During the diamond growth process, microscopic impurities or imperfections become present within the diamond. These imperfections are known as diamond inclusions. Inclusions are extremely common within diamonds and are essentially birthmarks that give every diamond uniqueness. You may have heard the phrase “no two diamonds are ever alike.” Well, inclusions are the reason. No two diamonds will have the same number, size, location and type of inclusions, even if they have the same clarity grade assigned by GIA. Inclusions have direct implications on a diamond’s sparkle. Inclusions, again, depending on the size, number, location and type, can reduce diamond sparkle by preventing light from refracting and passing through the diamond and back to your eye. Based on the factors mentioned above, a diamond’s clarity is subjective graded and set in a range. This range is known as the diamond clarity scale. It was created by GIA and is the industry wide standard for diamond grading and comparison. This diamond clarity rating is the one that is most respected for accuracy and consistency.
Selecting a Clarity
Our key tips for selecting the right clarity grade:
- Clarity grade should always be selected in conjunction with the other 4 C’s of diamonds. For example, we do not recommend select a D color, I1 clarity diamond. The most popular clarity grades are VS2 and SI1 because they offer the best value without disrupting diamond sparkle.
- Choose diamonds with inclusions that aren’t in the absolute center of the diamond.More inclusions isn’t typically a bad thing
- Avoid diamonds with a single large grade setting inclusion because it is more likely to be visible. In diamonds under 0.75ct, inclusions are smaller and more difficult to identify. In diamonds larger than 0.75ct, consider an SI1 or higher clarity grade to avoid distracting eye visible inclusions. Additionally, if selecting a lower clarity grade, consider a higher cut grade as a well cut diamond can mask clarity setting inclusions to keep sparkle and brilliance high.
- Another tip is to consider diamonds that have clarity inclusions that are not in the table or central facet of the diamond are more desirable. A better location for inclusions is under the bezel facets of near the girdle as they are harder to see or can be covered as well when being set in the ring.
Also consider shapes when selecting a clarity. Brilliant cut diamonds like round , princess , cushion , oval , pear , and marquise hide inclusions better than other cuts like asscher and emerald. When purchasing a step cut diamond, try to select one clarity grade one level better than that of a brilliant cut.
- Select an "eye-clean" (no eye visible non magnified inclusions) diamond. An excellent value, diamonds of this clarity are much less expensive than flawless (FL) or internally flawless (IF) diamonds, which are extremely rare and demand high prices.
- If you're considering a diamond with an SI1 or SI2 clarity grade, call to speak to a diamond and jewelry consultant who will review the diamond to ensure the imperfections are not visible to the unaided eye. Contact us by phone at 1(844)-234-6463 or email at [email protected]. Our Live Chat is available during business hours Monday - Friday 10AM - 6PM ET.
- For diamonds that are VS2 or below, try to see an image or video of the diamond. Oftentimes diamonds within the same clarity grade can have differing appearances based on the location and size of the inclusions. At this stage the expert eye of a gemologist can help you determine which diamond is better.
- Diamond under 1.00 carat that are GIA certified have a diamond dossier that does not have a plot of the diamond inclusions. For these sizes, in clarity grades below VS2, be sure to check with a gemologist if the diamond has any overly visible inclusions. While the diamond certificate can give you a good idea of the inclusions, it is always best to double-check.
How is Clarity Graded
Gemologists always grade diamond clarity at 10x magnification. They identify and plot as many inclusions as possible. In diamonds below 1.00ct, there is typically a smaller GIA report called a dossier. A dossier has no diamond plot on the certificate. Diamonds larger than 1.00ct have a diamond plot on the GIA certificate.
Clarity grading is a subjective process. Trained gemologists identify the type, size, location and number of inclusions. They determine the grade based on a couple of inclusions and assign the grade. The diamond clarity rating or grade is an important factor to consider regardless of the size and shape of the diamond. Once a the inclusions on the diamond have been noted and mapped out. A diamond plot is used to record the location and size of these inclusions. The diamond plot is a sketch of the diamond face-up. It is shown on the GIA certificate or the dossier of the diamond. The different inclusions are shown with different symbols. Be sure to look at the diamond grade as well as the plot. GIA uses the color red to show internal inclusions and green for surface blemishes while black is used to convey extra facets. Oftentimes, the plot will not tell you about the severity of the inclusion so it is always important to also look at the clarity grade. Also be sure to look at the comments section on the GIA certificate to understand if there are certain inclusions that are not visible. Typically very small inclusions that are not visible under 10x magnification are noted in the comments section. For rule of thumb, a very busy looking plot with lots of inclusion markings means that the diamond is a bit less desirable.
Inclusions are natural, tiny imperfections that form either naturally or during the diamond cutting process. The majority of inclusions are naturally found within diamonds and are used to identify and distinguish diamonds. Here are the diamond inclusions you may find in a diamond or on a GIA grading report. All natural diamonds will have inclusions. It is immensely rare to find a diamond with no inclusions, and these diamonds carry a premium.
