Diamonds are literally ancient, usually exposed as a result of volcanic eruptions over 100 million years ago.
Diamonds became the primary traditional token of love around the end of the 15th century, When The Archduke of Austria gave his fiance the first diamond engagement ring.
Why are Diamonds Special?
Unique- Each diamond is like a fingerprint, containing tiny (often almost imperceptible) imperfections that set it apart from every other diamond in the world, like fingerprints.
Durable- Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man, ranking 10.0 on the Mohs hardness scale. They are also very resistant to deterioration, making them perfect for daily wear, and to pass down from generation to generation.
Rare- It takes a very long time (3 billion years or so) to make a new diamond, so we are pretty much limited to the ones already on the planet. While there are occasionally discovered new, active diamond mines, the supply of diamonds remains limited. Adding to their scarcity is the fact that not all diamonds that are discovered are suitable for gem-cutting.
Value- Diamonds have consistently retained their value throughout recorded history, and have often increased in value. This creates situations where someone has worn an item for years, had it appraised, and found it to be worth more than it was when they bought it! There are not a lot of items in the world with that particular talent!
How is the quality of a diamond determined?
The "4 Cs"
Diamonds are graded on 4 different overall criteria, called the 4 Cs.
1. Carat - A Carat is actually a measurement of weight, equaling 200 Milligrams, or one fifth of a gram. A stone that weighed an ounce would be approximately 142 Carats, and very very expensive. The word "Carat" is derived from the carob seeds that were used in ancient times to balance scales (so there's some trivia for your next cocktail party). Carats are commonly divided into 100 "points". A 10 point stone is .1 Carat, etc.
2. Cut - The cut of a diamond is performed to very exacting standards. The most common cut The "Round Brilliant" for example, has 58 facets (small, polished planes), and is designed to yield the maximum amount of light reflected to the onlooker. This reflection is known as brilliance and is one of the factors used to determine the quality of a cut. The word cut is also used to describe the overall shape of a gem-cut diamond, I.e. "Princess" or "Marquis" cut diamonds are also popular.
There are 4 results of a high-quality cut that cannot be affected after the cut is completed:
Luster: The quality of the light reflected, luster is related to the hardness of the stone and the quality of it's polish.
Brilliance: As discussed, The quality of the white light returned from the internal and external surfaces of the stone.
Dispersion: The display of multi-colored light seen inside the stone. This is related to the proportions of the stone as affected by it's cut.
Scintillation: This is the sparkle. The Bling, if you will. Scintillation is the description of the way light moves on the internal and external surfaces of the stone when it is moved.
3. Clarity- Clarity is affected by many factors, internal and external, natural and unnatural. All diamonds have inclusions, as they are a product of nature and are imperfect. Inclusions can be spots, flecks, stripes, fissures, or just bits of rogue color. Inclusions can affect the way light passes through the stone, and visible inclusions diminish the stone's clarity grade. The Gemological Institute of America grades clarity on a scale from F (flawless) to I (imperfect). Only a fraction of a percentage of diamonds are graded Flawless.
4. Color- Diamonds exist in every color imaginable, but the most popular and iconic are the colorless and near colorless (grades D - J).Truly colorless (pure white) diamonds are extremely rare and ridiculously expensive.
So, there you have it. The 4 C's.
While it is important to know how diamonds are graded, it is not the most important part of selecting a diamond.
Remember, each diamond is unique, just like you. It is important that you select a diamond that you "fall in love with", and will be proud to wear every day. It is important that you be proud to pass it on to your children, and they pass it to theirs.