The six important factors to consider when purchasing a diamond are what we call the Six C's: Conscience, Color, Clarity, Cut, Carat, and Certification.
Most jewelers describe diamond grading in terms of the four C's: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight. Yet two additional C's are also important. Certification assures that your diamond is what it is being advertised as. Most important of all is the sixth C, Conscience (aka ethics) in diamond sourcing.
In this context, there is a huge amount of partial or misinformation in diamond sourcing. If you want a deep dive into these issues, here’s How the jewelry industry spins ethical diamond issues from our Ethical Jewelry Exposé.
And here’s short video of Marc, our owner, explaining why conflict free diamonds are a BIG LIE and people who claim to be selling them might as well be saying black African lives don’t matter:
At Reflective Jewelry we have two options in center stone diamonds: natural and lab grown. Our natural diamonds are traceable back to mines in the Northwest Territories of Canada. We source our lab grown diamonds from the Diamond Foundry in California. We also use recycled diamonds for melee—small diamonds under 3mm that are used as accent stones. For more on these three options, click here.
A diamond, especially on an engagement ring, symbolizes one's most cherished and noble sentiments. Its sourcing needs to align with your values, which is why for us, Conscience is the first “C." By conscience, we are essentially trying to get a diamond that you could feel good purchasing and wearing.
The ideal ethical diamond would be fair trade certified, from a small diamond mining community. This does not exist. What’s important to understand is that every choice has its advantages and disadvantages in context to ethical choice.
Many retailers selling “ethical” diamonds offer only partial information. There are relatively few diamond databases out there in the “choose your own” scheme, and jewelers are generally all in the same pot. They will say a diamond comes from Botswana instead of saying it’s from De Beers; or Alrosa in Russia without revealing that that mine is controlled by Russian oligarchs.
The biggest warning sign is if they are endorse the The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. It is completely ineffective in assuring what we would consider ethical providence. And, even the use of the term “conflict free diamonds” or claiming to be beyond it is merely a cover up for atrocities.
Our approach is to just tell you the truth and allow you to make decisions. For more details on the pros and cons of various diamond choices, read this article.
Color — aka "Colour" ;)
Diamonds come in several colors. Most people are looking for a pure white, which are rare and more expensive. The rest contain traces of gaseous elements, often nitrogen, trapped inside the carbon. This causes brownish or yellow coloration that can range from barely visible to outright impairing. Some people find the whiter diamonds too stark and wan, not nearly warm enough. Brownish diamonds, branded as “cognac” are still quite beautiful and less expensive.
Millions of carats of diamonds are mined every year and grown in labs every year—the vast majority of which end up being used for industrial purposes. In context to diamonds used in rings, diamond color is graded with letters according to its whiteness. The highest letter is “D.” Grades of 'F' and above (aka F, E, and D) are rare, and demand a premium price because they are the mostly white. Any diamond that is ‘G,' or even ‘H,' is still so white that it takes training to actually notice color.
We recommend color in the 'G' to 'H' range, which we feel represents the best value for your money. However, should you wish to have a whiter diamond, we are more than happy to make accommodations for you.
Diamonds are graded with numbers and letters that describe the level of inclusion in the stone—“inclusions” meaning imperfections. VVS1 means "very very slight" inclusion. VVS2 means slightly more inclusions than VVS1. Beyond this you have VS1 and then VS2, each with slightly more inclusions. If you end up with I3, inclusion level 3, you're getting a diamond that is not really a quality gem for a wedding ring.
We recommend SI1, slight inclusion level 1, or better. SI1 have inclusions that are not easily visible to the naked eye. In the trade, this is called 'eye clean'. Though we can source higher grade diamonds, the SI1 category represents to us, the best overall value to our customers.
While the first three C's mentioned so far were determined by a rough diamond that comes out of natural sources such as a river, ocean, or mine, how that diamond is actually transformed into a sparkling gem is determined by the cut. Cut is absolutely critical and there is no need for expertise to recognize that some cuts are better than others.
Every diamond has three sections. The "pavilion" is the bottom of the diamond. The "girdle" is the thin middle section, which sits between the pavilion and the top part of the diamond, which is known as the "crown". The crown is where the facets are cut to reflect and refract the light.
The objective for the cutter is to cut and polish a diamond so that it has ideal proportion and symmetry, in order to maximize the “brilliance." Brilliance refers to how intensely light comes or "dances" from out of the diamond as you view it. "Scintillation" refers to the sparkle, or how much the diamond glitters.
We recommend and provide "good" to "excellent" cuts. We feel that these categories provide the best value for our customers. However, we are more than happy to provide any cut that is available.
Of all the C's, the carat weight is the most straightforward and easy to understand. A carat is a fifth of a gram. We can source diamonds of all carat weights, depending upon your preference.
Diamonds are often sold with third party certification papers from diamond grading labs. Such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and European Gemological Laboratories (EGL). With these certifications you know what you are getting. Certification is helpful to consumers because it allows some objective comparison.
However, insiders in the jewelry business know that some labs are "softer" in their grading than others. This has huge financial ramifications. EGL Certification is not necessarily equal to certifications from the GIA, which makes using online comparisons not entirely trustworthy. We recommend GIA certification.
*All illustrations from HRD Antwerp Institute of Gemology.