Just what is a “carat” anyway?

So we all know that we want more of them when determining the size of our diamonds, but what exactly is a carat, just what does it mean?  The English word carat made it’s appearance in the mid 15th century and comes from the Italian word carato, a word they took from the Greek keration (diminutive of keras meaning horn) or possibly the Arabic qirat,  Simply said, carat means carob seed or small horn literally.

Carob seeds?!?!  Now what in the world do carob seeds have to do with diamonds…well nothing really.  But, way back in the day, carob seeds were used as a measure of weight, often when weighing gold (yes, related to gold karats which is a whole other story but to be told at a later date!).  It was once thought that there was no variation in the weight from one carob seed to the next and so it was deemed a reliable unit to measure by.

We have since wizened up to the carob seed theory, and at the 4th General Conference on Weights and Measures (that sounds like a really fun party…yawn) the word carat was now to be used for measuring the weight of diamonds.  Now when I think about diamonds in carats, I am considering the stone’s size, but it is actually the weight, the measurement of the mass of the stone in question.  And just how exactly do we figure this magical number?  One carat is equal to 200mgs.  For us non-metric folks, that is 0.2g = 0.007055 ozs.

In terms of diamonds, a paragon is a flawless 100 carat stone…how wouldya like to wear that beauty!?!? 

Today we measure our diamonds, gemstones and pearls in carats and leave the carob seeds for grinding into that cocoa like stuff we coat raisins and nuts in.