Are you planning to make one of your holiday gifts an engagement ring? With all the excitement and holiday hubbub, where do you begin?
Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has compiled a wonderful list of what to look for, based on latest trends, hottest colors and alternative alloys. But keep in mind, it’s most important to be conscious of what your beloved most desires.
Choosing the diamond that is right for you means that you need to become a Jedi Master with the answers to these two questions:
What area(s) should I spend money on?
And more importantly: In what area(s) should I save money without it being obvious that I did so?
Ok. So, there you go. I’ve summed up this whole frustrating process with two questions. Now, go out there and make the right choice!
Not really that simple, I know. If it was, I wouldn’t have a job. Understanding those questions is one thing. Now you need to see practical examples of what this means in person.
Let’s single out color as our starting point. A good thing to remember when we discuss color in a diamond is that we are generally speaking about the absence or presence of yellow. Not to be confused with the occasional yellow flash you may see when you turn a diamond because that is something else. We are talking about the overall body color of that diamond.
Think in terms of shades of yellow like various glasses of lemonade. Some batches will just look more yellow than others. Same here, only remember that in diamond terms, the less color a diamond has, the more expensive it will be.
That brings us to two terms you should know: colorless and near colorless. The most colorless of all diamonds is D (don’t ask me why they don’t start at A…seems like that would be easier…but I digress) and then the color scale goes down through the letter Z. When we use the term colorless, we mean diamonds that would receive the grade of D-F. Near colorless means the diamond would fall into the color range of G-J.
So the question to ask yourself about colorless and near colorless would be, “How do they determine this? I mean, if F truly has no visible body color, then it should be a D…right?” Well, yes but the real buying tip is found in the determination of the grade. It’s all in how we actually grade the diamonds.
In order to see subtle differences in color from one diamond to another, we actually need to flip the diamond upside down and view it next to other diamonds we know are specific colors. We call these rather important comparison diamonds Master Diamonds or Master Stones.
The term colorless is used because it means that in the face up position (or when you are looking down at the diamond from the top of it) no color differences can be seen even by a trained grader. Even by a trained grader! It is only from the side that one can see the difference between a D, E, and F.
So I ask you, why would you spend your money on a D or an E when clearly an F looks awfully similar? Now I’ve sold (and currently own) plenty of D and E color diamonds, but I generally only buy them when the price makes sense in another area like clarity….which is what we’ll discuss in a future blog.
This takes us to the near colorless range…so called because in that same face-up position, there will be subtle differences in color from one diamond to the next. In other words, to the naked eye, these will still appear to be mostly lacking in color but it starts to become noticeable, even if just a little.
The exercise I like to do with clients in person is to show them one color and how it compares to the others. You do not need to be an expert to see why a D is a D when you compare it to an I color, and by looking at them this way it allows you to ask yourself the very valuable question: Is it worth the extra money?
And that is always the million dollar question and why it is essential to find someone you can trust to show you the differences. At the very least, know that you cannot be an expert in diamonds just by doing some research online.
Identifying what separates one diamond from another takes real world experience of viewing them in person, and the right jeweler will introduce you to that world and try to explain to you why they know what they do. Understanding color is as simple as D-Z, and being a savvy consumer is just knowing that sometimes color can be a great place to save a little money.
At the American Gem Society and especially in AGS Laboratories, we look forward to April all year long! With the diamond being April’s birthstone, it’s yet another opportunity to celebrate our favorite things: bright, shiny diamonds!
Don’t get us wrong, all other months and their birthstones are just as special! However, being part of an organization that offers you the highest quality diamond grading reports…we do have a special soft spot for diamonds.
A gorgeous 7 carat, cushion cut from Alson Jewelers.
History of the Diamond as the April Birthstone
Diamonds are a thing of beauty and the ultimate gift for a loved one. Thought to be one of the hardest substances on the globe, diamonds date back billions of years. The diamond is the traditional birthstone of April and holds significant meaning for those born in that month, thought to provide the wearer with better relationships and an increase in inner strength. Wearing diamonds is purported to bring other benefits such as balance, clarity and abundance. It’s also symbolic of eternal love, and those fortunate to call April the month of their birth will enjoy the following history behind this rare gem.
