Your Diamond Jargon Dictionary: A Helpful Guide to the Most Common (and Confusing!) Diamond Terms
If you've ever tried to buy a diamond—ring or otherwise—you might have found yourself stumped by the jargon used in the jewelry industry to describe those special stones and their settings: Bow-tie effect, fluorescence, bezel, culet, facet, and inclusion are just a few of the confusing words and terms you've heard while shopping for an engagement or wedding ring, or even an heirloom accessory to wear on your big day. As Olivia Landau, founder and CEO of The Clear Cut, admits, "diamond jargon can be confusing and tough to digest."
That's why—with the help of Landau and the Gemological Institute of America's resources—we've created a diamond jargon dictionary of sorts. Here, you'll find several common pieces of diamond jargon defined in terms you'll easily understand. It's important to note that this list goes far beyond the four cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat weight). Though these are incredibly important to consider when purchasing a diamond, they're really just the starting point. We'll also walk through brilliance (or how the stone reflects light), dispersion (or the rainbow of colors refracted in a diamond), and fluorescence (or the white light that your stone emits when exposed to UV light). We'll also touch upon terms that will come up when you discuss settings, including bezel and split-shank.
In short, if you're about to start shopping for an engagement ring (or dropping hints before you significant other shops), be sure to study it—or bookmark—this guide ahead of your diamond-shopping trip. Going in prepared is the most important thing you can do.
The Four Cs
The four Cs refer to cut, clarity, color, and carat weight, and these factors determine the quality and price of your diamond. According to the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, they created the four Cs so that there was a universal language diamond sellers and shoppers could communicate in, and so that those purchasing a diamond had a clear understanding of what they were buying. This globally-accepted standard for describing and valuing diamonds means that, no matter where you look for a stone, so long as it's GIA rated you'll be able to easily assess the quality of your stone.
No matter what cut of diamond you get, it will have facets, or "geometric cuts or flat surfaces that make up the diamond," says Landau. But certain cuts have more facets—and typically, the more facets a diamond has, the more brilliant it will be. A round-cut diamond can have as many as 58 facets, while a princess-cut diamond can have as few as 50 facets.
Brilliance is "the diamond's white light return, referring to its sparkle," Landau says. Depending on its shape, a diamond can have more brilliance: Diamonds with more facets—such as a round or pear—have more brilliance than diamonds with fewer facets.
According to the GIA, "symmetry refers to the exactness of the shape of a diamond and the symmetrical arrangement and even placement of the facets." A diamond can be rated excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor for symmetry, with excellent symmetry meaning it would be near impossible discern flaws with the naked eye and poor meaning the stone's appearance would be impacted even without any magnification.
Inclusions, simply put, are "natural imperfections or blemishes found in and on the diamond," says Landau. "A diamond's clarity is determined by the number and size of its inclusions." However, don't be scared if a diamond you're considering has inclusions, as "most of these inclusions are so tiny that you would never be able to see them with the naked eye," says Landau. Inclusions are also rated on a clarity scale that goes from Flawless (FL) to Included (I1-I3) with several levels in between, where most diamonds fall.
The culet is the very small area at the base of the diamond's pavilion where all of the stone's facets meet. According to the GIA, "the purpose of which is to prevent damage to the point. Culet size is an important element in GIA's Cut Grading System, as it can affect evaluations of the face-up appearance." In short, a very large culet could be visible through the diamond, even to the naked eye, therefore impacting how your stone looks.
According to Landau, dispersion is "the fire or rainbow colors refracted in a diamond." It occurs when white light strikes the diamond, and splits into various colors
"Fluorescence is the white light or glow that a diamond emits when it is exposed to long wave UV rays," says Landau. "Most diamonds exhibit a blue fluorescence."
A bezel refers to a setting style, one "where metal is wrapped around the diamond," like a collar, explains Landau, rather than encased in prongs. The bezel setting is one of the most secure settings, but they can also reduce the diamond's brilliance and overall sparkle.
"The bow-tie effect occurs when light does not reflect in the center of the diamond because of the way the diamond was cut," Landau says, and has been dubbed the "bow-tie" effect because the lack of light reflection "leaves two dark, triangular areas in the center of stone that [makes it look] like the oval [of the diamond] is wearing a bow-tie."
If you've shopped for an engagement ring, you've likely heard of a "halo," or "a frame of smaller diamonds surrounding your center stone," says Landau. But you can add extra bling to your ring without adding a halo: channel, pave, and three-stone settings add extra diamonds to the band of the ring, without encircling the center stone with those diamonds.
This effect—how the diamond looks—happens "when the diamond's faceting pattern exhibits the look of crushed ice," explains Landau. A crushed-ice effect can cause a diamond to look hazy, but it's not necessarily an inferior option; it just comes down to personal preference—and if you like less fire, you might like diamond with this effect.
A split shank is a type of setting, in which "the shank of the ring—the band—splits into two when it gets closer to the center stone," describes Landau. Think of this style as a "V," where the band creates a "V" shape on each side of the center stone, she says.