Finding the perfect diamond is both an art and a science. Diamond clarity refers to the presence (or absence) of imperfections on and within a diamond. These imperfections are called inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes (external flaws), and help appraisers and consumers know what’s happening below the surface of a stone. You don’t have to be a fine jewelry expert to appreciate the clarity of a diamond, but there’s much more to the value and quality of a diamond than what the naked eye can see.
What Is Diamond Clarity?
Although a diamond may look perfectly clear and flawless to the unaided eye, virtually all natural diamonds contain imperfections in their crystal’s structure which are the result of the stone’s exposure to extreme conditions below the earth’s surface. If you’ve ever heard the term “a diamond in the rough” and wondered where it came from, it’s a tribute to the diamonds’s origin story, and how the work of a jeweler can turn an imperfect rock into a beautiful and unique piece of jewelry.
Diamond clarity refers to the professional assessment of small imperfections on the surface (blemishes) and internally (inclusions). The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) established the global standard for grading diamonds, which determines their value by judging the “Four C’s”, their color, cut, carat and clarity. By considering the nature, size, position, color or relief and the quantity of the clarity characteristics that are visible under 10x magnification, the GIA can determine a diamond’s clarity grade..
The diamond clarity grading scale includes several grades, which from highest to lowest are:
- Flawless (FL): No inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
- Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions visible under 10x magnification.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Inclusions that are difficult to see under 10x magnification.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): Minor inclusions that are somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification, yet are characterized as minor.
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): Inclusions that are noticeable under 10x magnification.
- Included (I1, I2, and I3): Inclusions and/or blemishes that are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.
Generally speaking, the fewer the inclusions and blemishes, the more valuable a diamond will be. It’s important to note that many inclusions and blemishes are microscopic and do not affect a diamond’s beauty to the naked eye. It’s always a good strategy to choose a diamond that has no visible inclusions and blemishes to the unaided eye and then consider other factors like the size and setting of the stone.
Is Diamond Clarity Important?
A diamond’s clarity is used to determine the quality and value of the gemstone, and its importance varies based on factors like individual preference and the purpose of the diamond. Some people prefer a flawless diamond because they appreciate the rarity and purity of such a gem, while others might be perfectly content with a diamond that has minor inclusions as long as they aren’t visible without magnification.
Some inclusions can be hidden beneath the setting in a piece of jewelry, while others could be located right in the center of the diamond. Similarly, larger inclusions are more visible than smaller ones, thus the type, size, color and position of inclusions affect how they’re viewed. Inclusions and blemishes can interfere with a diamond’s ability to scatter light which could potentially diminish the stone’s brilliance, so diamonds with fewer and smaller inclusions generally have a higher clarity grade and are often more brilliant.
For those on a budget, opting for a diamond with inclusions that aren’t visible can be a good way to get a larger or better-colored diamond without paying a premium for higher clarity. We recommend not going below an SI2 grade when it comes to picking a diamond for your engagement ring, as anything lower will have inclusions that are visible, and once you see those inclusions, no matter how slight, that is all you can see. Depending on the cut, the clarity classification recommendation can change, for example Emerald and Asscher cuts we recommend choosing a diamond with a score of VS2 or higher.
It’s essential for you to understand what clarity means, see the diamond (preferably under magnification), and decide how much clarity matters to you in context of other factors like size, color, cut, and budget. Contact one of our Denver-based diamond and fine jewelry experts by calling (720) 560-3548 for more information about diamond clarity and grading, and to find the perfect engagement ring and wedding set.