What Jewelers Get Wrong About the 4Cs

For many couples, choosing an engagement ring can feel like a daunting task, especially now with so many diamond options available to consumers. For years, one of the most common tactics jewelers have used to help build consumers’ confidence is through teaching them about the 4Cs – cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.

As a sales tool, the 4Cs can be a powerful construct that helps prove a jewelry salesperson’s knowledge, establishes trust, and allows the consumer to make an informed decision when picking out a diamond.

However, when it comes to marketing diamonds, the 4Cs kinda suck.

Why the 4Cs Don’t Work in Marketing

If you wanted to introduce a person to the game of baseball, you might start by talking about the sport’s heritage, the fun of seeing a grand slam, different types of pitches, the home team’s record, or likely show videos of the sport’s best players.

You wouldn’t immediately dive into the more technical aspects like RBIs, run differentials, ERAs, and WHIPs. While those are important to understand, it’s information overload for someone unfamiliar with baseball.

Similarly, the vast majority of consumers are unfamiliar with the intricacies of diamonds. Using the 4Cs might seem like a natural way to educate people, but trying to get them to understand what differentiates a VS1 and a VS2 diamond, or the difference between an E or G color can be an overwhelming starting point.

Instead of the 4Cs, Use the 3Ss

Loose Diamonds in Light

At Stern, we developed a new, more effective approach for marketing diamonds. Instead of focusing on the 4Cs – cut, color, clarity, and carat weight – we focus on the 3Ss – shape, sparkle, and size.

The 3Ss isn’t just a clever gimmick. It directly reflects three aspects of diamonds that the uneducated consumer identifies with and cares most about and is based on the findings from dozens of focus groups and thousands of surveys.


Consumers tend to care about the shape of a diamond more than any other characteristic. For instance, if a consumer has their heart set on an emerald cut diamond, they aren’t going to want to consider a round stone – no matter how exceptional its clarity or color.

Focusing on shape allows marketers to more easily identify trends and remarket to potential consumers with diamonds and engagement rings that they are actually interested in.


If you accompany a consumer into a Tiffany’s and then into a Zales but limit them to only look at round 1ct solitaire diamond engagement rings, here is what typically happens; the consumer will look at the Tiffany engagement rings in the case and often remark, “It’s so pretty!” or, “Look at how it sparkles!” Then, at Zales, they will say, “It’s pretty, but it doesn’t sparkle the way Tiffany’s diamonds do.”

We’ve seen this happen again and again with consumers touring different jewelry stores. And it is due to one key factor; Tiffany’s invests more time and money in making sure the case lighting and case glass accentuate the sparkle of their diamonds than does Zales.

(Authors note – in no way are we disparaging the quality of Zales diamond engagement rings. They have a beautiful selection of engagement rings.)

Sparkle is incredibly important. It’s what makes a diamond extra special and helps it get noticed. On the other hand, when promoting sparkle, it’s also important to not overuse industry-centric jargon like fire, brightness, and scintillation. Similar to the 4Cs, these words don’t resonate with uneducated diamond shoppers, because they don’t know what they mean.


When considering the size of a given diamond, think beyond carat weight. Most consumers have some general idea of the carat weight they’d ideally like to have. But carat weight is often the most negotiable aspect when purchasing a diamond because it directly correlates to price.

Part of any size or carat weight discussion should include how the diamonds you are showing sit on a finger. Does it elongate the finger? Does the diamond sit high on the setting? Are there secondary diamonds that add accents and provide the ring with larger proportions?

The 4th S – Style

When marketing not just the diamond, but the engagement ring itself, an essential fourth “S” needs to be addressed–style. Style is often the most important factor for an engagement ring after a shape is chosen. The style of the engagement ring is a reflection of the taste of both the recipient and the purchaser. Do they prefer a classic look? Contemporary? Which metal? All are part of a possible consideration set that should be addressed.

Evolved Diamond Marketing

Although it has become an industry standard, the traditional 4Cs framework for diamond marketing presents significant limitations in effectively engaging new consumers who aren’t educated buyers.

Instead, shifting focus to the 3Ss – shape, sparkle, and size – allows marketers to better motivate consumers by addressing their preferences, priorities, and comfort levels. Additionally, integrating style as the fourth “S” enriches the engagement ring buying experience, resulting in a personalized, meaningful ring and a truly satisfied consumer.

All ideal for encouraging repeat business and developing customers for life.

If you’d like to learn more about Stern’s storied history building and growing jewelry brands, click here: Jewelry’s Advertising Agency.