All diamonds, whether they are lab grown diamonds or natural diamonds, are graded on a universal scale that assesses certain qualities which in turn determine their value. These terms are known as “The Four C’s: Carat, Clarity, Cut, and Color.”

But what do these characteristics represent? And how do lab-grown diamonds compare to natural diamonds? We’ve put together a quick guide to help you understand the Four C’s scale, and how the gem’s quality compares in both types of diamonds.

Carat

The term “carat” typically refers to the weight of a diamond. People often think that the larger the carat size, the larger the diamond. However, depending on the cut and quality, two gemstones of roughly the same weight—and therefore the same carat size—could appear to be completely different in size.

When you are purchasing a diamond, it is important to ensure that it has been properly weighed and that it is a high-quality diamond. Diamonds are priced by multiplying the carat weight by the price per carat, and if you have a diamond with flaws, you could end up paying more than the gem is worth.

Clarity

The “clarity” of a diamond refers to how clear or clean the diamond is. In the diamond market, the clarity of a diamond helps determine its worth when compared with the other diamond properties. The clearer the diamond, the higher the value.

When diamonds are formed in the earth’s crust, deposits—or “inclusions”—and external flaws like blemishes are typically present. The fewer inclusions and blemishes, the higher the clarity rating. This is one advantage that lab diamonds have over natural diamonds. Because the lab process has been perfected, and lab diamonds with higher clarity ratings are more common, they can be sold at a lower price than that of a natural diamond at a jeweler.

Cut

The cut is perhaps the most important aspect when it comes to purchasing the right diamond. While jewelers often refer to the shape of the diamond as a cut, what it actually refers to is the way that it refracts light. That sparkle and shine when light hits a diamond just right are determined by its cut. While the clarity and size of the diamond might seem like the most important element, the cut of the diamond is what gives it its character.

The effects that are typically measured when referring to a diamond’s cut are:

Brightness—the internal and external light reflected from the diamond

Fire—how the white light scatters when reflected from a diamond, casting the colors of the rainbow on nearby surfaces

Scintillation—the amount of sparkle produced by the fire and brightness

Color

When a consumer thinks of diamonds, they think of the colorless diamonds known as “white diamonds.” Because this color is considered to be of higher quality, the less color a diamond has, the more valuable it is. The optical properties of a diamond are usually so subtle that they cannot be seen by the naked eye, but as you add more color into the diamond—and therefore lower its value—the difference is quite noticeable between the highest and lowest ratings.

What Do the Four C’s Mean For Lab Diamonds?

Because lab diamonds are grown from a diamond seed composed of the same carbon source as mined diamonds, they are virtually impossible to tell apart with the naked eye. This is great news for buyers who admire real diamonds but want to break away from the ethical and environmental impacts of natural diamonds. Since lab and natural diamonds are both rated using the four c’s method, they are both held to the same consumer standards. What sets them apart is the cost.

Lab diamonds are made in a controlled environment in high-pressure machines, which means that high-quality diamonds are produced quickly without having to pay miners, shipment companies, or other costs that drive up the price of diamonds in a jewelry store. What this means for buyers is that a lab diamond of the same rating as a natural diamond can come at nearly half the cost, leaving room for customization or add-ons.

If you’re in the market for a diamond engagement ring, or you’re looking to add some sparkle in the form of a bracelet or pendant, consider opting for a lab-grown diamond. Your wallet—and the environment—will thank you.