Clarity enhanced diamonds are often touted as a cost-effective way to buy a larger carat diamond without breaking the bank. But what does clarity enhanced mean and what are the things that you need to be aware of?
In this write up, you will find everything you need to know about clarity enhanced diamonds and why they are absolutely terrible purchases. By the end of this article, you’ll be thanking me for saving you money and not getting ripped off by unethical jewelers.
Let’s get started…
Clarity enhancement is a form of treatment performed on natural diamonds to remove unsightly flaws, blemishes and inclusions. You can also think of the process as performing “plastic surgery” on very low clarity diamonds (e.g. I2/I3) in order to hide or make the offending inclusions less visible.
In the industry, there are two main types of clarity treatments that are used on a commercial scale; laser drilling and fracture filling.
Laser drilling is a method used in removing inclusions inside the body of a gemstone. This treatment is usually applied on large carbon inclusions or dark colored crystals embedded within the diamond’s crystalline structure
First of all, a tiny tunnel is drilled into the surface using a laser beam to create a pathway to the inclusion. Through that tunnel, strong acidic chemicals are forced into the opening to dissolve and bleach out the inclusions. Typically, a mixture of concentrated hydrofluoric acid (HF) and sulphuric acid (H2So4) is used.
Profile view of laser drilled diamond showing a tunnel reaching the inclusion – GIA
Generally speaking, laser drilling will not weaken the structural integrity of the diamond to a serious extent. It doesn’t leave any foreign material inside the diamond after the process is performed. When proper drilling techniques are applied, the only observable sign of laser drilling is a microscopical tunnel that extends to the inclusion from the surface.
Now, if you are wondering whether laser drilled diamonds (or any form of enhanced stones) are good buys, let me tell you straight up that you will be sorely disappointed. You need to understand that clarity enhanced diamonds usually originate from garbage tier quality diamonds that are unwanted and unsaleable.
When these stones are polished, little attention is paid to achieving better cut quality because it doesn’t make economic sense to do so. The truth of the matter is that 99.99% of clarity enhanced diamonds are absolutely terrible in terms of cut standards.
I can tell you that the general consumer is far better off by lowering expectations of the 4Cs and sticking with an untreated diamond.
Besides using lasers to create surface reaching tunnels, newer methods of internal drilling had also been researched and applied in recent years. You are probably wondering; why would people want to use internal laser drilling instead of the traditional laser tunneling?
Well, the reason behind using internal drilling involves a malicious intent to deceive consumers as this treatment is often undisclosed.
You see, internal laser drilling creates many small cleavages with seemingly non-discernible patterns. These “tunnels” serve the purpose of bridging the inclusion to the surface without the use of a direct laser tunnel.
The problem with these irregular and worm-like looking channels is that they are purposely made to resemble feathers and passed off as being “natural” flaws.
Artificial treatment that resembles natural feather inclusions.
For this type of treatment, diamonds with dark inclusions near their surfaces are usually selected for enhancement. After the worm-like channels are drilled, the diamond is subjected to a series of bleaching solutions to dissolve the unsightly inclusions.
Black coloration is significantly reduced after treatment
Both dark crystal and feather are no longer that obvious after laser drilling
Source: A New Lasering Technique For Diamond (GIA)
Important note: always ask for a GIA or AGS certificate when buying a diamond. If the jeweler refuses to show you one or tries to promote other reports of dubious origins, it immediately subjects the diamond to suspicion.
Besides grade bumping or clarity enhancements issues, I can tell you from experience that the jeweler is not only trying to rip you off but also likely be hiding other major issues from you.
Besides grade bumping or clarity enhancements issues,
Although cavities and surface reaching feathers can be removed through polishing, there is a method which does not lead to significant carat weight loss. Fracture filling is the process of inserting glass or liquid glass-like filler material into surface scratches and cracks.
