The average person is likely to buy jewels that have already been embedded in a setting to create a finished piece of jewelry that can be worn immediately. But whether you're looking to create a custom piece and you've decided to select every stone yourself or you want to invest in a tangible asset that's easy to transport, trade, or sell down the line, you may find that purchasing a loose diamond is a very different from buying a stone in a setting. A portion of the value of jewelry lies in the setting, including the precious metal the setting is composed of, other gemstones included, and the overall design of the piece. But all of the value in the average loose diamond lies in the four Cs: carat, color, clarity, and cut. And if you want to find the best stone, you need to understand what these qualifiers denote. Here are just a few things you'll need to know before you buy.
1. Carat. The carat of any gemstone is a measurement of weight, with 1 carat equaling 200 milligrams (0.2 grams) or about 0.007 ounces. So obviously, more carats equate to a larger stone, which could have a significant bearing on the value of your diamond. Of course, a large diamond that is riddled with inclusions will not be worth as much as one that is flawless, which is why you have to consider all of the four Cs when determining the overall value of any particular stone. Some sellers might try to get more money just because of a higher carat. And while it's true that the larger a diamond is, the rarer it is, the other Cs will still play a role in how much it's worth.
2. Color and clarity. It's probably a good idea to look up color and clarity charts before you start searching for diamonds. Any GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certified stone will come with a classification for color and clarity, but as a novice you might not understand what the letter and number ratings denote. However, a chart can give you the information you need to determine whether you'd rather have a clarity of IF (internally flawless) or SI2 (slight inclusion), just for example, or if a D or T color rating is more desirable.
3. Cut. Many people underestimate the importance of cut mainly because there is no ranking associated with this C. But the cut can make a big difference in the value of a diamond. For example, a diamond that is too deep may come with a more desirable carat, but despite that it won't be worth as much because you can't see as much of it once it's set. In short, it will look smaller than it is. And a cut that is too shallow simply won't sparkle like a stone that is properly cut for optimum brilliance. In fact, there is actually a "brilliant" cut, which is what you might want to look for since the dimensions are calculated for optimum shine and sparkle.
4. Certification. You might want to consider this the fifth C, and in many cases it is the most important one. Although all diamonds have value, you'll have a hard time selling yours without certification. This document not only proves that the four Cs attributed to your stone are genuine, but it also shows that your stone has been subjected to the Kimberly Process, meaning the provenance of non-conflict is guaranteed - in other words, it's not a blood diamond.
5. Cost. This is not really another C because cost is important to any purchase you make, diamond or otherwise. But of course, you'll need to know the cost before you buy loose stones. In many cases there is some room for negotiation, depending on the mark-up and how much the seller wants your business. Whether you're dealing with someone at Diamond Banc, Zales, or an independent dealer, though, knowing your stuff is the best way to negotiate for a fair price.