What makes’ a diamond tick. These are my thoughts after a lifetime of experience buying, selling and studying diamonds written in an easily understandable way.

There are numerous shapes of diamonds here are just a few.

Most popular is the round brilliant shape.
This shape can be divided into three interacting parts; each has a particular job to as far as beauty goes.

The crown or top section is responsible for sparkle.

The girdle or centre section simply holds the crown and the base together.

The pavilion or base is responsible for the brightness of a stone.
The Table facet (top) and the sides (crown star and kite facets) gather light which passes through the girdle section where it continues into the lower section (pavilion) is bounced around and then returned out the top again.

If the table facet  is larger than ideal standard (53% to 57% of the width )  it stands to reason that  the side facets (crown and kite facets ) must be smaller  therefore these facets  cannot gather as much  light to send into the stone, if the top is shallow as well then everything is worse and even less light is absorbed. The top or table facet will reflect a great deal of light in a single flash, causing the stone become dull and lifeless.

The table size, the crown height and angles are all important and can work together to make an ideal cut stone with the most sparkle or one that is dull and lifeless.

The girdle can be very thick or very thin .Cutters like to make the girdles thicker on diamonds that will weigh just under  weight points such as 0.50 carats 0.75 carats or one carat. Because at these points the cost of a diamond may jump at least 25% and as much as 50% simply because  the market wants stones at these important weights.

So the girdle not only holds the top and base sections together but is used by cutters to increase the price they get for a diamond without increasing the diamond width or adding to its beauty.

The pavilion or the back of a diamond is responsible for the brightness.

If a diamond is cut shallower from the ideal standard (60%, the stone when viewed from the top will become grey .If it is cut deeper than the standard the stone will darken.

This is the reason that a marquise or oval shaped diamond will display a bow tie effect across the centre.

Marcel Tolkowsky figured all this out in the year 1919 when he presented a paper on Diamond cut for his Mathematical Thesis while  studying at London University. A Diamond cut to his standard was called The Tolkowsky Ideal cut.

Physics does not change, but over the years standards do.

The GIA found the ideal standard to be too exacting and restrictive and came up with their own standard around the year two thousand; they spread the parameters a little and set a new standard which they called triple excellent (XXX).

This GIA standard has since become the most popular top grade globally.

The  colour. This is a photograph showing the range of colour in some diamonds .Colour D is a stone that shows the least amount of colour.
Now here is the catch.

The colour is read with the stone in an upside down position with a particular standard of lighting and the stone is compared directly against a master stone of a known grade.

Different lighting will result in a different colour reading possibly by as much as three grades.
If a diamonds colour is read from the top instead of through the base or pavilion it can result in a faulty reading.

I might point out here that diamonds are viewed from the top in the real world and a stone with a high colour grade can look tinted if the base or pavilion, angles are incorrect. Such stones will dull quicker as well because any dirt lodged in the back of a ring, or the colour of the setting metal will influence the colour reading.

Colour is very subjective.
In a nut shell it is near impossible for a skilled and trained diamond grader to be able to colour grade from the top view and even more difficult if one has no training. With that in mind colour grades of H to G to D cannot really be separated.

Colour grades of H are still white to the eye and J to M will show a warming of colour .Usually in a slight yellow or brown tint. A stone showing a tint will cost less as it is simply less rare then a colour D stone. A colour LM or N can in fact look more beautiful than a colour D stone.

Clarity grades refer to the imperfections in a diamond. The less there are in a stone then the rarer the diamond and the more the stone will cost.

The clarity grades are organised according to, the size, position, colour, and number as well as the relief or the shape and size of a diamond.

Clarity grades are very subjective .They are read by a qualified grader using a special 10X lens.
This is an outline of GIA clarity grading.

Internally flawless.

Some imperfections are allowed, such as internal graining is permitted as well as some blemishes on the surface.

VVS/1 and 2.
These I describe as minute .like a tiny pin prick, they are very difficult for a skilled grader to locate and VVS/2 can be seen from the top of a diamond.

