Diamond clarity refers to the absence of these inclusions and blemishes. Diamonds without these birthmarks are rare, and rarity affects a diamond’s value.
Diamonds are assigned a clarity grade that ranges from flawless (FL) to diamonds with obvious inclusions (I3). Every diamond is unique. None is absolutely perfect under 10× magnification, though some come close. Known as Flawless diamonds, these are exceptionally rare. Most jewelers have never even seen one.
Diamond clarity is a quality of diamonds relating to the existence and visual appearance of internal characteristics of a diamond called inclusions, and surface defects called blemishes. Clarity is one of the four cs of diamond grading, the others being carat,color, and cut. Inclusions may be crystals of a foreign material or another diamond crystal, or structural imperfections such as tiny cracks that can appear whitish or cloudy. The number, size, color, relative location, orientation, and visibility of inclusions can all affect the relative clarity of a diamond. A clarity grade is assigned based on the overall appearance of the stone under ten times magnification.
Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not affect the diamonds’ performance or structural integrity. However, large clouds can affect a diamond’s ability to transmit and scatter light. Large cracks close to or breaking the surface may reduce a diamond’s resistance to fracture.
Diamonds with higher clarity grades are more valued, with the exceedingly rare Flawless graded diamond fetching the highest price. Minor inclusions or blemishes are useful, as they can be used as unique identifying marks analogous to finger pints. In addition, as synthetic diamond technology improves and distinguishing between natural and synthetic diamonds becomes more difficult, inclusions or blemishes can be used as proof of natural origin.
A diamond’s clarity rating is based on the size, number, and location of internal and external characteristics. Known as inclusions, internal characteristics include crystals, clouds, and feathers. External characteristics, or surface irregularities, are called blemishes. As most inclusions can’t be seen by the naked eye, gemologists use a ten-power (10x) microscope to rate a diamond’s clarity.
Flawless, Internally Flawless (FL & IF)
Contains no internal inclusions when viewed with 14x magnification. Internally Flawless diamonds may contain external characteristics.
Very Very Slight Included (VVS1 & VVS2)
Contains minute inclusions that are extremely difficult to locate under 14x magnification.
Very Slight Included (VS1 & VS2)
Contains minute inclusions, such as clouds, crystals, or feathers, which are difficult to locate with 10x magnification.
Slightly Included (SI1, SI2 & SI3)
Contains noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification, including clouds, knots, crystals, cavities, and feathers.
Included (I1, I2, I3)
Contains very obvious inclusions that can usually be seen with the naked eye, as well as under 10x magnification. Included diamonds sometimes display poor transparency and lack of brilliance.
Selecting a Clarity Grade
Below are some points to consider when selecting your desired clarity rating:
Those who prefer a diamond with little or no inclusions will likely choose a clarity rating of FL-IF or VVS. Although they are priced higher, these high-quality diamonds boast a near-perfect appearance.
While still considered high quality, diamonds rated in the VS clarity range will not cost as much as more premium clarities. VS diamonds will contain inclusions that are undetectable to the unaided eye
Considered by many to be a great value, SI1-SI2 diamonds will contain inclusions that can be detected with magnification, yet are typically undetectable to the unaided eye and do not detract from the beauty of the diamond. If you are considering a diamond with an SI rating, contact a Brilliance diamond and jewelry expert to ensure the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
Those who desire large carat weights at lower prices may choose diamonds in the SI3-I1 clarity range. Inclusions in these stones are usually noticeable without magnification.
The location of a diamond’s inclusions significantly impacts the stone’s clarity rating. External and internal characteristics hidden near the side facets of a diamond detract from its beauty less than inclusions and blemishes located in the center of the diamond.