Love & Diamonds

The 5 C’s of Diamonds (Yes, 5): How to Select the Perfect Engagement Ring

Educated shoppers get the best engagement rings. Learn all about the 5 (yes, 5) Cs, and check out the most popular types of engagement ring cuts.

The 5 C’s of Diamonds (Yes, 5): How to Select the Perfect Engagement RingTypes of diamond engagement rings
Types of diamond engagement rings

It goes without saying that the engagement ring is the most special, emotional, celebratory piece of jewelry that one might ever possess. A symbol of purity and everlasting love, an engagement ring crafted with a rare and natural diamond can easily become an heirloom that delivers joy to generation after generation.

An engagement ring may be the most expensive gift that someone’s significant other ever purchases for their loved one. It’s also bound to be worn by its recipient nearly every day and serves as a stylistic focal point for all other jewelry.

When it comes to engagement ring shopping, the importance of being educated about the types of engagement rings, types of engagement ring cuts, diamond color, and beyond can’t be stressed enough. After all, if you’re spending a lot on a present that means even more, you’ve really got to know what you’re doing.

Chances are, you’ve heard the 4 C’s of diamonds thrown around. This stands for cut, color, clarity, and carat—four features that are always examined when distinguishing the quality of one engagement ring diamond from the next. However, the modern buyer knows better: There are really 5 C’s of diamonds (yes, 5) that must be analyzed to truly assess a diamond’s greatness.

The First C: Cut of a Diamond

The cut of a diamond can predict its shimmer factor. That’s because the better the cut of a diamond, the more light is reflected, and the more brilliant it will ultimately appear.  Because cutting a diamond is a mix of art and science and is still mostly done by hand, the range of cuts is unlimited. Most often, a diamond’s cut is graded as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor.

The Second C: Color of a Diamond

While diamonds naturally occur in many colors of the rainbow, they are most commonly found as “white” or “colorless”. Despite this name, colorless diamonds still often exude slight hints of yellow or brown. The most standard grading system for colorless diamonds ranges from D to Z, in which D is completely colorless and Z has a yellow/brown hue. Generally, the closer the diamond is to a “D” grade, the rarer and more valuable it is.

The Third C: Clarity of a Diamond

The diamond clarity grade measures the presence of inclusions or blemishes within the diamond that may affect its appearance. Like a beauty mark, inclusions in diamonds are common and can give a diamond personality. However fewer visible inclusions in a diamond are typically more desirable. The greater the diamond clarity, the more rare and valuable the stone is considered.

Clarity of diamonds are usually graded on a chart starting with FL and IF. The FL and IF grade means the diamond is flawless and has no visible inclusions. If you’re not seeing a ton of these on your engagement ring shopping trip, don’t fret; Less than 1% of diamonds are classified as FL and IF. 

Next up are the VVS1 and VVS2 grades, which translate into Very Very Slightly Included. Then there are VS1 and VS2, which mean Very Slightly included; followed by SI1 and SI2, which are Slightly Included. The final grade category which encompass I1, I2 and I3 are Included in ways that are usually visible to the naked eye.

The Fourth C: Carat Size of a Diamond

Often confused to be a measure of a gem’s size, carats are actually the measurement for a diamond’s weight. For this reason, two one carat diamonds can appear to be very different sizes because of their cut. Since heavier diamonds are rarer, the carat weight of the diamond will greatly affect its value. 

The Fifth C: Certification of a Diamond

A diamond’s certification is essentially its total grading report. A grading report from an independent laboratory can help confirm all of the characteristics of the diamond (better known as the “4 Cs”), and help verify that you are buying a natural diamond with authentic intrinsic value.

Once you understand the basics on how diamonds are evaluated, it’s time to have some fun and explore your personal style through the various types of engagement ring shapes. While the options are seriously endless, there are certain types of engagement ring cuts that continue to endure the test of time above all the rest:

Brilliant Round Cut Diamond

This round, timeless shape has long been a longtime classic amongst engagement rings.

Classic round cut diamond engagement ring with a halo of diamonds and platinum diamond band
Cartier Destinée Round Solitaire Cut Engagement Ring with Halo of Diamonds.
Image: Cartier

Princess Cut Diamond

This sharply-cut square shape has a dignified presence when set in a ring.

Princess cut diamond engagement ring with a platinum diamond band
Tiffany and Co. Princess Cut Engagement Ring with a Pavé-set Diamond Band in Platinum.
Image: Tiffany and Co

Emerald Cut Diamond

This rectangle cut diamond features large step cut facets that give it a hall of mirror, art deco appearance.

Emerald cut diamond ring with trapezoid side stones in art deco style with a white gold band
Kwiat Emerald Cut Engagement Ring with trapezoid and bullet side stones.
Image: Kwiat New York

Marquise Cut Diamond

This is a grand, regal shape considered ideal for giving the illusion of length.

Marquise cut diamond ring with two side stones on a platinum band
Harry Winston Marquise Shaped Diamond Engagement Ring.
Image: Harry Winston via Pinterest

Oval Cut Diamond

 This shape is considered by some to be the perfect, flattering blend of a classic round and elongating marquises.

Oval cut diamond center stone engagement ring with two side diamonds on a platinum band
Lauren Addison Oval Engagement Ring
Image: Lauren Addison

Pear Cut Diamond

The pear-shaped natural diamond has the brilliance of a round type of engagement ring cut, but with the added uniqueness of asymmetry. 

Pear cut diamond engagement ring with platinum pave band
Wempe Pear Shaped Engagement Ring with Channel Band.
Image: Wempe

Heart Cut Diamond

This feminine cut is a sure-bet way to bring out its recipient’s sentimental side. 

Heart cut diamond center stone engagement ring with platinum pave band
Shay Jewelry Heart Shape Engagement Ring with Paved Diamond Band.
Image: Shay

Radiant Cut Diamond

This square diamond shape features cut corners, and a unique facet pattern that will stand out amongst all others.

Radiant cut diamond center stone ring with platinum pave band
Ring Concierge Radiant Cut Diamond Ring With With Pave Band.
Image: Ring Concierge

Asscher Cut Diamond

This square with cut corners is faceted similarly to an emerald cut, and offers unique scintillation.

Asscher cut diamond engagement ring with paved halo and twisted platinum band
David Yurman Asscher Cut Engagement Ring With Paved Halo and Platinum Band.
Image: David Yurman DY Capri Collection

Cushion Cut Diamond

Resembling a pillow with rounded corners , this cut predates most other modern cuts for a more vintage look.

Cushion cut diamond center stone ring with paved halo and platinum pave band
Harry Winston Cushion Cut Engagement Ring.
Image: Harry Winston

The Bottom line

Diamond engagement ring shopping is an incredibly personal experience. No matter which jeweler or boutique you go to in your search for the perfect engagement ring, just remember that you will definitely find it when you understand what you are looking at.

Engagement ring shopping can be very romantic and dreamy—but also overwhelming. Coming into the situation with the proper education will help ensure that the process is primarily the former. Happy (almost) engagement to you!