Precious Gems

The appeal of diamonds and other precious gems has endured for eons. They confer on the wearer a feeling of beauty, value, status. We are drawn to them and we all have our personal favourites. Sometimes it’s our birthstone. For others, a particular stone reflects a favourite colour. There is almost a magical feeling when you are near them, the energy they create it is palpable.  

While the clear diamond has been the traditional stone of choice for engagement and wedding bands, other stones are actually more valued and prized because of their rarity. The sapphire has often been the stone of choice for royal betrothal rings. When Princess Diana selected her 18-carat sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring, she selected one of the rarest stones on the earth.  When Jennifer Lopez was engaged to Ben Affleck, she sported a 6-carat pink diamond ring. Camilla Parker-Bowles chose an emerald ring when she became engaged to Prince Charles.

We’ve become even more fascinated with beautiful jewellery because of the popularity of celebrity venues like award shows. Often this jewellery is on loan to the celebrity. At one time, we could only look at pieces like that wistfully. But with the creation of cubic zirconia, a nearly identical chemical twin to the diamond, we can satisfy some of our more extravagant whims without breaking the bank! And there’s no reason to let on that maybe that fabulous new ring you’re wearing isn’t really diamonds. Let everyone think your boyfriend or husband got a financial windfall and spent it all on you!

But when you can afford the real thing, there’s really nothing like it, is there? Is there a prized piece in your collection? Do you wear it often, or only on special occasions?  If you don’t wear your jewellery often, give yourself a lift and start bringing that special ring out on regular occasions. It can certainly brighten up a dreary Monday when you’re wearing something special!


Many people equate the term carat with the size of a diamond, and as carat size increases, so will the carat weight. But the operative word there is weight. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond and is equal to roughly 200 milligrams which is less than a ¼ of an ounce. A carat can also be broken up into 100 points. So ¾ of a carat is also 75 points.  

The heavier in carat weight a diamond is, the rarer it becomes. Prices of diamond increase exponentially with the weight of the diamond, so a one-carat diamond will cost much more than two ½-carat diamonds, given that other qualities, such as colour and clarity, are equal.  

The cutting of a diamond can impact the size of it, so depending on how their cut, two one-carat diamonds can look unequal. If a stone is cut flatter, then it will appear bigger, while a deeper cut stone will be smaller, but may have more brilliance and scintillation.

You may be tempted to purchase a stone that’s cut flatter so that you can have the appearance of a larger, or heavier stone. But a diamond that’s cut too flat will have too little brilliance and can look cloudy. Carat weight is important, but there’s no point to sacrificing other qualities that make a diamond special so you can say you have a two-carat stone. A beautiful one-carat diamond, with outstanding brilliance and scintillation is going to be the better choice, from both a personal standpoint and an investment standpoint. 

A smaller diamond can always be enhanced with baguettes, trillians or smaller same-shape stones on either size. As we stated earlier, two smaller stones won’t cost as much as an equally-weighted single stone, so you can increase the importance of the ring you’re buying without doubling your cost.


The cut of a diamond refers to the way the stone is shaped and polished, how the facets are arranged and how deep or shallow it’s cut. There are various cuts of diamonds that refer to that, many of them patented. Both Asscher and Princess diamonds are square-shaped diamonds, but they are vastly different in how the facet are cut and arranged.

Cut also refers to the shape of the diamond. The shape is often determined by how the molecules of the crystal are arranged. If it’s an octahedron, it will be cut as a round brilliant, and often two round brilliants can be cut from the same original crystal. Other crystal configurations, such as macer will be cut as marquise or oval diamonds.  

The modern round cut brilliant stone has 58 facets, or 57 if the tiny bottom facet, the culet, is omitted. The Princess cut is unique in that it’s a square diamond with pointed corners. Many diamonds, even square and emerald cut diamonds will have rounded or cut-off corners, because contrary to popular opinion, a diamond can chip or scratch if it knocks against something at the wrong angle. It’s a bad idea to try to scratch a mirror with any diamond! 

An emerald shaped diamond is a rectangle cut with longer, flat facets. It’s a good cut for a diamond that’s exceptionally clear. If it’s not, then an emerald cut diamond can appear cloudy. 

The Asscher diamond is similar to an emerald shape, except it’s square. It’s cutting resembles a spider web when viewed from above. 

Other diamond shapes are self-explanatory. A pear- or tear-shaped diamond is exactly that.  It’s an oval that’s wider at one end and curves to a point at the other end. An oval is a perfect oval. The marquise-shaped diamond can maximize the carat weight of a stone because it’s a longer and flatter cut, yet highly faceted. The marquise comes in a variety of length-to-width ratios.


Diamond clarity is one the 4Cs of diamond qualities. It refers to any flaws, or inclusions in the diamond, and how visible or detectable they are. Inclusions can be foreign substances, or minute cracks or flaws. It also refers to the appearance of any surface flaws or scratches. As with the colour grading scales, clarity also has a grading scale, with FL used to denote a flawless diamond. What FL means is that there are no flaws or inclusions that can be seen when the stone is examined under 10X magnification, the standard for examining for flaws.

 Other clarity designations are:

IF stands for internally flawless. This means there are no internal flaws or inclusions, although there may be small surface flaws.

VVS1 and VVS2 stand for Very Slight inclusions that are difficult to see under magnification.  VS1 and VS2 indicate Very Slight inclusions that can be seen under magnification but are invisible to the naked eye.

SI1 and SI2 denote Slight Inclusions that may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

I1, I2 and I3 are “imperfect”, with inclusions clearly visible to the naked eye. For I3, the inclusions impact the brilliance of the diamond and are large and obvious.

