Diamonds are beautiful, but their quality and value can also vary widely. This guide explains how to distinguish between different types of diamonds, as well as the technical terms that jewellers use to describe these precious stones.
Identifying a Genuine Diamond
There are many tests that jewellers can do to determine whether a gem is a genuine diamond, including tests of the diamond's crystalline structure and how well the diamond conducts heat and electricity. Hardness tests can also give a good indication of whether a diamond is genuine: a real diamond is extremely hard and can easily scratch other materials, such as glass, without being scratched itself.
Many people think of diamonds as clear and colourless, but they actually come in many colours, including pink, red, yellow, blue, purple and green. Traces of different elements inside the diamond, as well as slight variations in its structure, determine its colour. All colours of diamond are valuable, but some will be more suitable than others for use in certain pieces of jewellery. For example, white diamonds are traditionally used in engagement rings as they symbolise purity. However, some lovers might prefer to gift a pink diamond, which symbolises love.
Clarity is one measure of a diamond's quality. The higher a diamond's clarity, the fewer defects it has, such as mineral deposits, chips and scratches. Diamonds can have a number of different clarity ratings, ranging from FL (100 percent flawless) to various VVS (very very small inclusion) grades, right down to I4 (heavily included) gems, which have many defects. Heavily included diamonds are opaque in appearance and don't sparkle as much as higher-clarity diamonds.
The cut of a diamond can also influence its value. Cutting a diamond is a very delicate task, which should only be carried out by an experienced professional. The type of cut can affect the way the diamond reflects light. The 'brilliant' diamond cut is designed to catch and reflect as much light as possible. This cut is very popular for diamonds in engagement rings and other pieces of jewellery. Another type of cut, which is very popular for diamonds used in vintage jewellery, is a 'rose' cut, which gives the diamond a rounder shape.
Carat is a term that refers to the size of the diamond. One carat is equal to 200 mg, and a round diamond of this size is similar in diameter to a standard pencil eraser. Square diamonds appear slightly smaller than round diamonds of the same mass.
Natural vs. Synthetic Diamonds
Natural diamonds come from mines, most of which are located in Africa and Asia, although there are also a few diamond mines in Australia. When buying natural diamonds, many consumers want to know about the working conditions for the mine workers. Ask the diamond dealer about the origin of the diamonds if the possibility of exploitation is a concern, or buy vintage diamonds to avoid creating a demand for freshly mined diamonds.
Synthetic diamonds are created in laboratories. Although synthetic diamonds are often extremely pure, they are not generally as valuable as natural diamonds. Synthetic diamonds can be an affordable as well as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds.
There are many factors to take into account when buying a diamond, such as the cut, colour, clarity and carat of the stone. If you're shopping online on sites like eBay, you should also be able to acquire information about the diamond's origin. If there is any doubt about the authenticity of a diamond, consult an expert, who can carry out tests to identify whether the diamond is genuine.