Diamond Clarity Scale
Whenever you are in the market to buy diamonds whether for a diamond ring jewelry or an engagement ring, you will hear about the 4 Cs. These are cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. Each of these metrics plays an important factor in how the diamond is valued. Collectively they will tell a buyer the quality of the diamond and this will help buyers purchase the best stone for their needs and budget.
Each “c” in the 4cs is important. Diamond clarity is the metric that grades the diamond’s visual appearance. If the diamond crystal has fewer imperfections and blemishes the higher the diamond’s clarity grade. The higher the diamond clarity grades and the fewer the imperfections will significantly impact the diamond’s value and cost. However, it’s important to note that these imperfections are rarely seen by the naked eye unless subjected to 10x magnification.
Also, diamond imperfections are normal. After all, natural diamonds are formed in the earth and in extreme heat. Considering these conditions it’s very rare for diamonds to be found in perfect condition. Small imperfections will exist. It’s just a matter of finding an eye clean stone stone with a good enough clarity grade for you.
DIAMOND CLARITY CHART
Diamond clarity is a measure of flawlessness, specifically the degree to which inclusions are present. Inclusions are tiny, often microscopic, imperfections, which, in significantly “included” diamonds, can affect transparency and brilliance.
Some obvious inclusions are present in most diamonds. Diamond cutters will generally try to hide inclusions in less visible positions, such as near the girdle. This is also why diamond cut is important too, in the resulting diamond shapes.
A diamond grading for clarity is determined by using an 11-point scale developed by the GIA ranging from flawless to inclusions (surface blemishes). The following diamond clarity grades assess the number, size, color, reflectivity, and position of all inclusions visible under 10x magnification on the magnification loupe. Diamond experts are the only professionals who can perform diamond grading and pronounce which stone has a high clarity grade and overall clarity grade.
Diamond Clarity Scale
The following are the different grades and ratings on the GIA diamond clarity scale based on the number of points accumulated by each diamond, including the grade clarity features:
FL Flawless. No inclusions or blemishes found under 10x magnification. Naturally flawless diamonds are extremely rare and very expensive. IF Internally Flawless. Only minor blemishes and no inclusions are found under 10x magnification in diamonds graded internally flawless. VV S1 – VV S2 Very, Very Slightly Included gradings. Inclusions are difficult to see under 10x magnification and are invisible to the unaided eye in Vvs diamonds. Minor inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. In most cases, inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. VS1 VS2 Very Slightly Included. Minor inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. In most cases, inclusions are not seen by the naked eye. SI1 SI2 Slightly Included. Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. Inclusions may or may not be visible to the unaided eye.I1 I2 I3 Included. More obvious inclusions may affect transparency and/or brilliance. Inclusions internal characteristics are visible to 10x magnification and also to the unaided eye and may affect the diamond’s durability.
Professional diamond graders make a diagram of the inclusions on a host diamond to another diagram to create a map of the inclusions on that host diamond. This map is called a diamond plot or a diamond clarity plot. This map shows on record the diamond’s inclusions (external and internal inclusions) – the outstanding external characteristics and the diamond’s interior characteristics to help identify the diamond accurately and for the skilled grader to justify the clarity grade it is given.
|FL||Flawless||No inclusions or blemishes found under 10x magnification. Flawless diamonds are extremely rare and very expensive.|
|IF||Internally Flawless||Only minor blemishes and no inclusions are found under 10x magnification.|
|VVS1 VVS2||Very, Very Slightly Included gradings||Inclusions are difficult to see under 10x magnification and are invisible to the unaided eye. Minor inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. In most cases, inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.|
|VS1 VS2||Very Slightly Included||Minor inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. In most cases, inclusions are not seen by the naked eye.|
|Slightly Included||Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification. Inclusions may or may not be visible to the unaided eye.|
|Included||Inclusions are obvious and may affect transparency and/or brilliance. Inclusions are visible to 10x magnification and also to the unaided eye and may affect the diamond’s durability.|
What’s a good color and clarity for a diamond?
The GIA Colorless range grades are the grades D, E, and F as well as Near Colorless (G, H, I, and J grades). If a colorless diamond is what you are looking for then you can opt for F rated color as it is the least expensive colorless grade, and the difference between an F grade color diamond and a D grade color rating external characteristics won’t be visible to the naked eye as to mar the diamond’s beauty.
