Have you heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Young Jack sells the family cow for a handful of magic beans. His mother is, justifiably, livid, and throws the beans out the window. From the beans a heavens-high beanstalk grows, which our intrepid and slightly daft protagonist, Jack, climbs. At the top of the beanstalk, he meets a giant, kills a giant and steals a golden egg, making his family a fortune.
I concede that this is an abstract starting point, but I can explain. The term carat comes from the Greek word, keration, meaning ‘horn-shaped’, which describes the odd knarled looking seed pod of a tree native to the Middle East – the locust or Carob tree. The seeds of this odd fruit are all uniform in weight, so in the early days of gemstone trading, they were used as a measure. That diamond equals the weight of one carob seed etc. As years went by, and we became a little more particular, we standardised the carat weight, meaning that one carat is equal to 0.2gms. But the term* carat *remains. As a nod to the funny looking fruit from which it earned its name.
Ever since I learnt all this, the whole beans and diamonds thing, every time I look at a diamond, I’m left wondering what would happen if I planted it. Because, quite frankly, the ‘one carat’ mark really is magic.
Take two diamonds. Both of equal colour, cut and clarity grade. Level pegging. However, the price can increase by up to 35% between a 0.99ct and a 1 carat stone. See. Magic. These price jumps occur at other weight thresholds too, known as ‘critical weight boundaries’: 0.25cts, 0.50cts, 0.75, and upwards. But the 1 carat mark is a major milestone. A coming of age. The diamond’s a real boy now. And the cutters will do their darndest to see it into adulthood too. But seriously. Who wrote the rules? Bearing in mind that the carat is further divided into 100 points (like dollars and cents), making one point equal to 0.002gms, I challenge you to spot the difference between a 90 pointer (0.90 cts) and a 1.00 carat stone.
If you’re insistent, mind, there is also the option of going for a laboratory-grown diamond. They are made to order, so a one carat gem will come in cheaper than its natural counterpart. Blessed be the brains of the diamond growers.
A diamond may weigh in at one carat, but it may not look that big from the top. That’s because it has an ample bottom or a chubby girdle. Which is, quite frankly, a ruse, because you are paying more for a stone that isn’t necessarily going to look any bigger and is likely to be uglier, as its proportions are out of whack, meaning light isn’t bounding around the stone and back at you with its expected panache.
You are in safer territory, however, if you are after a modern round brilliant cut, as the sizes are calibrated these days. A one carat diamond should have a diameter of 6.4-6.5mm. If its weight is quoted as less than a carat, it’s a shallow stone. If it is quoted as being heavier, then its all in the bottom. Conclusion. Always shop with a ruler.
As with all diamonds though, the colour and the clarity play their part too. Keep your eyes on the prize. Regardless of weight, if you want that diamond to stand alone, aim for a VS and above in clarity, and if you are after a water-white stone, keep above the G colour grade. You’re worth it.
The great thing about a diamond around the one carat mark is that it is versatile. It is large enough to stand alone on the finger in a solitaire setting, but it is also small enough to host a couple side stones, or even take centre stage in a halo cluster.
And, apologies, but here I get personal. How fat are your fingers? I’ll start. I have sausage fingers, so I need a big stone and a bold setting (at least that is what I tell my husband). But, for all you dainty fingered souls, you can carry a solitaire on a slim band and look like a veritable prince or princess.
So, on those wise words, I shall leave you to shop. But, if you do go in for the magic one carat, good luck against that giant.