Explaining Diamond Clarity

D iamonds are products of nature resulting from exposure of carbon found deep under the ground to tremendous heat and pressure. This natural process can give rise to diamonds having some kind of imperfections in them. While the diamond is forming under the ground, sometimes small crystals can become trapped in it. Sometimes as a crystal grows, it can develop irregularities in its atomic structure.

The clarity of a diamond is an assessment of the imperfections observed in a diamond both within and on the surface of the stone. The imperfections on the surface are called blemishes while those observed within are called inclusions. Often, the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye and so do not affect the beauty of the stone.

These inclusions are also termed the internal characteristics of the diamond. They give the stone it's natural distinctive character.

The Diamond Clarity Grading

This is a system for assessing diamonds based on the number, size, relief, nature and position of these characteristics, and how the stone's overall appearance is influenced by these factors.

While it is true that no diamond is perfectly pure, however, the closer the grade comes to perfection, the higher its value.

Clarity Grading

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) established a grading system comprising six (6) categories having a total of eleven (11) clarity grades.

Flawless (FL)

No inclusions and no blemishes are visible to a skilled grader under 10x magnification. FL clarity diamonds are extremely rare because it is almost impossible to find a flawless diamond.Less than 1% of all diamonds are FL clarity.

Internally Flawless (IF)

No inclusions visible under 10x magnification.

Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)

Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.

Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)

Here, inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor.

Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)

Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification.

Included (I1, I2, and I3)

Here, inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

How Diamond Shape Affects Clarity

Some diamond shapes like Emerald and Asscher-shaped diamonds require a higher clarity grade than others. This is because these shapes are designed with rectangular facets (also known as 'steps') that emphasize transparency and make it possible to see deep down into the diamond. This quality unfortunately, can make inclusions more visible. A clarity grade of VS1 or better is advised for these diamond shapes so as to ensure that the inclusions will not be easily visible.

How Diamond Size Affects Clarity

As the size of the stone increases, the size of the facets (the multiple mirror-like surfaces on the diamond) become greater and more apparent. This can make inclusions more visible. As such, it becomes necessary to opt for a higher clarity grade as the size of your diamond increases.

Examples of Diamond Inclusions

Diamond Inclusions can appear in the following forms: Clouds, Feathers, Crystals or minerals, Knots, Cavities, Cleavage and Internal graining.

Some examples of Blemishes are: Polish lines, Scratches, Nicks, Pits, Chips, Breaks, Dark or light spots, etc.

In making your choice of diamonds, it is advisable to go for a diamond with inclusions that can’t be readily seen through the crown without magnification (also called eye clean diamonds). An example is a diamond with an SI or VS clarity grade. You won't have to break the bank to purchase such, and they look similar to the higher-grade diamonds.