A diamond’s clarity refers to the presence of identifying characteristics on and within the diamond. While most of these clarity characteristics are inherent qualities of the rough diamond and have been present since the earliest stages of the diamond crystal’s growth below ground, a few clarity flaws are actually a result of the harsh stress that a diamond undergoes during the cutting process itself.
The process of the growth and creation of a diamond inside the earth does not occur evenly, but in several phases. In each phase, the conditions such as temperature, pressure and cooling are not the same and do not always remain constant. As a result, most diamonds contain what are called inclusions, internal features caused by the constantly changing conditions during different phases of the diamond’s creation. These inclusions come in many forms including cloud-like features, fracture or tension cracks or even enclosed minerals that were present during the growth process of the diamond.
Diamonds are graded for clarity under 10x loupe magnification. Clarity grades range from Internally Flawless, diamonds which are completely free of blemishes and inclusions even under 10x magnification, to Included 3, diamonds which possess large, heavy blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.
What Effect Does Clarity Have on Diamonds?
A diamond’s clarity grade has an impact on the diamond’s value, not on the unmagnified appearance of the diamond. Diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are more highly valued than those with a lower clarity grade because they are very rare.
While Flawless diamonds are the rarest, a diamond does not have to be flawless to be beautiful. Diamonds with clarity grades of VVS and VS are excellent choices for both value and appearance. More affordable are diamonds which gemologists call “eye-clean” – diamonds with no inclusions visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are graded SI1 and SI2 and the inclusions are not visible without the aid of a 10X jewellers loupe.
Contrary to popular belief, higher clarity does not always mean more beautiful. If the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, a higher clarity does not really improve the appearance of a diamond but rather the rarity and price. A higher clarity is more desirable and valuable, but knowing that you have selected the right clarity for the right reasons is most important. We recommend a clarity of SI2 or better.
What Are Diamond Inclusions?
There are many different types of inclusions that are used to grade the clarity of a diamond. The more common inclusions are as follows:
Pinpoint: A very small white dot on the surface of the stone. By far, the most common flaw
Carbons: A very small black dot on the surface of the stone. Less common than pinpoints
Feathers: Small cracks within the stone, similar in look to broken glass. Small internal feathers are harmless (other than lowering the clarity rating of the diamond), but large feathers can become a problem because the crack can grow as the diamond ages
Clouds: Hazy areas within the diamond, actually made up of many small crystals that are impossible to see individually
Crystal Growth: A small crystalline growth within the diamond. Looks like a small diamond within the big diamond.
Almost all diamonds contain inclusions. In addition to internal inclusions, surface irregularities are referred to as blemishes. These two categories of imperfections-inclusions (internal) and blemishes (external)-make up clarity.
The fewer the imperfections, the rarer and more valuable the diamond. Many inclusions are not discernable to the naked eye and require magnification to become apparent.
Clarity is graded using a very precise and complex method of evaluating the size, location, and visibility of inclusions. Diamond inclusions are not visible to the average naked eye until the I1-I3 clarities. Below is the technical clarity scale with a description of each term.
What are Diamond Clarity Grades?
The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has designated that clarity of diamonds is graded under the following guidelines:
Diamond free from internal and external flaws under 10X magnification.
Absolutely free from internal faults under 10X magnification. May contain external features that should be so small that they can easily be removed by polishing.
Very Very Slightly Included
Very, very small inclusions in the stone, very difficult to recognize under 10X magnification. These inclusions can not be in the field of the table.
Very, very small inclusions anywhere in the stone, only smallest external defects allowed.
Very Slightly Included
Only the smallest inclusions are allowable in the field of the table and only small faults elsewhere in the stone.
Very small internal faults. Small external defects.
Small internal faults, not visible to the naked eye.
Small, easily seen inclusions under magnification in the table, but still not visible to the naked eye.
Inclusions easily seen under magnification, but difficult to see with the naked eye. Inclusions do not influence brilliance.
Large and numerous inclusions, just barely visible to the naked eye through the crown. Inclusions slightly diminish brilliance.
Large and numerous inclusions, easily visible to the naked eye, deminishing brilliance.