Feather: A clarity inclusion that describes a break in the surface of a gemstone that extends inside. It is a common clarity characteristic that can occur naturally. Feathers can look transparent and almost be invisible. Or in certain angles and lights have a grayish or white appearance. Feathers that are more visible detract from the clarity of the diamond.Try to avaoid very large feathers that are near the surface or girdle of the diamond, as those can be more visible.
Crystal: A clarity inclusion that forms during the diamond growth process within a diamond. It is used to determine the clarity grade. Crystals can exist in different colors within the diamond. Most commonly, they are found in black and white. White crystals are not always very distracting or visible. However, be careful if your diamond has black crystals, expecially larger ones. These are obvious, even without magnification at times. Black crystals are the result of embeded carbon. Other colored crystals are far less common within diamonds.
Cloud: A clarity inclusion that describes a group of tiny pinpoints within the diamond too small to individually distinguish under 10x magnification. A cloud can give a slightly hazy appearance where it is located within the diamond. Smaller coluds are typically not a major problem. When clouds cover a majority of the diamond area, they can cause an undesirable veil of haze that diminishes the sparkle. This is often hard to spot, however when looking at two magnified diamonds, one that is cloudy and another that is not, it is easier to see the difference.
Pinpoint: A very small crystal inclusion that looks like a tiny dot at 10x magnification. Pinpoints are usually quite small ad require magnification to view.
Natural: A small manufacturing remnant of the rough diamond skin that remains after the diamond cutting and manufacturing process. Naturals are typically located on or near the diamond’s girdle.
Indented Natural: A portion of a diamond’s natural, rough skin that is left on a polished diamond during the manufacturing process in order to maintain diamond weight. It differs from a natural in that it is slightly protrudes inward. Typically indented natural can happen when a portion of the rough diamond is left unpolished during the cutting process. Indented natural can be found near the girdles of diamonds.
Needle: A thin crystal that is visually needle-like and found inside the diamond. It is often as thick as a pinpoint but longer like a feather. Needles are typically white or transparent. Single needles are not as noticeable. However, in clusters or close together, needles can affect the clarity of the diamond negatively.
Knot: A crystal inclusion that extends to the surface of a diamond. Larger knots are not desirable as they are very visible even without magnification.
Chip: A small break on the diamond surface, typically located on your near facet junctions. It is usually man made and caused by wear and tear.
Cavity: An opening created when part of a feather breaks away. This can happen when a diamond is being manufactured, as a small piece of it falls or breaks away as the diamond is being shaped. Small cavities are not typically a problem, however you should avoid larger cavities.
Twinning Wisp: A clarity inclusion formed by a series of cloud, pinpoints or crystals. It may look like a large marking on a diamond plot, but is often difficult to see. Twinning wisps are the result of irregularites in the crystal structure of the diamond that occur as it is forming. Typically when diamonds are forming, specific environmental conditions are needed. When a diamond stops and starts regrowing the twinning wisps can form. Twinning wisps are a more desirable inclusion than crystals.
Internal Graining: Lines sometimes visible under 10x magnification that result from irregular crystallization. Internal graining lines cannot be polished away and follow no particular pattern. They cross facet junctions. Graining is typically caused by uneven crystal growth within the diamond and can look like white or colored lines. When larger, they can also appear like bigger creases.
Surface Graining: Transparent line-like formations on the surface of a diamond caused by crystal structure irregularities. Surface Graining can be difficult to identify even under magnification.
Chip: A chip is a small nick or opening that occurs on the surface of the diamond. This can happen on the edges of the diamond. Typically chips happen as a result of wear and tear or manufacturing accidents. Avoid diamonds that have large chips.
Etched Channel: This is a narrow and small tunnel that is found on the diamonds surface and and goes into the body of the diamond. This is a natural inclusion but can look similiar to a internal laser drill treatment. This inclusion forms when diamonds are coming up to the surface of the earth. When judging the impact of the etched channel, look at the clarity grade of the diamond. This will help you understand how much of an impact the inclusions has on the diamond.
Below you can see examples off the most common inclusions on real diamonds. Remember that diamonds viewed under magnification will always appear to have displeasing inclusions. Always check with a With Clarity gemologist to see the impact of the inclusion on the actual beauty of the diamond.
Sidestones & Accent Diamonds
One critical thing to look out for in jewelry purchases is the quality of sidestones and the accent diamonds, particularly in three stone rings or ones with larger accents. The jewelry must have gemologists inspect and carefully select matching stones. If they don't match, the jewelry looks odd and unappealing. Larger diamonds tend to have larger more visible inclusions so you need to ensure your accent stones match, partciularly with halo ring settings. The metal selection should not affect the choice of clarity as it pertains more to color.