Did you know that the majority of polished diamonds have some sort of imperfections found in them? In fact, flawless diamonds are so rare that many professionals in the trade will never even see one in their lifetime.
In a grading report, the clarity grade is established based on the collective effect of blemishes and inclusions (clarity characteristics) on the diamond. The less imperfections a diamond has, the higher the clarity grade it receives.
I personally rank clarity as the least important quality amongst the 4Cs. Cut and carat are the 2 foremost criteria since they are 2 aspects of diamonds that are most readily observable to a normal viewer. On the contrary, a person looking at an engagement ring without a loupe would be hard pressed to discern any differences between a VVS1 diamond and a VS2 diamond.
The truth of the matter is, unless a diamond is severely included, clarity grades do not have much bearing on the stone’s outward appearance. From a practical viewpoint, why should you pay more for a feature that can’t be “seen”?
When it comes to clarity, there are basically two different camps of mindset that consumers have. The first group of people belongs to those who are looking for value buys and don’t mind shopping for diamonds within the slightly included ranges. The other group of people falls into the category who will settle for nothing less than an internally flawless (perfect) diamond.
In both groups of consumers, I often come across the same misconceptions via emails that my readers have sent me. Let me start with the latter group first. First time shoppers with no experience are usually the ones who select stones way high up in the clarity scale. This is due to a false belief that a diamond will lesser inclusions will be more beautiful and that inclusions are a bad thing.
Well, let me set the record straight and proclaim cut is KING. Not clarity, not color. Unless your reasons for getting an internally flawless diamonds are for symbolism purposes, you are simply wasting your money with high clarity grades.
The presence of inclusions in diamonds will make them more reasonably priced than their rare and expensive FL or IF (flawless or internally flawless) counterparts. Besides lower prices, there is another added benefit of having inclusions.
Did you know that inclusions are like fingerprints? They make each diamond unique and special. Since no two diamonds are alike in terms of their inclusion types and placement, this knowledge can help you identify your diamond should you ever need to leave it at a jeweler for repairs or other reworks.
Inclusions (circled in red) can help you identify your diamond.
Most diamonds with GIA clarity grades of VS2 and above don’t have flaws that are visible to the unaided eye (eye-clean). That means that you will only be able to notice inclusions with the aid of magnification devices and not in the typical everyday environment.
If you can’t see the inclusions with your naked eyes, do you really need to pay more for something you cannot appreciate? Give some thoughts to this question because only you can truly answer it yourself.
Now, let’s touch on the other group of people who like shopping for diamonds at lower clarity grades. There is a misconception that SI diamonds are always eyeclean because people heard of this misinformation from their jewelers or via other online sources.
So, let me set the line straight and purge this misinformation. Slight included (SI1-SI2) diamonds aren’t always eyeclean. If your local store preaches that they are, it’s time to change your jeweler to someone who is more competent. The fact is, even VS2 diamonds may not be good enough to guarantee eye-cleanliness especially if you are buying large diamonds (> 1.50 carats).
When you are buying a diamond with VS2, SI1 or SI2 clarity, it is imperative that you understand what you are getting yourself into. On a fundamental level, clarity is graded based on 5 factors: size, types, location, color and amount of inclusions present in the stone.
Do you know that 2 stones with the SAME GIA clarity grade of SI2 can look totally different in terms of their inclusions?
Do you know that there are SI2 diamonds that are actually in the higher band of the grade? This gets them very close to an SI1 grading. Likewise, an SI2 diamond could also be at the lower band of the grade which gets them very close to being an I1.
The most important point about clarity is that every diamond is different and NOT all the inclusions are the same. Even if you see 2 feathers or crystals on a report, one could be dark and obvious while the other could be transparent and well hidden. You should always double check details before committing to a purchase.
Based on clarity alone, which of the above would you choose?
Sometimes, a diamond with clarity of SI1 clarity might not be better looking than one with SI2 clarity. It depends on the nature and location of the inclusions. A big speck of inclusion smack right at middle of the table facet of a SI1 clarity diamond is definitely less desirable than one with graded with SI2 that has inclusions spread unnoticeably across the entire stone.
If you are making a purchase from a brick and mortar store, always request the jeweler to show you the inclusions under a microscope (preferably) or a loupe regardless of what the lab report says. If he/she is unwilling to let you examine the diamond under magnification, chances are, the jeweler is hiding something from you. You need to be smart and walk away.
A picture tells a thousand words, this is why I would always recommend my friends and readers to start their online search at sites that allow you to view the prospective diamonds with high resolution videos or magnified photographs.
Of course, if you still want to make a purchase with other online dealers that haven’t incorporated such technologies yet, be sure to request a photograph/video of the diamond. If photographs are unavailable and you want to take the risk to buy blind, stick to clarity grades of VS2 or better and pray that you don’t regret the decision.
Here’s something else you need to take note of: Very often, you will see advertisements plastered in malls or magazines that look super enticing. For example, you might see a 1.00 carat ring retailing for unbelievable prices of $499 or massive clear-out sales with prices slashed by more than 80%.
These are exactly the type of advertisements you need to be wary off as they often mislead consumers looking for cheap buys. You get what you pay for and this is especially true when it comes to diamonds.
What usually goes on in such sales is that many of these “unwanted” or “too good to be true” jewelry are diamonds that lie within the I1-I3 clarity ranges. It’s either that or there are some other hidden problems like serious misrepresentation of the stones. The chances are, you WILL see ugly inclusions standing out like a sore thumb in such sales.
My advice is to STAY AWAY and don’t waste your money on such purchases.
or like this…
Be smart. When things are too good to be true, they probably are.
Besides clarity, many people get obsessed with a diamond’s color unnecessarily. Continue reading to find out the truth about diamond color and learn insights that most jewelers would never tell you…