Diamond engagement rings by Suna Bros.
Adopted from the Greek work “adamas,” meaning invincible, diamonds come in a wide range of colors such as black, blue, green, pink, red, purple, orange and yellow. The color is dependent upon the type of impurities that are present in the stone. Yellow stones have minuscule traces of nitrogen while blue ones contain boron.
A stunning pear shape diamond from Philip’s Diamond Shop.
The History and Beliefs Surrounding the Diamond
As told through the Encarta, Sanskrit texts dating back before 400 B.C. found that people associated significant value and wonderment with crystals. There is also significant research that dates back to the 1330s showing diamond cutting in Venice. The diamond trading business flourished towards the 15th century with the opening of Eastern trade routes. Ancient theories touting the magical powers of diamonds were prevalent: some thought lightning bolts formed diamonds, while other theories asserted that diamonds were the tears of god.
Engagement rings by Ritani.
The Healing Power of Diamonds
During the Middle Ages, diamonds were thought to hold healing powers and to cure ailments stemming from the pituitary gland and brain. By heating the crystal and taking it to bed, it was thought to draw out the harmful toxins that were crippling the body. It was believed that diamonds could also have an effect on an individual’s balance and clarity and could boost their energy when combined with other crystals like amethyst.
The diamond as the April gemstone has garnered the hearts of many and is the most coveted crystal to date. Deemed as the King of all birthstones, diamonds make the ideal choice for an April birthday gift. She’ll love you for it! Find a trusted diamond jeweler near you.
You’re likely familiar with the 4 C’s of Diamonds: Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat – however, there is another very important aspect of diamonds to keep top of mind: Sparkle!
Sparkle, or Scintillation as it is also known, is the play of white and colored flashes of light seen when the diamond is viewed in motion. Viewable with the naked eye, sparkle is the life of the diamond.
Sparkle does have two different aspects, flash scintillation and fire scintillation.
Flash scintillation is the dynamic pattern of white sparkles observed across a diamond’s crown. Because flash can be seen across a broader range of light environments, it is more common to see white sparkles in a diamond than colored flashes of fire.
Fire scintillation is the dynamic pattern of colored sparkles observed across a diamond’s crown. Because of the refraction caused by a diamond’s faceting, normal white light can be split into many spectral colors as it leaves the diamond.
Light and Movement
Without light, diamonds can’t sparkle. As light is a key ingredient, diamonds with the highest potential for sparkle find light in broad ranges of commonly encountered illumination environments and redirect the light to the observer’s eye through the diamond.
The other key attribute is movement, which sets the scintillation performance apart from its light performance. A motionless diamond in broad diffuse lighting cannot demonstrate the beautiful display of scintillation. It is movement that causes the flickering of sparkle across a diamond, whether it is the diamond, the observer, or the light source that moves.
But, how do you sparkle?!
Cut is key to sparkle. A diamond with superior sparkle has flashes of light and color across the top of the diamond. A poorly cut stone can have “dead” areas where no flash or fire is seen.
For a fun and unique take on sparkle, check out AGS Laboratories’ very own Executive Director, Peter Yantzer, talk about how he sees sparkle.
Customers walk in my door every day and say “Wow! $8,000 for that? Diamonds are expensive!” But they’re not.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m crazy, right? No, I meant what I said, and no, I’m not crazy. If you consider what diamonds are, how we get them, and what their value does over time, I think you’ll agree that diamonds are NOT expensive. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Diamonds are Rare
On average, one million diamonds must be mined to find one 1ct diamond. Think about that! Diamonds are extremely rare, especially in larger sizes. They’re hard to find, requiring years and years of expensive exploration and research to find large deposits. In fact, only a very select few locations in the world have gem-quality diamonds (the ones worth mining). Once the diamonds are found, they’re difficult to mine, often requiring explosives and immense earth moving equipment to extract them. Photo from www.firemarkprincess.com
2. Diamonds are Eternal
Diamond is the hardest material known. Thus, they last for years, many times centuries. Have you ever seen an Art Deco or Mid-century diamond ring? That ring has lasted for decades, if not a century, and the diamonds are almost untouched. Many of the family rings that are still in existence contain diamonds, and it’s because of their lasting qualities that keep them around. Just think of the Hope Diamond, arguably the most famous of them all. It’s been around since the 1600s, and it still sparkles in all its beauty in the Smithsonian Institution today.
