When you think of a diamond, what do you see?
For most people, it’s a perfectly clear, beautiful, colorless stone sparkling crazily in the light like nothing else on earth.
This classic view is quite accurate – for one type of diamond.
But did you know that there are numerous types of diamonds, all with specific properties?
This amazing stone can vary greatly in color, clarity, and carat, as well as shape. And, when cut, it can also have a variety of qualities imparted to it.
These factors obviously affect how it appears in the end product: that ring, pair of ear-rings, bracelet or necklace that you’ve got your eyes on.
Before you go shopping for diamonds, it’s best to get to know them a little better.
In five or ten minutes, you will know more about the types of diamonds available than 95 percent of people on the planet!
Types of diamonds: a quick overview of the technical stuff
The four Cs of diamonds (color, clarity, carat and cut) lead to classifications based on the grading attributes of diamonds rather than any scientific factors.
That’s fine from a standard buyer’s perspective.
However, those in the diamond business don’t talk about “types of diamonds” in these terms.
When they classify diamonds, they do so on the basis of their physical and chemical attributes.
This helps them assess how a diamond was formed, its authenticity, and whether it has been treated.
So, the technical “types of diamonds” classification system is basically as follows:
Type Ia diamonds: because nitrogen gathers in clusters in these stones, they have a yellowish tinge. This category has sub-sections based on the nature of the nitrogen aggregations. This is the most common type of diamond.
Type IIa diamonds: these diamonds have no nitrogen impurities and differing fluorescent properties. They often have strange shapes because of the high pressures they were formed under. They are the rarest and most valuable diamonds because of their amazing sparkle.
Type Ib diamonds: these are also quite rare and their main feature is that individual nitrogen atoms are scattered throughout the stone (rather than in clusters). This produces an intense yellow, orange or brown color, in general.
Type IIb diamonds: another rare type of diamond with no nitrogen atoms. They do, however, contain boron in addition to its main carbon content. This means they conduct electricity and have a bluish or blue-gray tinge.
These four types of diamonds are the main technical classifications.
However, it’s more complicated than this. A single diamond can have more than one classification under the technical system.
You don’t need to know too much about this. Just be aware that when you’re talking about diamond types and when a diamond expert is talking about diamond types, you’re not necessarily on the same page!
Types of diamond names for casual shoppers
Okay, now you know what you need to know about the technical stuff, onto how most shoppers will classify different types of diamonds.
Most people in the market for diamonds will classify them according to the following basic names (or variations of them):
- Natural diamonds – the standard type of diamond we referred to in the introduction: largely colorless and brightly sparkling in the light.
- Treated diamonds – natural diamonds that have been enhanced artificially by inclusion filling or color enhancement (usually much cheaper than natural diamonds as it’s the only way that these diamonds can be sold).
- Natural colored diamonds – pink, yellow, blue, purple, violet, red, green, gray, white, black diamonds and more: demand for these has boomed in recent years.
- Man-made diamonds – these are created in the lab, a skill that has become easier and cheaper in recent times with the advance of technology (usually identified by their cheaper price).
The four Cs
When considering diamond category, most people will look at the “four Cs” rather than use the technical terms we looked at earlier.
After all, most people don’t have the necessary experience or equipment to analyze the composition of a diamond.
The four Cs are actually based around the grading attributes of diamonds but they are useful as an easy way to quickly assess a diamond.
Let’s take a look at each category.
Color of a diamond
Color already featured prominently as we considered the technical and laymen’s classifications of diamonds.
It’s not surprising. Color is usually the first thing you notice with a diamond.
However, the perfect color for a diamond is a matter of personal taste.
Recent popularity for different-colored natural diamonds, due largely to celebrities sporting colored diamonds in their rings, has helped shape perceptions.
Pink and black diamond types, as well as yellow diamond types, have gained popularity recently. Yellow is the most common of all tints to a diamond.
Traditionally speaking, though, the perfect diamond is colorless. That’s why they still command the highest prices on the market.
