Diamond Clarity

In diamond grading, the types of flaws are categorized into blemishes (external flaws like scratches and chips) and inclusions (internal flaws like pinpoints and crystals). Collectively, they are classified under a single terminology called clarity characteristics. Obviously, the lesser amount of flaws a gemstone has, the higher the clarity grade and value it possesses.

Diamond Clarity Chart – Simple Diagrams For Visualization

diamond clarity chart

A flawless diamond is one that doesn’t have any external blemishes or inclusions and is abbreviated as FL. The lowest clarity grade represents a severely included diamond with huge eye visible flaws and is abbreviated as I3.

Generally speaking, diamonds with VS2 grades or better are usually eye-clean (inclusions cannot be seen without the aid of a loupe). Stones within the SI1 and SI2 ranges may be eye clean and offer good value for money. However, each individual diamond in the SI ranges must be judged separately and eye cleanliness is subjective to an individual’s eyesight and the kinds of inclusions present.

I usually don’t recommend stones below I1 clarity grades as they usually have inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye and may also pose durability issues.

What Do The Grades in the Chart Mean?

The grading process involves a skilled gemologist who examines the diamond under a 10X powered microscope and subsequently classified into its clarity rating based on its inclusions. Below is a quick breakdown of what each individual ratings mean.

We had also included real-life photographic examples for each of the clarity ratings. Feel free to click on the corresponding links for a detailed explanation and look at examples for yourself.

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

VVS1 & VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included) – Inclusions are extremely hard to be detected using 10× magnification.

VS1 & VS2 (Very Slightly Included) – Inclusions are fairly hard be detected using 10× magnification but generally do not impact the visual beauty of the diamond.

SI1 & SI2 (Slightly Included) – Inclusions are easily noticeable using 10× magnification and they are sometimes visible to the naked eye.

I1, I2, and I3 (Included) – Inclusions are very obvious using 10× magnification. Besides potential durability issues, they can also adversely impact the diamond’s transparency and brilliance.

A grading report can only map and grade the diamond’s inclusions. It doesn’t tell you exactly how the inclusions affect the diamond’s beauty. That’s why JamesAllen.com is making waves in the industry as they allow you to see and interact with diamonds using their revolutionary 360° videos.

How Inclusions Are Represented in a Grading Report

You might have come across a clarity plot that indicates the locations and types of inclusions found in the diamond. In essence, the plot functions like a map and you can see an example in the diagram below.

reference diagram of inclusion plot in a gia report

Typically, you will see the plot in full reports for diamonds larger than 1.00 Carats.
Dossier reports are usually used for diamonds smaller than 1.00 Carats.

While an inclusion plot can be used for convenient stone identification, you need to know that the plot is not an accurate portrayal of the diamond’s actual real-life appearance. Sometimes, a cluttered plot may not be that serious in real life. On the other hand, a clean looking plot may actually pose more of a concern. I will talk about this issue in details on a later page.

  • 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.

    Paul Gian
    No Two Diamonds Are Exactly Alike


    Clarity is One of the Most Misunderstood Factor in Diamond Buying

    inspection of gemstones

    Based on the amount of questions I receive frequently from readers, I know that many consumers have difficulties in deciding on a clarity grade for their stone. There is also a mindset that a higher clarity grade would always result in a diamond that sparkles more. However, does clarity really affects how brilliant or sparkly the stone will be? Do you always need to buy an internally flawless gemstone that is free from any inclusions?

    We’ll reveal the answers to you on the next page. More importantly, I will show you which are the best grades to buy and the underlying reasons why…

    Next Page >>

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    1. Adam-
      October 23, 2015 at 9:52 pm


      Really interesting info on here! I know you can’t give a clear cut (pun intended) answer without seeing them or know more..

      But – in your opinion – which is more important – carat size or colour?

