Which of the 4 C's is the Most Important?

When buying a diamond, there are four diamond characteristics that you need to consider: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Out of these 4 C’s of diamonds, do you know which is the most important?  

Some personal preferences may argue that one of the 4 C’s of diamonds is more important than another, but all personal preferences must be put aside when looking at all the qualities of a diamond. 

We’re going to explain the 4 C’s of diamonds in order of importance so that you know exactly what to look for the next time you pick out a diamond.

Which of the 4 C’s is the Most Important?

Which of the 4 C's is the Most Important?

Out of the 4 C’s of diamonds, the cut of the diamond is the most important. This is followed by color, clarity, and carat weight.

Cut

Every diamond, regardless of its shape, will have a cut classification. Cut is classified as poor, fair, good, very good, or excellent. Each diamond has a cut that determines the direction that the light will travel as it shines on the diamond.

The diamond's cut is the most important diamond characteristic because when it is good or excellent, it is what makes your diamond sparkle and catches people’s attention. It shows diamond quality. When light hits a diamond, the angles that have been cut inside the diamond cause the light to reflect like a mirror across from one another.  

A diamond with a poor cut will reflect the light downward and hide much of its shine, while a diamond with an excellent cut will reflect the light outward for all to see.  

There are three types of light that you should consider when looking at the cut grade of a diamond: diffused lighting, spotlighting, and combination lighting.

  • Diffused lighting: white light such as fluorescent lights in an office that has virtually no bright spots. Diffused lighting does not cause the diamond to burst with brightness. Instead, you can see shadows and depth created by the cuts within the diamond.
  • Spotlighting: this type of light is being found more commonly through LED sources. Spotlighting is also what jewelry stores use in their cases to show off the diamond’s sparkle that is created from the cut. We recommend taking the diamond out of the case to ensure it shines in the diffused light the same way it shines in the spotlight.
  • Combination lighting: this is a combination of both diffused and spotlighting. Combination lighting allows you to see both the depth of the diamond as well as the diamond's sparkle within the diamond.

You could buy a diamond with excellent clarity and color, but it’s the cut of the diamond that allows it to be seen. This is what makes the cut of the diamond the most important diamond characteristic.

Color

The second most important of the 4 C’s is color. The color of the diamond is classified on a letter grading scale from D to Z, with D being the best and Z being the worst.

A diamond with a color grading scale of D, E, and F is excellent and considered a colorless diamond. There is no yellow coloration to the diamond to the naked eye.

The next diamond grading scale is near-colorless, and these are diamonds that are graded as G, H, I, and J. To the naked eye, there is still no visible coloration. As long as you choose a diamond that is classified as J or better, you will have a near-perfect diamond color to the naked eye.

A diamond that has a color grade of K or worse will have a coloration between faint yellow and light yellow. The closer the letter is to Z, the more yellow the diamond will have.

Clarity

All diamonds have flaws, but it is the number of flaws that a diamond has that will determine its overall clarity.

Diamonds are classified by a diamond clarity grade. The clarity grade ranges from flawless (FL) to included (I).

The diamond clarity grade is as follows: 

  • Flawless (FL) = perfect, no inclusions, no blemishes
  • Internally Flawless (IF) = no inclusions but may have blemishes on corners or outside
  • Very Very Slightly Included (VVS) = very minimal flaws difficult for a trained eye to identify
  • Very Slightly Included (VS) = imperfections are visible at 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI) = most common in many engagement rings, imperfections are easy to identify at 10x magnification
  • Included (I) = imperfections that can visibly be seen without magnification 

Clarity is important because it is a factor that helps determine how valuable your diamond is. Diamonds with the least amount of flaws or imperfections are more valuable than diamonds with inclusions.  

Try to choose a diamond that has a clarity grade of SI or better. As we mention in our Diamond Cut, Color, and Clarity video, no one is walking around with a 10x magnification lens when they look at your diamond, so any diamond with an SI grade or better is free from imperfections to the naked eye.  

Carat Weight

Carat is also called carat weight because it refers to how much a diamond weighs rather than how big the diamond is. A one-carat diamond weighs 0.2 grams. Because diamond carat refers to how much a diamond weighs and not the size of the diamond, the carat weight is the least important of the 4 C’s of diamonds. Two diamonds with the same diamond carat weight but different shapes can be significantly different in size.

A diamond with a high carat weight can be less valuable than a smaller diamond with a good cut and flawless clarity, so you shouldn’t purchase a diamond based on carat weight alone.

Conclusion

The next time you look at diamonds, make sure you ask the jeweler the cut grade. The cut will tell you which direction the light will reflect from the diamond, which is the most important C of all diamond characteristics. If you need more information about the 4 C's of diamonds order of importance, check out our video about the Cut, Color, and Clarity of Diamonds