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Diamond clarity refers to the presence of certain characteristics on (blemishes) and within (inclusions) the stone.

As you would expect, diamonds with no or few blemishes and inclusions command a higher price because they are rarer - most diamonds are not flawless in appearance. Diamond blemishes include scratches, pits and chips, which often occur during the cutting process. Inclusions on the other hand are naturally occurring - when diamonds are formed deep in the earth under extreme pressure and heat, imperfections in the crystal structure can lead to natural birthmarks and irregularities. Evaluating diamond clarity involves a process that will determine the number, size, relief, nature, and position of its blemishes and inclusions, along with how these affect the overall appearance of the stone.

The GIA Grading Scale for Diamond Clarity
All diamonds are systematically graded and plotted under 10X magnification. The diamond trade uses the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grading system, which tags diamonds in the following categories:

  • Flawless — Flawless diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification by a skilled grader.
  • Internally Flawless (IF) — An IF diamond has no inclusions and only blemishes when viewed under 10X magnification.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) — VVS diamonds contain minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10X magnification. Inclusions in a VVS1 diamond are extremely difficult to see face-up, while inclusions in a VVS2 diamond are very difficult to see.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) — VS diamonds contain minor inclusions that range from difficult (VS1) to somewhat easy (VS2) to see under 10X magnification.
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) — Diamonds in the 'I' clarity range contain inclusions that are obvious under 10X magnification.
     

What You Need to Know About Diamond Clarity
There are many misconceptions about the clarity of diamonds, such as the belief you need to buy a higher grade to avoid seeing imperfections. Many people also think that the higher the clarity grade, the more sparkle your diamond will have. The truth is that 99% of diamonds are imperfect, and experts will value a stone's blemishes and inclusions as marks of character. Therefore, any diamond you buy will be unique and one-of-a-kind. There are several different types of imperfections found in diamonds, but feathers and crystals are the most common forms of inclusions. Other flaws include air bubbles, cracks, non-diamond minerals, clouds, knots, pinpoints and lasers lines.

Five diamond clarity factors to be aware of include:

  • Size - The larger a characteristic, the lower the clarity grade.
  • Number - Fewer characteristics means a higher clarity grade.
  • Position - The position of any given characteristics could turn it into a reflector.
  • Nature - The type of inclusion and its impact on durability.
  • Colour and relief - This is a measure of how easily a characteristic is seen.


Tips for Buying Diamonds with Clarity in Mind

  • Diamond shape and size have a direct impact on clarity. Although clarity is less important than a diamond’s cut or colour, it can be an issue if you are buying a diamond over 1 carat or considering certain fancy-shaped diamonds (such as an emerald or Asscher cut where flaws are more visible).
  • Consider starting your search with Slightly Included (SI) and Very Slightly Included (VS) grades, as inclusions will not be readily noticeable without magnification. Clarity is one of the 4Cs that can help you maximise your budget.
  • If imperfections are a deal breaker for you, look for the term 'eye clean'. This refers to a diamond or an inclusion that is not visible to the unaided eye when the diamond is held face-up (viewed through the table) at a normal viewing distance of 10 to 12 inches.
  • Despite the fact that SI1 and SI2 are not eye clean, their imperfections may be light in colour or scattered. As a result, SI1 graded diamonds may appear to be eye clean in up to 20% of cases.
  • Because magnification is required to view imperfections in diamonds with a VS1 grading or higher, this is somewhat of a subjective quality choice that goes beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Larger diamonds at these grades are incredibly rare and as such command a premium price. They're often bought by diamond connoisseurs or investors.

 

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