VS1 and VS2.
 Described as minor .The same rules of size, position, number, colour and relief apply. Inclusions of this grade are usually very difficult for a diamond grader to locate .But in some circumstances they can be seen without a lens. An example is, an inclusion contained in an emerald cut diamond that is located at the top and over a facet in a larger stone.

SI/1 and SI/2.
Described as noticeable .The same rules of size, position, number, colour and relief apply.
Inclusions of these grades may or may not be visible without a 10x lens. Particularly in larger and especially in Emerald cut stones.

I/1 ,I2 and I/3.
The inclusions of this grade are described as obvious to a qualified grader using a 10X lens.

I/1 inclusion may or may not be visible without the viewer using a lens. On a smaller diamond such as 0.20 carats they may not be visible by eye but on a 1.00 carat stone they most likely will.

I/2 graded diamonds often give a sugary look to a diamond and I/3 diamonds will have a sugary look plus the inclusions may influence the stability of the diamond.

Diamond  reports.
Yes I call them reports, because that is what they are and that is what is stated on them; they should not be called certificates ,because they are not.
The first line in the small print on most reports say “this is not a guarantee”. This is important to understand.

These reports are all subjective, there is no International and agreed upon grading standard. This means that each issuer or laboratory has its own standard .
Some even use GIA terms (such as the GIA colour grade description of DEF...)And apply their own standards .Some companies even use the GIA terms of grading diamonds for grading other stones such as Moisonite and even coloured stones.
This action  causes great confusion.

A brief history from the earliest to the future.
Diamonds were made by our planet around 500 million years ago and have been recorded in Ancient Indian Sanskrit around 500BC. Even then the perfect crystals where highly prizes and thought of as “tears of the Gods.”

The Ancient Indian Diamond experts were very sophisticated and developed the first diamond grading system, where diamonds were divided into four groups. This system also graded inclusions, or imperfections .Any deviation from the perfect clean crystal immediately made the stone less desirable and of less value, the same applied to the shape where the value quickly lowered as the stone moved away from the perfect shape.

The Indian traders had also discovered that a diamond crystal had a hardness that varied with direction. With this knowledge they found that they could improve a crystal by grinding an irregular face to make it more perfect. The result was that they could make a diamond more beautiful as well the value improved greatly. It was at this point that the cutting industry was born.

Alexander The Great arrived on the scene and he allowed the diamond crystals to be exported to Europe however the Indian merchants kept their secrets of cutting,these were kept tightly concealed and it was only until the 14th century that the European countries discovered the cutting skills.

All diamonds came from India until the discovery of South America when explorers found the crystals in Brazil.

The Royalty in Europe developed an almost insatiable appetite for these stones. Especially Marie Antoinette and her famous diamond necklet which resulted in a huge scandal in 1785. The traders in Europe eventually discovered the Indian secretes of cutting and centres were established mainly in Germany.

Antwerp became a centre of cutting and trading and it did not take long to become the powerhouse of the diamond industry.
Cutters flocked into Antwerp from other countries, such as Poland and Germany and the industry continued to improve the look of diamonds. The cutting changed from Rose cuts to Old European cuts.

One particular man Abraham Tolkowsky moved his family from Poland to Antwerp in 1840, Abraham quickly established himself as a Master Diamond Cutter. His son Maurice invented the bruiting machine. This had a huge impact on cutting as it allowed diamonds to be ground perfectly round This machine is still used today. His brother Sam Tolkowsky was the first elected chairman of the Antwerp Diamond Exchange. 
It was in Antwerp in 1919 that Marcel Tolkowsky obtained a patent for the Ideal cut, the diamond shape that changed cutting forever.

Marcel was not only an accomplished cutter but he also had a strong back ground of mathematics he presented his ideal cut In London as part of his Thesis.

Marcel laid down the foundation of all brilliant cut diamonds today. Physics does not change a lot and his cut design is of course still the standard that all diamonds are judged against.

