The 4 C's or is it 5 C's or is it 5 C's and a W?
Confused? I don't blame you, there is a lot of bad and misleading information out there.
The truth is colored gemstones are examined for value in a manner similar to that of diamonds. That's the good news! The bad news is most people don't understand how diamonds are valued!
I know you have heard about the 4 C's:
It's unfortunate, but most people think that when we mention the word cut we are talking about the shape of the gemstone. Gemstones are faceted into a number of shapes. Different shapes will often command different prices in the market place but this is not the characteristic of a gemstone we are really talking about.
The American Gem Society in The AGS Way stated,
"With transparent faceted gems, cut grading is similar to diamonds, but proportions are not as closely defined. The main considerations are an attractive face-up outline, good symmetry, and a pleasing display of color and brilliance."
Colored gemstones are typically cut in a third world nation under conditions we think of as primitive. Differences in proportions are common.
Colored gemstones are cut to display the gemstones best color. Color throughout a
rough crystal is not uniform. The color may be stronger in one area than
another. A portion of the crystal may even appear to be nearly colorless. The
cutter will often attempt to fashion the gemstone to highlight the crystal's
strong characteristics and hide its weaknesses. Consequently, we will often
find that deeply saturated gemstone are cut shallow to lighten the color, while
lightly saturated gemstone are cut thick to darken the apparent color.
Wait a minute isn't there a characteristic that deals specifically with color?
You bet there is, I just want you to know there are sometimes good reason why the
proportions on a gemstone may vary, but lets get back to the subject.
The purpose of faceting a gemstones is to make the stone as beautiful as
possible. We cut the facets on the bottom to return light to the eye. As with
a diamond, we hope that light entering the gemstone from the top will be reflected off the
facets on the bottom of the gemstone and then returned through the top of the stone.
The more light that returns to the eyes of the beholder the better. This makes
for a brilliant gemstone. This is what we like to see.
Typically, color gemstones are cut as navettes, squares, emerald cuts, ovals, pear
shaped, etc. These gemstone rough is rarely symmetrical and this complicates the
cutter's job. No matter how hard he tries there will be areas where light is
concentrated and others devoid of light. As we examine gemstone we expect to see
these characteristics. It is the cutter's talent that minimizes these effects.
Poorly cut gemstones
There are instances when the cutter doesn't do a very good job. Sometimes
it will appear as if you can look right through the center of the gemstone.
This may be an indication of poor cut. Instead of creating a house of mirrors that
returns the brilliance of the gemstone the cutter fashioned a window. Light passes
straight through the gemstone and the gemstone appears lifeless and transparent.
Sometimes it will appear as if the color is stronger in certain parts of the gemstone
than in others. If you look at a gemstones and it appears if there is a concentrated ring
of color than you may be looking at a poorly cut stone. The cut of the gemstone directs
the passage of light through the gemstone. A poorly cut stone will concentrate
light in all the wrong places.
The 5th C is Confidence.
Where ever you buy your gemstones you must have confidence in the person you are
dealing with. No matter how much you read, no matter how much you study,
in the end, you are going to have to rely on the expertise of someone working in the
jewelry industry. Choose carefully.
The W stands for Workmanship.
The time, effort and talent that the cutter puts into fashioning a gemstone will
be reflected in the price. I've had the privilege of examining gemstones that have
literally taken my breath away. I could spend all day looking at one of these
beauties. I've also seen gemstones where I wondered why did they even bother. There
is a market for both stones. Remember, in jewelry there is a premium paid for
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American Gem Society
For generations of jewelers, those three simple words have embodied three complex ideas to which the society has always been dedicated: