3rd Generation - Since 1907
100 Water Street
Skowhegan, Maine 04976
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DIAMOND BUYING GUIDE
No other gemstone lights the imagination and captures the heart more so than the diamond. Born of fire deep within the earth, diamond has for centuries been the world's most treasured natural element. Representing wealth, status, romance and love, the diamond is truly a precious thing.

Selecting the right diamond is no easy task. Even though extremely rare, there are thousands of diamonds to choose from - in every shape, color, quality and price range. So how do you make the right decision? It's simple - do a little homework and find a professional jeweler that you can trust.


Too many people today buy a diamond based on numbers and letters - grades and classifications. And while the process of diamond grading has advanced considerably in the last 50 years, it will never be able to evaluate beauty. Beauty is a matter of personal taste and determining beauty is a personal decision.

Choosing the right diamond, either for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, should be fun. It should also be a special and rewarding experience. As you look at more and more diamonds you'll discover what your tastes and preferences are. You'll also discover that the best way to find the perfect diamond to meet your needs is to talk with the knowledgeable jewelers here at Russakoff's. We will offer sound advice and guidance to help make your choice the perfect choice.

Quality + Beauty = Value

You may have heard or read somewhere that the value of a diamond is determined by it quality or grade. The fact of the matter is, that while quality is very important to a diamond's value, it's real value can't be determined without considering how it looks to you - the buyer - and whether or not you find its beauty appealing. No matter how high the grade, if you don't fall in love with the diamond you're buying, it's not a good value.

With that said, let's review the quality factors that go into grading a diamond. These factors are collectively known as the four Cs - cut, clarity, color and carat weight.

Cut - It's all about beauty

Look for quality construction. When buying a piece of gold jewelry, be sure to inspect it carefully. Pay special attention to fasteners or clasps, making sure catches work easily but are secure. Likewise, the backs of pins and earring posts should be strong and firmly attached to the piece with no soldering marks visible. With gold chain, lay it flat and make sure the links don't kink or bend.

When most people hear the word "cut" they think of shape. Most diamonds are round, but diamonds are also cut into almost any shape imaginable. When diamond graders thinks of shape, they consider both the shape of the stone and the way each individual facet or flat polished surface is placed on the diamond. Most experts agree that it is the arrangement and positioning of the diamond's facets that has the most affect on the diamond's beauty.

There are many popular diamond shapes. Some are traditional, dating back to the early 1900s. Others are much more recent in their development.

What's the best cut?

What's the prettiest color or the most attractive flower? There's just no correct answer to a question that has so many variables and is so subjective. There are definitely factors that determine a well-cut stone and factors that would indicate a poorly cut stone, but trying to say there is one best cut is like saying there is one best political party. You might think so, but there are lots of people who will disagree.

Changing and evolving since about 1920, a cutting style referred to as the "Ideal" cut is popular in many jewelry stores today. Though marketed as "ideal", recent studies by major international diamond grading laboratories have discovered that there are many cutting variations outside the "ideal" parameters that yield equally brilliant and dispersive diamonds.

This is not to say that an "Ideal" cut diamond is not beautiful. On the contrary, it is one of the most beautiful cutting styles in existence. But it is not the one, single best cutting style for round diamonds. Recent research into a diamond's optics has confirmed what many diamond cutters have been saying for decades - that there are many combinations of angles and proportions that create a beautiful diamond. Smart diamond buyers today turn to professional jewelers to help them make sense of all the different cut variables - angles, proportions, percentages and dimensions. And finally, the smartest buyers of all use their eyes to find a diamond that radiates the beauty and brilliance they find attractive.

Clarity

First things first. No matter what you've heard, read or been told by your best friend in the whole wide world - clarity is NOT a measurement of a diamond's beauty. NO. It's not. Only in very uncommon situations is there any kind of correlation between a diamond's clarity grade and the way it looks to the unaided eye.

With that said, what exactly is a clarity grade? It's a measurement of a diamond's purity and rarity. That's it!

The clarity grade of a diamond is determined by a skilled grader under optimum laboratory conditions using ten-power (10X) magnification. The grader is looking for any characteristics inside the diamond (called inclusions) or any characteristics on the surface (called blemishes). Once the grader has found all these characteristics they are evaluated based on their size, type, position, color and number. Once the grader has finished this process a final clarity grade is assigned. There are eleven clarity grades in the GIA system ranging from Flawless (Fl) to Imperfect 3 (I3).

