Guide to Buying Diamonds

Diamond Buying Advice

Chances are you’ve already heard of the cardinal “4 C’s” when it comes to making a diamond purchase: cut, color, clarity and carat weight. But what exactly do these terms mean? Use Beladora’s guide for purchasing diamonds as your resource to ensure you get the quality diamond jewelry that you or your special someone deserves!


Confusion often starts here. Cut should be distinguished from shape: the cut refers to the way a diamond is faceted so as to reflect the light; shape refers to the silhouette of the diamond. A diamond’s cut is important because the manner in which light is refracted in a diamond is determinative of how sparkly and fiery the diamond is; the wrong cut results in a diamond that appears dull, dark and lifeless. There are a variety of different types of diamond cuts, and the right choice depends on the shape, size and quality of the diamond, as well as your own personal preference.

Asscher Cut

The Asscher cut is a vintage cut, similar to the emerald cut. As with the emerald cut, flaws are not disguised by the Asscher cut and a higher quality diamond should be used when possible.

Created in the early 20th Century in Holland, the world’s capital of diamond cutting, by the Asscher brothers, the eponymous Asscher cut diamond has continued to be one of the most sought after of all diamond cuts.  Asscher cut diamonds are step cut, typically in a square shape, with high crowns and large canted corners. Similar to an emerald cut diamond, the Asscher cut diamond has highly desirable scintillation. For many years, other diamond cuts became more fashionable, especially the round brilliant diamond in a solitaire mounting.  Over the last decade we have seen a new excitement surrounding the Asscher cut.

Some of the most spectacular jewelry ever created was made in the Art Deco Period.  A key feature of Art Deco jewelry was the emphasis on geometry, symmetry and architectural design.  Emerald and Asscher cut diamonds, with their geometric step cuts were the diamonds of choice for Art Deco jewelry.

Brilliant Cut

The brilliant cut typically refers to a round diamond shape and is the most popular shape in diamond engagement rings. The cut is designed to maximize the amount of sparkle from the diamond. It refers to facets that radiate outward around the diamond. This type of cut can also be used with pear, oval, heart, cushion and marquise shaped diamonds. Variations of the brilliant cut are the old mine cut and the old European cut, often found in vintage diamond jewelry.

Old Cushion Cut

The Old Cushion cut diamond is an antique cut that has recently seen a resurgence in popularity. Cut in a modified oval with large facets like an Old European cut diamond, this diamond cut has a vintage look that many people prefer.  The best way to describe the Old Cushion shape is to say that it has a soft look that resembles a cushioned pillow that you would have on a sofa.

The Old Cushion cut diamond was out of fashion for many years as round, radiant and princess cut diamonds with more brilliance became popular.  Today there is a new appreciation of the soft vintage quality of Old Cushion cut diamonds but they are relatively rare compared to other more popular diamond cuts. For those who desire the Cushion shape, but with additional sparkle, there is also a Modern Cushion cut which has brilliant faceting.

Old European Cut and Old Mine Cut

Before the modern Brilliant cut was made possible by advances in technology in the 20th Century, the Old European and Old Mine cuts were among the most popular for diamond jewelry.  These elegant multi-faceted cut can be found on much of the antique jewelry from the 19th Century. Both Old European cut and Old Mine cut diamonds are easily recognized by a large open culet. Old Mine is an antique type of cut diamond with a roughly round shape. The asymmetric circular top usually features squared off corners and closely follows the natural shape of a rough diamond. The Old European cut is a later update of the Old Mine cut. These stones feature greater symmetry and roundness with a more even faceting that prefigures the modern Round Brilliant cut. While the Old European cut is still occasionally used today, it is usually seen in vintage or antique jewelry.

To the eye of many jewelry lovers, European cut diamonds are extraordinary graceful and sophisticated, calling to mind a refined and majestic past. There is a special charm in vintage jewelry – particularly that which features European cut diamonds.

Princess Cut

Often referred to as a Square Brilliant diamond, the Princess cut diamond remains popular for its superb sparkle. If you want a diamond that is exceptionally brilliant, a Princess cut can be an excellent choice.  Developed in the 1960’s, Princess cut diamonds take full advantage of the stone’s beautiful interior “fire”.  In fact, of all diamond cuts, the Princess cut takes the most advantage of the original rough diamond.  For this reason, as well as for their brightness, Princess cut diamond are becoming more and more popular.

Unlike other square and rectangular diamonds, the corners of the Princess cut diamond are not cropped off, and therefore it is important to make sure that the corners of the Princess cut diamond are protected by prongs to prevent chipping and damage to the diamond.

Step Cut (Emerald Cut)

The Step cut is a term used for a diamond with stair-like facets. Step cut square and rectangular diamonds are often referred to as Emerald Cut diamonds, and this cut is also used for diamond baguettes as well. With their sophisticated rectangular shape, Emerald cut diamonds possess a clean and elegant style that was popular in the Art Deco period and remains popular as a way to show off a diamond of good color and clarity.

Radiant Cut

The Radiant cut is a relatively modern style of diamond cut that blends the qualities of a step cut and a brilliant cut.  Essentially, a Radiant is an Emerald cut diamond with extra faceting.  A Radiant cut has 70 facets that catch light and produce maximum sparkle. The Radiant cut is especially popular for colored diamonds.

