Choosing the perfect stone can be an overwhelming task, especially if you're not familiar with the intricate details that go into selecting one. Whether it's for an engagement ring, a special anniversary gift, or simply a treat for yourself, understanding how to choose a diamond is crucial to ensure you get a beautiful design that will last a lifetime. We’ll guide you through the process and provide you with an introduction to making an informed decision.
Understanding The 4Cs
The first step in understanding how to choose a stone is getting familiar with what is known as 'The 4Cs' - Carat, Cut, Clarity, and Color. These four factors play a significant role in determining a diamond's quality and value.
Carat: This refers to the weight of the stone. Larger stones are rarer and therefore more expensive. However, bigger isn't always better - it's important to consider all of The 4Cs and weigh up which characteristics are most important to you.
Cut: The cut of a stone doesn't refer to its shape but rather how well it has been cut from its raw form. A well-cut stone will reflect light beautifully making it look more brilliant. The faceting of a stone helps to ensure light is reflected and refracted in the most effective way.
Clarity: This refers to how clear the stone is or how many flaws (known as inclusions) it has. The fewer inclusions, the more valuable the diamond.
Color: Diamonds are graded on a color scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). White diamonds closer to D on this scale are considered more desirable. Coloured stones can also be graded with high prices for some sort after colours.
Increasingly, more unusual 'alternative' diamonds have gained popularity - from champagne colours through to rich brown diamonds. Stones such as salt & pepper or icy diamonds, featuring natural inclusions have set a new standard for beauty in the precious stone market - and are favoured for their 'perfectly imperfect' reflection of nature.
Choosing Shape and Cut
When considering how to choose a stone the shape is your first decision. The shape can impact on brilliance and can subtly reflect the personal style of the wearer.
Round: Not all round stones are the same and there are many variations in the way that this classic diamond can be cut.
Modern round stones are brilliant cut with facets to achieve the best fire and sparkle.
Old cut diamonds are often less perfectly round as they were cut by hand. Hand cutting can often means that the facets are less geometric with a smaller table and a softer more gentle sparkle.
Rose cuts have a rounded profile with no pavilion and multiple triangular facets across the surface. This gives the stone more spread - with an antique feel and a sensual shimmer and luster.
Oval: An oval stone has many of the features of a round brilliant, with the same number of facets and similar facet placement. The differences come with the longer length of this cut, which can give the oval the appearance of a larger stone. The proportions of the oval cut are often used to elongate the finger, giving an oval cut design an elegant feel.
Cushion Cut: One of the earliest cuts of diamond, there are different styles of cushion cuts.
Old Mine Cuts: This cushion style was popular from the mid 1800’s to mid-1900’s and is the predecessor to the modern brilliant cut. It was popular because it was the most efficient shape at retaining diamond rough weight whilst adding brilliance. Old Mine cuts are distinguishable for their large culets and large, if slightly uneven, facets and small tables.
Modern Cushion: The modern brilliant cushion is commonly a square shape with rounded corners. It has small triangular and kite shaped facets on the crown, and kite facets arranged in a radiating pattern on the pavilion. Cushion cut diamonds can also take on a more rectangular shape which have a similar outline emerald or oval cuts. The cushion cut diamond retains more colour face-up than any other cut: which is why it is the favoured shape amongst fancy coloured diamonds.
Emerald Cut: This style is sometimes also called an octagon. It is named after the tradition of octagon cutting emeralds to enhance and intensify the green colour of the emerald.
Emerald cuts are rectangular in shape with facets which act like windows. This can exaggerate imperfections or inclusions within the stone as they are seen more clearly than in other faceting styles.. For this reason, when purchasing an emerald cut, it is important to ensure the diamond has good clarity and is cut with symmetry – so that facets appear parallel and corners are cut and angled identically.
Ascher: This style is most commonly associated with the Art Deco period of the 1920’s, and 30s. With a square shape, that is step cut, this style has large facets that allow light to be reflect and refract through the stone to enhance brilliance. Reflecting the ‘modern’ style of the jazz age, this cut has an elegance due to the clean straight lines and mirror style reflections.
Marquise: A marquise stone has a similar elongating effect on the finger as an oval cut. It’s pointed ends are generally protected with V shaped setting at the ends. Marquise stones are cut with a ‘bow tie’ pattern in the facets.
Pear: The pear cut resembles a tear drop – and the proportions of this style can vary. It is look at a range of stones as some diamonds can be wider, and some slimmer than others. Try to find a cut with good symmetry and to avoid inclusions towards the point of the stones – as this is the weakest area of the stone which needs protecting in setting.
Princess: The princess is a square shaped stone. It was created in the 1960's and has 76 facets which create more dispersion of light than other square cut diamonds. If choosing a princess cut diamond for an engagement ring, ensure a setting which helps to protect the corners.
Over a certain size, some coloured stones and diamonds will come with a certification certificate from a reputable gemological lab. This certification is proof that the stone has been independently assessed for its 4Cs. The certificate will outline details of the shape, cut, colour and carat of the stone. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS) are two of the most respected labs, but others have similar certification standards. If you are interested in a certified stone, we'll help you to source the perfect option. Just get in touch to let us know what you are looking for.
Choosing the perfect stone doesn't have to be an intimidating process. By understanding The 4Cs, considering the right shape and setting a budget, you can confidently navigate your way through this exciting journey. Remember that while size, colour and quality are important, they should not come at the expense of your personal taste or financial comfort. It's possible to find beautiful stones in all price ranges if you know what to look for.
Many clients get drawn into the technical aspects of diamond buying – but the most crucial consideration is whether or not you actually like the stone. Does it spark something within you? Often personal preference and style will help you to make a decide which diamond cut is going to have longevity. Ultimately, purchasing a precious stone is not just about investing in a piece of jewellery – but is far more about choosing a symbol of love and personal taste.
For more information on selecting stones check our guides to diamonds here.