In most cases, there is nothing that can be done about flaws or inclusions, although in recent years lasers have been used to enhance some inclusions or fractures in diamonds by filling them in, much the way small dings in a windshield are filled in.

Certainly the most highly valued diamonds are those that are flawless – FL – or internally flawless – IF. But excellent values can be obtained at the VVS and VS grades, as these are flaws not visible to the naked eye, but only to an experienced grader under magnification. 


When it comes to the 4Cs of diamonds, colour, or lack of it, is an especially important characteristic. Diamonds are given letter grades to denote the level of colour, starting with the letter D for a flawless, colourless diamond.  Why D, and not C, B, or A? The reason we’ve heard is that when diamonds started being graded for colour with this scale, it was decided to start with D, to leave room for the extremely rare possibility that a diamond would be found that was even more flawless than flawless. It hasn’t happened yet!

The colour grades of D, E and F are the rarest and most colourless. The gradations in colour can only be seen by an expert gemologist. The grades G-H are called near colourless and the difference can be seen by a casual observer only when compared to a higher-grade diamond. A stone in this grade category is an excellent value. The grades I-J are also near colourless, but not to the same extent as G-H. These also are an excellent value.


The colour grades move up the scale to Z, with an increasing amount of colour. These are inferior gem-quality stones and should not be confused with canary or other coloured diamonds. Coloured diamonds are graded differently than white diamonds and are also highly prized among collectors. They’re especially beautiful when combined with white diamonds. Consider that the Hope Diamond, one of the most famous diamonds, is a rich blue colour. Out of all coloured diamonds, a red diamond is the rarest of all.


The colours in coloured diamonds come from impurities between the cells of the crystals, or structural defects. There are many different colours that diamonds can come in, but they’re limited to steel grey, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink to purple, brown, and black.

Certified diamond.

 Diamond certification is essential when you’re buying a diamond and is different from a jeweler’s appraisal, although the certification is part of any appraisal. Many diamonds look the same, but not all of them are going to be of the quality you might like. Diamond certification is the written proof of a diamond’s attributes. Without it, you have no assurance that the diamond you are buying is of the quality you’re paying for. With it, you know the precise grading for each of the 4Cs – color, cut, clarity and carat weight, and, therefore, the diamond value.

Certification gives you the information you need to assess a diamond’s value compared to other diamonds. It also allows you to make an intelligent comparison with other diamonds either in the same jewellery store or in another.

Diamond certificates are issued by independent gemological laboratories, not your jeweler. There are several grading laboratories, the most prominent being: the International Gemological Institute (IGI); the Gemological Institute of America (GIA); the American Gem Society (AGS); the European Gemological Laboratories (EGL) and GemEx Systems.

When you buy a diamond, be sure to question the sales associate first about the characteristics or attributes of the stone. Ask to see the diamond certification that will accompany the diamond when you purchase it. If you do some comparison shopping, you will note that the quality of the diamonds each jeweler carries varies depending on the store.

A diamond certification will also give you indicators about other diamond qualities, such as fire, brilliance and scintillation, also called Return of Light. These qualities refer to how light is refracted back to the viewer when held stationary or when in motion. The certification will also give you a measure of the stones fluorescence. These factors also impact the beauty and brilliance of your diamond.

How to Buy a Diamond.

Diamond Facts… 

The first diamonds were mined in India, more than 2800 years ago.  The diamonds that we find today are all extremely old.  In fact, most are 900 million years old or more, with the oldest known diamond being 3.2 billion years old.  Like snowflakes, each diamond is entirely unique.  There are no two diamonds that are exactly the same.

There are many things to consider when learning how to buy a diamond, and you should never rush into buying a diamond without first doing a little research as to how the diamonds are priced. 

The “4 C’s” 

Everyone has many things to consider when determining how to buy a diamond.  All around the world, jewelers use the “4 C’s” as a way of describing the value of a diamond.  If you want to learn how to buy a diamond, you need to learn exactly what the 4 C’s are, and how each aspect contributes to the value of the diamond. 

The 4 C’s are Cut, Clarity, Carats and Color.  

How to Buy a Diamond based on Cut: The cut of a diamond describes how an artisan angles the gemstone to best reflect light through the diamond, causing it to sparkle.  A quality cut brings out the beauty of a diamond and makes it more valuable, while a poorly cut diamond will sell for less because it isn’t as brilliant or shiny. 

How to Buy a Diamond based on Clarity: The clarity of a diamond refers to how clear the diamond is when you look through it.  A perfect diamond is rare; most have inclusions and flaws, although many cannot be seen without magnification.  When looking at a diamond for clarity, look to see if there are dark spots inside the diamond. 

How to Buy a Diamond based on Carats:  Larger diamonds cost more than smaller diamonds, even if the total carats of the diamonds are the same.  For example, a single one carat diamond will cost you more than three diamonds set in a ring that add up to one carat.  This is because larger diamonds are much more rare to find.  When diamonds are cut, they lose about half their size. 

How to Buy a Diamond based on Color:  The actual color of a diamond is a personal preference.  But diamonds that are colorless, known as white diamonds are the most rare and therefore cost the most. Diamonds also come in different shades, including yellow, green, blue and pink, among others.   

Certificates and Appraisals. 

In addition to understanding what to look for in regards to the 4 C’s when learning how to buy a diamond, you should also learn how to read certificates that describe details about the in-mounted diamond and perhaps have any diamond you are interested in professionally appraised by an independent organization.  You may not want to accept the appraisal done by the jeweler for the simple fact that they are biased and may appraise the diamond for slightly higher than it’s actual worth in order to gain more money for the sale of the diamond.