The most familiar usage of diamonds today is as gemstones used for adornment—a usage which dates back into antiquity. The dispersion of white light into spectral colors is the primary gemological characteristic of gem diamonds. In the twentieth century, gemologists have developed methods of grading diamonds and other gemstones based on the characteristics most important to their value as a gem. Four characteristics known informally as the four Cs are now commonly used as the basic descriptors of diamonds: carat, cut, color, and clarity.
Most gem diamonds are traded on the wholesale market based on single values for each of the four Cs; for example knowing that a diamond is rated as 1.5 carats (300 mg), VS2 clarity, F color, excellent cut round brilliant, is enough to reasonably establish an expected price range. More detailed information from within each characteristic is used to determine actual market value for individual stones. Consumers who purchase individual diamonds are often advised to use the four Cs to pick the diamond that is “right” for them.