Thursday, April 19, 2012

Diamonds Part 3: Clarity

As I gear up for a trip to a diamond grading lab class at the Gemological Institute of America, it seems like the perfect time to be doing a marathon rock review on diamonds. What makes these tiny rocks worth thousands, even millions of dollars to us? Is it all part of an incredible marketing plan by giant corporations with diamond interests? Perhaps there really is something to it.

The diamond is a gem fascinating from all perspectives. To begin with, a diamond is composed entirely from carbon, the building block of life. It is the only gem whose chemical makeup is so pure. That is precisely why the clarity of a given gem has a monumental effect on the value of that gem. Clarity characteristics represent something that got stuck in the crystal as it was being formed. Some clarity characteristics are tiny crystals of other types of gem, some are graphite, and yet others are simply cracks in the crystal structure. Regardless, they take away from the notion that this gem is one of the rare examples of pure, perfect carbon atoms connecting in elegant succession to create the most durable substance known to man.

The truth is, that most of the diamond mined do not represent diamonds in such a romantic way. After a mine has started operations after billions of dollars in investment, tons and tons of diamonds are mined which are so heavily included that they would not even resemble what you think of as a diamond. Less than 20% of diamonds mined worldwide each year approach gem-quality. Low grade rough is used industrially.

In case you are reading with the intention of diamond shopping, I will include below a chart which expresses the different grades of clarity as they pertain to Gem-quality diamonds.

If you are diamond shopping, be aware that flawless and internally flawless diamonds are so very rare, that they are unattainable for most of us. This chart is showing an a large, elementary scale what the clarity grades mean, but remember that 10 times magnification is a lot, and even under this magnification, many characteristics are only visible by a person trained to know what to look for. I encourage you to shop for diamonds that are graded with a certification from the Gemological Institute of America. That certification gives you proof of what it is that you are purchasing. That assurance is difficult to get in any other way. If you need a diamond buying coach, maybe I can help. feel free to email me--

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Diamonds Part 2: Color

Of the four "C"s it is color which is most obvious to the consumer. For this reason it is perhaps the most well known of the four "C"s. Diamonds come in an amazing variety of colors including blue, green, red, orange, yellow and more.

Diamond most commonly occur in shades of yellow to white (colorless) and brown. All shades from completely colorless to slightly yellow or brown fall into a standard called the "normal color range" by the Gemological Institiute of America. Deep tones of these colors, or any color other than yellow or brown are considered "fancy" colors.

Diamonds in the normal color range are categorized in an alphabetical scale ranging from D to Z, D being the highest color grade that a stone can have. When this scale was created, it was meant to be used only within the industry for gem dealers to communicate with each other. The reason that the scale begins with "D" is because GIA felt that the negative connotation of the letter "D" as it is used in the school system would discourage jewelers from using this scale with their customers! It was not in effort to hide anything from customers, but rather that consumers would have no desire to learn charts and scales of information just to buy a diamond.

Regardless, after the scale was unveiled, jewelers and customers alike were using the scale to better understand the value of their gems. Before the implementation of this scale, terms like "light yellow, fancy white, and blue white" were used to describe diamond colors. For obvious reasons the vagueness of these terms created conflict about how a gem was represented versus the real color of the gem.

For most shoppers, the GIA scale can be simplified for easier commnication. D,E, and F color stones are all in the range considered "colorless." G,H,I and J rated diamonds are considered "nearly colorless" and K, L, M, and N stones are dubbed "faint yellow" See the chart above.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Diamonds, Part 1: Carat

Those interested in diamonds are commonly introduces to "the four C's" carat weight, cut, clarity and color. Because of the abundance of information and research available on this stone, I'll be covering each of the four c's in in a separate rock review article for the month of April-- the birthstone for which is diamond.
The most revered of gemstones is so beloved not merely because of its extraordinary beauty, but because its fascinating crystal formation makes it the hardest substance known to man. From the very first diamond crystal discovered, it was clear humans that this rock was different from all others. This special stone was set into jewelry as early as the Egyptian and Roman empires, before the technology existed to cut diamonds into any shape other than it's natural octahedral shape.
It was around the same time that trade between societies increased, creating a need for certain universal measurements. The word "carat" is derived from "carob." The carob seed was plentiful in the Mediterranean region, the center of trade at the time. These seeds were relatively uniform in size and weight, and became a standard counterweight for weighing small objects on a balance. This measurement evolved into what we know now as a carat which is equivalent to one fifth of one gram.
This tiny measurement, one fifth of one gram, is the basis for weighing nearly all gemstones, and in the case of diamonds, one tenth of a carat can mean the difference between hundreds or thousands of dollars for each stone in the modern market. While a diamond mine may produce many tons of diamond rough in one year, a very very small percentage of that rough is of gemstone quality.
Most diamonds look more like dirty brown rocks than the lustrous gemstone that we picture when we think of them. Of those diamonds that are considered cuttable gems, most are little tiny, itty bitty gems. It is for this reason, that the price of a gem diamond increases exponentially by weight. Additionally, the cost of dimaonds takes a jump at certain markers. For example, many folks shopping for an engagement ring want to purchase a stone of a certain size. A gemstone just over one carat is worth more per carat than a gemstone just under one carat, the same is true of two carats or even half carat markers.