Diamonds 101 with Johanna Tzur of James Allen


We’re guilty of the occasional impulse purchase as much as the next girl, but there are a few specific occasions where shopping requires some extensive research: Purchasing a home, a new car, baby gear, or investment jewelry, to name a few. Whether you’re shopping for an engagement ring with your significant other or treating yourself to a slice of luxury that can be passed down for years to come, buying a diamond can be an overwhelming and intimidating process. So what do you REALLY need to know before you take the leap? We found out! Thanks to Johanna Tzur, CMO of James Allen, we’re breaking down exactly where to begin in the buying process, how to maximize your budget to get the best quality diamond you can can afford, and which trends in the diamond industry are still evolving.

How do you recommend someone in the market for a diamond approach the buying process? What’s the first thing they should know before they start their shopping?
The first thing that you should do when starting the shopping process is to set a budget and prioritize the 4 C’s, according to what is most important to you. These initial decisions will help to guide your search and start to build your perfect ring.

Tell us about the “4 C’s.” What does each stand for?
The 4 C’s are Cut, Carat, Clarity and Color.


The cut of a diamond not only refers to the diamond’s shape, but also to how effectively the diamond returns light back to the viewer’s eye. A well-cut diamond will appear very brilliant and fiery, while a poorly cut diamond can appear dark and lifeless, regardless of its color or clarity.


Contrary to popular belief, Carat is actually a term that refers to the weight of a diamond, not the size. A great tip for getting more bang for your buck: go with an “under-size” diamond (one that falls slightly below a traditional cutoff weight such as 0.5ct or 1ct) for a diamond that looks essentially the same as a cutoff weight diamond to the naked eye yet costs substantially less.


While researching clarity you may have come across some random letters and numbers, such as IF, VS1, SI2, etc. These are all gradings that highlight the various level of inclusions (small imperfections inside the diamond). For example, IF stands for “Internally Flawless” and means that the diamond has no inclusions at all. It is important to select a diamond that does not have any inclusions that will affect the overall beauty and durability of the diamond.


When shopping for a diamond, it’s generally preferred to choose a stone with the least amount of color possible. Diamond color is graded on a scale from D-Z and is divided into five broad categories (colorless, near colorless, faint, very light and light). Diamonds come in all colors of the spectrum. The predominant color you see in a diamond is yellow, which is caused by the trace element nitrogen.

All of the 4Cs and more can be seen with our Diamond Display Technology, giving you the feeling that you’re viewing the diamond in person. Our technology displays each diamond in our inventory of 70,000+ in 360° HD magnification, giving you a better view than even a jeweler’s loupe could.

What defines a “well-cut” diamond?
A “well-cut” diamond is one that is cut to ideal proportions and angles and has excellent polish and symmetry ratings. It reflects almost all the light that enters it. These diamonds are proportioned to refract light, producing fire and brilliance up through to the table and crown. A well-cut diamond exhibits three different properties: brilliance, dispersion and scintillation. As light strikes a diamond’s surface, it will either reflect off the table or enter the diamond. The light that is reflected off the diamond is known as the diamond’s brilliance. As light travels through a stone, some of the light rays are separated into flashes of color. This is known as dispersion. The result of dispersion—the separation of white light into its spectral colors— is known as fire. Scintillation refers to flashes of color that are viewable as an observer moves a diamond back and forth.

Diamonds come in several different cuts/shapes – tell us about the options! Is there one particular style that is more popular than the others?
Diamonds come in many shapes. James Allen offers Round, Princess, Cushion, Emerald, Oval, Radiant, Asscher, Marquise, Heart and Pear. Each shape tells a different story about the person who wears that ring. Traditionally, round has been the most popular choice among brides-to-be, both for its classic beauty and its simplicity. Other popular shapes include princess and cushion cuts.

Do any of the cuts hide or reduce the appearance of flaws in the diamond more than others?
Shapes with many facets such as princess cuts are good choices to reduce the appearance of inclusions. Depending on where the inclusions are, specific ring settings can also be helpful. For example, a bezel setting can help to hide inclusions on the pavilion of the diamond.

What about Color? How is the color of the diamond determined and what should we be looking for when purchasing?
When shopping for a diamond, it is generally preferred to choose a stone with the least amount of color possible. Diamonds within the colorless range are the most rare and valuable of all those on the color scale. D and E color stones display virtually no color, whereas F colored diamonds will display a nearly undetected amount of color when viewed face down by a gemologist.

What is the best guideline to determine the Carat size you can afford?
The best way to determine this is to start playing around with the parameters on our site. With James Allen, you can filter by many aspects of the diamond such as the 4 C’s and shape. Decide which elements are most important to you and then start experimenting with carat size to find what’s right for you and fits your budget.

What is the minimum Clarity you recommend?
It is important to select a diamond that does not have any inclusions that will affect the overall beauty and durability of the diamond. It is also a good idea to balance the clarity grade of your diamond with the color. If you are looking at diamonds in the D-F color range, focus on clarity grades of VS2 or higher. Diamonds in the G-I color range combined with SI clarity are excellent values.

For those on a budget, what is the best way to maximize your spending to get the best quality diamond possible?

  • Don’t sacrifice on cut; instead go for eye-clean clarity and color.  Diamonds with excellent or ideal proportions cost slightly more, but will look larger and more brilliant than any other cuts.
  • Select an “under-size” diamond (a diamond that weighs just under a cutoff weight such as 1 carat or 0.5 carats), to save substantial sums of money on a diamond that looks essentially the same as a cutoff weight diamond to the naked eye. Online retailers are a great source of these “under-size” diamonds as they have tremendous supply–James Allen has 70,000+ diamonds in our inventory.
  • ​Shopping with an online retailer like James Allen can save you 30-50% off the prices of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s also a great way to reach a tremendous selection to ensure you get exactly what you want.

What are the latest trends you’ve seen in the diamond industry recently?
Brides are going beyond platinum and white gold and instead opting for more unique and / or mixed metal choices including yellow and rose goldGemstones are also being selected much more frequently both for the center stone of an engagement ring as well as in unique accents along the band or halo.


This post was sponsored by James Allen but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.