Purchasing a Diamond Isn't About the 4Cs At All
"I have spent a lifetime looking at diamonds and know from my experience that beauty is the rarest of all diamond qualities—and the most valuable."
It wasn't until 1953 that the Gemological Institute of America issued its system for grading stones based on color, cut, carat weight, and clarity.
The criteria are familiar to anyone who has bought a diamond since, but is that all there is to it? It always seemed too simple a recipe, especially since the seductive power of diamonds long preceded those Cs.
Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean did not ask about the four Cs before she bought the Hope Diamond from Cartier in 1911. All the Washington, DC, heiress wanted to know was whether she could reset it. (Yes, and she did.)
"Beauty, the mystery that cannot be measured," says Andrew Coxon, a veteran diamond buyer and expert and now the president of the De Beers Institute of Diamonds. We were discussing a favorite subject of both of ours when he was in New York to celebrate the opening of the De Beers boutique on Madison Avenue. Coxon compares falling in love with a diamond to actually falling in love. "It's first the eye, then the brain, then the heart—but in what special combination, and why?"
He is adamant that the answer is ultimately unknowable, but still key. "Not a single diamond-grading laboratory in the world has ever mentioned beauty in one of its reports.
Yet it's your first question when choosing. Is it beautiful? Your second question, especially when you fall in love suddenly, is Why? I have spent a lifetime looking at diamonds and know from my experience that beauty is the rarest of all diamond qualities—and the most valuable," he says.
And as in most tales of romance, he believes you find the right diamond when you least expect it, "sometimes among the least rare colors and qualities." Which might explain why some stones sell exceptionally well at auction and others, with exactly the same four Cs, do not attract even one bidder. Unraveling the true nature of a diamond's beauty is perhaps an impossible task, but, luckily, many are willing to claim the challenge as their own.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Town & Country.