Rose Cut

Rose cut diamonds are among the most classic types of vintage diamond cuts, dating as far back as the 1500s.  They are faceted across the top of the stone and flat across the bottom. The vague resemblance to the petals of a rose lends the cut its romantic name. Rose cut diamonds are prevalent in antique jewelry and their gentle sparkle can be strikingly beautiful.

The designs of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian jewelry are generally the best place to find rose cut diamonds, although we also find rose cut diamonds in jewelry from more modern eras.


Color is another factor to consider when making a diamond purchase. The presence of color in a diamond may either increase or decrease the diamond’s value. In white diamonds, the absence of color is desirable, as more light is able to enter and be refracted in a clear diamond, giving it that extra sparkle. Sometimes color in a diamond, however, is considered valuable in what are called fancy color diamonds in colors such as pink and yellow.

For white diamonds, quality in terms of color is graded on a scale provided by the Gemological Institute of America. The scale ranges from D, the highest grade given to diamonds that are colorless, to Z, the lowest grade given to off-color, yellow-tinted diamonds. While diamonds graded D through F are incredibly rare and the most valuable, diamonds of lower grades G through I still appear colorless to the naked eye and are excellent choices as well.

An additional consideration when deciding what diamond color grade to purchase is the type of metal the stone will be set in. Platinum or white gold will bring out the yellow in a lower grade diamond, as opposed to diamonds that are set in yellow gold. In addition, your diamond color preference might actually be for a diamond containing some yellow for the warmer appearance that might complement your skin tone.

Rare Natural Colored Diamonds

While most diamonds used for estate jewelry are white diamonds and colorless diamonds are treasured, diamonds come in a variety of colors.  Most of these colors are extremely rare and valuable. In different shades and intensities, pink, blue, yellow or brown colored diamond may have an almost otherworldly quality, but in actuality their color is caused by natural alterations in their chemical structure. Among the most rare of natural colored diamonds are blue diamonds, the most famous example of which is the Hope Diamond which is a deep blue.

Natural colored diamonds represent a very small percentage of the total diamonds mined. Yellow diamonds, which is probably the most popular of the fancy colored stones, constitute less than 1 percent of all known diamonds.  Red, brown, and pink diamonds make up an estimated 1.8 percent of natural colored while blue or grey diamonds account for less than 1 percent.  Red diamonds are considered to be the rarest type of natural colored diamonds.  The most comprehensive collection of rare natural colored diamonds is on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.


A diamond’s clarity is based on the presence or absence of flaws, or inclusions. The grade is determined by the size, number and location of the imperfections. Naturally, diamonds with fewer inclusions are more valuable. The Gemological Institute of America has created a grade scale in order to aid buyers in assessing the quality of a diamond. When making a diamond purchase based on this scale, keep in mind that for the majority of grades, flaws are only visible with the aid of 10x magnification and therefore affect the value, but not the appearance of the diamond.

Clarity Scale

FL/IF – Flawless/Internally Flawless. Extremely rare, indicating that the diamond contains no internal flaws.

VVS – Very Very Slightly Included. There are two levels within this grade, VVS1 and VVS2, the former being more valuable. The flaws in these diamonds are difficult to see under magnification.

VS – Very Slightly Included. There are two levels within this grade as well, VS1 and VS2. Again, the flaws in these diamonds are not visible to the naked eye and are somewhat difficult to detect under magnification. 

SI – Slightly Included. There are two levels within this grade, SI1 and SI2, and though not necessarily visible to the naked eye, the flaws in these diamonds can be detected more readily with magnification.

I – Imperfect. There are three levels within this grade, I1, I2 and I3. The flaws in these diamonds do not require magnification to be detected.

Carat Weight

Carats are units of measuring a diamond’s weight: the larger the number of carats, the bigger the diamond. The word “carat” is derived from the ancient practice of weighing diamonds in relation to carob seeds. Large diamonds are much rarer than small diamonds and therefore a single large diamond is more valuable than several smaller diamonds of equal total weight, all else being equal. However, bigger is not always necessarily better, as you should also weigh the other factors previously discussed such as the color and clarity of the diamond. 

Other Considerations


Round, marquise, pear, heart, oval, triangle – diamonds can be cut in all manner of shapes and what shape you choose should be a function both of your personal aesthetic as well as the purpose for which you are making the estate jewelry purchase. Certain shapes may be currently fashionable but, given the cyclical nature of trends may be difficult to sell in the future compared to a more classic silhouette.


The best piece of diamond buying advice you can ever have is to know that the setting of your diamond ring is the most important component in the piece’s overall look. There are a number of settings to choose from, and some are better suited than others depending on the size or shape of the diamond. The prong setting is where the diamond is held in place by small metal prongs to secure the stone while only minimally detracting from the diamond itself. The bezel setting features a collar of metal that wraps about the diamond to hold it in place. The channel setting is where a row of diamonds is placed inside a “channel” of metal, a popular setting for wedding bands. The pave setting is a look with a lot of sparkle, in which small diamonds are placed in holes drilled out of the metal in the jewelry with minimal space between the diamonds, giving the appearance of a paved coating of diamonds. For only a subtle hint of glitter and a modern look, choose a flush setting where when the diamonds are placed within metal so that they are level with the metal’s surface. And for a true vintage look with a lot of sparkle, choose the ballerina setting with diamond baguettes framing a center stone in a waving curve resembling a ballerina’s skirt.