Did you know that diamond clarity is the most misunderstood factor when it comes to the 4Cs? In fact, most people assume that a high clarity grade is required for better sparkle and to avoid eye visible inclusions.
The truth is far from that.
In this section of the website, you will learn the technical aspects of what diamond clarity is and what it isn’t. I am also going to reveal insights on what to look for in a diamond and how you can save a lot of money by shopping smart.
Let’s jump right in!
When diamonds are created under extreme conditions, natural flaws are inevitable by-products of the formation process. Interestingly, a diamond’s inclusions work in a similar fashion like our fingerprints do. This means you can identify a diamond from another just by using its inclusions as a reference.
Diamond clarity is a qualitative assessment of the flaws present in a diamond.
Basically, the flaws can be classified into 2 types of categories depending on where they are found; blemishes (external flaws like scratches and chips) and inclusions (internal flaws like pinpoints and crystals).
Obviously, the lesser amount of flaws a diamond has, the higher the clarity grade and value it possesses.
A flawless diamond is one that doesn’t have any external blemishes or inclusions and is abbreviated as FL. On the other hand, the lowest clarity grade is abbreviated as I3 and it represents a severely included diamond that typically has ugly eye visible flaws.
Generally speaking, diamonds with VS2 grades or better are usually eye-clean (inclusions cannot be seen without the aid of a loupe). At lower carat sizes, stones within the SI1 and SI2 ranges are also eye-clean and can offer fantastic value for money.
However, it is also important to note that eye cleanliness is very subjective. Hence, each diamond in the SI ranges should be judged separately because of the different kinds of inclusions present in the stone.
Personally speaking, I don’t recommend buying stones below I1 clarity grades as they usually have inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye and/or may also pose durability issues for your engagement ring.
The grading process involves a skilled gemologist who examines the diamond under a 10X powered microscope. The diamond is subsequently classified into a clarity rating based on an assessment of its inclusions.
Listed below is a quick breakdown of what each individual ratings mean. For full details on any particular clarity ratings, feel free to click on the corresponding link to see real-life diamond examples (with videos and photos).
– FL (Flawless) – No inclusions or visible blemishes under 10× magnification.
– IF (Internally Flawless) (IF) – No inclusions. Minute blemishes are allowable (surface graining or details of polish) but barely visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
In a GIA grading report, all the flaws found in the diamond are collectively listed under in a section marked: “Clarity Characteristics“. Also, you might have come across a clarity plot that indicates the locations and types of inclusions found in the diamond.
In essence, the clarity plot functions as a map and you can see an example in the diagram below.
Typically, you will only find the diagram in full-fledged GIA reports for diamonds larger than 1.00 Carats. For diamonds smaller than 1.00 carats, the Dossier reports used will only offer a worded description of the clarity characteristics.
GIA Grading Report vs GIA Diamond Dossier Report
While an inclusion plot can be used for convenient stone identification, you need to know that it is not an accurate portrayal of the diamond’s actual real-life appearance. This is because the inclusions are mapped in a 2D manner and it doesn’t tell you how the inclusions look like or how they can affect the diamond’s beauty.
In fact, a cluttered and scary looking plot may not turn out that to be that serious in real life. On the other hand, a clean looking plot of a low clarity grade diamond may actually pose more of a concern to its appearance. I will talk about these issues in more details on a later page.
Based on the number of questions I received from readers, I know that many consumers have difficulties in deciding on the best clarity grade for their purchase. There is also a misguided mindset that a higher clarity grade would guarantee a diamond that sparkles more.
However, does clarity really affects how brilliant or sparkly the stone will be? Is it mandatory to buy a high clarity diamond just so that you won’t see any flaws with your unaided eyes? Should you pay thousands more just for a better clarity grade?
I’ll reveal the answers on the next page. More importantly, I’m also going to show you which are the best clarity grades to buy and the underlying reasons why you shouldn’t be wasting your money on VVS or IF diamonds…