This is as basic as it gets; yet it's the most important lesson in understanding diamonds. While every diamond is beautiful and precious, some are more rare than others and thus considered more valuable.

The beauty of a diamond, and therefore its worth, is determined by four characteristics: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. The diamond industry has developed an acceptable set of grading standards by which all diamonds can be evaluated. This is called the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, Grading System.

Each of the four characteristics is measured separately, but it is the manner in which Mother Nature has combined them within each diamond that establishes its true beauty and determines its value.

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We wouldn't normally endorse cheating, but we realize some of you may be looking for a shortcut. This cheat sheet provides you with a quick understanding of the basics and how each of the 4Cs contributes to the beauty and value of a diamond. Of course, we recommend you take a few minutes and look through the entire buyarock 101 section to round out your diamond education.