3. Diamonds are Difficult to Cut
Diamonds have to be hand-faceted. This is done using a pottery-wheel-looking device that is literally encrusted with diamond dust so that the diamond can be polished. There are 57 or 58 facets on a Round Brilliant Cut diamond, and each of those facets has to be in exactly the perfect position and angle to maximize the diamond’s light performance. There is even one crystal direction in which a diamond will not cut. That means when the diamond cutter makes his first facet, he has to know that none of the remaining 56 or 57 facets will line up with that “uncuttable” direction. Diamond cutting is a painstaking process that takes hours to perform and years to perfect. Diamond cutters are just that—diamond cutters by trade, and nothing else. It’s much like a heart surgeon, taking education and years of training to become an expert.
4. Diamonds Have Great ROI
Diamonds are considered a luxury. However, what luxury good can you buy these days, enjoy to its full potential, and then 20 years from now, sell it for more than what you bought it for? I’m pretty sure your Porsche won’t do that. But diamonds? Because of their hardness and lasting nature mentioned above, they’ll still be the same 20 years from now. I never recommend someone to buy a diamond SOLELY as an investment, but if you like diamonds for their beauty and to wear them, the fact that they hold value is a huge added plus. A diamond is a commodity—a beautiful and breathtaking commodity, but a commodity just the same. In an inflationary economy, a diamond will most likely go up in value over the long run. If the value of the dollar (or your currency) goes to zero, you will still have something of significant intrinsic value. What’s more, like gold, it’s internationally recognized as an item of value, so it will hold its value no matter where you are worldwide. So, enjoy your luxury for years on end and pass it down to the next generation, knowing it still holds its value. Now tell me somewhere else that gets you a better Return On Investment than that.
While diamonds are certainly luxury goods, they are not expensive—at least for what you get. Diamonds are Rare, Eternal, Difficult to cut, and have great ROI. The next time you see a 1-carat round diamond for $8K, think of what had to happen for that diamond to arrive, breathtaking, in front of your eyes. Think of the years you will spend admiring its beauty and cherishing the person who gave it to you. And think of the loved one that will enjoy it for years to come, after you pass it on to them. Diamonds may cost a bit of money, but they are far undervalued and in the long run, they’re definitely worth it.
We know that a standard round Brilliant Cut has 57 (sometimes 58) facets, so how come when you look into a diamond, it appears that there are hundreds of flashing geometric shapes?
Those flashes are known as virtual facets, and collectively they dictate a diamond’s sparkle. When light moves through a stone, it travels a longer distance than you would expect: A ray of light enters the diamond through one facet, reflects off two different facets, and exits the stone through a fourth. Because these facets work together to direct light, slightly tilting any facet will cause a ray of light to interact with a different set of facets all together. Anyone who has played billiards knows that when trying bank a shot off of a wall, a slight angle variation has a large affect on where the ball ends up. This is why proportion and symmetry are essential to a diamond’s appearance.
To illustrate the complexity of a diamond’s light performance, try holding a brightly colored object 6-8 inches over a diamond. Notice how many virtual facets take on the color of that bright object. You will also notice that these virtual facets are not all near each other, but rather scattered throughout the diamond, and separated by virtual facets of different colors.
The fact that this bright color originates in one area, doesn’t mean that it will exit the diamond in one area. This is because light is divided and redirected each time it encounters an additional facet, the result, many virtual facets. By slowly moving the bright object, the bright color leaves some virtual facets and enters others. Doing this will help an observer notice the seemingly sporadic nature of a diamond’s light performance. This experiment will be more evident with a diamond that has a superior cut grade.
