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Carat (ct)
The metric carat is the standard unit of weight for diamonds and most other gemstones and pearls. It is not a measure of size. However, because of the fairly standard sizes and cuts of stones, measuring the dimension of a stone will give its approximate weight.

Size is measured in millimeters. Weight is measured in milligrams as well as other types of units. For example:

1ct = 200 milligrams = .20 grams = 100 points = 3.09 grains

Because some precious gems are denser than others, actual physical size will not be the same per carat weight. For example, a 1 ct sapphire is smaller in size than a 1 ct diamond because it has more mass.

Based on: Jewelry & Gems, The Buying Guide

Even though the Carat of a gemstone has the biggest impact on its price, Clarity, Color, and Cut also determine its worth. If you are buying a diamond ring, remember size is not the only important thing. A large ring may be inferior and flawed, or have low brilliance or "bling" because it is cut poorly. The size of your finger will also be important. A 1/2 carat ring will appear larger on a small hand.

Carat vs Karat
The history of these terms goes back to ancient times. Also confusing is the fact that at one time, and still in parts of the world, the two spellings are used interchangeably. Traders in past centuries used commonly available natural items to try to standadize weighing precious materials and their componants. Grains of wheat gave birth to the term "grain", and the lowly seed of the locust or carob tree provided a relatively uniform measure called "carat weight". In the beginning of the twentieth century an exact metric carat was adopted and spread across the globe. Today, in the US and Canada, karat is used to represent the purity of gold and carat is reserved for the weight of gemstones and pearls. Go here to learn more about karats.

Sources and Resources:
About Carats and Cost -
About Carats, Pricing and Reports - United Geologists Laboratory

Carat Weight and Its History -

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