Diamond are one of the world's most valued natural resources, not to mention one of the most highly desired gemstones. The diamond is the ultimate gemstone. It has very few weaknesses and many strengths. It sparkles with its extraordinary value and sentimental value. It is used in wedding rings to represent endless love or used as gifts/jewelry to be given to loved ones. But the diamond is so much more than its eternal beauty.
The diamond derives its name from the Greek work adamas meaning unbeatable. In hardness, there is no comparison. The diamond rates in the Mohs scale a 10 which is the hardest substance on Earth. Its cutting resistance is 140 times that of the ruby and sapphire, the gemstones(Corundum) that are next in the Mohs scale in hardness. The diamond's optical properties such as luster and rigidness make it unique and easily distinguished from other imitations. Enjoy!
History of Diamonds
The first recorded diamond dates back around 800 B.C. in India. Some believe it even dated back 6,000 years ago. The diamonds were used as decorative purposes and also as talismans to ward off evil and provide protection in battle. During the Dark Ages, diamonds were even stated to be used as a medical aid. Religious doctors even told patients that if they hold a diamond in a hand and make the sign of the cross would, it would cure and illness and heal wounds.
Diamonds became more popular during the 19th century due to discovery of diamond deposits in South Africa. This discovery leads to increased supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, and growth in economy. In 1979, geologists found the Argyle pipe in Australia which to this date is the richest diamond deposit in the world. Argyle, since then, alone is responsible for supplying over one third of the world's diamonds every year.
Diamonds: How are they formed?
Diamonds consists of an allotrope of carbons that are formed in high-pressure, high-temperature conditions. Diamonds are produced 90 miles under the Earth's surface at temperatures of about 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Diamonds are formed deep within the earth and eventually, over extremely long periods of time, push their way to the earth's surface, usually through volcanic eruptions.
The age of these diamonds from beneath the surface of the earth are from 1 to 3.3 billion years old! When diamonds are formed and begin their ascent to the earth's surface, they go through channels where the magma from the volcano rises to the surface, picking up diamonds along the way and eventually depositing them on the surface, where they are eventually found and mined.
The 4 C's of Diamonds
There are four distinct characteristics that determine the value and quality of a diamond. These are the color, cut, clarity and carat. Otherwise known as the 4 C's of a diamond. In the following, we will talk about these features in detail.
In the last newsletter, we touch based on the color of gemstones as being the most important feature due to the fact that color is the most obvious feature. The perfect diamond should appear clear and colorless but this is not the case for all diamonds. Diamonds can come in any color of the rainbow most common color is a shade of yellow or brown. The Geological Institute of America(GIA) have devised a guideline to grade diamond color. This guideline consists of a lettering system that ranges from the alphabet D - Z. Please see below:
D E F
G H I J
K L M
Faintly tinted, can't hardly be seen and usually yellow in color
N O P Q R
Lightly tinted, usually yellow. Can be seen with the naked eye
S T U V W X Y Z
Tinted, starts from yellow and progresses to brown
The cut a diamond is determined by the diamond's proportion such as its shape, width and depth. The cut determines what is called the diamond's "brilliance". Even if the diamond itself has perfect color and clarity, with a poor cut the diamond will have a dull brilliance. This is because the cut determines how light travels within the diamond. The Gemological Institute of America has also devised a clarity grading system to rank diamond clarity. This grading system includes Flawless (Fl), Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VV1 or VV2), Very Slightly Included(VS1 or VS2), Slightly Included(SI1 or SI2), and Included(I1, I2, and I3). Although this system had been contributed to the diamond industry, it is not widely used. This is due to the fact that it took a lot of practice and training to integrate it.
The cut a diamond is determined by the diamond's proportion such as its shape, width and depth. The cut determines what is called the diamond's "brilliance". Even if the diamond itself has perfect color and clarity, with a poor cut the diamond will have a dull brilliance. This is because the cut determines how light travels within the diamond.
There are 3 types of cuts that can determine the diamond's brilliance. These are a shallow cut, a cut that is too deep and ideal cut. A shallow cut is a cut of a diamond that is too low, that light traveling through it is lost on the bottom of the stone and does not come back into sight. This cut makes a diamond appear lifeless and dull. A cut that is too deep is a cut that is too high, that light traveling through it escapes through the sides and darkens the stone. An ideal cut is a perfect cut on a diamond that reflects light to the top of the stone, giving it perfect brilliance.
As stated on the last newsletter, a single carat(ct) weighs about 200 milligrams or.2 grams. For smaller carat diamonds that weigh less than a carat, it is expressed as points (pt). Points are 1/100 of a carat. Carat weight of a diamond is important due to the fact that larger diamonds are rarer than smaller ones, so basically the larger the diamond the more expensive it is. There is no standard grading system or diagram that can show different carat weight. This is because there are so many variations of diamonds in shape and cut, which makes stones of similar weight, look different.
