How to Judge a Diamond’s Quality and Shape: Expert Criteria for Judging Diamonds and Picking Diamond Shapes

Diamonds Rings

Many bridal couples feel at a loss when it comes to choosing a wedding ring. How to pick the best quality diamond? How to choose a diamond that is not only the best quality but also one with a shape that will look most beautiful on the bride’s hand?

Follow the easy guidelines below to help make it easy to choose the right diamond.

The Four Cs (and One P) of Diamond Quality

The quality of all diamonds is judged on the basis four classic criteria, each of which begins with the letter “C.” In addition, famed jeweler Tiffany & Co. has introduced a fifth criterion beginning with the 16th letter of the alphabet.

  • Cut: Not the shape of the stone, cut refers to how well a diamond’s facets are proportioned and aligned to maximize brilliance. According to Tiffany, an excellent diamond cut might sacrifice as much as 62 percent of a stone’s total weight.
  • Color: A lack of diamond color is a sign of quality, indicating fewer impurities. Diamonds lower in quality can look very faintly yellowish to a well-trained jeweler’s eye.
  • Clarity: Virtually all diamonds contain minute flaws, called inclusions, that diminish diamond clarity. Those judged “flawless”(rated “FL”) show no visible inclusions under 10X magnification. Good-quality stones may also be rated IF (internally flawless with only minor surface inclusions), VVS1-VVS2 (very, very slightly included), or VS1-VS2 (very slightly included).
  • Carat Weight: One carat weights 0.20 grams, with each carat equal to 100 “points.” (A 50-point diamond, for example, could also be said to weight half a carat.) While carat weight determines a stone’s price to some degree, it cannot be judged without reference to the other three C’s, since a small, beautifully cut, colorless, flawless stone could be worth far more than a larger stone of less brilliance or purity.
  • Presence: An addition to the judging process introduced by Tiffany & Co., this takes into account such other qualities as the diamond’s precision of cut, its symmetry, and its polish, all of which contribute to the overall visual impact of the stone.

Popular Diamond Shapes

In addition to selecting a stone based on the classic quality criteria, a bride and groom should consider which is their preferred and most flattering shape in a cut diamond.

  • Emerald-cut Diamond: Also known as a step cut, for its broad, flat facets, this elegant shape is rectangular, with beveled corners. Though less dazzling overall than rounder shapes, it can impress nonetheless as its broad facets catch the light. Good for larger hands or for brides who favor old-fashioned style.
  • Heart Diamond: Rotate a Teardrop or Pear shape 180 degrees and cut into its top a cleft, perfectly rounded on either side, and you get this shape, perfect for an especially romantic or sentimental bride.
  • Marquise Diamond: Commissioned by King Louis XIV of France and named in honor of the Marquise de Pompadour, whose bewitching smile reputedly inspired its alluring oval form with pointed ends, this shape, typically with 56 facets, looks especially good as a solitaire stone, and also flatters small hands or short fingers.
  • Oval Diamond: A slender, elongated shape, generally with 56 facets, that flatters short fingers or small hands, often set with two small matching diamonds on either side. Developed in the 1960s, this is now the third most popular diamond shape, suited to many different sizes and shapes of hand.
  • Pear Diamond: Poignantly resembling a teardrop, this shape, typically with 58 facets, resembles a Marquise at one end and an Oval at the other. It is an excellent choice for small to medium hands, and it is also frequently used for earrings or pendants.
  • Princess Diamond: A more modern cut, this square shape, which typically has 76 facets, can appear just as dazzling as a Round Brilliant, and looks good on long fingers. Widely versatile and flattering, it is the second most popular diamond shape
  • Radiant Diamond: A hybrid of Emerald and Round Brilliant, this rectangular or square shape with rounded corners dazzles with 62 to 70 facets. A versatile choice.
  • Round Brilliant Diamond: Its 58 facets give this perfectly circular stone its dazzling appearance, making it the most popular and widely flattering cut, accounting for approximately three-quarters of all diamonds sold.
  • Teardrop Diamond: See “Pear Diamond.”
  • Trilliant Diamond or Trillion Diamond: Taking its name from its triangular shape and dazzling brilliance, this unconventional shape for the more adventurous bride was first developed in Amsterdam. It may have sharply pointed or more gently rounded corners.

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