Every diamond’s story begins billions of years before it arrives in the jeweler’s showcase. Diamonds start out as molten magma 100 miles below the surface of the Earth. In a few cases, tremendous temperatures, pressure, and time compress the magma and crystallize it, forming diamonds. Sometimes, the pressure forces those diamonds toward the surface of the Earth. Only a very few make it to the surface; but many more can be found in mines hundreds of feet deep. The largest mines are located in Botswana, Russia, and Canada, but diamonds have been found in many areas throughout the world, including the United States.
To produce one carat of diamonds, miners sift through approximately 200-250 tons of ore. The average size of the diamond coming out of a mine is .10 carats, and even then, only 20% of mined diamonds are gem quality.
Those diamonds that are deemed gem quality are then sorted based on size, shape, quality, and color. The sorted gems are sold at an invitation-only sale held only 10 times each year. From there, diamonds undergo an exhaustive cutting and shaping process before being placed into a setting. And much of this process is still done by hand by a few master gem cutters.
It’s a fact. Every diamond is different. Their attributes combine in countless ways to create each gemstone’s unique “fingerprint.” But these attributes also determine a diamond’s value, so you’ll have to decide which factors are most important to you to find the diamond that’s perfect for both you and your budget.
So while your heart is making up its mind, your head can take a moment to ponder the Four Cs:
Every rough diamond is carefully examined to determine the cut – or shape – that will bring out its maximum brilliance. A cut and polished diamond’s radiance is based on its relationship with light: how light strikes the surface, how much enters the diamond, and how much – and in what form – light returns to your eye. A diamond cut with correct proportions maximizes its interaction with light.
We often refer to the most popular types of diamonds used in jewelry as “colorless.” This term, however, isn’t exactly true because most diamonds actually have a small amount of color.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has created a color scale that extends from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Each letter represents a level of discernable color, and the higher the grade, the more valuable the gem. Color grades are determined by highly trained experts who examine each diamond in a controlled environment.
Although extreme heat and temperatures are critical in forming diamonds, they also create imperfections in the gems known as inclusions. Inclusions are like a diamond’s natural “fingerprint” (truly flawless diamonds are extremely rare) and contribute to the gemstone’s character. A diamond’s clarity is a measure of its inclusions. The GIA Clarity Scale includes 11 clarity grades ranging from Flawless to I3.
Carat weight refers to a diamond’s weight, and according to tradition, was based on the weight of a carob seed. You can imagine that this led to quite a bit of variance, so a standard unit of measure – the metric carat – was adopted worldwide in 1905. One carat, or metric carat, equals 200 milligrams in weight. Each carat is divided into 100 points. A 1-carat diamond = 100 points, a .75-carat diamond = 75 points, etc. Remember, diamonds with the same carat weight can vary greatly in value, depending on color, clarity, and cut. Choosing the perfect diamond is a matter of deciding what matters most to you – size or quality – then finding the best combination of factors to suit your needs.
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