One of the first things most people learn about diamonds is that not all diamonds are created equal. In fact, every diamond is unique. Diamonds come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and with various internal characteristics.
All polished diamonds are valuable. That value is based on a combination of factors. Rarity is one of those factors. Diamonds with certain qualities are more rare—and more valuable—than diamonds that lack them.
Jewelry professionals use a systematic way to evaluate and discuss these factors. Otherwise, there would be no way to compare one diamond to another. And there would be no way to evaluate and discuss the qualities of an individual diamond. Diamond professionals use the grading system developed by GIA in the 1950s, which established the use of four important factors to describe and classify diamonds: Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat Weight.
These are known as the 4Cs. When used together, they describe the quality of a finished diamond. The value of a finished diamond is based on this combination.
A diamond’s value is often affected by the rarity of one or more of the 4Cs. Colorless diamonds are scarce—most diamonds have tints of yellow or brown. So a colorless diamond rates higher on the color grading scale than a diamond that is light yellow. Value and rarity are related: In this case a colorless diamond is more rare and more valuable than one with a slight yellow color. The same relationship between rarity and value exists for clarity, cut, and carat weight.
The 4Cs describe the individual qualities of a diamond, and the value of an individual diamond is based on these qualities. The terms that people use to discuss the 4Cs have become part of an international language that jewelry professionals can use to describe and evaluate individual diamonds.
Today, the descriptions of each of the 4Cs are more precise than those applied to almost any other consumer product. And they have a long history. Three of them—color, clarity, and carat weight—were the basis for the first diamond grading system established in India over 2,000 years ago.