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Diamond Engagement Ring Selection Basics

Feb. 10 2014
You hear those in the know talk about the 4Cs all the time. But what does this jargon really mean to the man on the street?

As F and I found, it is easy to become literally blinded by the gorgeous array of dazzling, sparkling, shiny white diamond engagement rings available out there. Since I wanted them all at first sight and had no idea how we were going to choose, we were relieved to discover that there exists an impartial, scientific scale to sort the desirable from the less desirable.

Sorting diamond engagement rings according to the 4Cs helps you narrow the field of choices so that ultimately you know that you are getting the best value for money as well as the ring of your dreams.


Diamonds come in a variety of colours but the highest quality diamonds are prized for their complete absence of colour. The GIA colour grading scale starts at “D” and works its way down to “Z”. If you’re looking at the D, E and F range, you’re looking at “colourless” diamonds, or “white”. Although these are the most highly sought after, colour is not always a bad thing. True bold colours (blue, pink, even orange – the rarest of them all) are also fancied. As you go down the scale towards “Z” you come across the more vividly colour diamonds known as ‘fancy coloured diamonds.

SPECIAL DIAMONDS… BY GEMTECK1, used under a Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)

An example of a more vividly coloured diamond.


Diamonds are, contrary to popular belief, not entirely flawless. Diamonds have a set of characteristics to keep an eye out for (although typically some are harder to spot than others without your trusty microscope!). Diamonds contain a degree of surface blemishes and internal “inclusions” which range from scratches to nicks both inside and out.

Naturally, the fewer of these a diamond has the more “flawless” it is. Flawless diamonds are essentially perfect and consequently extremely rare and expensive. But that’s not to say a diamond with internal inclusions is not worth a penny. Gemmologists say that an inclusion is like a diamond’s fingerprint. It can distinguish a real from a fake.


The stone on the diamond engagement ring you’re buying was not mined out of the earth looking like that. It has been cut to size. Diamonds come in a whole range of “cuts“, some more intricate and difficult to produce than others, such as round, pear, oval, Marquise, princess, radiant, emerald, heart and each one will have a dramatic effect on the overall look of the ring. A round diamond is classed as the standard cut; anything straying from a round shape is called “fancy”.

Platinum marquis diamond by James Newman

Platinum marquis diamond by James Newman


This is the weight of the stone on your diamond engagement ring in relationship to the cost. To put it bluntly, the bigger the diamond, the more it’s worth. However, in regards to the all-important ‘wow’ factor bigger is not always better. Larger diamonds can appear dull whereas a smaller one with a more intricate cut can be brilliant and dazzling.

Despite the relative comfort offered, and importance held by the 4Cs in your selection process, it still essentially comes down to personal preference. Choose your diamond engagement ring based on your taste and personal preferences regardless of what a piece of paper or certificate says. The more thought put into it the more priceless it will become no matter how many technical standards it has or has not met.

Meet Engagement Ring Designers Who Love Diamonds

Jon DibbenSurrey
Robert FeatherYorkshire
Jana ReinhardtSussex
Alexis DoveSussex
Jo BellLondon