What is diamond clarity and how does it affect diamond price? Read our guide to find out.
Diamond clarity is one of the 4Cs that you should know about diamonds. Understanding this important diamond feature is crucial if you want to get value for your money when buying a gemstone.
In this guide, we’ll talk about:
- What is meant by diamond clarity
- How diamond clarity affects the price
- Types of inclusions found in diamonds
- Diamond clarity scale (from SI2 to VS1)
- Buying advice when basing the decision on clarity
Diamond clarity can make a huge difference in the amount of money you pay for a single piece of jewelry. Unfortunately, you will not be able to see any difference between two diamond stones just by viewing them with your naked eyes. Almost all diamonds are eye-clean.
Continue reading to know how best to buy a diamond with clarity as your main concern.
No two diamonds are identical, this means that the clarity of a diamond can be subjective. Because of these, only a few gemologists normally reach a consensus of what clarity grade to be considered for which diamond. They will do this by analyzing the stone’s location, kind of inclusions, and visibility. The absence of inclusions or flaws determines the clarity grade of a diamond stone.
The clarity grade is by far the major determinant of diamond value and price. However, it is common to find diamonds of the same clarity grade having different price tags. Sometimes a diamond may have inclusions that make it more symmetrical and attractive. Such a diamond may cost more even if the clarity grade is low.
Since some inclusions are barely visible to the naked eye, some diamond sellers can purchase diamonds that have unique inclusions and resell to customers at lower prices and you may not even notice. Only trained jewelers or gemologists can notice diamond flaws. A regular customer will need a 10x magnifier to be able to see any defects. This guide will give you insights on how to tell the value of diamonds when it comes to inclusions, so keep reading.
What is Diamond Clarity?
Clarity is among the 4C’s used to gauge the quality of diamonds. It refers to the amount of inclusions and blemishes in a diamond and how they are spread out. Inclusions are formed inside the diamond while blemishes are on the surface. For every blemish or inclusion, there is a resulting bend in the light as it goes through the stone. Diamond clarity is a qualitative form of analysis: the fewer the inclusions and blemishes, the higher the clarity of a diamond. GIA has a scale of rating diamond clarity from the worst to the best and it is explained below.
From the poorest clarity to the best we have: Inclusions 2 (I2), Inclusions 1 (I1), Small Inclusions 2 (SI2), Small Inclusions 1 (SI1), Very Small Inclusions 2) VSI2), Very Small Inclusions 1 (VSI1), Very Very Small Inclusions 2 (VVSI2), Very Very Small Inclusions 1 (VVSI1), Internally Flawless (IF), Flawless (FL). We shall look at the details of each a bit later.
How Diamond Clarity Affects Price
There are too many clarity grades in the GIA system, you may get lost in the realm of trying to understand each of them. The price of diamonds is to a large extent determined by clarity. Few inclusions in a diamond mean the price will be high. Although sometimes the price is dependent on how rare the diamond is. According to the grading scale, Flawless diamonds are the priciest but may not be the best choice if you are looking for a diamond.
When shopping, it is difficult to notice the clear difference between a VS2 diamond and FL diamond with your naked eyes. You can only see the inclusions using a 10x microscope or you can have a trained jeweler to view the flaws for you. VS2 has few inclusions though and costs less than a Flawless diamond.
When looking at diamond prices with clarity at the back of your mind, the lower grades tend to be less costly and may not affect the price so much as you move up the grade. VS and S! Diamonds are particularly inexpensive. But if you decide to switch from VVS1 diamond to IF diamond, you will definitely notice the huge price difference. Some factors like table and depth percentages are worth considering in addition to clarity.
What are Inclusions?
Inclusions are tiny crystals that get trapped in the diamond during the formation process deep inside the mantle of the earth. It is rare to find flawless diamonds as the earth’s inner environment has many things.
These crystals get trapped inside the diamond as it continues growing thereby interfering with its atomic structure. The structure changes making the diamond acquire different shapes. Some inclusions are too minute to be seen just by the normal eyes. If you are not trained to view diamonds, VS1 grade and SI2 grade look identical.
