond the 4 C’s are not something to ignore. 

Carat Weight

Carat weight is the measurement of the diamond’s weight. It is the flashiest of the 4 C’s since the first thing most people will notice is how big the diamond is!
A diamond carat (1.00) is broken down into 100 points, and a jeweler may reference the diamond in terms of its points. For example a ½ carat diamond weighing 0.52 carats could be referred to as a ‘fifty two pointer’.

A diamond price will increase as the carat weight increases since a larger diamond is considered more rare and valuable. However, the diamond’s weight may not always mean it looks bigger. Two diamonds with the exact same shape and carat weight can appear to be different sizes.

If a stone has not been cut correctly, it may be holding more of its weight in the bottom causing it to appear smaller from the top. A diamond’s carat weight and cut grade go hand in hand in creating a beautiful stone.


Three stones that have the same carat weight, but different cut quality.

A diamond’s cut grade is the most important of the 4 C’s. It measures how well the stone’s facets refract light to create that famous sparkle. Cut grade is also the most complicated making it intimidating for many buyers. Because of this, buyers will often spend their time focusing on clarity and carat weight, and neglect the cut. Although cut grade may feel overwhelming, as long as buyers have a basic understanding of what it is, they can make an informed decision when it’s time to buy.

Over the years there have been many variations of cutting styles for diamonds. It is a process that continues to be tweaked and some diamond cutters may develop their own unique cutting patterns. Today, the standard cut for a round brilliant diamond is one with 58 facets. While you can still buy diamonds with some of the older cutting styles, like European or Mine cut, the GIA cut grade grades round brilliant diamonds.

When a diamond is being cut, the end goal is for the stone to sparkle as much as possible. This is accomplished through a meticulous combination of the stone’s symmetry, polish, and proportions. Each of these elements work together to give the stone its face up appearance, and they are all taken into consideration for the diamond’s cut grade.


Proportion: Measuring the diamond facets. Each facet of a diamond has a unique ideal proportion designed to maximize the amount of light it reflects.

Polish: The smoothness of the outer surface of the diamond

Symmetry: The exactness of the shape of the diamond. If the angles aren’t correct, the diamond facets will not reflect light.

Face Up Appearance: The brightness, fire, and sparkle of the stone.

When you’re buying a diamond, you may not be able to tell if a diamond has a good cut grade on your own. But, as long as you understand the basics of what the cut grade represents, you will be able to d feel confident in your purchase.

If you’d like to dive into the details about a diamond’s symmetry, polish, and proportions head over to the Gemological Institute of America for more information.


Color can be difficult for buyers to see because the differences are very subtle between color grades. Because a diamond’s sparkles can make the color even harder to detect, diamond color is graded from the bottom of the stone.

Diamonds come in all different colors, but in a white diamond the presence of a yellow tint will lower the value of the stone. All diamonds on the D (colorless) -Z (light color) scale are still considered white diamonds. Fancy colored diamonds (like yellow or pink) are graded on a separate color scale.

The color scale is actually measuring a diamonds lack of color, with D-F being the range for a colorless diamond. Further down the scale the stones have more and more tinges of yellow or brown in the stone.

Many buyers are happy to purchase a stone in the G-K range. They are able to save some money on the overall cost and the very slight color is hidden well in the diamond’s sparkle.


Clarity is a major factor in diamond valuation, and often the one buyers give the most attention to. While it’s not considered as important as cut to diamond experts, clarity is something every buyer should understand.

A diamond’s clarity refers to the internal and external imperfections of the stone. Any internal imperfection is called an inclusion, and external ones are called blemishes. Inclusions and blemishes can occur while the diamond is being formed in the earth, during the cutting and polishing process, or from wear.

The clarity grade of a diamond is determined by the severity of the inclusions and blemishes as well as how well they can be seen. A blemish in the center of the diamond will be much more noticeable than an inclusion along the edge. Flawless diamonds are incredibly rare and will come with a hefty price tag. The clarity most commonly purchased is from VS1 - SI2.

In order to view a diamond’s imperfections the stone is magnified by 10x. This makes it possible to spot the microscopic inclusions. Buyers often spend their time focusing on clarity and are worried they will be bothered by the inclusions. But, it’s safe to say most buyers won’t look at their diamond under magnification ever again once they make the purchase. While clarity is important to be aware of, it’s not the most important aspect of a diamond.

To maximize your budget when you’re buying a diamond, consider a stone in the Slightly Included range. It will have imperfections that are easily visible under magnification, but to the naked eye the stone will appear perfectly clean.

The 4 C’s should be a big part of the conversation for any buyer purchasing a diamond. They determine the cost and quality of the stone. Understanding the 4 C’s will allow buyers to feel confident when making this important purchase.

In addition to considering the diamond’s grade you should also consider your ring setting and budget. Certain ring settings may be suited for a particular size of diamond. Make sure you’ve chosen a setting that will work with the stone you want. If you want a big look but don’t have the budget, consider a diamond alternative or gemstone.

At June, we can design a ring for whatever size and shape of stone you love. Get in touch with us today to get started!


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