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What is a carat?

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The carat is the universal measurement of what a diamond weighs, the factors affecting this being density, depth, formulation and shape. It is often mistaken for size but it is not related to this.One carat equals 200 milligrams and is subdivided into 100 points.

When shopping for a piece of jewelry, the total carat weight refers to the total weight of all the diamonds in that piece.

THE HISTORY OF THE CARAT

The term carat comes from the carob seed as historically gem merchants used carob seeds to help weigh gemstones and diamonds due to the belief that there was little variance in their mass distribution. It became popular to measure diamonds in carat during the renaissance in the 1570s.

An 'international carat' was proposed in 1871 by the Syndical Chamber of Jewelers in Paris, then made compulsory by law in France in 1907 which spread worldwide.

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HOW IS A DIAMOND WEIGHED?

Carat weight is the most objective part of the 4Cs. The diamond is weighed in grams using a precisely balanced scale capable of measuring extremely small weights. This figure is then divided by 0.2 to find the carat weight. A ‘carat’ is the equivalent of 200 mgs and each can be subdivided into 1000 ‘points’, which results in very precise measurements to the hundredth decimal place.

To put this into context, in the AGS (American Gem Society) Laboratories, carat weight is measured using a highly accurate and calibrated digital scale.

HOW DOES CARAT AFFECT PRICE?

Carat weight is very important in determining the overall price of a diamond.

To put it a different way, a painting by an unskilled artist may be bigger than a miniature by Leonardo da Vinci, but it will not be worth more.

Magic numbers

More than 90% of polished diamonds are cut to maximize weight instead of optical performance. This comes down to better profitability for upstream businesses. Polishing a diamond to achieve better cut quality would require more effort and weight to be taken off the rough stone so when faced with the decision, the cutter will sacrifice beauty.

Jewelers call the ideal weights or ‘magic numbers’, ‘under-sizes’, which means the diamond weighs just below a cutoff weight. It’s often cheaper to buy an item that consists of lots of smaller stones instead of a single large diamond because of the way this pricing system works.

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