When it comes to buying a diamond ring, clarity is an aspect that many consumers find confusing. In this write up, I’ve compiled a list of the different types of inclusions in diamonds to show you what they mean and how they look like.
With the use of images and videos (photography credits – James Allen), I hope you get a better idea of identifying diamond flaws and understanding the visual impact an inclusion may have on the diamond’s appearance.
Bearding – Hair-like inclusions that form at the girdle area due to improper bruting processes. A heavily bearded girdle with a grey fuzzy appearance should be avoided.
Graining – Caused by irregular crystal growth. Internal graining can appear like whitish, colored or reflective lines. Depending on the severity, they can also look like creases or give the diamond a hazy appearance.
Image credits: Vincent Cracco, © GIA
Cavity – This usually takes the form of a large or deep opening in the diamond’s surface. Cavities can be created during the polishing process when an internal inclusion like a crystal falls out of its pocket and leaves behind a void. Read this article for more insights.
Crystals – Included minerals that exist within the body of the diamond. Depending on the type of minerals they are, crystals can be colorless (possibly an embedded diamond!), black (carbon), reddish (garnets), greenish (peridots) and etc…
Crystals can exist in different kinds of shapes and colors.
Colored crystal inclusions are much more obvious to the naked eye and they are generally undesirable. Vice versa, a colorless or transparent crystal inclusion would have less impact on the diamond’s appearance.
Cloud – A cloud inclusion is a very broad term used to classify a cluster of pinpoints/crystals found very close to each other. Depending on the nature of the cloud inclusion, it can sometimes pose an issue to the diamond’s transparency.
For example, when clouds get too big in size and density, they can cause the diamond to take up a hazy appearance and negatively affect its light transmission properties. If they are small and diffused, it generally isn’t a cause for concern.
This dense and visible white cloud sets the clarity grade in this SI1 emerald cut.
Varying intensities and coloration of cloud inclusions.
Feather – A small crack or fracture within the diamond. Depending on your viewing angle, a feather can look transparent and almost invisible or it can catch on light and display an opaque appearance.
Severe feathers can cause durability issues (especially if they are surface reaching or near the girdle area) or have unsightly coloration to them; both of which should be avoided.
In both the examples above, the size and location of the massive feather near the girdle poses additional risks of the diamond being chipped. The feathers also have a grey and brownish coloration respectively and they are very obvious to the naked eye.
Needle – A long thin needle-shaped (tiny-rod) inclusion that is usually white or transparent in color. If they appear in clusters, it might affect cause a detrimental effect on the diamond’s clarity.
Super obvious needle that runs across the middle of the stone.
Small, transparent and elongated needle under the pear’s table facet.
Pinpoints – These are tiny white or black crystals that are embedded inside a diamond. Out of all the different kinds of inclusions found in a diamond, pinpoints can be considered the most benign.
Can you see the faint white pinpoint?
Twinning Wisps – This inclusion is a result of growth defects (distortion) in a diamond’s crystal structure. In essence, twinning wisps are a mish-mash of different inclusions such as pinpoints, crystals, feathers and clouds.
They often resemble a twirly looking plane and appear ribbon-like. In rare cases, they can show a slight yellow or brown coloration which makes them look like thin reflecting surfaces inside the stone.
Faint twinning wisp that can hardly be made out to the unaided eyes.
This video shows a heavily twinned heart cut with an I1 clarity.
Chip – A small opening on the surface of a diamond often found near the edges or facet junctions. This inclusion is typically man-made and due to damage caused by accidental knocks or during the setting process.
Indented Natural – A “flaw” which dips below the polished diamond’s surface. An indented natural is a part of the rough diamond that was left untouched during the polishing process and is usually found at the girdle.
Indented natural indicated by red arrows. Source: GIA
So far, what I had shown you is a list of common inclusions that are found in diamonds. However, there are several clarity characteristics like etched channels or manufacturing remnants that are seldom seen and I have included the links here for the sake of completeness.
Moving on, did you know many shoppers actually make critical mistakes by selecting diamonds based solely on information from a grading report? The fact is, there are many hidden clarity related details that lab reports NEVER reveal to you.
On the next page, I’ll show you why this can be a costly mistake and how you can overcome the pitfalls of buying blind…