What is diamond clarity?
One of the four Cs of diamond quality, clarity refers to the presence (or absence) of any imperfections, or 'inclusions' within the stone. As a diamond naturally forms underground over 1-3.5 billion years, it's very common for minute particles of solids, liquids or gases to become incorporated into the raw diamond, and present themselves in several different ways within the polished stone.
There are many different types of inclusions which can be present and have varying impacts on the diamonds appearance and cost. Some have a bigger impact on the overall look of the diamond than others. Additionally, some diamond shapes can be more forgiving and hide inclusions better than other cuts do.
As with cut and colour, clarity is measured on a sliding scale, from Flawless (F) to Included (I3). Although the scale will take in to account any inclusions within a diamond, the location and size can also determine the final cost - for example, a small inclusion in the corner may be hidden by a claw setting in the final piece of jewellery.
How is diamond clarity measured?
The GIA have set the standard for how diamond clarity is measured. Please bear in mind when looking at a diamond with the naked eye that these grades have been awarded to each diamond under 10x magnification! Many diamonds you come across online or in store will have some inclusions which is normal, remember, most diamonds are naturally occurring substances, not grown in a lab. Think of inclusions like birthmarks, no two diamonds are the same. Here's how the scale ranges from flawless (FL), to included (I):
Are inclusions bad?
There are many different types of inclusions to be found in a diamond, they are not all necessarily bad. As they are a natural substance it is expected to find a few inclusions in the vast majority of diamonds. There are many different types, some of which will effect the overall appearance and some which are barely noticeable.
Expert Buying Tips:
Flawless or Internally Flawless diamonds are extremely rare, very hard to come by and as a result come at a premium. But, if you think about it, your recipient may not want to wear their 'flawless' diamond ring very often in fear of damaging the flawlessness! Think of your recipient as the most important factor of diamond quality and what they will value most.
Types of diamond inclusions
The GIA have set the standard for how diamond clarity is measured. The grading is awarded under 10x magnification, and so the majority of the inclusions that affect the grade given will not be visible to the naked eye. Because diamond is a naturally occurring substance, the majority of the stones will have some form of inclusion - consider them the birthmarks, or fingerprints of your diamond. Here are examples of the most common types of inclusions you may come across:
pin point inclusions are very small black crystal inclusions inside the stone. if there are only a few, generally the stone would rank higher on the clarity scale.
An opening in the surface of the diamond - sometimes when the material which was an inclusion falls out during the polishing process.
A cloud like inclusion caused by a cluster of 'pin-point' crystals inside the diamond. Depending on their location it can sometimes appear 'cloudy'.
A small crack or fracture inside the diamond. Depending on the angle it can be invisible to the eye or resemble a white feather. If it is near the surface it is much more noticeable..
An inclusion like this is caused by irregular crystal growth and may cause the diamond to look 'milky' or 'hazy'. It also sometimes manifests as a crease or a reflection inside the diamond.
Literally another mineral crystal present in the diamond. Sometimes colourless, other times it can appear red (garnet), green (peridot) or more commonly black (carbon).
As the name suggests, these inclusions appear as white or transparent thin needles. They can sometimes appear in clusters which becomes more obvious to the eye.
A knot inclusion is a white or transparent crystal which reaches the surface of the diamond. This inclusion is commonly visible to the naked eye.
A series of 'pinpoints', 'clouds', 'crystals' and feathers which create a collections of inclusions in a 'chaotic' pattern. These are one of the more obvious inclusion due to the amount of inclusions.
These are small hair-like lines found around the girdle (edge) of the diamond. These small lines, when numerous, can make the perimeter of a diamond look 'fuzzy' rather than clear.
An area of the diamond's rough surface, which dips below its polished surface. Essentially, it is a small part of the diamond that has been left completely untouched to avoid recutting.
A chip usually occurs through wear and tear or accidental damage. It is not a naturally occurring inclusion. Chips are usually found along the girdle of a diamond.
How Inclusions affect diamond shape
The majority of natural diamonds have small inclusions, but some shapes hide inclusions better than others. Diamonds with lots of facets (flat surfaces) make it less obvious when there are inclusions present, and diamonds with fewer facets make any inclusions more apparent. With that in mind, here's 6 diamond shapes and how inclusions affect each:
Least Affected By Clarity
Both of these shapes has a high number of facets and so inclusions are less obvious. You will easily get away with an 'SI' or sometimes even an 'I' quality and the inclusions won't be very apparent to the wearer.
Affected by Clarity
Pear and Oval shapes have lots of facets in them but also have long transparent sections which can make inclusions more obvious depending on the placement. Try to stick to around the 'VS' quality if you want this shape.
Most Affected By Clarity
Emerald and Asscher are the least forgiving shapes when it comes to clarity due to their transparency and 'hall of mirrors' look. There are fewer facets to hide any inclusions so higher clarity grades are recommended.
Diamond Clarity Tips:
- When it comes to looking at the inclusion remember that all of this is graded under a 10x magnification. If you cannot see it with the naked eye then it isn't something you should worry about!
- Most diamonds will have a few inclusions due to them being a naturally formed mineral, and there is nothing that can be done about that; they are like birthmarks and each stone is unique.
- Some types of inclusions are more obvious when looking though the underside of the diamond, but won't be as noticeable when set, so be sure to look at the diamond from all angles when making your choice.
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