How to Choose the Perfect Diamond: Buying a Traditional Diamond | The 4 C's

At MAKE MADE, we know how stressful it can be to buy a Diamond, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth.  If you’re specifically looking for traditional White, Sparkly White Diamonds, you’re in the right place.  If you’re interested in all of the Diamond options, check out our post on all the non-white Diamond options.  When it comes to diamonds of any kind or color, we’re here to help you navigate!

How do you choose the perfect diamond? It all starts with the 4 C's.  


Starburst Engagement Ring in Rose Gold by Katie Poterala

The Four C’s

While there are four C’s to diamond buying, it’s important to realize that none of these characteristics means a lot on it’s own.  A beautiful diamond is a compilation of all of these factors, and while you might find specimen out there that offer a strong compromise in one of these areas that can ‘make it or break it’ for you – more often than not--  finding the perfect diamond is a matter of locating the perfect stone that makes small sacrifices in several of these areas but still ‘faces up’ well (aka – looks awesome to you in person).   The perfectionist might believe that the more perfect a diamond is in all of it’s ‘C’ categories, the prettier it will be in person (online buyer: beware).  This is somewhat true – but only to a point.  Seeing a stone in person, and comparing it to other stones, is the only true way to determine a Diamond’s beauty.  While the perfectionist might insist on high marks in all of these areas, upon viewing and comparing stones in person, the same perfectionist might not be able to make such differentiation in front of the stones themselves.  This is because much of what dictates a ‘perfect’ diamond when compared to a ‘great’ diamond is not visible to the naked eye, unless that eye is specifically trained by the jewelry industry.  In fact, when shown several stones, many people choose a diamond in person that is less ‘perfect’ by these standards when comparing stones side by side, simply because they prefer the dimensions, or size, or sparkle of an ‘inferior’ (on paper) diamond to the ‘perfect’ specimen shown.    You can think of buying a diamond a bit like owning a puppy:  Do you love your puppy any more or less because it’s a pure bred, or because it’s a rescue?   We’ll let you decide that.  There is no wrong answer, but looking at it that way might help guide you as you start your search. 

Beauty truly is always in the eye of the beholder – and the most important factor is that you love the stone you choose to include in your future heirlooms.  We’re here to help you figure out how to pick a good one, and how to understand the technical stuff, but not get too caught up in it. 

Cut –
A well cut Diamond sparkles brilliantly.  It has ideal proportions, great symmetry, and great polish.  There are many ways a ‘cut’ can go wrong – some of which can affect how pretty the stone actually looks to you.  Major things to look for that can take away from sparkle or physical size are: thick girdles and shallow cuts that make a stone appear ‘showy’.  Thick girdles can hog some of the carat weight, making a decent weight stone appear smaller.  They’re also more difficult to set.  Showy diamonds are cut shallower to make a stone appear larger in diameter – a neat trick if you’re going for size.  Not all showy or fat-girdled diamonds are ugly, either.  Some people look specifically for a shallow (‘showy’) stone in order to get the size they want visually within a budget they can justify, and sometimes a fatter girdle can bring the price on a stone down a little.  Those minor details are perfect examples of those small sacrifices that we spoke about earlier.  They don’t necessarily change the overall beauty of a stone – but you still need to see it in person to get the full picture.  Diamond Cut Diagram

Clarity -  This is perhaps the most important of the C’s…most of the time.  Clarity basically means how ‘clean’ a stone is – aka how uninhibited the viewing of your pretty white Diamond is to you when you look at it.  The clearer a stone, the less imperfections you’ll see inside.  Those imperfections can look like clouds, specks, bubbles, or crystals.  They can be white, gray, or black.  They are technically other minerals or crystals trapped inside a diamond.  They sometimes even look cool! But most people see them as defects.  The best graded diamonds will have few inclusions, or barely noticeable inclusions, and/or they will be located in areas that are not visible (like near the edge of the stone as opposed to right in the middle of the table).    The highest grade is Flawless, which is rare.  VS quality stones are next up, and are nearly perfect.  SI grades follow, and are rated in stages – SI1, SI2, and SI3.  Good specimen SI1’s can be very eye-clean, beautiful diamonds.  This is our most popular clarity grade because of beauty for price point.    They’re not created equal, though, so we definitely recommend having a jeweler comb through what’s available and select only the pretty SI1’s for you so you can avoid all the noticeable flaws.  SI2’s, SI3’s, I1’s and below are going to have very obvious inclusions, and are generally not considered Engagement quality. 
*Note: There are always exceptions to every rule! We’ve seen a handful of beautiful I1’s that are prettier than some higher graded stones on paper – they’re rare but they exist.  Don’t rule anything out if your trusted jeweler tells you they’ve found a pretty stone at a lower clarity that faces up well. 

Here's the chart, to make it a little easier to visualize the scale:

  • FL (Flawless)
  • IF (Internally Flawless)
  • VVS1 (Very, Very Slightly Included 1)
  • VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included 2)
  • VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1)
  • VS2 (Very Slightly Included 2)
  • SI1 (Slightly Included 1)
  • SI2 (Slightly Included 2)
  • I1 (Inclusions 1)
  • I2 (Inclusions 2)

Carat Weight – Size matters, we get it.  This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but we’ve got some thoughts and tips.  For starters – carat weight doesn’t always relate directly to size…at least not in terms of physical height and width.  It simply refers to actual physical weight.  Remember back to when we were just discussing those thick girdles and ‘showy’ stones?  In well cut stones, typically the greater the carat weight, the larger the stone (as a general rule), but that can vary when you get into the cut of a particular stone.  This just means not all one carat stones are the same.  You could view five stones in the same weight and cut and they might all look like they’re slightly different sizes.  Know that the popular weights (one carat, one and a half carats, two carats, etc) tend to be priced a bit higher than their slightly underweight cousins, even when the stones are just as pretty.  For example, you might get a better price on a 1.42 carat stone than an equally pretty 1.51 stone, simply because you can’t say it’s a carat and a half – but it’s darn close. 

Diamond Size Chart

Color –
Diamond color is graded on a scale – from D to Z.  D is the most colorless, while Z is noticeably yellow or brownish.   Color sacrifices can affect price fairly dramatically.  In many cases, the naked eye can’t easily tell between two letters next to each other on the scale, so choosing an H over a G might not make a significant difference to you.  However, if you’re choosing a platinum or white gold setting – color might play a more critical role.  In yellow gold, a stone won’t necessarily look as ‘yellow’ at a slightly lower color grade, while in bright white – you might notice it more.    Generally speaking, anything in the D-H range is fairly clear or white in color.  J,K and beyond are entering the zone where significant color can be determined with the naked eye. 


No matter where you end up in your search for the perfect Diamond, we hope this helps you on your journey, and provides some clarity in deciding exactly what your diamond preferences are.  We're always here to help, no matter where you live, and welcome any Diamond or custom jewelry design inquiries.  

Redesigned and Repurposed Engagement Ring Set by Katie Poterala



Food for Thought:  For traditional white sparkles, at MAKE MADE we prefer Lab Grown and Canadian Diamonds because of their traceability in the supply chain.  Both of these choices are the most socially and environmentally ethical.   Other ethical stones are becoming more and more available, but we recommend buying from a reputable source, or finding a trusted jeweler who is confident in his or her source.