From Colour to Clarity – What Matters Most When Choosing Diamond Rings

When writing about the “one ring”, J.R.R. Tolkien certainly didn’t have diamond rings in mind, but it wouldn’t be unfitting to use his words when talking about diamond rings. After all, a diamond ring really is the ring that rules over the rest, a staple in the jewellery world. Few other gemstones, as beautiful as they are, can match the glory to that of the diamond. And while nobody needs to be convinced about why diamonds are such a staple, there are a few notable factors to take into consideration when picking the one ring for your loved one. From colour to clarity, many will have heard about the four C’s when it comes to diamonds but understanding them in-depth is key if you want to make the process of choosing a diamond ring effortless and easy.

The Four C’s of Assessing Diamond Quality

Carat, colour, clarity, cut. These are the four C’s that everyone should be familiar with when choosing diamond rings. And while carat is the first that comes to mind for most people when thinking about diamonds, all these four factors are taken into consideration internationally to assess the quality of the diamond.



Diamond cut for viewing engagement ringsSimply put – carat refers to the weight of the diamond, and the bigger the diamond, the higher the carat. If buying a higher carat diamond ring is slightly beyond your budget, discuss this with your jeweller as they will be able to suggest ways to work around that. For example, if you buy a diamond ring with a carat value that is just below a highly valuable carat value, then you end up potentially saving up to a fifth of the price but get a diamond ring that to the eye looks fairly similar. There are also ways to improve the look of a lower carat ring by choosing a setting that enhances its appearance and tricks the eye into thinking the diamond is actually bigger than it is.



A diamond being a mineral, its final appearance is affected by processes that have happened during its formation. The clarity of a diamond refers to any visibility of imperfections or inclusions. This is rated from ‘flawless’ to ‘heavily included’ diamonds. It’s worth keeping in mind that only up to 1% of the diamonds fit into the ‘flawless’ category, thus a majority of diamonds have some form of imperfections. Luckily for you, the buyer, many inclusions are often not visible to the naked eye and only a diamond expert will be able to tell that a diamond is of lower clarity.



Diamond colour when buying a diamond ringDiamonds can be either completely colourless or have a heavy yellow tint. This then affects the colour rating of the diamond which ranges from grade D which is colourless to grade Z which has the most yellow tint to it. A rule of thumb is that a diamond should always be viewed in natural daylight since artificial lighting can impact how it looks to the naked eye. In the same way that this applies to the carat of the diamond, with colour too you can purchase a diamond which is a lower colour grade rating but to the eye doesn’t look that much different from a higher-grade diamond.



The cut is the one that causes most confusion in many buyers as it is often mistaken with the shape of the diamond. In fact, cut refers to how the diamond is cut and thus, how it reflects light. Think of a close-up of a diamond and its many geometric angles. The better the cut, the more sparkle a diamond emits. Luckily, respected diamond retailers only sell diamonds with a cut rating of ‘Very Good’ and above. Nevertheless, a cut is an important factor to keep in mind, if not the most important of all, if you want something that indeed “shines bright like a diamond”.


While not a part of the 4 C’s, there is one more factor that’s important to consider but is seldom mentioned – fluorescence of the diamond. In fact, fluorescence unlike, say, cut of the diamond, can only be assessed when leaving the store because it becomes apparent under UV light, when a highly fluorescent diamond might become blue which, certainly, is not a look you might be after.

Natural Diamonds vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

You might think that the four C’s of assessing the quality of the diamond only refers to natural diamonds but, in fact, this is not the case. Lab-grown diamonds are in no way inferior to natural diamonds and are also assessed by the same four categories to determine their value.


What matters most, both when you are looking at natural or lab-grown diamonds, is who’s behind the certification process. If you want to make sure that the diamonds have been reliably assessed, you should make sure that the certification of the diamond has happened through on of the three most widely-recognized bodies – GIA, HRD or IGI. Normally, it wouldn’t be advisable to only trust internal certification so always look for certification from a reliable source too.

What to do When You’re on a Budget?

Okay, so what should you do if your budget doesn’t allow you to get the best quality diamond out there – one with the highest 4 C’s? Luckily, as mentioned before, there are ways to work around that. And a knowledgeable and trustworthy jeweller can certainly make suggestions that will deliver a great result.

Slightly smaller carat

As previously mentioned, one of the things you can do is choose a diamond that is slightly smaller in carat weight that a highly valuable one. For example, there are particular ‘magic points’ in the jeweller trade with carat values usually being 0.5, 1, 1.5 and so on. So if you choose a diamond with a carat value of, say, 0.46, the visual difference might be unnoticeable while the price might be much more to your favor. And the same applies to colour ratings as certain grades might have very little noticeable difference for someone who is not a professional diamond expert.

Be smart about the setting

The setting can also make a huge difference in how the diamond looks. Eeven if it’s of a smaller carat value. While the setting will often depend on the wearer and her taste, there are things setting-wise that can greatly improve the appearance of the diamond.

For example, a halo setting ring with a central diamond and smaller stones around it, can make the central diamond look bigger than it actually is.

You could also consider getting a rose gold band which will provide a lovely contrast to the diamond and make it appear bigger.

A cluster setting also works well. This means putting a couple of smaller diamonds on either side of the central diamond. As a result, you get an illusion effect of a larger diamond is easily achieved this way.

And one of the simplest tricks in the book really is to choose a thinner band.


In conclusion, it’s worth keeping these main points in mind when choosing a diamond ring:

  • The 4 C’s: cut, colour, clarity, carat + fluorescence
  • Certified by one of the internationally renowned and reliable certifying bodies
  • There are ways to trick the eye and they are often related to the setting and the band of the ring, discuss this with your jeweller