Diamonds 101

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Allied Diamonds, a Janus Thinking group company, believes that people who buy diamonds should not just be diamond customers, but rather they should be diamond connoisseurs. The connoisseur understands the nature of diamonds and truly appreciates them — when one can make the perfect purchase for the object of his affection, his happiness will match the love represented by the diamond and the eternal nature of the diamond itself.

A diamond connoisseur is able to distinguish the good from the bad, and the road to connoisseurship begins by understanding the anatomy of a diamond and the 4Cs of diamond evaluation. But that’s just the beginning. The connoisseur must see many, many diamonds in person and compare them side by side and under different lighting conditions in order to compare brilliance, fire and other aspects that make a diamond breathlessly beautiful, and it won’t be a rushed process.

We hope this guide will help you to become a connoisseur of diamonds as you search for the perfect diamond for you and the object of your affection.

Download ‘Diamonds 101’ (PDF)

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What does a connoisseur look for?

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Connoisseurship, the thorough appreciation and knowledge of art or “matters of taste,” has traditionally only been discussed as a scholarly pastime. A connoisseur has put in his time and studied a great deal in order to understand his field and the players in it. He also knows exactly what to look for when he sees something new.

Not unlike the way buyers of diamonds consult the 4Cs before making a purchase (we’ve mentioned them on Janus Thinking before here), connoisseurs engage with four aspects of an item in order to fully comprehend it. These aspects are attribution, authenticity, condition, and quality.

Attribution: What is it? Who is the author?
The connoisseur attributes authorship.

Authenticity: Was it actually made by whom it’s attributed to? Is it really what it says it is?
The connoisseur validates authenticity.

Condition: Is it like new? Is it well worn? Has it aged gracefully or poorly?
The connoisseur appraises condition.

Quality: Is it flawless? Is it particularly intricate or nuanced?
The connoisseur evaluates quality.

Wikipedia reminds us that the connoisseur engages with these aspects “on the basis of empirical evidence, refinement of perception about technique and form, and a disciplined method of analysis.” The connoisseur must spend a great deal of time to develop these skills. Indeed a true connoisseur will have entirely immersed himself in what he wants to learn to appreciate.

That was certainly the case for William Ivins Jr, an accomplished curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1916 – 1946. Unlike most curators, he had no advanced degrees, had taught himself art history, and had worked for years as a lawyer and stockbroker. But his interest in art led him to review tens of thousands of prints. Varying a great deal in authorship, authenticity, condition and quality, the prints allowed Ivins’ to develop an eye for the phony and the sublime. As curator of the Met he amassed “one of the world’s most encyclopedic repositories of printed images.

Ivins did it without an MFA or DPhil in Art History; his story demonstrates that with time and passion anyone can become a connoisseur. Indeed, the next post in this series will discuss the decline of taught connoisseurship.

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Choosing your diamond. Part 2

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Ignore the 4Cs

Well perhaps not ignore, but do get them in perspective….

While the infamous 4C’s have known in the industry since its creation, marketing diamonds to the consumer based on these characteristics really started only in the early 1980’s. Those who still remember how diamonds were sold before 1980 will, most probably remember the advice of choosing a jeweller that you can trust and that there is no substitution to a trusted jeweller.

The 4C’s, or the physical characteristics of the diamond (Colour, Clarity, Carat weight and Cut) are appealing surety at the first glance for the concerned consumer, but these characteristics do not actually tell us much.

Ultimately you need to other expert but yourself. While the market grew before the 4C’s were introduced to the consumer, once 4Cs emerged they became the marketing pitch – instead of the character and function of the diamond itself. Many people actually lost their trust and you can argue that relatively less people buy diamonds nowadays. The market is more and more dependent upon heavy users – diamond addicts, when what we should be cultivating are connoisseurs.

I have not much experience with diamonds that are heavily flawed so my discussion will be concentrated on diamonds where inclusions are impossible to detect with a naked eye. In the language of 4Cs, these are diamonds which clarity of SI2 or better. What is possible to detect is one characteristic – the diamond size expressed in carat weight. I am aware of the anomaly of indicating the size through the weight of the diamond and will discuss it later. There is no such a thing as “best” size as we use diamonds according to our life style and occasion. Sometimes we will need a relatively larger diamond and sometimes, a smaller one, or a combination of several diamonds.

