The Anatomy of A Diamond Ring: Beyond the Four C's
By: Karen Sullen

You've finally decided to ask her to marry your. All you need to do now is select the perfect ring. But since most of us aren't trained jewelers or gemologists, choosing the ring can be a challenge. When purchasing a diamond ring, most of us have heard about the importance of the four C's—cut, clarity, carat and color. Singularly and collectively, they can make the difference between a prized ring and an undervalued one. But, in actuality, the 4 C's is only the beginning. Knowing the anatomy of the ring and some diamond terminology will help you become a more savvy shopper.

A Quick Review

Just in case you aren't familiar with the 4 C's, let's take a quick look at what they mean. Have you ever looked into the diamond and it looked like there were tiny panels inside? These "cuts" in the design give the ring dimension and brilliance. The fewer the cuts, the duller the diamond. The size and weight of the stone is measured in carats. Diamonds are available in a variety of colors, but just know that the colorless stones are the most valuable. Because no diamond is perfect, the number of flaws, their size and visibility determine the diamond's clarity.

Now that we've covered the basics, we can turn our attention to the ring's anatomy. It's helpful to know the various shapes and parts of the diamond to better communicate with your jeweler and to understand how each aspect impacts the overall look and value of your ring.

Show Her Style

When it comes to your fiancee's sense of style, choose a shape that will fit her personality beautifully. Oval and round shapes convey a classic look, while the emerald (a more rectangular shape) and the princess (or square) shapes lend a more contemporary feel. For a retro-chic appearance, try the pear-shaped or a marquise (an oval with points at each end) shape.


Girdle: The edge formed where the top portion of the stone meets the bottom. It's usually where the prongs of the setting grasp the diamond.

Crown: The top part of the stone just above the girdle. The raised sides of the stone that are typically rounded or angled up to the top of the stone.

Table: The flat surface or face of the stone that is visible from the top.

Culet: The point at the bottom of the stone. Looking down through the stone from the diamond's table, the larger the culet, the more visible it will be from the top of the stone and the less valuable it will make the stone.

Pavilion: The bottom part of the stone between the girdle and the culet.

These components along with the cut, clarity, carat and color create the visual impact or scintillation of the diamond, as it sparkles when the light dances across its surface. That sparkle is actually the combination of the stone's brilliance, dispersion and luster. The brilliance comes from the amount of dazzling light that is reflected from the gem. The dispersion is the rainbow of colors seen by the eye, and the luster refers to the amount and quality of light reflected from the diamond's surface. Another important term is the spread of the diamond, which refers to how big the diamond appears (not necessarily the weight), its depth, angles and thickness of the stone. That's why a one-carat stone can appear larger or smaller depending on its spread. However, it is always better to have a smaller, clearer stone with fabulous cuts than one with a larger spread that is dull and cloudy. Generally speaking, the spread of a one-carat diamond should be about 6.5 millimeters and 8.2 millimeters for a two-carat stone.

After you've selected the right ring, it's always a good idea to have it appraised for insurance purposes. Now, with the ring out of the way, you can move on to selecting your groomsmen gifts, another important decision.