Members of the Tolkowsky family are still involved in the industry today. Gabi Tolkowsky was commissioned by DeBeers in 1988 to cut a most famous diamond. The Centenary, this took Gabi, his son Jean Paul and his team three years in all to design and cut this beauty .In the end the rough shape was cleaved by hand and then polished, “like peeling a potato” Gabi says .He also had to design special water cooled holders for the cutting as the size of the stone meant that too much heat was generated for the normal tools to handle. Gabi also cut the Golden Jubilee and the Pink Sunrise, plus numerous others such as Flower cuts, Gabriel cuts and Sea shells.
Gabi was knighted by the Belgian Government in 2003 for his services to the industry. He was given the title “Sir Gabriel Tolkowsky”, Chevalier de L’Ordre du Roi Leopold II.

His son Jean Paul is very involved in cutting perfect diamonds to the original Marcels formula, the family legacy is moving along nicely.

The discovery of diamond deposits especially in Africa began to have a strong influence on the trade. One group called Be Beers emerged as a major trader.

De beers success was the result of their ability to control of the market by controlling the supply of rough diamond crystals into the market. This was not rocket science and nearly all major players of almost all products have attempted and use the same process. Farmers for example refrigerate their goods to hold them back from the market and obtain higher prices, or shift them around the world to sell them in a better market.

De beers originally made arrangements with miners to buy all the diamond crystals were mined which DeBeers then controlled the flow to their London office for distribution to hundreds of site holders.

It did not take long for De beers to have issues buying all the crystals particular as new mines were discovered in great numbers. Such as those in Angola, Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and more recently  Australia, Canada and Botswana .

Today a De Beers has reduced the number of sight holders drastically to around forty; these site holders are still offered a parcel of diamonds and have to pay millions of dollars in advance without being able to examine the crystals.

The control of DeBeers over the supply has greatly diminished and many diamonds are now sold and traded directly through large mining companies such as Rio Tinto, as well as dealing directly with Governments.

A few years ago the discovery of huge diamond fields in Botswana combined the Botswanna governments proactive involvement in their entire diamond operation has De beers to shift their main office from London to Botswana. Today the office and industry in Botswana is thriving. In fact Nelson Modella said that “if it was not for diamonds, Botswana would have nothing”.

Many companies have shifted their offices to Botswana offering increased employment and training for the locals.

I have a colleague who proudly states that he pays huge sums to the Botswana government which go directly into education. Not only that he has opened diamond cutting facilities as well as jewellery manufacturing centres in the country. The Government is a perfect example of modern thinking within the diamond industry.

Kimberley process
Due to the high value of diamonds it became apparent that some of the diamonds particularly in parts of Africa were being used to fund terrorist and violent organisations. The situation was indeed dire in those effected countries. Antwerp in particular became involved as diamonds passed through their traders. The government became involved and efforts where made bring to about pressure on the supply and practices.

This was signed by 54 countries who have all agreed to act in certain positive ways, since 2003 great positive changes have taken place and the industry should be proud as more countries have become involved.

Synthetic and treatments.

Synthetic diamonds have been produced since the fifties, since the early examples the quality and the price has greatly improved but what has really made an impact was the availability of the machines needed to make them which occurred after the Berlin Wall collapse and the move by Russia to allow more freedom to their scientists and businesses.

More and more diamond manufactures are becoming involved; many use an environmental slant in their marketing in order to appeal to modern thinking. Several companies even have their own Wind generators which supply the electricity ensuring a carbon free product. There are numerous new treatments which are applied to natural and diamonds which improve colour and clarity grades.

Natural diamonds still have to be mined and enormous quantities of rocks soil have to be removed at huge cost. As competition hots up with the production of synthetic diamonds, the price will fall.

Synthetic diamonds are just beginning to have an impact, a new generation of buyers like the environmental and social characteristics of these new stones and especially like the lower price, so maybe the synthetic stones will have it all.

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