If you choose a diamond of which flaws cannot be detected and do not impair its performance, then I cannot advice on a “better” clarity, either as all are good. Similarly, colour is a matter of personal taste. Most of the diamonds have some yellow colour in them because of the Nitrogen gas that is trapped in the crystal and the colour of them varies as it reflects the amount of gas trapped in them. In some, rarer diamonds Boron gas is trapped instead of Nitrogen and, consequently they appear blue. We have also diamonds that belong to the brown family and their colours range from brown to pink and red.

After so many years in the trade I cannot tell you what the “best” colour is as it is simply a matter of taste. Different skin tones and settings with other stones will also affect the way a diamond looks

How about cut? Originally, cut referred to the shape of the diamond: round brilliant, pear-shape, marquise, any variation of a rectangular cut and so on. The research that was done in Japan in the mid 1980’s introduced a scale based on the proportions of round-cut gems and so today we refer to the quality of the round cut when we say “cut” instead of referring to the shape of the diamond.

Our family, S. Muller & Sons, were among the pioneers to produce what is now known as the Hearts and Arrows (H+A) cut. The story of H+A calls for a separate reflection but it is enough to know that the aim of H+A was to produce a diamond that would completely reflect the light rays directed toward it from any angle, back through the top portion of the stone creating ZERO light-loss. Based on this idea, a scale was introduced that supposed to quantify the amount and the intensity of the light reflection.

Evaluation of Cut might eventually become the most rationally evaluated quality of diamonds, beyond the broad ‘best-cut’ or ‘excellent-cut’ descriptions we use today. However, you should remember that diamonds have other qualities as well. One of the clear examples is those diamonds of which colours are not on the white/yellow continuum. These diamonds are polished purposely not to reflect light and, consequently, they reflect the special colour of the diamond whatever it is. There is a growing market for such diamonds, and prices can be high, although I must admit that personally I prefer the H+A diamonds that I polish but this is a personal taste coupled with some emotional attachment to a professional achievement – bringing out their reflective potential.

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The perfect diamond for a perfect proposal

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Pierce Mattie PR post some advice on how to choose the perfect diamond for your proposal.

They provide a good guide to the four Cs, too:

Color: Angara notes that diamonds are graded not on actual color, but on their lack of color. Diamonds range from colorless to light yellow and are assigned a letter, such as “D” for colorless.

Cut: This does not refer to a stone’s shape, but rather how its facets are cut. The better the cut, the more brilliant the shine. There are several grades of cuts and several standards that determine those grades.

Clarity: This is based on imperfections in a diamond and varies in grade based on how many inclusions and what kind are found in the diamond.

Carat: This is based on weight and not size. A diamond in one shape may appear smaller or larger than another, even if they both weigh the same amount.

They also point to some amusing tips for the big moment itself

isaac says of this article...

How exactly are the four Cs helping us to choose the perfect diamond? All the four Cs tell is that diamonds are measured along four dimensions: Colour, cut, clarity and carat, mysteriously, not mentioning the fifth C – the cost.

Arguing that four Cs can help us choosing the right diamond implies that for different proposals we should use a different mix of the four Cs and that there may be ONE perfect mix for each individual occasion.

Unfortunately, after almost 30 years in this business, neither I, nor my colleagues found the way to move from the four Cs into finding the Holy Grail of offering this perfect mix. Maybe any reader can help the diamond industry with this important issue?

To add insult to injury, this four Cs Genie left the bottle twenty-five years ago and there is no realistic way to put it back in.

Here is the challenge I am putting forward to any potential diamond consumer: How can we offer the perfect diamond for an occasion while respecting the fact that people were educated on the four Cs in the last generation and not all are willing to unlearn it before purchasing?


Janus Thinking says of this article...

What does a connoisseur look for?

Connoisseurship, the thorough appreciation and knowledge of art or “matters of taste,” has traditionally only been discussed as a scholarly pastime. A connoisseur has put in his time and studied a great deal in order to understand his field and…

Virgilio Elcullada Luib Jr. says of this article...

If you know the 4 C’s of diamond quality then you can use it to determine the other C “Cost”. “Certificate” is also considered the other C so there are now 6 C’s of diamond quality. A diamond with a grading report from credible gem lab such as GIA or AGS will increase in value in the long run than those without a grading report.

And again the certificate will tell you that if a diamond are graded as Z color- I3 clarity Poorly cut of any shape and weight will be considered a reject to many.

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