diamond buying guide

Diamond Clarity

When we speak of a diamond's clarity, we are referring to the presence of identifying characteristics on and within the stone.

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Diamond Clarity

For diamond clarity grades F through VS, inclusions (internal flaws) are NOT visible to the naked eye.

Because natural diamonds are created under an incredible amount of pressure and not grown in a sterile laboratory, it's no surprise that most diamonds have flaws.

A diamond's "clarity" grade is all about the flaws (or lack thereof). There are two types of flaws:

  • Blemishes: found on the surface of the diamond
  • Inclusions: found within the diamond
Inclusions include flaws such as air bubbles, cracks, and non-diamond minerals found in the diamond. Blemishes include scratches, pits, and chips (some blemishes occur during the cutting process, most often at the girdle).

Because they are less common, diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are more highly valued and priced.

How are diamonds graded for clarity?

Diamonds are graded for clarity under 10x loupe magnification. Grades range from Flawless (diamonds which are completely free of blemishes and inclusions), to Included 3 (diamonds which possess large, heavy blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye).
internally flawless diamond photo
Photo Courtesy of JamesAllen.com

Clarity Grade Descriptions

  • F
    Flawless: No internal or external flaws. Extremely rare.
  • IF
    Internally Flawless: no internal flaws, but some surface flaws. Very rare.
  • VVS1-VVS2
    Very Very Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions very difficult to detect under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist.
  • VS1-VS2
    Very Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions seen only with difficulty under 10x magnification.
  • SI1-SI2
    Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions are visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible by the unaided eye.

REMEMBER: For grades F through VS, a diamond's clarity grade has an impact on the diamond's value, not on the unmagnified diamond's appearance.
included diamond photo
Photo Courtesy of JamesAllen.com

  • I1-I2-I3
    Included (three grades). Inclusions visible under 10x magnification AS WELL AS to the human eye. We do not recommend buying diamonds in any of these grades.
diamonds F-IF diamonds VVS1-VVS2 diamonds VS1-VS2 diamonds SI1-SI2 diamonds I1-I2-I3

While the presence of these clarity characteristics (inclusions and blemishes) do lower the clarity grade of a diamond, they can also be viewed as proof of a diamond's identity. GIA certificates include what is known as a "plot" of a diamond's inclusions — think of it as a "diamond fingerprint." Since no two diamonds are exactly the same, comparing the uniqueness of your diamond's clarity characteristics with the plot provided on the diamond certificate offers assurance that the diamond you pay for is the same diamond you receive.

Which Diamond Clarity Grade Should I Choose?

While Flawless diamonds are the rarest, a diamond does not have to be flawless to be stunning.

In fact, until you drop to the "SI" and "I" grades, a diamond's clarity grade has an impact on the diamond's value, not on the unmagnified diamond's appearance.

Diamonds with VVS and VS grades are excellent choices for both value and appearance.

More affordable (and still a great choice) are those diamonds which gemologists call "eye-clean" - diamonds with no inclusions visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are often found in the SI1 and SI2 and unless the recipient carries a 10X loupe (a strong jewelry magnifying glass), she won't see the inclusions.

As to I1-I3? Maybe when there's a diamond grade that's defined as "you can see the flaws just by looking at the diamond," nothing more needs to be said.

To be fair, not everyone notices even visible flaws in a diamond. And not all "visible" flaws are "equally" visible — think about the difference between dripping mustard on a starched white dress shirt and dripping mustard on a brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt. Obviously, one shows up a lot more than the other — visible diamond flaws are like that.

But if you choose to buy an I1-I3 diamond (which we don't recommend), know that some people will look at it and immediately see the flaws.

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