Jeweler's Advice on Choosing a Diamond

In the United States, two and a half million couples become engaged annually. About 70% of brides to be will receive a diamond engagement ring.

There are traditional and contemporary setting variations for diamond engagement rings, but generally speaking there are seven major diamond shapes: round brilliant-cut, marquise, emerald-cut, pear-shaped, oval, princess and heart-shape. Of these more than 75% of all diamonds sold are round stones.

Traditionally, the solitaire, a single round diamond prong-set in platinum or gold, epitomizes the American engagement ring. Now the fancy shape diamonds are considered classics as well. An engagement ring set with baguettes, trilliants, or pear-shape side stones is also beautiful and quite popular.

The larger the diamond carat weight, the rarer it is; the purer the diamond clarity, the more valuable it is; the less color in a diamond, the more beautiful; and the more precise the cut of the diamond, the more brilliant it is. It is the combination of these individual factors that make up the diamond's overall quality and determines its beauty.

Clarity is an indication of a diamond's purity. In all diamonds, except the most rare, tiny traces of minerals, gasses, or other elements were trapped inside during the crystallization process. These are called inclusions, and may look like tiny crystals, clouds, or feathers and they're what make each diamond different and unique. Many of these inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. The clarity of a diamond is graded by how many, how big and how visible the inclusions are. The fewer and smaller the inclusions, the more rare and valuable the diamond. Less than 1% of all diamonds ever found have had no inclusions and can be called flawless (FL) or internally flawless (IF).

Since the late 1980's the clarity of a diamond can be enhanced through a process called "Fractured Filling". This most controversial gemstone treatment is achieved by filling surface reaching breaks or through laser drilled holes in the diamond. Many of these diamonds are reaching the consumer but these chemically enhanced diamonds should be disclosed by law. The Gemological Institute of America will not do a diamond grading report (certificate) on a diamond that has been treated.

While the diamonds appear colorless, or white, they may actually have subtle yellow or brown tones that can be detected when comparing diamonds side by side. Diamonds were formed under intense heat and pressure, and traces of other elements may have been incorporated into their atomic structure accounting for the variances in color. Diamond color grades start at D and continue through the alphabet. Truly colorless stones, graded D, are extremely rare and very valuable. The closer a diamond is to being colorless, the rarer and the more valuable it is. A single change in color grade can significantly affect a diamond's value.

If the cut is too deep or too shallow light will spill through the side or bottom and be lost, resulting in a less brilliant display and thus, a less valuable diamond. The cut plays a large part in determining the value of a diamond. A well-cut diamond will be considerably more beautiful and valuable than a poorly cut stone of the same size, clarity, and color.

When you go to purchase a piece of fine jewelry, you're making an important decision. Don't let yourself be dazzled into selecting something without asking questions. As a consumer, you have a right to know. The right jeweler should be one you can rely on for all your jewelry purchases, year after year.

John Anthony Jr., whose store is in Bala Cynwyd, is a Graduate Gemologist GIA, appraiser, designer and custom jeweler. He is certified in diamonds/grading, colored stones/grading and gem identification.