Shape, Quality and cutting process
Diamonds do not show all of their beauty as rough stones; instead, they must be cut and polished to exhibit the characteristic fire and brilliance that diamond gemstones are known for. Diamonds are cut into a variety of shapes that are generally designed to accentuate these features.
Diamonds which are not cut to the specifications of Tolkowsky's round brilliant shape (or subsequent variations) are known as "fancy cuts." Popular fancy cuts include the baguette (from the French, meaning rod or loaf of bread), marquise, princess (square outline), heart, briolette (a form of the rose cut), and pear cuts. Generally speaking, these "fancy cuts" are not held to the same strict standards as Tolkowsky-derived round brilliants and there are less specific mathematical guidelines of angles which determine a well-cut stone. Cuts are influenced heavily by fashion: the baguette cut—which accentuates a diamond's luster and downplays its fire—was all the rage during the Art Deco period, whereas the princess cut—which accentuates a diamond's fire rather than its luster—is currently gaining popularity. The princess cut is also popular amongst diamond cutters: of all the cuts, it wastes the least of the original crystal. The past decades have seen the development of new diamond cuts, often based on a modification of an existing cut. Some of these include extra facets. These newly developed cuts are viewed by many as more of an attempt at brand differentiation by diamond sellers, than actual improvements to the state of the art.
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The quality of a diamond's cut is widely considered the most important of the four Cs in determining the beauty of a diamond; indeed, it is commonly acknowledged that a well-cut diamond can appear to be of greater carat weight, and have clarity and color appear to be of better grade than they actually are. The skill with which a diamond is cut determines its ability to reflect and refract light.
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In addition to carrying the most importance to a diamond's quality as a gemstone, the cut is also the most difficult to quantitatively judge. A number of factors, including proportion, symmetry, and the relative angles of various facets, are determined by the quality of the cut and can affect the performance of a diamond. A poorly cut diamond with facets cut only a few degrees out of alignment can result in a poorly performing stone. For a round brilliant cut, there is a balance between "brilliance" and "fire." When a diamond is cut for too much "fire," it looks like a cubic zirconia, which gives off much more "fire" than real diamond. A well-executed round brilliant cut should reflect light upwards and make the diamond appear white when viewed from the top. An inferior cut will produce a stone that appears dark at the center and in some extreme cases the ring settings may show through the top of the diamond as shadows.
Several different theories on the "ideal" proportions of a diamond have been and continue to be advocated by professional gemologists. Recently, there has been a shift away from grading cut by the use of various angles and proportions toward measuring the performance of a cut stone. A number of specially modified viewers and machines have been developed toward this end. They included the FireScope, a.k.a. SymmetriScope or IdealScope (tests for light leakage, light return and proportions), Hearts and Arrows Viewer (test for "hearts and arrows" characteristic pattern observable on stones exhibiting high symmetry), GemEx BrillianceScope (tests for direct light performance results of a diamond), Isee2 Machine (tests for diffused light performance results of a diamond), and ASET (test for AGS cut grade). These viewers and machines often help consumers determine the light performance results of the diamond in addition to the traditional 4 C's. Along with this shift there are a few companies that provide results on these viewers and machines in addition to the original 4c's. The GIA has also developed criteria for grading the cut of round brilliant stones.
The cutting process
The process of shaping a rough diamond into a polished gemstone is both an art and a science. The choice of cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough stone, location of the inclusions and flaws to be eliminated, the preservation of the weight, popularity of certain shapes amongst consumers and many other considerations. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Oddly shaped crystals such as macles are more likely to be cut in a fancy cut—that is, a cut other than the round brilliant—which the particular crystal shape lends itself to.
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Even with modern techniques, the cutting and polishing of a diamond crystal always results in a dramatic loss of weight; rarely is it less than 50%. Sometimes the cutters compromise and accept lesser proportions and symmetry in order to avoid inclusions or to preserve the carat rating. Since the per carat price of diamond shifts around key milestones (such as 1.00 carat), many one-carat diamonds are the result of compromising "Cut" for "Carat." Some jewelry experts advise consumers to buy a 0.99 carat diamond for its better price or buy a 1.10 carat diamond for its better cut, avoiding a 1.00 carat diamond which is more likely to be a poorly cut stone.
Although it is not one of the four Cs, cleanliness affects a diamond's beauty as much as any of the four Cs. A clean diamond is more brilliant and fiery than the same diamond when it is "dirty." Dirt or grease on the top of a diamond reduces its luster. Water, dirt, or grease on the bottom of a diamond interferes with the diamond's brilliance and fire. Even a thin film absorbs some light that could have been reflected to the person looking at the diamond. Colored dye or smudges can affect the perceived color of a diamond. Historically, some jewelers' stones were misgraded because of smudges on the girdle, or dye on the culet. Current practice is to thoroughly clean a diamond before grading its color.
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Maintaining a clean diamond can sometimes be difficult, as jewelry settings can obstruct cleaning efforts, and oils, grease, and other hydrophobic materials adhere well to a diamond's surface. Some jewelers provide their customers with ammonia-based cleaning kits; ultrasonic cleaners are also popular.
Cleanliness does not affect the diamond's market value, as any competent jeweler will clean the diamond before offering it for sale. However, cleanliness might reflect a diamond's sentimental value: some jewelers have noted a correlation between ring cleanliness and marriage quality.