Most of us associate the term – carats – with diamonds. As one of the four all-important 4Cs (the others being, cut, colour & clarity). Diamonds are sold by the carat (ct.).
Carat is actually a unit of weight, although many believe it refers to the size of a diamond. Carat weight is however unrelated to the similar sounding term – karat, which refers to gold’s purity.
But do you know where the term – carat – actually originated from?
To set the record straight, the term carat actually refers to the carob tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region and has been in cultivation there for at least 4,000 years.
Said to be planted by ancient Greeks, it’s also believed that Prophet Mohammed’s army ate its fruit for sustenance while the Jewish sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is said to have survived on it for 24 years! Some locals also claim that the pods of this tree are in reality the locusts referred to in the New Testament by John, the Baptist.
So what does all this information have to do with diamonds? Well, a lot, actually.
The carob seeds by themselves are quite inedible, but they were observed to have a very uniform size and weight – a quality which made them extremely useful to local traders. The seeds were, at the time, used to balance a scale when weighing precious gemstones, where the tiniest change in weight makes a difference to the value.
A higher number of seeds indicated a heavier and therefore a more valuable stone. Different countries had slightly different values for what number of seeds was equivalent to what value of gems, but the use of the seeds was consistent throughout the Middle East and Europe.
In areas of the world where carob was not as popular, grains of wheat or rice were used in similar ways to discern the weight of diamonds
In 1907, the Fourth General Conference on Weights and Measures adopted the Metric Carat as the official measurement for gemstone weights. Today it is universally accepted. One Metric Carat is one fifth of a gram, which is 0.2grams – which is roughly the weight of a paper clip!
Two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different costs based on other factors (such as cut, color and clarity). In understanding the importance of carat weight, know thy partner!
If the recipient’s heart is set on a particular size of diamond, then carat weight will probably be the most important factor in your search until the desired size is attained. At that point, other criteria will take on importance.
Most women will tell you the carat weight and shape of their ideal diamond, and most men will tell you the price!
As the carat size of a diamond increases, the diamond’s price increases at an increasing rate. Why?
Because the larger the diamond, the more rare it is. Fewer than one in one million mined rough stones are large enough to produce a finished 1 carat diamond.
So, as the carat weight increases, you will typically pay more not only in total, but on a price-per-carat basis as well.