Diamonds F.A.Q.

What makes a diamond ring the appropriate engagement gift?

Because a diamond is so durable, it has come to symbolize everlasting love and a lifetime of commitment. The tradition of giving a diamond engagement ring is traced back to 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a simple gold band set with a diamond representing pure, fiery beauty. He placed it on the third finger of her left hand, believing it contained a vein that coursed directly to his beloved's heart. Over time, this royal tradition gained popularity around the world. And today, according to a recent De Beers' survey, four out of five brides receive a diamond engagement ring. More about Engagement Ring Traditions

How much should I spend on an engagement ring?

 Yes, a diamond engagement ring does symbolize everlasting love and a lifetime commitment. But that doesn't mean you have to spend a lifetime paying for it! Despite some jewelry industry recommendations to budget approximately two months' salary, what to spend is completely up to you. Only you know what makes sense for your particular situation. Fortunately, diamonds are available in a wide range of qualities, sizes, and prices - and each is unique - so you're bound to find one you'll both love at a cost you are comfortable with.

What diamond shapes are available?

Although diamond cutters frequently create new shapes to accommodate unusual rough crystals, the most common diamond shapes used for diamond jewelry are round, pear, heart, marquise, oval, emerald and princess cuts. There are other gemstone shapes used as side or accent stones in jewelry, such as baguette, tapered baguette and trillion.

Which shape is the most popular?

 The round brilliant cut. Approximately 75% of all diamonds sold today, particularly for engagement rings, are round.

How much does a carat weigh?

Based on the standard established by the International Committee on Weights and Measures, the weight of a 1 carat diamond is 200 milligrams or one-fifth of a gram.

Which shape offers the best sparkle?

Because a round diamond is symmetrical, it reflects nearly all light that enters it. The round brilliant cut has been mathematically researched to produce the maximum brilliance - liveliness or sparkle - and fire - variety and intensity of rainbow colors - from the diamond's natural properties.

What are inclusions?

Inclusions are the tiny "birthmarks" inside the stone that make every diamond unique. They refer to any mineral or crystal trapped within the diamond crystal at the time it is being formed deep within the earth.

Nearly all diamonds - even those of the highest quality - have some inclusions, which fall into these categories: Mineral inclusions - a dark spot from a trapped bit of mineral. Feathers - internal cracks or fractures caused by either internal or external stress during the diamond's formation.

What is a facet?

A facet is a flat face or plane that has been cut and polished on a gemstone. Facets are placed at varying angles to one another. The placement, angle and shape of the facets are carefully planned and executed to maximize the stone's inherent fire, color and brilliance.

What are "fancy" diamonds?

There are two interpretations to the term "fancy diamond." The most common use relates to cut or specific shape of the diamond. Fancy refers to any diamond cut other than round including: marquise, pear, oval, emerald, princess and heart shapes.

The second fancy reference is to diamonds that have a prominent body color, such as canary yellow, brown or blue. Some diamond colors are much more rare and valuable than others. For example, diamonds are often found in shades of yellow and brown. But colors such as blue, pink and light green are uncommon. Deep pink is particularly rare.

What is the "color" of a diamond?

The color of a diamond refers to its overall body "tint." The whiter or more colorless the stone, the more rare, and the higher the price. The exceptions are some colored or fancy diamonds.

A whiter or colorless stone - think pure water - allows the diamond to cleanly reflect and refract light. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades color by using letters ranging from D (completely colorless) to Z (light yellow). We follow the GIA color scale when we grade diamonds. Differences in color between stones are very, very subtle, and may be imperceptible to an untrained eye. More about Color.

Do inclusions and color affect sparkle?

Only to a degree. Sparkle relates to the diamond's brilliance - the intensity of the white light reflected back to the eye when you look down into a diamond. It is really the cut and proportioning of the stone that determines its sparkle. In some instances, a small white or black inclusion could be reflected within the stone.

In regard to color, a white or colorless stone allows the diamond to cleanly reflect and refract light. When white light enters the diamond, part of the ray is reflected back to your eye, but the rest penetrates the stone. That ray is deflected toward the center of the stone by the facets, and then bounces back to the surface. Like a prism, the diamond refracts the white light into its full spectrum of color.

Again, the cut of the stone is the single most important determinant of a diamond's brilliance and fire. More about Cut and Clarity.

Which quality characteristic affects the price of a diamond the most?

