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All You Need To Know Before Buying a Diamond

We asked jewelry expert Marko Manitasevic for his tips on everything from certification to sourcing ethical stones.

With its history going back billions of years, the ongoing world-wide fascination with diamonds is no surprise. They have come to be known as a symbol of love, struggle, rarity and wealth. Ancient Romans and Greeks believed that diamonds were precious tears cried by the gods or splinters from falling stars. In the first century AD, the Roman naturalist Pliny said “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.”

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Buying a diamond is a major decision because you’re trying to get it all right – the style, the carat weight, the sparkle. Most customers take about three months to find the perfect ring, to mach their taste, style, and needs.

A diamond is an expensive purchase and being educated is very important, as this can help make smarter choices. So we asked jewelry expert Marko Manitasevic A.G. for his tips on everything from certification to sourcing ethical stones.

Read more after the jump:

The 4 C’s

Carat – This most basic and familiar aspect of diamond value, it refers to the weight of the diamond where 1 carat equals 0.2 grams. Carat (Ct) is different from Karat (K) in Gold.

“You should know that the price grows exponentially, especially when the “magic sizes” of 0.50 Ct, 1.00 Ct, 2.00 Ct, etc. are exceeded. It is more profitable to be satisfied with 0.49 Ct than buying 0.51 Ct.”

For example, 2.5 carat diamond ring is significantly larger than the average diamond used in an engagement ring. As such, they’re priced to match.

Color – The diamond color evaluation is actually based on the absence of color. Color grading of diamonds is based on letter grades beginning with D for colorless diamonds, ranging through Z, which shows substantial degree of color.

“The letter Z refers to a fancy colored diamond, but this grade only applies to yellow, brown and grey stones having a certain degree of saturation. All other natural colors in diamonds are considered fancies regardless of hue and tone.”

Some colored diamonds, like grey, brown, and yellow, are more affordable, but ones like blue, red and pink are very rare and therefore expensive.

Cut – Diamond Cut doesn’t refer to the shape of the diamond. It is measured on quality based on the difference between the thickest and thinnest points on a scale including excellent, very good, good, fair. A diamond’s cut grade has two sub-grades: polish (surface quality) and symmetry (exactness of the diamond’s shape).

Clarity – This refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes. It is not easy to determine a diamond’s clarity with the naked eye, do the appraiser must use special tools to see blemishes and inclusions (internal flaws). A diamond that is graded “internally flawless (IF)” without any blemishes or inclusions is very rare and valuable. The other end of the scale is “I1” meaning that inclusions can be seen with the naked eye.

The grades start from Flawless (FL), to Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2), Slightly Included (SI1, SI2), Imperfect (I1, I2, I3).

The Fifth C – Certification

Diamond certification is essential, because it verifies and describes that the diamond you’re buying is what the seller claims. A certificate includes details like the cut quality, color grade, carat weight and other characteristics.

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“It is safest to buy a “sealed” diamond with a certificate from world-renowned certification labs like, GIA, AGL, or IGI.  They enable you to double check the findings of your diamond’s report online. You can simply enter the report number and the carat weight of the stone and verify that the online data matches the data on your diamond certificate. The code is very often laser engraved on the edge of the stone (girdle). This is to assure that jewelers and resellers do not switch out the stone for one of a lesser quality.”

Optical Properties

The main illumination effects are known as brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

Surface luster and brilliance – This defines external and internal overall quality and quantity of light returned to the eye from the stone. Surface polish, cleanliness and proportions determine these qualities.

Fire – When the components of sunlight are fanned out by a prism, we see the rainbow of the color spectrum. Diamonds have relatively high dispersion of light into six component colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

“Fire is one of the most magical aspect of diamond light performance and a key contributor to diamond beauty. It refers to the dispersion of white light into rainbow colors as a result of refraction.”

Scintillation is the intense sparkle created when a diamond is moved from side to side.

Specific Gravity

Specific gravity of diamond is 3.52. This means that it would weight 3.52 times more than equal volume of water and it’s one of the key properties in diamond identification. Metals generally have a very high thermal conductivity, but the best conductor of heat is diamond. As a result of its unusual properties, diamond has important industrial uses.

Ethical Diamonds

The question of ethics is very important for today’s shoppers. They are interested in the origin of their gems, ensuring they are not buying conflict or blood diamonds used to fund civil wars. Ethically sourced diamonds come from the mines that have fair humanitarian mining practices when it comes to wages and conditions when sourcing for raw diamonds.

When buying a diamond, make sure to ask your jeweler where the diamonds were sourced. Lab grown diamonds can be a great choice, as they display the same chemical and optical characteristics of a natural diamond crystal.

“I would always consider a “lab grown” diamond because of its identical physical and chemical characteristics as a mined one. It is the same matter, only one was created by nature and the other by man. I distance myself from synthetic, colored stones, that’s another story.”

Market Demand and Rarity

According to Statista, in 2018, the global diamond jewelry market value was approximately 76 billion U.S. dollars. About 142 million carats of diamonds were estimated to have been produced from mines worldwide in 2019. Plus, diamonds are not that rare as we think – worldwide reserves are estimated to be some 1.2 billion carats. To produce a single one-carat diamond, 250 tonnes of earth needs to be mined, which is a testament to just how precious and rare diamonds are.

Every consumer has their personal taste, but there are some shapes are more popular and more salable than others. For example, the round brilliant cut has remained popular for quite some time while the marquise shape diamond reached its peak in the 1980s.

You should find a compromise when choosing color and clarity. If you don’t plan a big investment, I would say that colors G and H give the best price-quality ratio, as well as stone with mild inclusions (VS1 and VS2), especially if they are well positioned. Make sure the cut is “excellent”.

The term Hearts and Arrows (H&A) should be familiar to many diamond shoppers, as more and more cutters are aiming for H&A precision today more than ever. The craftsmanship of hearts and arrows requires more skill, more time, and more rough material, therefore H&A diamonds are more costly to produce. Because of their exact angles and symmetry, they show a hearts-and-arrows pattern when viewed through a special tool.

“And finally, I would consider “fancy colored” diamonds, because they have the soul of colored stones and the perfection of a diamond. That is my personal preference.”

Words by Katarina Djoric.

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