Finding the perfect diamond engagement ring is both an art and a science. The Gemological Institute of America established the global standard for grading diamonds, which determines value by judging color, cut, carat and clarity. You don’t have to be a fine jewelry expert to appreciate the clarity of a diamond, but there is much more to the value and quality of diamond than what the naked eye can see. Diamond clarity helps appraisers and consumers know what is happening below the surface.
What Is Diamond Clarity?
Although some diamonds may look perfectly clear and flawless to the naked eye, virtually all natural diamonds contain imperfections below the surface. A diamond’s clarity refers to the natural imperfections in the crystal’s structure. Referred to as inclusions to a professional gemologist, these imperfections are the natural result of the stone’s exposure to the extreme conditions below the earth’s surface that brings them to life. If you’ve ever heard of the term “a diamond in the rough” and wondered where it came from, it’s a tribute to the stone’s origin story, and how the work of a jeweler can turn an imperfect rock into a beautiful and unique piece of jewelry.
How Diamond Clarity Affects Quality
According to the GIA, the clarity of diamonds is evaluated on a grading system called the GIA Diamond Clarity Scale. Comprised of 11 grades, the GIA Diamond Clarity Scale separates diamonds into the following categories:
- Flawless (FL) – No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF) – No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) – Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) – Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) – Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and diamonds in this classification have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.
How does the GIA determine the category the diamond falls under you ask?
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 the clarity grade with ease. While many people may choose to purchase a diamond with a lower clarity classification, instead focusing on the carat weight, cut and color, we do not recommend choosing a diamond with a classification lower than an SI2. Anything lower will have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. And once you can see those inclusions, no matter how slight, that is all you can see.
What is the difference between a GIA I1 and EGL S12?
It is not uncommon for people looking to save a little money to consider purchasing an EGL certified diamond. But this is a BIG mistake. Unlike the GIA, who have spent decades setting the standard for diamond classification, the EGL does not require stones to meet the same strict criteria. Which means an EGL SI1 diamond in one store could really be an SI2 in another store, or even and I1, I2, or even I3. In addition, many EGL diamonds are never placed under 10x magnification and only graded after being deemed “eye clean”.
Before you buy insist that the jeweler show you the diamond’s inclusions through the aid of a loop or microscope. Without the aid of a magnifying device, it is nearly impossible to see every inclusion. As you examine the stone make note of each inclusion, where they are, how large they are, do they affect the stone’s brilliance, etc. Then examine the stone with your own naked eye. Can you still see the inclusions? If not, this may be the diamond for you.
What clarity do you recommend?
At The Diamond Reserve, we recommend not going below an SI2 when it comes to picking a diamond for your engagement ring. But depending on the cut, the clarity classification recommendation can change too. For example, for Emerald and Asscher cuts we recommend choosing a diamond with a score of VS2 or higher.
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 for you.