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Diamond Jewelry Buyer's Guide

Diamond jewelry is among the most popular forms of jewelry. Commonly associated with romance, jewelry featuring diamonds is appreciated for its brilliance, style and meaning. Despite diamond jewelry's popularity and constant presence in our society, picking the right piece is not as simple as what many might assume. Confronted with the nuances of contemporary styles and budgeting, not to mention personal tastes, it's no wonder how diamond jewelry shoppers can feel overwhelmed when trying to find that perfect set of wedding bands, a ring or bracelet.

To maximize the pleasure of your purchasing experience, it's helpful to develop a broad understanding of diamond jewelry, which includes a brief history and the basic questions you should answer before beginning your shopping trip. Afterward let's look more closely at diamonds themselves with a review on the 4 Cs of diamond quality and conclude with a diamond jewelry glossary that will educate you on all the terms you need to know when researching your purchase.

Diamond Jewelry: A Brief History

Diamond jewelry has charmed generations of people across the world for centuries. Traditionally only available to the rich and famous, diamond jewelry has become an aspirational item that is as important for the message it conveys as its brilliant appearance. The event that awakened the world's appreciation of diamond jewelry was the 15th century wedding of Maxmilla of Austria to Mary of Burgundy, where the groom gave the bride a brilliant diamond engagement ring. Until that time, the arduous processes of mining, cutting and polishing diamonds followed by crafting diamond jewelry was not actively pursued, but Maximilla started a trend that continues to grow in popularity today. Although owning diamond jewelry has historically made an inference about the class and social stature of the wearer, today it suggests emotional themes of commitment, durability and beauty commonly associated with romantic relationships. Understandably, when shopping for diamond jewelry, it's important to make a sound choice.

Selecting Diamond Jewelry: Basic Considerations

The first step in understanding how to buy diamond jewelry is the consideration of a handful of basic questions that should guide you through the purchase process and make your search much easier. Here are five basic questions that should help you narrow your search for diamond jewelry:

What Type?

Diamond jewelry is available in a variety of forms and it's important to understand the occasion to select an appropriate piece of jewelry. A diamond engagement ring, wedding band set or some other form of bridal jewelry is appropriate for engagements and weddings, but for little else. For those that appreciate the elegant look and brilliance of diamond jewelry, a pendant, a bracelet or a 3-stone diamond ring a often makes an excellent gift. Lastly, consideration should be given to when and how the jewelry will be worn to ensure that any piece of diamond jewelry can be worn in the way in which it was intended.

What's My Budget?

Selecting a budget for buying diamond jewelry is deceptively easy; simply evaluate your finances before starting the shopping process to determine the amount that can be comfortably spent. Many allow substantial purchases like diamond wedding bands to cloud their judgment, which creates regret. Frequently buyers start their search without a budget, which forces them into making a difficult decision when confronted with a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry that captures their imagination. Having an established budget in mind before your first shopping trip will prevent anxiety and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

What Style?

Diamond jewelry can be found in an almost unlimited number of styles, so after determining your desired jewelry type and budget, it's wise to develop a solid understanding of the styles you prefer. Clearly, this process is much less complicated for those that are shopping for themselves, but for those buying diamond jewelry as a gift it can be much more difficult. Here are a few questions to consider that should help uncover jewelry preferences:

  1. What Types of Diamond Jewelry Do They Currently Have?
  2. What Would Look Good With Their Current Wardrobe?
  3. Are There Friends and Family Who Can Offer Suggestions?

Arming yourself with details about the preferred style and any related characteristics will give you necessary information to save time and effort when looking for the perfect piece of diamond jewelry.

What Size?

Although most commonly associated with the purchase of engagement rings jewelry size is important regardless of the type. In fact, there is no form of jewelry that shouldn't be considered for size. Rings require an exact measurement and should be taken earlier in the day before any swelling or irritation of the fingers. Bracelets require obtaining the diameter of the wrist and adding ¾' to 1'. Sizing necklaces can be much more problematic; there are a variety of styles not to mention personal preferences, so when in doubt confirm that sizing can be changed if necessary. Lastly earring length should be considered, especially when considering longer types like chandeliers and hoops.

