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Buying an Engagement Ring in the Bay Area? Everything You Need To Know About The 4 C’s Part I: The Cut

diamond cut inspection davidson and licht

If you’ve come to this page, you are probably thinking about buying an engagement ring. Congratulations! And now, cue the sweaty hands and heart palpitations. We’re experienced – in fact, we have many potential clients come into our Bay Area jewelry stores, both Walnut Creek and San Jose, with sweaty palms, heart palpitations, and the thrill of finding a unique engagement ring. Buying an engagement ring can seem stressful and overwhelming when you are starting the process. But, I am here to help you understand some important characteristics of the diamond, the centerpiece of your engagement ring. By the end, you should feel confident in your purchase and ready to pop the question! Over the next few blog posts, we’ll discuss the standard grading system for diamonds, more
commonly known as the 4 C’s – cut, color, clarity and carat weight. This post will cover the first, the cut, which is arguably the most important. Read on to find out why.

The Cut – It’s Not the Shape

Princess, emerald, round, pear, bag
ette, cushion – these are terms you might have discovered when browsing online or overheard your future fiancé chatting about with her girlfriends. These terms refer to the shape of a diamond, not its cut. The cut actually refers to the proportioning of the diamond and will determine how much the diamond sparkles and how large it appears. Pretty important traits right? Especially for a round diamond, so let’s discuss how this works. To understand how Cut affects a diamond, we must revisit what a round diamond looks like before it ends up in a jewelry store in front of you.

 When a diamond cutter receives a diamond, it starts out in the shape of a pyramid. The pyramid can then be cut two ways. The first way maximizes carat weight. To do this, the cutter leaves as much of the original material as possible, which can cause the bottom of the stone to have a disproportionate amount of the weight, like a glacier with all its mass beneath the surface. This is a poorly cut diamond. Visually, it will appear smaller and much of the light that enters it will leak out the sides and bottom, meaning the light is not reflected back at your gazing eye – probably not what you want to present in your engagement ring.

The second way a cutter can work with a diamond is to cut the same pyramid into a diamond that has ideal proportions. All the right weight in all the right places. This diamond will return 98-100% of the light that enters it (meaning it sparkles MORE), and the diameter will be larger than the poorly cut stone of the same carat weight, making it visually bigger as your fiancé stares down at her engagement ring. More sparkle and visually bigger? Yes, please! Keep in mind, it is these reasons that the cut alone represents 50% of a diamond’s value and is a large part of the cost. 

diamond cut davidson and licht walnut creek, san jose

Now that you are nearly an expert in diamond cutting, I want you to remember these two lessons as you go forward to purchase a diamond for your engagement ring: 

  1. Carat weight is not the same as size.

As mentioned above, the cut (how the weight is proportioned) is the factor that determines how large a diamond will look. If you’re still confused about this, think of it this way: Imagine two men who weigh exactly the same at 200 pounds. Are you imagining two identical men? Well, what if I told you that one man is 6’4” and the other is 5’4”? You now have two very different men as their weight is distributed very differently. The same goes for diamonds. Knowing the cut is the piece of information that helps you understand how the weight is distributed. A more ideally cut diamond has better distributed weight, giving it a wider diameter, making it look bigger.

  1. Not all diamonds sparkle the same

The cut will determine how much the diamond sparkles. Ideally, it sparkles a lot… that is a diamond’s job after all! The better cut diamond will have better proportions. With ideal proportions, as light enters from above, 98-100% of that light is reflected back to your eye. So what if you have two diamonds that have the same specs on the other 3 Cs, but different cuts? Ignoring the cut is an easy trap to fall into when there is a price difference. You may be thinking “well, these two diamonds are nearly the same since 3 Cs are equal. I’ll go with the cheaper one.”  Bad idea. The cut is where you will visually notice the difference in sparkle. The less expensive diamond (less ideal cut) is not necessarily a better value if you’re sacrificing the one thing an engagement ring is supposed to do, sparkle!

So you get it now. Great! Here’s how you know you can be certain you are getting a well cut diamond. All diamonds with a legitimate lab report will include a cut grade. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the creator of the 4 C’s, ranks their cut grade from “Excellent” at the top to “Poor” at the bottom. A top cut grade from GIA is called a “Triple Excellent,” which refers to the cut, polish and symmetry. The American Gem Society (AGS), GIA’s sister company, ranks cut from “Ideal” or “0” at the top to “Poor” Or “10” at the bottom. Their top grade is called an “Ideal” diamond or “Triple Zero.” Both of these cut grades ensure that your diamond will return 98-100% of the light that enters it. At Davidson and Licht, you can rest assured that all of our diamonds are either GIA Triple Excellent or AGS Ideal Triple Zero. We’ve done the hard work for you in finding the perfect diamond to help you create your ultimate engagement ring. 

And now, a bonus! Hearts and Arrows

I want to tell you about one more concept within the cut that most jewelry stores are not going to share with you. It’s called “Hearts and Arrows.” This is a pattern that appears on the diamond when every facet is perfectly aligned, meaning the diamond is perfectly cut. A hearts and arrows diamond is the ultimate guarantee of brilliance however, you can’t find mention of hearts and arrows on a diamond report. You must physically check it yourself with your jeweler by using a proportion scope. Through this scope, a true hearts and arrows diamond will exhibit eight symmetrical arrows when viewed from the top and eight symmetrical hearts from the bottom. At Davidson and Licht’s Bay Area jewelry stores (both in Walnut Creek and in Santa Clara), we not only sell GIA Triple Excellent or AGS Ideal Triple Zero, we also guarantee that all round diamonds exhibit hearts and arrows. Stop by anytime you are in the Bay Area and we will be happy to show you.

Still overwhelmed? Maybe a little. But rest assured that you are now more informed about the most important of the 4 C’s – The Cut! There is still more to learn, so check back to uncover the mysteries of the other Cs. Up next, Color! It’s not graded how you would expect. 

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