Rich in history, mystique and romance, fancy colored diamonds are the rarest of diamonds. For every colored diamond, there are 10,000 colorless diamonds. Fancy diamonds command prices 20 to 25 times more than white diamonds. Popularity of these rare gems has been increasing for the last 3 years as more celebrities are seen wearing colored diamonds. The rarest of the colored diamonds are red, intense purple and intense green. Fewer than 10 of each color are found every year. These three colors command the highest prices of all diamonds selling for US $1 million and higher for the larger, more perfect gems. Once found only in collections of the aristocracy or in the crown jewels of the world's monarchs, colored diamonds have become available to anyone who wishes to experience the elegance and beauty of these romantic jewels. All diamonds are formed deep in the earth's mantle at depths of 87 to 120 miles. High pressures and temperatures as high as 1300 degrees centigrade created diamonds millions of years ago. Diamonds are forced to the earth's surface in volcanic eruptions. Even these occurrences must have a rare set of circumstances as the magma's source will need to be three times deeper than most volcanoes to reach the diamonds. The first fancy diamonds documented were mined on ancient Indian rivers as long as 6,000 years ago. Today, mines are located in several areas of the world. The largest mining company is BHP Billiton, followed by the Rio Tinto Group and Petra Diamonds. The Argyle Mine in Australia mines over 90% of the world's pink diamonds as well as other colors. This mine is due to close in 2018. This will no doubt contribute to higher prices for the Argyle diamonds. There are still bargains to be found if you are willing to do a little research. Price is determined by rarity, color, and popularity. Some of the rarer diamonds are not as popular right now and can be purchased for much less than those colors being worn by the stars. Fancy colored diamonds represent all that is most precious. Imagine the one person most precious to you wearing one of these elegant jewels.
The debate over diamond certification and grading is not new, but the increasing growth of Internet diamond jewelry sales has fired up this debate and brought it to the consumer's doorstep. Diamond jewelry shoppers are overwhelmed by information, some accurate, some not, but mostly confusing.
The purpose of this article is not to settle the debate, but merely to provide a real world perspective for what I've seen evolve over the last decade from within the industry of diamond dealers, to the street for the diamond shopper.
Ten years ago buying a diamond or diamond jewelry was a magical experience requiring the consultation of an expert. Diamonds were bought and cherished. Today it is a dog-eat-dog Internet world, where diamond dealers are "perceived" not to be trusted and consumers are educated to the point of commoditizing something that was once precious and rare.
The allure is gone, trusted expertise dwindling, and the debate over diamond value rages on. In my opinion, this is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is just the result of an evolving industry. Just as in any industry there is a continuum of change and control, with the sellers at one end and the buyers at the other. Sometimes the change goes too far in one direction or the other, but over time control comes back to balance because of basic economics. The diamond industry is in the middle of this change.
The diamond certification is one way diamond dealers are differentiating their product. With so much information available on diamond education, the consumer has become a self-proclaimed expert and is in search of the perfect diamond at the cheapest price. When making an investment in a fine quality diamond it should be certified by an accredited independent gemological laboratory and of course purchased from a reputable dealer. The most popular certifications being discussed today are:
- GIA - Gemological Institute Of America (founded 1931)
- AGS - American Gem Society (founded in 1934)
- EGL - European Gemological Laboratory (founded 1974)
- IGI - International Gemological Institute (founded 1975)
Let me address the most common consumer questions about certification:
1. Are all certifications created equal?
Based solely on reputation, not all certifications are created equal. This is fact in the diamond industry, there are biases in the marketplace and this also varies by what country you are in.
In the United States, GIA and AGS, are the market leaders, the most trusted sources. For that reason a diamond graded by either one of these institutions will be more expensive than like diamonds graded by their competitors, period. Conversely, expect a discount for EGL and IGI graded diamonds.
The debate is not purely about reputation, but about standards of quality. No matter how you look at it a diamond is still graded by a human and open to subjectivity. Therefore, the more standardized the tools and strict the process the more consistent the results. GIA and AGS founded the standards and have refined them over the last 75 years. This is why comparing two like diamonds with the same grade for color, clarity and cut, the EGL and/or IGI diamonds will be cheaper. It is assumed it's off by at least one grade, e.g., graded F color by EGL may be grade G or H by GIA. It's a common assumption in the industry that IGI and EGL diamond grades are softer than GIA and AGS.
For now the consumer just needs to understand that these biases exist in the marketplace and drive pricing. An important factor driving the increase of EGL and IGI certified diamonds into the market is the commoditization I mentioned earlier, when diamond grades are easier to get it increases the margin for the dealer.
2. Will my diamond be more valuable with a certification?
A diamond is not more valuable with a certification per se. A diamond can be sent to any grading lab and receive a certification at any time (note it should be un-mounted). The initial value of the certification is two fold, first it gives the credibility at time of purchase that it has been independently graded. Secondly, if you ever want to sell or trade your diamond, the certification will make this process easier.
3. How do I know the certification is for the same diamond?
This is a trickier question, and why a diamond shopper still needs trusted sources and experts. A diamond certification provides detailed criteria about the diamond, including specific measurement data. One way to know for a fact the certification goes with the diamond is the measurements, this requires specialized diamond measuring tools. If you need to verify a certification/diamond combination I suggest taking it to an independent jeweler who can provide you with a Sarin Report, a high-tech automated cut grade and diamond measuring device.
Another way a professional can verify your diamond and certification is by clarity grading. A diamond's clarity is akin to fingerprints, no two diamonds are alike. A professional jeweler can tell you the exact location of the clarity birthmarks, feathers, inclusions, etc. and verify the certification.
4. Should all diamonds be certified regardless of size?
I frequently get questions about whether or not all the diamonds in the ring are certified. It is not necessary or recommended to certify multiple small diamonds in a ring. Certification is reserved for larger center stone diamonds, .75ct and greater. While you can get all the diamonds certified, it doesn't add any value and it's expensive.
As a diamond shopper your choices are endless, what's important to take away from this article is the understanding that certification is not a guarantee of value, but merely one more decision that impacts price. A diamond shopper will need to make this decision along with color, clarity, cut, and carat, in your search for the perfect diamond at the best price.