Diamond Quality & The Four Cs

The key to assessing the value of diamond jewelry is understanding the principles of diamond valuation itself. Commonly known as the 4 Cs, the grading scale focuses on the comparison of a diamond to a comparably sized perfect example.

Diamond Color – Each diamond is graded using a scale created by one of the leading gemological industry organizations. An ideal stone is colorless, however most stones posses some form of color.

Diamond Carat – The size of the diamond can dramatically affect the value of the stone and the diamond jewelry in which it's used. Generally the larger the stone the greater value, however other factors also affect value too.

Diamond Clarity – The presence of imperfections, or a stone's clarity, is a large component of assessing the value of diamonds. While diamond jewelry buyers can see imperfections that appear as small cracks or miniscule flecks of black carbon, these blemishes often can't be seen with the naked eye.

Diamond Cut - A diamond cut is a style or design guide used when shaping a diamond for polishing and doesn't refer to shape. Normally most consider the actual shape and appearance of the stone itself, rather than its ability to shine, but the Cut refers to the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond and impacts its brilliance; this means if it is cut poorly, it will be less luminous.

Diamond Glossary

American Gem Society (AGS): An educational organization for gemological studies. The AGS Labs were created primarily to develop and encourage universally-authorized criteria for grading cut.

Blemish: A clarity attribute that transpires on the surface of a diamond. Though some blemishes are natural to the original rough diamond, most are the result of the environment the diamond has experienced since it was unearthed.

Brilliance: The brightness that appears to come from the heart of a diamond. With a level that is unique to diamonds, other gemstones posses lesser levels and don't have the ability to equal the extent of diamond's light-reflecting power. Brilliance is produced primarily when light makes its way into the table, reaches the pavilion facets, and is then reflected back out through the table, where the light is most visible to your eye.

Brilliant Cut: One of three variations of faceting layouts. In this type of arrangement, all facets appear to radiate out from the center of the diamond toward its external edges. It's called a brilliant cut because it is designed to maximize brilliance. There are a number of brilliant cuts like round diamonds, ovals, radiants, princesses and more.

Carat: The unit of weight by which a diamond is measured. One carat equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams originating from the use of carob beans to measure the weight of gemstones.

Carbon Spots: This term refers to imperfections called included crystals that have a dark appearance, rather than a white or transparent appearance, when viewed under a microscope.

Cleavage: The propensity of crystalline minerals, such as diamond, to split in one or more directions either along or parallel to certain planes, when struck by a blow. Cleavage is one of the two methods used by diamond cutters to split rough diamond crystals in preparation for the cutting process (sawing is the other method).

Clouds: A grouping of a number of tiny inclusions that is too small to be distinguishable from one another, even under magnification. Not visible by the naked eye, they look like a soft, transparent cloud under a microscope.

Color Grading: A system of grading diamond color based on their colorlessness (for white diamonds) or their spectral hue, depth of color and purity of color (for fancy color diamonds).

Crown: The upper portion of a cut gemstone, which lies above the girdle. The crown consists of a table facet surrounded by either star and bezel facets (on round diamonds and most fancy cuts) or concentric rows of facets reaching from the table to the girdle (on emerald cuts and other step cuts).

Crown angle: The angle at which a diamond's bezel facets intersect the girdle plane. This gentle slope of the facets that surround the table is what helps to create the dispersion, or fire, in a diamond.

Culet: A very small flat facet that diamond cutters commonly add at the base of a diamond's pavilion. Its purpose is to protect the tip of the pavilion from being chipped or damaged.

Cut: This refers both to the proportions and finish of a polished diamond. As one of "the Four Cs" of diamond value, it is the only man-made contribution to a diamond's beauty and value.

Depth: The height of a diamond from the culet to the table.

Depth Percentage: On a diamond grading report, you will see two different measurements of the diamond's depth-the actual depth in millimeters (under "measurements" at the top of the report) and the depth percentage, which expresses how deep the diamond is in comparison to how wide it is. This depth percentage of a diamond is important to its brilliance and value; where that depth lies can be equally important.