Types of Diamond Inclusions
Crystals take a variety of forms when trapped inside a diamond. Here are the common types of inclusions found in diamonds.
BeardingAfter a diamond is cut, you may notice some white lines formed around the belt of the stone. This is what gemologists call bearding and they make the diamond appear cloudy. Polishing becomes handy to remove these lines.
Graining is when lines are formed around the diamond because of some sort of interference with the natural growth rate. The lines can look colorless or white, making the diamond look obscure.
Inclusions are also known to cause cavities in diamonds. The crack may be colorless or assume the crystal’s color. If the inclusion is orange, the void becomes more obvious even without a magnifier.
A feather is a chip found in the diamond crystal. This crack can affect the diamond structure depending on its location. Most stones that chip easily normally have feather inclusions.
Changes in the environment can cause the diamond to stop growing for some time. It is this break that results in crystal breaks known as wisps. When the conditions are back to normal, the diamond continues to grow. The final mined diamond stone will appear hazy at the points where the diamond stopped or started growing.
Pinpoint and Needle
During diamond formation, a trace mineral may be trapped in the stone. The exact point where the mineral was trapped is known as a pinpoint. Needles look a little different. The mineral looks like it was stretched when the crystal was growing. Pinpoints and needles do not have huge impacts on diamond appearance.
Diamond Clarity Scale
As you already know, the price of a diamond is highly determined by the level of clarity. To distinguish one clarity level from the other, GIA came up with the diamond clarity scale. There are 8 major grades in this scale from Flawless down to Included. Here is a simple definition of the GIA’s diamond clarity scale.
As the name goes, Flawless diamonds are free from any crystals even under a 10x microscope. It is very rare to find such a diamond in jewelry shops. They are commonly sold at auction in houses.
Internally Flawless (IF)
IF diamonds have zero internal crystals but a few blemishes on the surface. However, these blemishes can only be seen under magnification. You will find this kind of diamond to be the highest quality in most jewelry shops although they too are not very common.
Very Very Slightly Included 1st Degree (VVS1)
VVS1 diamonds are likely to have inclusions but will be rarely seen even by an experienced gemologist. The only way to see these inclusions is by viewing the diamond under 20x magnifier only.
Very Very Slightly Included 2nd Degree (VVS2)
VVS2 are different from VVS1 because of their shape, quantity, and type. These crystals can also not be noticed with a 10x magnifier.
Very Slightly Included 1st Degree (VS1)
Inclusions in diamonds in this grade remain invisible with the eye. Gemologists also find it hard to see them with a 10x magnifier.
Very Slightly Included 2nd Degree (VS2)
This clarity grade allows some types of inclusions to be seen under the 10x microscope but remain invisible to the unaided eye.
Slightly Included 1st Degree (SI1)
In this grade, the inclusions are very much visible with a 10x microscope. More than half of the SI1 diamonds may have inclusions that are not easily seen. It is important to look for eye-clean diamonds if you wish to get diamonds in this category.
Slightly Included 2nd Degree (SI2)
This diamond grade has a low price hence the reason you will not find them in most jewelry shops. The inclusions are very visible even to the naked eye. If you get emerald or Asscher cut diamonds in this grade, you will see the inclusions more clearly.
Inclusions 1st Degree (I1)
This is not the best clarity grade for jewelry. The inclusions are very conspicuous and you can see them with bare eyes even with brilliant cuts.
Inclusions 2nd Degree (I2)
This is the lowest quality of diamonds as they have highly visible crystals. These inclusions are sometimes known to interfere with the brilliance and sparkle properties of diamonds. You will get diamonds in this grade at a very low price. Jewelers avoid using this clarity of diamonds for making valuable jewelry.
Our Diamond Clarity Recommendation
As already established, clarity plays a major role in the beauty and value of a diamond stone. If you prefer to buy diamonds online, stores like Blue Nile and James Allen are the best. You will get at least a 10x magnification of videos or photos of the diamonds you wish to buy. If buying elsewhere, you may need a trained gemologist to help you with viewing diamonds.
Just like any other investment, you need to consider the resale option of diamonds. Pick a diamond that has minimum inclusions that will not affect the resale price if you wish to resell or trade-in.