Ask any woman about their favorite piece of jewelry, and majority of them would probably say that it is a diamond-encrusted piece. Each piece may have a unique story to it – it is a family heirloom, an engagement ring given by a beloved, the first piece of jewelry that the woman bought for herself – the list can go on and on. Whatever the case, since the brilliance of diamonds were first recognized in India several thousand years ago, the stone’s allure and superlative physical qualities remain as coveted as before.
In fact, its very name gives weight to its current reputation. “Diamond” comes from an ancient Greek word which means “unbreakable,” giving the impression that a diamond is meant to last through time.
That doesn’t mean that diamond has always been coveted, however. Diamonds used to be so scarce and exclusive, as they were only found in “few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year,” says Edward Jay Epstein of The Atlantic. Then, in 1870, huge diamond mines were suddenly discovered and diamonds then became in abundance. In an effort to control the diamond market, a cartel of sorts was formed in 1888 as De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. This saw all the major players in the diamond industry under one banner, as they fought against external forces that threatened to take away the exclusivity of diamonds.
Yet perhaps one of the driving forces behind the success of diamonds would be the fact that it is strongly tied to the concepts of courtship and romance. Women wanted to be given huge engagement rings, as they are prepped to think that the bigger the diamond, the more their lover loves them. Men, on the other hand, would save insane amounts of money just to be able to purchase these stones that they think are prerequisites for when they have to ask their partner’s hand in marriage. All these things are summed up in the very successful advertising campaign of the De Beers as the company went on to dub “a diamond is forever.”
The history of diamond rings as engagement rings is another matter to be tackled, but setting the background is important to emphasize why diamonds are sought after by the ladies, and why men want to give their beloved the best piece of this gemstone that they can find.
These things being said, here’s a handy guide to purchasing your first diamond – whether you’re looking for an engagement ring, or whether you just want to buy one for your own.
Diamonds: The Basics
The price of a diamond is based on the four Cs: its color, carat weight, cut, and clarity. However, most of these things are irrelevant if you just want a diamond that showcases your love or your choices in life. In this regard, most people look at the diamond’s shape.
First things first, though. A diamond’s cut and shape are two different things. The cut refers to the diamond’s brilliance; the stone’s ability to reflect light from its multiple angles, including its sides, table (top), and its bottom. Brilliance is typically measured in three parts: too shallow, too deep, and perfectly cut. Those who are in the diamond market would want to get stones that are “perfectly cut,” which means it reflects light more effectively, as the ratio of the diamond from the top to its bottom is perfectly proportioned.
Meanwhile, the diamond’s shape is the physical form that is commonly sought after. This includes popular shapes such as round, princess, and heart-shaped. There are at least seven common diamond shapes. Here are some of them, and what they represent:
1. Round – This shape makes up about 75% of diamond sales all over the world. A round-shaped diamond is often considered perfect as it can properly reflect light. Its sheen and brilliance is oftentimes visible from far. Unfortunately, this also makes the shape more expensive in comparison with other shapes as the demand for it is very high, as well as the yield for it is generally low. This means that a sizable portion of a round diamond would have to be discarded to create a perfect round-cut diamond.
2. Square – More popularly known as the cushion cut, square diamonds have been around for at least two centuries, making it a favorite among antique collectors. It has rounded corners and resembles a pillow, hence its name. When it comes to brilliance, a cushion cut has the ability to create a distinctive appearance without losing its brilliance.
3. Rectangular – There are many rectangular diamonds, among the most popular shapes are the Princess, Asscher, Emerald, and Radiant. Princess cut diamonds are next to round diamonds in terms of popularity, and are commonly chosen for engagement rings. Asscher and Emerald cut diamonds both have step cuts on the side. They may look similar in appearance, except that the asscher cut looks smaller and squarer among the two. It also produces more brilliance than emerald cut diamonds. Lastly, radiant cut diamonds has a brilliant-cut facet pattern on the table which makes the stone look vibrant and lively. It is the perfect compromise between rounded and cushion diamonds.
4. Pear – This kind of diamond normally possess flawless symmetry, as the point has to line up with the tip of the rounded end. If perfectly executed, the pear is perfect for those who want to have a uniquely shaped ring
5. Heart – While heart shaped diamonds are thought of as romantic, they oftentimes do not have the perfect brilliance that is sought after in the market. However, when cut in a colored diamond, a heart shaped ring often speaks of individuality and uniqueness.
6. Oval – Oval diamonds are similar to round diamonds in terms of providing brilliance. The advantage of this is that it has an elongated shape, which makes it appear larger and therefore of more value.
7. Marquise – Lastly, the marquise is similar to a pear shaped diamond, although it has two narrow ends. It is among the cuts that have large surface areas.
There you have it – a crash course on the common shapes of diamonds. Next time we’ll talk more about its history, and how to select the perfect shape for your hand.