Diamond: A crystal made up of 99.95% pure carbon atoms arranged in an isometric crystal arrangement.

Diamond Cutting: The method by which a rough diamond that has been mined from the earth and shaped into a finished, faceted stone.

Diamond Gauge: An instrument used to measure a diamond's length, width and depth in millimeters.

Dispersion: Also known as "fire" it the manner in which the light is broken and reflected. Components of light are broken into spectral colors (for example, red, blue and green and appears as a play of small flashes of color across the surface of the diamond as it is tilted.

Emerald Cut: A square or rectangular-shaped diamond with cut corners.

Eye-Clean: A jewelry industry term to describe a diamond with no blemishes or inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.

Facet: The smooth, flat faces on the surface of a diamond. They allow light to both enter a diamond and reflect off its surface at different angles, creating the wonderful play of color and light for which diamonds are famous.

Fancy Shape: Any diamond shape other than round.

Feathers: These are small fractures in a diamond.

Finish: This term refers to the qualities imparted to a diamond by the skill of the diamond cutter. The term "finish" covers every aspect of a diamond's appearance that is not a result of the diamond's inherent nature when it comes out of the ground.

Fluorescence: An effect that is seen in some gem-quality diamonds when they are exposed to long-wave ultraviolet light.

Gemological Institute of America (GIA): Founded in 1931 by Roger Shipley, this non- profit organization upholds the standards for grading diamonds and is one of the most-respected and well-regarded gemological laboratories in the world.

Girdle: The outer edge, or outline, of the diamond's shape.

Heart-shape Cut: A type of fancy diamond cut, which is cut to resemble the popular Valentine's Day shape.

Inclusion: A clarity characteristic found within a diamond. Most inclusions were created when the gem first formed in the earth.

Laser-Drill Holes: One of the few man-made inclusions that can occur inside a diamond. An intentionally created inclusion can actually raise its clarity grade.

Length-to-Width Ratio: A comparison of how much longer a diamond is than it is wide. It is used to analyze the outline of fancy shapes only; it is never applied to round diamonds.

Marquise Cut: A type of fancy shape diamond which is elongated with points at each end.

Naturals: Small parts of the original rough diamond's surface which are left on the polished diamond, frequently on or near the girdle.

Oval Cut: A type of fancy shape diamond which is essentially an elongated version of a round cut.

Pavé: A style of jewelry setting in which numerous small diamonds are mounted close together to create a glistening diamond crust that covers the whole piece of jewelry and obscures the metal under it.

Pavilion: The lower portion of the diamond, below the girdle.

Pear Cut: A type of fancy shape diamond that resembles a teardrop.

Point: A unit of measurement used to describe the weight of diamonds. One point is equivalent to one-hundredth of a carat.

Polish: Refers to any blemishes on the surface of the diamond which are not significant enough to affect the clarity grade of the diamond.

Princess Cut: A type of brilliant cut fancy shape that can be either square or rectangular.

Radiant Cut: A type of brilliant cut fancy shape that resembles a square or rectangle with the corners cut off.

Ratio: A comparison of how much longer a diamond is than it is wide.

Semi-Mount: A jewelry setting that has the side stones already mounted, but which contains an empty set of prongs which are intended to mount a diamond center stone that the customer selects separately.

Single-Cut: A very small round diamond with only 16 or 17 facets, instead of the normal 57 or 58 facets of a full cut round brilliant.

Step Cut: One of three styles of faceting arrangements.

Symmetry: Refers to variations in a diamond's symmetry. The small variations can include misalignment of facets or facets that fail to point correctly to the girdle (this misalignment is completely undetectable to the naked eye). Symmetry is regarded as a quality indicator of a diamond's cut; it is graded as Ideal, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor.

Table: The flat facet on the top of the diamond. It is the largest facet on a cut diamond.

Table percentage: The value which represents how the diameter of the table facet compares to the diameter of the entire diamond.

Trilliant Cut: A type of brilliant fancy shape that is triangular.

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