While the majority of diamonds may appear “colorless” to the untrained eye, there is usually a tinge to them that a diamond expert will see immediately.
Yellow or brownish hues are the most common, due to the nitrogen content. These hues are sometimes not even visible to the naked eye.
However, in some cases, the coloration is so strong that it is immediately apparent. These diamonds are usually more affordable for shoppers.
There is actually an official color-grading system from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) that we can refer to.
With this system, diamonds are graded by color alphabetically from D to Z, where D is colorless and Z is heavily tinted.
In general, tints that are visible to the naked eye will be graded as K or above. Those graded N or above will certainly have visible tinges and from S or above, the tint will be notable.
Note that some diamond colors are extremely rare (and expensive). These include white, red, blue and green diamonds.
Also note that diamonds can be treated and colored artificially by manufacturers.
Clarity of a diamond
You might hear someone refer to the “VVS” of a diamond. If so, they are talking about its clarity.
It is another measure that you can learn about before shopping for diamonds.
Clarity refers to the quantity and visibility of any flaws in the diamond. It will go a long way to determining the “quality” of the diamond in question and the price.
The classification system for clarity of a diamond provided by GIA includes the following categories:
- Flawless (FL) - no inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
- Internally Flawless (IF) - no inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification.
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) - inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.
Carat (weight of a diamond)
Most people are familiar to some extent with the carat as a measurement of size for diamonds and other gemstones, as well as pearls.
It is equal to 200 mg or 0.00643 troy oz and, with all else being equal, the larger the size of a diamond, the greater its value.
In fact, the size of a diamond is not a linear deal when it comes to its value. Larger diamonds reach exponentially higher prices than their smaller cousins.
The bulk of diamonds on the market are less than one carat, which means that we must talk in terms of points (100 sub-divisions of the carat).
You might see a diamond weighing half a carat listed as a “50-point diamond”. Such diamonds are more plentiful, popular, and affordable than larger diamonds that may command eye-watering prices.
Bear in mind that you can have a high carat diamond valued below a low carat diamond if other qualities of that diamond are different.
A very pure, colorless diamond of one carat may be worth significantly more than a much larger stone of much lesser clarity.
So, treat the carat as an indication purely of the weight/size of the diamond rather than any indication of value.
Cut of a diamond
The last of the four Cs is the “cut” of a diamond.
This refers to other visible features of a diamond, such as its:
- Proportions (width and depth of the diamond)
- Finish (does light escape from the diamond and leave it looking dull?)
As you can see, these are features imparted to the diamond by the cutting process that make its natural features stand out.
Most importantly, they affect the the way that light travels through the diamond through its facet arrangement.
The cutting process affects the brightness, brilliance, sparkle, scintillation, and intensity of the diamond.
Some of these features are generally deemed more desirable than others by diamond shoppers. For instance, almost everyone wants a symmetrical and well-polished diamond to show off its beautiful natural qualities.
Cuts of diamonds are subject to a grading system too:
- Excellent (EX)
- Very Good (VG)
- Good (G)
- Fair (F)
- Poor (P)
You will pay a premium for diamonds that excel in their cut and have a rating of VG or above.
If you’re shopping for a bargain, then you can often find poorly cut diamonds available at cut prices (pun intended!).
Other distinguishing features of diamonds
The four Cs cover the main qualities that determine the types of diamonds in the minds of shoppers.
Another obvious visual feature of a diamond is its overall shape. This can vary significantly from diamond to diamond, based upon their natural features and the way in which they are cut.
It is often one of the first things people consider when shopping for diamonds for rings, necklaces, earrings, and other jewelry.
Here are some common examples:
Some of the most common diamond shapes are:
- Round (the most common)
- Oval or pear-shaped diamonds
- Emerald-cut diamonds
The shape may affect the brilliance or clarity of the diamond as well as its suitability for a certain piece of jewelry.
If you are looking at set diamonds, the shape of the diamond may greatly affect the style of the ring or other piece of jewelry it is set in.
Ready to choose your perfect diamond?
With the above guide, you should be in a much better position now to choose your perfect diamond.