“Surface Graining Is Not Shown” Comment in IF Clarity Grades

internally flawless grading resultAre diamonds graded with a IF clarity grading really flawless? If so, why is there a comment “surface graining is not shown” on the GIA report? If there are clarity issues that are listed in the report, how can GIA grade this diamond as the “best” in terms of clarity? Could you explain this to me? 

This was an email that our reader, Ryan, sent me a couple of weeks ago. Prior to Ryan’s email, I had also received a number of similar queries in the past. Hopefully, this article will help to address some common questions people have about internally flawless diamonds.

Now, when most people look at internally flawless stones, they tend to have misconceptions that the clarity makes the stone more beautiful since it is 100% perfect – with no flaws and no inclusions. Since IF diamonds are priced at the highest premium, most people don’t expect to see ‘flaws’ being listed in a grading report of an IF diamond.

First things first, you need to understand that diamonds are graded in the lab with a 10X magnification. Internally flawless literally means what it is – there are no visible inclusions seen at 10X within the diamond’s body. However, the IF grade does allow minute external blemishes to be present on the surface of the diamond.

Examples of blemishes seen in IF grades could be stated as surface graining or minor details of polish. I know the comments about surface graining sounds kind of serious, but it really isn’t.

So, What’s Surface Graining?

example of graining defects in gia report

Is surface graining a deal breaker?

From a technical viewpoint, surface graining basically refers to irregularities in the diamond’s structure. These typically show up as transparent lines which are only visible at certain lighting angles and high magnification. Grain lines can also connect across several facets and are caused by a change of grain direction during its crystal growth.

In essence, this statement marks the distinction between a flawless diamond and an internally Flawless diamond. Most surface graining occurrences are so insignificant that even a trained gemologist might have difficulty finding in with a 50X magnification. Of course, this is well over the 10X magnification that is supposedly used in diamond grading.

If That’s a Flaw on the Surface, Why Can’t the Cutters Remove Them?

That’s a good question. Let me use an analogy of a plank of wood. Imagine that you are sawing off the end of the plank in an attempt to remove the ‘graining’ of the wood. Do you think that you can do that?

The answer is No.

sawn wood graining analogy

In nature, the graining forms throughout the entire plank of wood! See image on right. Likewise in diamonds, it is common for them to have grain lines that CANNOT be removed even by polishing.

Sometimes, the graining can occur from the surface right into the stone. In such scenarios, no amount of polishing will remove this ‘flaw’. It doesn’t make sense for the cutter to continue polishing the rough stone in a futile attempt to remove surface graining. It will still be there like a fingerprint that can’t be removed.

To sum things up, if you are considering to buy an IF stone, don’t get too caught up by this comment. The reason it’s there is to mark a distinction between a flawless diamond from an internally flawless one. It’s like grading a literature essay where the teacher refuses to give a student an A+ just because the student had poor handwriting.

The bottomline is, this comment has no effect on the outward beauty of the stone. Don’t worry about it!

Most consumers make the mistake of buying their diamonds “blind” and end up with buyer’s remorse. That’s why I recommend checking out JamesAllen.com where you can see exactly what you will be getting with their 360° videos.

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  1. Paulson-
    March 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm


    What do you think of this diamond? Is the feather on the bottom left to harsh? It is one of the better SI2 diamonds I’ve found and seems to be at a fair price point of 10.7k

    Thoughts? Thanks.

  2. Paul Gian-
    March 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I would say the diamond is eyeclean and that the inclusion can be partially covered up with a nicely positioned prong.

  3. Vic-
    March 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Paul,

    What do you think of this SI1 stone:

    I can’t even see any inclusions on it with the pictures but its graded SI1 because of the surface graining? Would it be an issued because its quite a bargain at that price.

    Thanks for your input

  4. Paul Gian-
    March 27, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    The diamond is hazy because of the clarity grading comment. It’s a terrible stone.

  5. Joanna-
    November 21, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Paul, im so indecisive and torn whether to buy this 2.23ct diamond as it has ” surface graining” on the comment section…i made 1 mistake and dont wanna make another when buying my second 1….
    I can attach the certificate on my email when you reply.

  6. Paul Gian-
    November 22, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Most of the time surface graining comments are really minute and does not impact the diamond’s outward appearance. Without knowing more details, I cannot give you any useful advice blindly.

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