7 Minute Read
Diamond Clarity Guide
One of the most magical things about diamonds is that each stone is unique. Formed by natural processes, every diamond you see is slightly different, with its own quirks and features.
Understanding the clarity of your chosen diamond is an important part of the diamond purchasing process – almost every diamond will have its own imperfections, some visible to the human eye and some not so visible. However, these imperfections can have a huge impact on the final appearance and cost of a diamond – so, here's a guide to show you the ins and outs of diamond clarity.
What is Diamond Clarity?
It takes extreme pressure and heat to form diamonds underground, and during this process, imperfections in the crystal structure of a diamond can form and mineral impurities can become trapped inside it.
When a diamond is analysed by a gemologist, it is the number and severity of these imperfections that determine the clarity grade of a stone. Imperfections on the surface of the stone are called blemishes, and internal imperfections are called inclusions. Most inclusions cannot be seen by the naked eye, and most diamonds have some form of these imperfections.
There are many types of diamond inclusions and blemishes such as; cavities, feathers, clouds, needles/graining, knots, chips, bearding, pin points, crystals/minerals, dark or light spots, polish lines, etc.
What is the Diamond Clarity Scale?
To highlight the number and size of impurities diamonds have, a clarity scale is often used. At a first glance this might appear confusing, but the basis for it is actually quite simple. A certified diamond grader will inspect the diamond under 10x magnification and will attribute known impurity categories to the stone, depending on its condition.
The following scale is used by GIA, and is considered an industry standard for assessing the clarity of diamonds:
IF (Internally Flawless)
VVS (Very Very Slightly Included)
VS (Very Slightly Included)
SI (Slightly Included)
No inclusions or blemishes of any sort are visible to a skilled diamond grader using 10x magnification.
No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification.
Several imperfections inside but inclusion are difficult for a skilled grader to see using 10x magnification.
Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10x magnification.
Slight inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10x magnification and visible with the human eye.
Why is Diamond Clarity Important?
The clarity of a diamond is important because it will directly affect the overall look and therefore the value of a diamond. Inclusions can hinder the refraction and return of light from the diamond, meaning that on inspection, the stone can appear cloudy and dull. Choosing a higher clarity grade will result in a stone that looks as bright and clear as possible, but also a more valuable stone.
When a diamond is assessed for clarity, inclusions and blemishes will be subject to the following scrutiny:
The more noticeable/large the flaw is, the lower the clarity grade
The type of flaw and its impact on the durability of the diamond will impact the clarity grade
The higher the number of flaws, the more noticeable the inclusions therefore the lower the clarity grade.
Colour & Visibility
How easily the flaws can be seen and how much contrast there is between the flaw and the rest of the gem
If the flaw is under the table of the diamond and close to a pavilion then flaws will become reflective and more noticeable
What Diamond Clarity Should You Look For?
As with most other diamond characteristics, choosing the highest grade of clarity you can afford will give you the best results.If a diamond’s imperfections are ‘eye clean’ it means they are too small to see without magnification.
As a result, many customers on a budget consider diamonds with a clarity grade of ‘SI’ (slightly included) or ‘VS’ (very slightly included) which are much more affordable, but do not have any flaws visible to the naked eye.
Generally, jewellers advise to steer clear of diamonds below a VS2 grading – these diamonds are likely to have visible flaws that you will be able to notice just by looking at the stone. However, every stone is different, so it's up to you to decide whether you’re comfortable with how a low clarity stone appears.
The Impact of Shape/Cut On Clarity
It is also important to remember that the size, cut and shape of a diamond will affect its clarity. Although perhaps less important than cut or colour, if you’re buying a fancy shaped diamond or a diamond over one carat, you may want to put more of your budget into a higher clarity grade to avoid a cloudy appearance or visible flaws.
Some diamonds like emerald cut diamonds have lots of rectangular facets that expose imperfections, whereas other cuts like oval or pear shapes are more forgiving and can better disguise flaws.
As a diamond’s size increases, so do the number of facets which can also make inclusions more apparent. To avoid visible flaws, the larger the diamond, the higher the clarity grade you may need to consider. If your diamond is over 2 carats then aim for at least VS2, if your diamond is between 1-2 carats then aim for at least SI1.
Top Tips To Remember:
- The most popular clarity grade typically chosen by customers is VS1-VS2, grades which offer great value without any visible flaws.
- The next most popular grade is SI1 which is much more affordable, and although it may have some small visible inclusions, these are often not very noticeable. These diamonds are much less expensive than the highest grades, but will look virtually the same unless under magnification.
- Whilst it might be tempting to pay for the highest clarity grades available, your final decision should be based on a combination of all the 4Cs. Opting for a lower clarity grade like VS2 can allow you to spend more on colour or cut which will also greatly affect the end result.
- The flaws of a VS2 diamond will generally not be visible to the eye, whereas a poor cut or colour may be. Choosing the lowest clarity grade that still delivers an ‘eye-clean’ diamond will ensure you are making the best value purchase.
- If you have the budget to invest in the highest clarity diamond possible, then a F/IF or VVS1/VVS2 would be the best choice – but don’t prioritise this over other factors like diamond cut.
Still need help?
If you need any further assistance and guidance with diamond clarity, our jewellery experts are here to help! Visit us in store or call us to arrange an appointment so we can provide the guidance you need. You can also send a message via zendesk in the bottom right of your screen.
Director, Johnsons Jewellers