If you want to get the best value for your money for a good clarity diamond, then consider stones of VS2 or SI1 (slightly included, meaning minute inclusions) by a skilled grader, and choose one that looks the clearest to you. That can be called an eye clean diamond.
You can also consider SI2 (slightly included or with slightly more inclusions) diamonds because although they may contain some flaws visible, they will most likely be towards the sides of the stone. You can set the stone in a mounting that conceals the diamond’s periphery in a facet arrangement to make these external imperfections less visible.
At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself if Flawless or Internally Flawless graded stones are really worth the price tag. Eye clean diamonds graded VS2 or SI1 do not look that different to the unaided eye and the difference from F & IF clarity characteristics can only be seen under 10x magnification. This will depend on your own personal preference as well as your budget.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours.
DIAMOND CLARITY TIPS:
- The intense faceting of brilliant cuts hides inclusions better than step-cuts like emerald or Asscher cuts.
- Buyers set on perfection should choose diamonds that are VVS2 or better.
- Flawless to the naked eye, clarity grades of VS1 and VS2 diamonds make up about half of all diamond purchases.
Frequently Asked Questions About Diamond Clarity
The best quality clarity grade of diamond that you can buy is FL which means the stone is flawless and that is incredibly rare. However, as a general rule, for diamonds that are over 2 carats, it is recommended that you select a final grade of VS2 or above. For diamonds of 1-2 carats, the clarity grading should be SI1 or above. This will mean that there shouldn’t be any visible inclusions. Internally flawless diamonds are extremely rare.
Diamond clarity is one of the vital 4 Cs when it comes to judging a diamond’s quality and essentially, its value. The fewer inclusions that a diamond has, the better the quality. “Inclusion” refers to structural formations inside the stone affecting its internal composition while flaws that affect the stone’s surface are called blemishes. In reality, most blemishes are not visible to the naked eye.
A clarity-enhanced diamond is still a diamond, but in its natural state, it would have inclusions that would be visible to the unaided eye. However, using modern techniques, the inclusions are “filled” making them no longer so visible and bolstering the clarity grade.
A diamond will be graded under 10x microscope and requires a highly trained and skilled human eye to check for any inclusions. The location and nature of the flaws will have a significant impact on the diamond’s overall clarity.
Diamonds are graded into 11 categories of clarity. FL stands for flawless and is the best of the clarity range. The lowest grade is I3 which stands for included and will usually lack the transparency and brilliance associated with diamonds. Most people opt to purchase SI1 (slightly included) or VS2 (very slightly included diamonds.
When considering diamond color, the cut of the stone also plays a role. Color is more important than clarity in pear cut, radiant, oval, round, and emerald-cut diamonds. Because of the way they are cut, Asscher, cushion, and radiant cut diamonds need higher gradings of clarity over color.
According to the American Gem Society, there are five factors that affect how clarity is assessed in a diamond. These include size, nature, number, location, and relief along with the number of inclusions (surface flaws). Generally, the larger or more obvious the inclusions and blemishes, the less the diamond clarity grade will be.
Clarity is graded using an 11-point scale developed by the GIA ranging from flawless to inclusions (surface blemishes).
Diamonds range in price, and the value is typically determined more by the clarity and color of the diamond as well as its cut rather than the carat weight. However, you would usually expect to pay anything upwards of $2,500 for a one-carat diamond.
GIA created a clarity scale for diamonds depending on the different diamond inclusions and blemishes. There are grades from FL (Flawless) down to I1, I2, and I3. Each one is based on a diamond’s characteristics.
Diamonds with a I3 grading are the lowest clarity diamond on the scale. While they may seem like a good deal this is hardly ever the case because the diamond inclusions aren’t good and you will most likely get a diamond that is worthless beauty and value-wise than the price.
This grade for clarity of diamonds means that the blemishes and inclusions are not only seen through magnification but also visible to the unaided eye too. An I3 clarity diamond may also be less durable than those with a higher grade.
A diamond inclusion is a structural imperfection that is seen under magnification.