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.
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.
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
– 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.
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.
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.
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…