      I’ve been sent a few options from Tiffany (girlfriend loves Tiffany, so I’m guessing overpriced lol)

      These are two I was looking at:

      1) 0.44 E VVS1 $3960.00 USD
      2) 0.52 I IF $4730.00

      I can’t decide whether the lower carat but ‘better’ colour E is a better idea than the slightly larger carat but poorer colour?

      (It’s an Emerald shaped diamond, by the way)

      Any help would be hugely appreciated!


    2. Paul Gian-
      October 24, 2015 at 1:19 am

      It really boils down to personal preference. An I colored emerald cut diamond may have a “tinge of yellowness” in it. Can you accept that? Is an internally flawless grade really necessary? If it isn’t why pay so much more for an aspect that you can’t appreciate with the naked eye.

    3. Jow-
      January 21, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Funny to read that yellowish colored diamonds [I] are cheaper but then on the other side I read that FANCY YELLOW diamond are so expensive.

    4. Jow-
      January 21, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Could you give comment about price range for GIA REPORT 1213142504 ?

      Appreciate your opinion
      Thank you so much

    5. Paul Gian-
      January 21, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Proportions don’t look good. Even if they are, I can’t offer constructive advice.


    6. Jow-
      January 25, 2016 at 6:28 am

      Thank for answer!

      What proportions would be good in your opinion?

    7. Paul Gian-
      January 25, 2016 at 8:04 am
    8. Jim-
      February 10, 2016 at 12:50 am

      Could you give me your thoughts on this diamond certified by GIA 2198418035, price is 8,500.

    9. Jannet-
      May 14, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      Hi Paul, I’m thinking of buying this diamond. Could you help me please? Do you think this diamond worth buying? Gia number is: 2228155232. I’m not so sure about the clarity.

    10. Paul Gian-
      May 15, 2016 at 6:42 am
    11. evelyn-
      July 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Paul,
      My fiance and i have gone ahead to purchase a 2.23 CT emerald cut diamond VVS1 H colour from an online retailer. I will be receiving the diamond by courier today. I would like to take it to an appraiser in The Woodlands area in Texas. Would you be able to give some insight or recommendations of who or where we should go to for this independent appraisal? Preferable if you could give some specific appraisers.

      Thanks also for your very informative booklet on the 4Cs.

    12. Paul Gian-
      July 19, 2016 at 2:30 am
    13. carole-
      September 20, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      Why doesn’t White Flash provide us with the 360 degree viewing like James Allen ? It is impossible for a would be buyer without diamond knowledge and training to imagine what the diamond he wishes to buy would look like.
      Would be great if White Flash had this technology.

    14. Paul Gian-
      September 21, 2016 at 1:46 am

      White Flash does have videos of the loose diamonds in their listings. Recheck them and you’ll find it.

      whiteflash image to check details of inclusion locations

    15. Mohamed Salama-
      October 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Hello Paul,

      Thank you very much for your great website. It’s pretty resourceful.

      I would like your insight please, I am wondering how a VVS2 would differ compared to a VVS1. Does it relate do the location of the inclusion? also if the inclusion is on the table is that a bad thing, would it affect the light performance in anyway?

      I am picking between these two diamonds right now



      One is an H VVS1 and the second is a G VVS2. Both are comparable in size and triple excellent. I am leaning to the G one. (It’s more expensive) but I was told if I don’t move to VVS1 from VS1 it’s not worth the money, and I shouldn’t get a VVS2.

      Can you please give me your take on this one?

      Thank you!

    16. Ali Bugra-
      May 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Hello Paul,
      You did not reply my first question probably you’re busy but I wanna try to ask again.Is it Jamesallen reliable in order to buy diamond or Do they have quality diamonds such as white flash and other quality online shops ?
      Thank you

    17. Paul Gian-
      May 11, 2017 at 3:05 am

      James Allen is definitely reliable. In terms of cut quality, their selection criteria for the True Hearts range is slightly looser than that of White Flash or Brian Gavin. If you put in some effort to research, you may be able to find one that’s truly well cut.

      Otherwise, just stick with White Flash or Brian Gavin to save the hassle.

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