The "four Cs" of a diamond - Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat - can be considered independently or collectively. We suggest you consider the value of a diamond based on all four characteristics, but also take into account which feature is most important to you as the buyer. More about the four Cs.

Where do most diamonds come from?

For the last 150 years, most diamonds have come from Africa. The South African diamond output was unrivaled until 1954 when major deposits were found in Siberia. The biggest diamond discovery in history occurred in 1966 when South Africa's massive diamond deposits along the Orange River were discovered. Currently, Western Canada is the site of the world's newest diamond rush. Diamond deposits also can be found in Africa, the United States, Australia and China.

Why are diamonds so rare and expensive?

When mining diamonds, it takes approximately 23 tons of blueground - the earth in which diamonds are formed - to yield 5 carats of rough diamond material. Furthermore, only 20% of any diamonds recovered are gem quality, while the remaining 80% are suitable only for industrial purposes.

What's the biggest diamond ever found?

 The largest gem-quality diamond ever found was discovered on January 26, 1905 in the Premier Mine in South Africa. The original rough of the Cullinan Diamond weighed 3,106 carats, which is about 1.3 pounds.

The largest cut diamond in the world is the Golden Jubilee, a golden brown cushion shape diamond weighing 545.67 carats. More about Famous Diamonds.

Where are most diamonds sold?

Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Hong Kong, New York and Johannesburg are the world's major diamond cutting centers, where the vast majority of diamonds are cut, polished and sold. Historically, the major cutting centers were located near or at seaport cities to facilitate trade.

Can you scratch a diamond?

Yes, but only with another diamond. The diamond is the hardest substance known to man and is almost 100 times more resistant to scratching than the next hardest material.

If I hit my diamond (on a counter, with a hammer, etc.) will it crack or break? It very well could. Even though the diamond is the hardest substance known to man, it can still be damaged if struck hard and against the grain. Think of the diamond's crystal structure as similar to the grain of wood. There are growth lines as well as a "hard" and a "soft" direction. A blow against the grain of a diamond can cause it to crack, chip, split or even shatter.

In fact, diamond cutters determine how to cut a stone based on their understanding of the rough crystal's structure and growth lines.

What's "ideal cut" diamond? Aren't they better?

Since diamonds were first cleaved, there has been ongoing debate as to the ideal cut. In other words, defining what combination of proportions creates the optimal balance of brilliance, scintillation and dispersion - the diamond's sparkle and fire.

The 58-facet model developed in 1919 by master gem cutter and mathematician Marcel Tolkowsky has provided a foundation for today's most widely accepted proportions. However, while Tolkowsky's model dictated precise proportions for table diameter, crown height, pavilion depth, crown angle and pavilion angle, many grading labs and diamond sellers today offer a more liberal interpretation. The market itself dictates a wider range of acceptable proportions.

And the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), actually advises against using the term ideal cut. The GIA has demonstrated that literally thousands of variations on these proportions can maximize the different optical characteristics displayed by a diamond. In other words, you could view two stones with vastly different cut proportions, and be hard-pressed to determine which diamond is more beautiful.

Is a diamond a good investment?

Will it be worth more in a few years? Diamonds, at least those worn as engagement rings or other jewelry, should be viewed as an investment in romance alone. While diamonds are incredibly rare, they are at the mercy of the laws of supply and demand. Rarity does come into play regarding price, but buying a diamond is not like purchasing stock. Historically, diamond prices have not fluctuated greatly from one year to the next. That could change, however, if diamonds become more or less abundant over time.

What is the Kimberley Process?

The Kimberley Process is a vital step toward impeding the trade of conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds, also known as “blood” diamonds, are stones sold to finance violent rebel movements. Conflict diamonds have been linked to atrocities in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In order to put an end to financing violence, and to set consumers’ minds at ease about funding human rights violations, South African diamond producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa in May of 2000 to devise a solution.

With the support of the United Nations, the diamond industry, world governments and NGOs went to work. Nearly two years of negotiations ultimately produced the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The scheme outlines strict standards for rough diamond trade to guard against conflict diamond trafficking.

The Kimberley Process is made up of 43 states and regional economic integration organizations. Together, these participants account for approximately 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds. The process has been very effective and continues to evolve. Annual meetings and open communication between participants are bringing the world increasingly closer to eradicating conflict diamond trading across the globe.