- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but buying a diamond engagement ring doesn’t have to be a man’s worst nightmare. All it takes is a little research before buying that very special Christmas gift.

“A diamond of any consequence will cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, yet most people don’t take the time to educate themselves about diamonds before buying,” says Alex Angelle, spokesman for the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), an independent nonprofit that analyzes and certifies diamonds. “If you bought a car or a major appliance, you would do some research.”

The first step to buying a diamond is understanding the four C’s, and they are not cash, check, credit and crying.

Really.


The four C’s are carat weight, cut, clarity and color.

“The GIA was the originator and creator of the system based on the four C’s,” Mr. Angelle says. “Know the four C’s and how they interact with one another. You want a quality diamond. The GIA offers a tutorial at www.gia.edu online. Go to ‘How to Buy a Diamond.’”

A diamond’s weight is measured in carats. The larger the carat, the heavier the stone, but carat weight alone isn’t enough to determine the quality of the gem. You have to consider the color. A stone with very light yellow undertones is less valuable than a colorless or nearly colorless diamond.

Ironically, if the diamond has an intense canary yellow or pink color, also called a fancy diamond, it’s considered very rare and valuable.

The clarity rating is a grade given to the diamond as seen under a microscope at 10x magnification. The microscope detects whether there are any imperfections and if they are visible to the eye.

Not to be outdone by the carat weight, color and clarity is the cut of the diamond. The cut doesn’t refer to whether the diamond is round or oval. That’s the shape of the diamond. The cut is where the mastery and artistry of the cutter comes through. The cutter has to understand the raw diamond to get the right amount of light to reflect properly and proportionally so light doesn’t leak out and create a dull-looking stone.

So how do you know about the diamond you will purchase?

“Get a grading report, preferably by GIA,” says Mr. Angelle, the GIA spokesman. “You want to be sure it’s an authentic, natural, unaltered diamond.”

There are other respected gemological labs that analyze diamonds, but the GIA report is a “world-recognized certificate,” he says. “It’s like the title of a car. You wouldn’t buy a car without the title. The GIA report tells you all the information about the diamond.”

The best advice, though, is to know the jeweler’s reputation.

“Know the seller’s credentials,” Mr. Angelle says. “Are they a reputable professional?”

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