Diamond Inclusions: What They Are, Types, Which to Avoid
Clarity is one thing you’ll hear a lot about (especially from expert gemologists) when researching and shopping for a diamond engagement ring. But most of us don’t give a second thought to how clear our diamonds are — aren’t they all the same anyway?
Not exactly. Diamond clarity is one of the all-important 4 Cs of diamonds, along with carat weight, color and cut. Most of us only worry about diamond carats and cuts, but there’s a hidden way to save money on diamonds that you probably don’t know about and it all comes down to the amount of clarity in the stone you pick. Let’s break down the main factor that influences diamond clarity — what they are and how they can affect the quality and price of your engagement ring.
What are diamond inclusions?
Simply put, inclusions are the flaws in the diamonds you buy.
Diamonds might be spiffed up when you buy them, but diamonds look pretty rough when they’re pulled from the mines. While some of these diamonds end up looking pretty flawless when they’re cut, the majority of them end up with inclusions — some you can see, some you can’t. Nearly every diamond has some sort of inclusions in it. While there are diamonds without inclusions, they’re so rare that even most diamond experts haven’t seen one.
The fewer number of inclusions a diamond has, the more it’ll cost; but the opposite happens when the number of inclusions goes up. While inclusions are flaws, most of them can’t be seen with the naked eye, but can save you considerable cash when it’s time to buy. There are even some inclusions that gemologists struggle to see under magnification.
What types of diamond inclusions are there?
There are over a dozen types of inclusions commonly found in diamonds. The most common of the diamond inclusions is a pinpoint. These are exactly like they sound: tiny black dots that are noticeable on the table of a diamond.
Feathers are the second-most common inclusions, and are tiny cracks that span the diamond from top to bottom and, if deep enough, can compromise the structure of the diamond.
Think of a crystal as kind of a diamond within a diamond. It’s typically comprised of tiny bits of diamond or mineral deposits that were trapped within the diamond as it formed.
A needle inclusion is a type of crystal that resembles a long, thin line. It’s usually white or clear.
Cloud inclusions get their name because it resembles a cloud, but it’s actually a cluster of pinpoints within the diamond.
Usually found around the four corners of a diamond’s girdle, a natural inclusion is a part of the original diamond that stayed when the diamond was cut. Some diamond cutters used to leave on naturals to prove to jewelers that they didn’t take too much of the diamond off during the process.
An indented natural inclusion can resemble a chip, but it’s actually located inside the surface of the diamond.
A knot is simply a crystal inclusion that reaches to the surface of a diamond.
A chip is exactly what it sounds like: a small notch taken out of the surface of a diamond. Unlike other diamond inclusions, chips are typically a result of wear and tear. The good news: They can typically be removed with polishing or re-cutting.
A diamond cavity is much like that of a tooth cavity: a small hole in the surface of a diamond. It’s not a good idea to buy a diamond with a cavity — and most jewelers won’t even sell them to you. Instead, diamonds with cavity inclusions are used for “industrial” purposes. (What does that mean, you might be wondering. Diamonds can only be cut with diamonds. So some diamond material has to be used to edge the machines used in diamond cutting for it to even be possible.)
Typically only found in fancy shape diamonds, a twinning wisp is believed to be a growth defect of a diamond comprised of crystals, clouds, feathers and pinpoints.
This type of diamond inclusion happens when crystals in the diamond grow unevenly, creating waves or lines within the diamond.
While the word surface makes you think this would be a type of graining on the surface of a diamond, this type of inclusions can be internal — but near the surface — of the diamond, too.
While these inclusions look like they could be man made, they’re actually a natural creation of channels from intense heat during the formation process.
How do diamond inclusions affect the price of your stone?
When it comes to clarity, diamonds are separated on a scale based on its inclusions. The diamonds with the fewest inclusions are called Flawless (FL) diamonds and Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds, while gemstones with inclusions visible to the eye are rated as Included (I). Most diamonds fall somewhere in the middle classes in the scale: Very, Very Slightly Included, Very Slightly Included, and Slightly Included.
As we mentioned before, flawless diamonds will be the most expensive because they’re so rare. But here’s the good news: You can save a considerable amount on a diamond that still looks flawless to the naked eye.
Because clarity grades are subjective, you can save anywhere from 15% to 25% on each clarity scale you go “down.” So if you go for a Very, Very Slightly Included diamond instead of an Internally Flawless, you’ll save big. The same goes if you go from a Very, Very Slightly Included diamond to a Very Slightly Included diamond — and from a Very Slightly Included diamond to an Slightly Included diamond. (You get it.)
How do inclusions influence the look of your diamond?
The further you go down the scale, the more likely you’ll be able to see inclusions within the stone without magnification, but it won’t affect the shine or look of the diamond until you get closer to the Included rung on the scale.
Included diamonds will tend to have more haziness, loss of sparkle or other distracting elements that can take away from the look of the stone.
Are inclusions ever a good thing?
Yes! Some inclusions are small enough that they bring down the price of the stone without changing the appearance of the stone to the naked eye. In other words: You can likely get a diamond with a higher carat weight, color or more expensive cut because you’re saving on the clarity part of the 4 Cs.
Understanding diamond inclusions can be confusing, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. At With Clarity, we have expert gemologists on staff who can explain everything you need to know about inclusions in detail — and help you find the right stone to maximize your budget.Contact Us