Diamond is one of the very few stones that occupy the stratospheric price ranges. Consider the lucky, or unlucky lady who is born in April. She either gets double or much less of her birthstone in jewellery because of the costs associated with it.
Diamond is an unusual material is several ways. It is the hardest naturally occurring material on the planet, but it has a nasty tendency to “cleave” or split along its growth lines when hit at exactly the right spot. This is how pre-twentieth century “cutters” fashioned stones before modern technology arrived. Then, a diamond was not really cut. It was purposefully split and then polished by rubbing one Diamond against another. To begin the “cut”, a large steel wedge that resembles a giant straight razor was placed directly on a cleavage plane. Then the cutter struck the wedge with a mallet resembling an overgrown one handled rolling pin. If the correct amount of force was applied at the right angle, a small splinter of stone flew off and a new face or “facet” appeared on the remaining crystal. The bit that flew off was called a “chip” to differentiate it from small, fully cut stones. And, of course, if you hit it wrong ….. really bad news! If the stone shattered, then you might have way too many chips. This information is a “secret” rarely spoken of. After all, who in their right mind would want to spend that kind of money on a stone if they knew how easily it could accidentally split in half or crush into dust?
Since the cleavage planes are defined by the crystallography of the stones, there was no way to alter the angles or to allow the cutters to maximize for return of light. The result is that the reflection and refraction in stones from times gone by do not compare in brilliance with the stones of today. In fact, one of the major problems we restorers have is finding good old cut stones. Most of the larger old stones are now viewed as “rough” to be recut to modern proportions. And you cannot put a new stone in amongst the oldies, it sticks out like a searchlight.
Thankfully, in the last few decades, modern “off axis” cutting techniques have virtually erased the “cleaving” problems inherent in the stone. Today, stones are sawn with diamond impregnated, paper thin blades, then ground and polished on cast iron plates coated with finer Diamond abrasive grains than our forefathers could ever have imagined. Final finish is done with diamond crystals, synthetically manufactured, that are less than a micron in size. This is a use of Diamond other than the jewellery trade; the abrasives industry.
Because of this newer technology, and other advantages like computers, modern stones can be Cut precisely, at specific angles and to ratios that guaranty that the gems of today possesses unparalleled brilliance and beauty. The only demanding task left to the gem cutter today is the initial orientation of the raw crystal onto a holding stick or “dop” before it is inserted into the computer actuated cutting system. It is the responsibility of the cutter to conserve as much weight from the original crystal as possible while still allowing sufficient material for the grinding / polishing processes to produce the best stones possible. Computerization assures an identically cut stone each and every time regardless of the amount of loss of weight. Since there are over fifty of these faces that need to be machined, small losses at each step can add up quickly. It is vital that the symmetrically placed, mathematically configured dimensions on a Round Brilliant Cut Diamond be replicated time after time to assure price stability.
Back when stones were cut by hand, and even now, there’s an incentive to “fudge” the cut a bit to keep a little excess weight. That’s why, even today, there are so few stones cut in the 0.96 to 0.99 Carat range. The perceived value, and the price set by the New York “Rap Report”, is still based on “steps” rather than a smooth gradient. Several weights of stones are lumped together into a single “group” and then they’re all priced at the same cost per Carat. The cost of a one Carat stone is at the bottom of one step but it is still one full level higher than a o.99 Carater. That next step is priced so much higher than the 0.99, even though the weight difference is only 1/500 of a gram, that the cutters are loath to cut a perfect 0.99 or 0.98. Obviously, the temptation for the cutter is to produce a stone a little deeper at the girdle (the thickest rim of the stone) than required. The diameter of a stone weighing a carat is almost maintained so that it still looks “correct”. All to often the artistry required to bring out the very best that a stone can be is compromised by the overwhelming need for profit. Since computers have begun to replace people in the cutting shops, more and more “Ideal” and “Hearts and Arrows” style Diamonds are being produced. The vast majority of Canadian diamonds are now being cut by computer and many are cut perfectly. The difference between the appearance of an “Ideal” cut and a “Good” cut is the difference between a gem and a chunk of ice. This is because Symmetry is now a major sales requirement.
Clarity is another axis of Diamond pricing. It is the most controversial axis affecting prices. Everyone wants to see flaws in the stone they are buying and ignore them as insignificant in the stone they are selling. And too often the buyer/seller is the same person doing the appraising. Enter the outside “impartial” grading houses. The highest international standards that are almost universally accepted are those of GIA and AGS. Both of these grading labs were founded in the USA simply because the Americans are the greatest consumers of Diamond jewellery. They are the certificates the dealers want to see when they are buying stones. Clarity officially means: “what can I see with a naked eye, and then with a ten power loupe, (a specially corrected type of magnifier) when viewing from the top of the stone?” According to GIA, if a stone is graded at or above a SI1 or 2 clarity, nothing should be visible to the naked eye. That’s it, no exceptions! Enter the SI3. A grade not recognized by GIA and yet everyone else uses it to describe a very good I1. At a premium price because it means that the flaw can be seen before the stone is set but often, not after. In other words, a lie. It is not a SI grade at all, but a construct from lesser houses to fool the consumer and ignorant dealers. All they see is “BARGAIN”: they’re buying and selling papers rather than gems.
Diamonds are available in every colour, but until recently, the most sought after were, and still are, the dramatic Blue as seen in the Hope Diamond or a deep Green like the Dresden or even the deep rich Pink found in the Argyle Mines in Australia. Closely following the strongly coloured stones has always been those stones that are perfectly clear and colourless, the “D” stones. Someone, somewhere, a long time ago, for some reason nobody really knows, decided that the system for rating colour in diamonds should start at “D” rather than “A”. From then on, the range follows in an standard English alphabetical progression from “E” to “Z”. So, there are no “A”, “B” or “C” stones on the market just because that nomenclature does not exist. As a diamond is rated farther from “D”, it decreases in value, until it approaches the extreme ends where the colour gets very intense and hence raises in value again. Few people want the stuff in the middle. The change from colour to colour, grade to grade, is so infinitesimal that, unless you have incredible colour vision, most people can’t discriminate between a “D” and a “F” or “G”. But the price of an identical Clarity and Weight stone will double from “G” to “D”, even though you would need a colorimitor, or electronic colour grader, to prove it.
One big confusion that many people have is Weight. Diamonds are weighed in Carats. One Carat is equal to one fifth of a gram. One Point is equal is equal to one five hundredth of a gram. Yet that difference is enough to greatly affect the retail price of a stone. Consider that a stone weighing ninety nine points, Si 1 clarity and G colour, Ideal cut, will cost you 60 to 70 percent of a stone weighing one Carat. And there is no way you can see the difference without a laboratory quality scale. Fortunately, with Canadian stones, this process of step pricing has shifted to a more equitable and consistent curve gradient.
That means that you, the client, will get a better bang for your buck at a Canadian Diamond dealer. We are a Canadian Diamond dealer. For further information, please come in and ask all the questions you can think of. After we answer all your questions and show you how it works with our teaching aids, try the same thing at a “mall store”.
You will come back to us.