The American Gems Society Laboratory has been at the forefront for research to understand how light performs in gem stones and the resulting virtual facets. Even the AGS cut grade system is based on light performance.
The author would like to thank Peter Yantzer and Jason Quick from AGS Laboratories, whose advice was instrumental for this blog post.
By David C. Rotenberg, Certified Gemologist Appraiser
DID YOU KNOW that your smart phone can make your diamond shopping experience easier?
Now I don’t mean surfing the net, I mean actually looking at and comparing diamonds.
Professional Jewelers like American Gem Society Jewelers have a tool called the ASET (Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool) which will reveal a well cut diamond, or a not so well cut diamond. What you want to see in a diamond with the ASET device are symmetrical patterns with lots of red which shows brilliance, some blue which is contrast and some green which is light being reflected at a different angle. You don’t want to see much white or black which means light is being lost in that area. How well a diamond is cut is what makes it sparkle!
Once you have found a diamond you like with your jeweler you can ask them to verify the cut (or beauty) with the ASET tool.
Now comes the fun. A professional jeweler will have an ASET with a staging device so when you look at the diamond you can not only see the well cut proportions, but using your smart phone you can capture image with a picture.
All you have to do is hold the smart phone over the eyepiece showing the diamond, lower the phone on to the stage, focus, shoot the picture and “voilà” you have a photo of the diamond of your choice.
It’s that simple. If you decide to shop around, when you go to the next jeweler check their diamonds using the same method with the ASET device and compare the images. If you like what you see, you have a second choice, if they don’t have an ASET tool then you should ask yourself how can they tell me how well cut their diamonds are if they can’t show me? You might want to keep shopping.
These photos show various degrees of light performance (beauty) as displayed in the ASET tool.
Today’s blog post is written by American Gem Society member, By Marc Nanasi, from NEI
Diamond professionals swear that Cut is the ‘C’ which has the most influence on a diamond’s beauty,and interestingly enough, it is also the only C that is controlled by humans (a diamond’s color, carat weight, and clarity are dictated from the rough stone found in nature). What most people don’t realize about cut is the extensive amount of consideration that goes into the cutting process. Cut can influence a diamond’s value by up to 50%!
The decisions which have the largest affects on the final outcome are made by the ‘planner’ before a single cut is made. When the planner is presented with a rough diamond, the outside has a frosty texture, so he marks a few locations to polish “windows” in to the diamond. These transparent polished surfaces are referred to as windows because they serve as openings for the plannerto look through to try and get the best idea of what is going on inside the diamond. The planner must do his best to see everything and determine the optimal shape, size, and orientation of the soon to be cut diamond. All of these decisions are quite tricky, so only the most skilled and experienced cutters do the planning.
Today, diamond cutters use technology that scans the rough diamond to help guide the planner. Through the use of cameras and lasers, planners can be shown the possible outcomes of diamonds and how much weight will be lost . This technology does not replace the expertise and careful consideration of the planner, rather it serves as an additional tool.
Remember, every diamond is different,so any rough diamond can have up to nine types of internal characteristics, in any shape, of any size, and in any place. Most rough diamonds are formed as an octahedron so the rough diamond can be optimized by cutting them into two polished diamonds.
Once the planner determines the various possibilities, he chooses the diamond that will yield the highest return. In evaluating this, he takes into account current market prices, consumer preferences as certain shapes are more in demand than others. The planner will also need to determine whether it is worth cutting a smaller diamond with fewer inclusions rather than a larger, more included one. For example, a particular piece of rough diamond could be cut in to either a flawless .70ct diamond or a VS1 1.10ct diamond. The job of the planner is to make these tough decisions, based upon what is more valuable and more desirable?
This is just the start of the diamond’s journey. Now that its future is planned, it can begin to be cut and polished. The diamond’s brilliance is just waiting to be unleashed.