The Four C’s of Diamonds

The Four C’s of Diamonds

The Serpentine Travel Case Reading The Four C’s of Diamonds 4 minutes Next Dinner Ring, Anyone?

At Serpentine Jewels, diamonds are our specialty. We love them for their versatility, brilliance and the unique characteristics that set them apart. These “characteristics” are often referred to as “the 4Cs”—color, clarity and carat weight—and make up the global standard for understanding a diamond’s quality. I love educating my clients about the 4Cs before any stone sourcing begins. This allows me to accurately optimize the factors that truly matter to our clients, while providing the most value. 


While many people believe that carat determines a stone’s size, it actually refers to the weight of a diamond. In fact, two diamonds may have the exact same carat weight but vary greatly in size and price if the cuts are different. A deeply cut stone may have a higher carat weight, but smaller surface area, and therefore an overall smaller look. At Serpentine, rather than sourcing diamonds based on carat weight alone, we look for stones with an optimal surface area so that the size and shape can be visibly appreciated.



A diamond’s clarity is an assessment of the purity of a stone, graded at 10x magnification. The global scale for clarity ranges from Flawless to I3, depending on the presence of inclusions (internal imperfections) and blemishes (external imperfections). The vast majority of diamonds have imperfections, but the fewer there are, the higher the clarity grade. 

As long as they are not visible to the naked eye, inclusions should not be thought of as inherently bad, but rather merely a result of the natural formation process. At Serpentine, we only sell diamonds that are clear to the naked eye.


Color is a measure of the natural tint inherent in white diamonds. When a diamond forms, the presence of nitrogen causes varying levels of yellow or brown to appear in the stone. Graded against a master scale ranging from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow), diamonds with the least amount of yellow (i.e. “colorless”) are the rarest. Differences from one color grade to the next are imperceptible to the untrained eye. At Serpentine, we work almost exclusively with colorless and near colorless diamonds. 

Diamonds with a higher color saturation than Z become “fancy yellow” diamonds which follow their own color and pricing scale, exemplified in one of our custom engagement rings below.


Cut accounts for the quality and degree of a diamond’s sparkle. Symmetry, proportions, angles, faceting and polish are all factors that determine the stone’s ability to return light to the eye, creating a diamond’s trademar “ fire and brilliance”. Cut is the only one of the 4Cs influenced by human hands, and is arguably the most important as it indicates the overall beauty of a diamond in its final form, hiding any inclusions when present and dictating shape and sparkle or wow factor.

“Fancy shapes” are a term for  diamonds in any shape besides a round). These do not have an official GIA cut grade, and are  measured purely by  light, performance and  personal preference.


The unofficial 5th “C,” cost is as much a consideration as cut, color, clarity and carat weight. At Serpentine, we advise clients to look for a fair price that reflects their stone priorities, rather than chasing a deal.

While the 4Cs were created for those in the industry to make comparisons between diamonds, stone grading is truly an art, not a science. Making an informed decision between stones, even with the very same specs, takes expert guidance. Grading certificates can only determine so much—the true value and quality of a stone must be determined in person. Therefore, it is important to explore all options available to you in your budget, regardless of scientific specifications. At the end of the day, the right stone for you is the stone you fall in love with.


The diamond-buying process is best when taken slowly and with a knowledgeable guide. At Serpentine, helping our clients fall in love with the perfect stone is one of the things that brings us the most joy. While the diamond market moves quickly, so do we. When the time is right, I’d be thrilled to be your trusted advisor in the diamond buying process. You’ve already met the one; let us be your trusted number two!