Clarity is one of the famous 4 C’s that are used to grade the quality of Diamond and is an important consideration when you are looking to buy a Diamond but what is Diamond Clarity and more importantly, what do you need to know?
Well, that is what I’m going to answer in this post as I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the Clarity of Diamonds as a qualified Gemologist and Diamond Grader, so let’s get started…
What Is Diamond Clarity?
Diamond Clarity is how free from inclusions and blemishes a stone is (some people may refer to clarity as how ‘clean’ the Diamond is) and a Diamonds clarity is graded, with Diamonds that have less inclusions and blemishes the Diamonds being given a higher clarity grade.
The Diamond Clarity grading scale developed by the GIA in the early 20th century is by far the most commonly used around the world and ranges from Flawless to Included and I will cover this in much more detail below.
Diamond Clarity Chart
Now we know what Diamond Clarity is, let’s take a look at the different grades of clarity:
This is the highest clarity grade that a Diamond can have and in order to achieve this grade, the Diamond must have no inclusions or blemishes and as this is the highest clarity grade, Flawless Diamonds attract a premium.
Internally Flawless (IF)
The second highest clarity grade is Internally Flawless and a Diamond with this grade will have no inclusions but have a small blemish on the surface of the stone.
VVS (Very Very Slightly Included)
VVS Diamonds have very very small inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see when using 10x magnification, VVS is the highest clarity grade to have two subcategories, which are VVS1 and VVS2.
VS (Very Slightly Included)
VS Diamonds have small inclusions that are somewhat difficult for a skilled grader to see when using 10x magnification and as with VVS Diamonds, there are two subcategories, which are VS1 and VS2.
SI (Slightly Included)
SI Diamonds have inclusions that are noticeable under 10x magnification and at the lower end of the scale, they may even be noticeable with the naked eye, once again SI is broken down into two subcategories, which are SI1 and SI2.
Some labs also do have an SI3 grade but this isn’t recognized by the GIA and I would avoid going for one of these as they are low quality Diamonds.
I Clarity Diamonds are the lowest clarity grade and in my opinion, are best avoided as the inclusions are not only obvious under 10x magnification but in many cases can easily be seen with the naked eye.
And while these inclusions can have a noticeable impact on the beauty of the Diamond, they may have significant fractures or cleavage planes, which can have affect the durability of the Diamond, meaning that it is more likely to break.
It is also the only Clarity grade to have three subcategories and I Clarity Diamonds are commonly used in mass-produced jewelry due to their lower price points.
What Is The Difference Between 1 and 2 Clarity Grades?
A common follow-up question is what is the difference between a 1 and 2 clarity grade?
A lot of people say that for example a Diamond with VS1 clarity will have fewer inclusions than a VS2 but this isn’t always the case.
In most cases, it is how visible the inclusions are within the stone as and while this isn’t stated by the GIA, from my own experience of grading Diamonds and checking Diamonds against reports:
- The inclusions in a Diamond with a 1 clarity are more likely to be under the crown facets than under the table, which makes them more difficult to spot
- The inclusions in a Diamond with a 2 clarity are more likely to be under the table, which makes them more noticeable
This isn’t so much the case with I Clarity Diamonds as the impact on durability is also factored in and you can have an I1 clarity Diamond that looks worse than an I2 but the I2 may have a cleavage plane that has a big impact on the durability of that Diamond.
Diamond Clarity Buying Tips
When people are looking to buy a Diamond, they obviously try and buy the best Diamond they can for their budget but clarity is the one of the 4 C’s where you don’t need to buy a Diamond with the very best clarity.
This is because as a consumer looking at the Diamond with your naked eye, 99% of the time you won’t be able to tell the difference between a Flawless Diamond and a VS1 Diamond as the inclusions in the VS1 are going to be that small, that it takes a trained gemologist to spot them using 10x magnification.
And unless you are doing it just to brag to your friends and family or just want a Flawless Diamond, there is no point paying a premium to buy a VVS Diamond over a VS Diamond when you won’t be able to see the difference, instead, you would be better off spending that money to have a Diamond with better color and cut quality.
How Are Diamonds Clarity Graded?
Now that we know what all the clarity grades are, I thought it might be helpful to explain how Diamonds are actually graded for their clarity and fortunately, there is a set of standards for doing this, which are:
- Diamonds are graded by qualified gemologists who have had specialist training on how to grade Diamonds, such as the GIA’s Graduate Gemologist program or the Gem-A’s Diamond Diploma (which is what I have)
- All Diamonds are to be graded using 10x magnification, this can either be a jewelers loupe or a microscope
- The Diamond should be held in tweezers that have a neutral color, such as black or grey and not held in fingers
- Diamonds should be graded using standard viewing environment, which is usually a darkened room and the stone illuminated by the light from a daylight lamp or microscope
- The Diamond should be systematically examined, with inclusions more noticeable through the top of the stone having a greater impact on the clarity grade
This allows for a uniform approach to Diamond grading but how are the Diamonds assigned a grade? Well, there are a number of factors that the grader will look at and consider when it comes to giving the Diamond a clarity grade, it is determined by the five following factors:
- Size – this is the size of the inclusion, with larger inclusions have a greater impact than smaller ones
- Nature – this is basically the type of inclusion and the more noticeable an inclusion, the bigger the impact on the clarity grade, for example a dark crystal inclusion is more noticeable than a faint cloud (lots of small inclusions)
- Position – as I mentioned earlier, the position of the inclusion will impact its clarity, with more central inclusions often having a lower grade
- Color or relief – very light or dark inclusions will have a bigger impact on the clarity grade than ones that are more similar in appearance to that of the Diamond
- Quantity – generally, the more inclusions that a Diamond has, the lower the clarity grade
And it is a combination of these factors that will determine the clarity grade that is assigned to the Diamond and at large labs such as the GIA, a Diamond will often be graded by multiple people and none of the graders will know what grade someone else has given the Diamond, which stops them from being influenced by it.
If the Diamond is going to have a report issued, the graders will also plot what and where the inclusions are.
Only loose Diamonds can be accurately graded for their clarity, if the Diamond is set in a piece of jewelry, then it will be given an estimated clarity grade and this will only be a a broad grade, such as VS or SI as the grader can’t see enough of the stone to give a more precise grade and a Flawless grade can’t be given to a Diamond that is in a piece of jewelry for the same reasons.
Diamond Clarity is an important thing to consider when buying a Diamond as the more inclusions that a Diamond has, the more noticeable they are going to be and this not only affects the beauty of the Diamond but can also impact on durability.
And I hope that this post has given you the answers to your questions about Diamond Clarity as I’ve covered:
- What Diamond Clarity is
- The different Diamond Clarity grades
- How Diamonds are Clarity graded
With some tips to help you buy the perfect Diamond thrown in along the way.