In a very small percentage of diamonds in the SI range some characteristics may be visible to the unaided eye. Diamonds falling in the Imperfect grades will more commonly have eye-visible inclusions, but an Imperfect grade DOES NOT necessarily mean that the stone will be unattractive to the eye. This is just another reason why is it so important to look at a diamond carefully before you buy it. It's also another reason why you should never buy a diamond based solely on its grades.

Clarity is a range Many consumers become too fixated on the clarity grade of a stone without considering the bigger picture. Think of a clarity grade as your age. Let's say you're 34 years old (and don't look a day over 29). You could be very close to your 34th birthday (maybe it was yesterday) or you could be really close to your 35th birthday (it could be tomorrow), but when people ask your age you just tell them that you are 34. It works the same way with clarity grades. A VS2 diamond could be high or low in the VS range. In fact, if the diamond at either end of the range was sent to another lab (or even back to the same lab at a later date) it might very well get a different grade. Diamond grading documents don't tell you where in the range a stone falls. It could be right on the edge in either direction or smack in the center of the range. You'll never know. This is a very good reason not to get too hung up on a diamond's clarity grade when making a decision. Always consider beauty first and foremost when selecting a diamond.

Color - a range of choices

When most people think of diamonds they think of a colorless stone. Although most diamonds appear colorless to the unaided eye in a face-up position, the majority has a body color that can be seen by an experienced grader in the proper environment. By far, the most common body color of a diamond is yellow. Diamonds with a tint of brown are also relatively common.

Generally speaking, the more colorless the diamond the more valuable. In that regard, the color grade of a diamond is a measurement of rarity. Rarity is directly linked to value. Just as with clarity, a color grade cannot determine the beauty of a diamond. Color preference and perception is a very personal and subjective thing. Look at the stone and decide for yourself if you like its color before you make decisions based on a letter of the alphabet.

Do you know your A, B, Cs?

If you are color grading a diamond you don't need to. That's because the Gemological Institute of America (and most other international laboratories) use a color grading scale ranging from "D" to "Z". "D" is the top of the scale and represents a completely colorless diamond while "Z" is at the bottom. This "D" to "Z" scale is only used on diamonds that have body colors of yellow, brown and gray. Other colors (and yellows and browns past the "Z" grade) are considered "fancy" colors and a different system is used.

For most yellow and brown diamonds their value generally decreases as their grade moves down the scale toward "Z". But once a diamond passes the "Z" grade it becomes more valuable and more expensive. Likewise, as diamonds move up the scale toward "D" their value increases.

GIA Color Grade Description
D, E, F colorless
G, H, I, J near colorless
K, L, M faint yellow or brown
N to Z very light to light yellow or brown

Just like with clarity grading, a color grade only puts you into a range. For example, a "G" color diamond may in fact be very very close to being an "H" if it is low in the range or very close to a "F" if high in a range. Let your eye determine if the color of a diamond is pleasing. Don't let the grade influence your opinion of a diamond's beauty.

Differences between color grades are extremely subtle and can only be determined accurately by comparing stones to known sample stones called "Master Stones". There is actually one set of master stones owned by GIA. Before a diamond can be used as a master stone it must be compared to GIA's masters and perfectly match the color of one of the masters.

Diamonds are graded in a facedown position. This eliminates many of the brilliant reflections within the stone and helps the grade to see the stone's true body color. When a diamond is turned face-up it almost always looks whiter or more colorless than it really is. Size is also a factor. Smaller stones, even in lower color grades, will tend to look more colorless while larger stones will appear more tinted.

Carat Weight - bigger is better?

Just like all gemstones, the weight of a diamond is measured in carats. A carat is a metric unit of measurement that is exactly 1/5 of a gram (0.20). That means there are 5 carats to a gram. A carat is divided into 100 points (like pennies in a dollar).

While some people think bigger is better, no one can argue the fact that bigger means more expensive if all other factors are equal.

The carat weight of a diamond can also be related to a stone's rarity. It is much harder to find a rough diamond that will yield a one-carat stone than it is to find two rough diamonds that will each produce a 0.50-carat diamond. Because of this, a one-carat diamond is substantially more expensive per carat then a half-carat stone. As the diamond increases in size the per carat prices increases exponentially instead of proportionally.