Since the filler possesses similar optical properties (refraction) as that of a diamond, the flaws become less visible after the liquid filler is solidified. The Yehuda Diamond Company pioneered fracture filling and is also the industry leader for fracture filled diamonds.
Their business model and goal of enabling consumers to purchase larger diamonds at less expensive prices have seen some success. Since then, many other companies had tried to emulate their success and started developing their own proprietary method for fracture filling.
Fracture filling can enhance the appearances of feathers and open cleavages – GIA
Now, the problem with fracture filling is that it results in a stone which is no longer made of a uniform material. Despite advances in material science, the filling substance still has vastly different material properties compared to the host diamond.
You see, diamonds are chemically inert and exceptionally stable due to their crystalline structure. What looks almost perfect after the treatment process might fade with the passing of time. Or worse still, the filling might even fall out in extreme cases.
Typically, when the fillings are exposed to harsh temperatures or strong chemicals like concentrated acids or alkali, the filling would start to degrade or fail. Because of its non-permanent nature, most companies offer lifetime “repairs” for fracture filled diamonds in an attempt to market their products.
But here’s the thing, the problem with reworks and a second filling is that it isn’t going to be as good as the first. Also, another limitation of this technique is that once a diamond is filled with a resin, it is impossible to reverse the process completely.
Note that GIA (Gemological Institute of America) does not grade fracture-filled diamonds because these treatments aren’t permanent. C.E. diamonds are usually separately appraised or graded by other labs with dubious standards.
Clarity enhanced diamonds are often marketed for their lower price points and “better” looking appearances. For unsuspecting consumers who don’t know better, let me spell it out for you.
The diamonds are cheap for a reason.
That’s because these clarity enhanced diamonds usually start out as junk tier diamonds in the low I2-I3 clarity ranges. The problem I have with scumbag jewelers is that they misrepresent these low quality diamonds and make incorrect comparisons to properly graded diamonds.
Jewelers who sell these clarity enhanced diamonds often use prices for GIA graded VS or VVS diamonds as a benchmark. Obviously, these GIA diamonds are going to cost more! In truth, the far more accurate price comparisons would be to use GIA I2-I3 diamonds instead.
Why? That’s because unethical jewelers like these want to provide you with the false impression that the clarity enhanced diamonds are worth more than they are. And in many cases, these clarity enhanced diamonds are priced at a BIG premium to GIA I2-I3 diamonds!
You aren’t getting a better deal and you are actually overpaying for inferior quality!
As a consumer, clarity enhanced diamonds are a can of worms and I strongly recommend that you stay away from them. Let me explain why they are bad purchases and the issues with treated diamonds.
If a diamond has a lot of inclusions that is treated via laser drilling, the diamond can end up with a lot of tunnels which can weaken its structural integrity and cause durability issues.
Also, fracture filling is not a permanent process and the diamond’s appearance can quickly deteriorate if the filling substance degrades. The most common problem with these fillings is that they turn cloudy or hazy. Extra care is also required as the glass-like filling substance cannot be exposed to chemicals or even simple ultrasonic cleaning routines.
Now, if you are kept up to date with the latest industry news, you will realize that clarity enhanced diamonds have always received a lot of negative attention. The main reason behind the negative press largely stems from people who found out they had been duped into buying an enhanced diamond at the point of sale.
Even though jewelers are required by law to fully disclose any clarity enhancements to the consumer, there are many rogue jewelers who intentionally hide these details in order to make a sale. That’s why you have to be extremely careful and knowledgeable when buying such diamonds.
I personally think that clarity enhanced diamonds are not worth the money and trouble to buy. But ultimately, you have to make the decision for yourself.
If you have an unrealistic expectation of buying a super large size diamond on a small budget, buying a clarity enhanced diamond would be one way to achieve that. You just need to understand that you are likely going to overpay for an inferior quality diamond.
If you still decide to go ahead with an enhanced diamond after reading this article, you probably deserve to get ripped off. In my opinion, untouched natural stones are still the best choice when it comes to buying diamond jewelry.