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Diamond Buying Made Easier > Diamond Clarity

Diamond Clarity

Diamond clarity is one of the 4Cs that are used in setting the price of a diamond. When you are shopping for a diamond engagement ring, a diamond pendant, some diamond earrings, or any piece of diamond jewelry; one important factor is the clarity of the diamonds that you choose. However, the diamond clarity of the earrings that you choose could be different than the diamond clarity that you would like to have when you buy a diamond engagement ring.

Does a higher diamond clarity equal a more beautiful diamond? Good question! Some people feel that diamond clarity is everything, some others feel it is not as important. As for me, I'd place diamond clarity as being number 3... with diamond cut being number 1 and diamond color being number 2.

  What is diamond clarity?  

Diamond clarity refers to the presence of extra little goodies on the inside and on the outside of a diamond. The dictionary definition of clarity is "the quality or state of being clear".

Having a diamond without anything inside of it is extremely rare, especially in larger diamonds. Because of this rarity factor, a diamond that is "cleaner" (a high diamond clarity) is also more expensive. Of all the diamonds that are mined every year, only about 20% are "clean enough" (that is have a high enough diamond clarity to be considered “gem quality”) that could be used in diamond jewelry with the other 80% of the diamonds being used for industrial purposes.
So if you have a diamond with a very high diamond clarity grade (FL, IF, VVS) then it really is one in a million, making it even that much more special!

  How can we communicate how "clear" a diamond is or isn't?  

In the world of colored stones (gemstones other than diamonds), there are "word terms" which are used to describe the clarity of a gem. Terms like "clean", "eye clean", "almost eye clean", "included", etc.

Can we use the same type of system with describing diamond clarity? For many many years, word terms were used to classify the clarity of a diamond... which lead to a lot of confusion. Given the same diamond, one person would describe the diamond clarity as "almost eye clean" and another person would describe the diamond clarity as "clean"..... who was right?
Up until the early 1950s this had been a problem... a standardized diamond clarity grading system was needed!

  The Diamond Clarity Grading System...  

The Diamond Clarity Grading System was developed by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) in 1953 and is now the common international language when we talk about diamond clarity.

The following is from GIA's website and here is their definition of diamond clarity-
"Diamonds have internal features, called inclusions, and surface irregularities, called blemishes. Together, they're called clarity characteristics. A diamond clarity grade is determined by the relative absence of clarity characteristics."

The following are the diamond clarity grades that are assigned when a diamond is examined by a trained observer using 10X magnification under a controlled lighting environment-

Flawless (FL): no blemishes or inclusions when examined by a skilled grader under 10X magnification.

Internally Flawless (IF): no inclusions when examined by a skilled grader, and only insignificant blemishes under 10X.

Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): contain minute inclusions that are difficult for even a skilled grader to locate under 10X. VVS1: extremely difficult to see, visible only from the pavilion or small and shallow enough to be removed by minor repolishing. VVS2: very difficult to see.

Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): contain minor inclusions ranging from difficult (VS1) to somewhat easy (VS2) for a trained grader to see under 10X.

Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): contain noticeable inclusions which are easy (SI1) or very easy (SI2) to see under 10X. In some SIs, inclusions can be seen with the unaided eye.

Included (I1, I2, I3): contain inclusions which are obvious to a trained grader under 10X, can often be easily seen face-up with the unaided eye, seriously affect the stone's potential durability, or are so numerous they affect transparency and brilliance.

diamond clarity chart
Diamond Clarity grading performed using 10X magnification.

red arrow red arrow If you would like more information and a quick visual demonstration of SI2 and I1 Diamond Clarity grades click on the following link...

- Important Take Away Points -
Diamond Clarity

#1- Diamond Clarity grades from FL to SI1 should look the same to you.... they should not have any inclusions that are noticeable to your naked eye, you will need to use 10X magnification.... that is, unless Superman happens to take a look at your diamond!
But then again, he doesn't care about diamond clarity because he can make Flawless diamonds out of lumps of coal!

#2- A diamond's clarity is determined based on the number, nature, size, location, and color of each inclusion or blemish. The best thing about a diamond's unique mixture of inclusions and blemishes is that it gives it a fingerprint. On most diamond grading reports, there is a diagram (a map, called a plot) where all of the diamond clarity characteristics are drawn. It is this “fingerprint” that helps support the diamond clarity grade that was assigned and also helps in linking the diamond to that diamond grading report.

#3- Higher diamond clarity does not equal a more beautiful diamond! The true beauty of the diamond is released by how the diamond has been cut. I have seen some absolutely beautiful well cut diamonds with a diamond clarity grade of I1 and some lifeless, poorly cut, dead diamonds that had a diamond clarity of VVS1.

#4- Diamond clarity is a scale with extremely rigid categories at the top (FL, IF, and VVS)... meaning that a single microscopic inclusion can force a diamond down to a lower diamond clarity grade.
As you move "down" the grading diamond clarity scale (VS, SI, and I) there is a much wider range of "diamond clarity characteristics" that are allowed.

So a diamond with a SI1 diamond clarity is not at the "bottom" of the diamond clarity scale... it's more in the middle of the clarity grading scale.... it can therefore be a very good value because it will look the same to your eye as a diamond with a FL (Flawless) diamond clarity grade without the premium price of a FL, IF, or VVS diamond.

#5- There are some diamond clarity treatments that are occasionally done on low clarity diamonds in order to make them more marketable diamonds- Clarity Enhanced Diamonds.... these diamonds can present a great value!

#6- How will you be able to tell the clarity of a diamond?

You, as a person who is not fully trained in this diamond clarity grading system, probably might not be able to accurately determine the clarity grade of a diamond..... but I'm sure you could probably get kind of close.
A Gemologist who has been trained as to all the variables will be able to determine the diamond clarity grade and they will also be able to show you why a diamond is a certain clarity.

One of the only ways to be assured of the diamond clarity will be to have a diamond grading report issued by a credible gemological laboratory. The best reports will be from GIA, AGSL, or GCAL. These nationally known and well respected labs do use a number of diamond graders who must agree on all of the qualities of the diamond before a report is issued. I do not recommend any other diamond grading reports unless you are dealing with a diamond retailer that you can totally trust and that person can show you all the clarity aspects of the diamond that you are considering.

When it comes to buying diamonds online, you must have a diamond grading report and it can only be from GIA, AGSL, or GCAL. This will be your “lifeline” when you are trying to compare diamonds. I recommend these 3 labs because these diamond grading labs put out reports that have a Diamond Cut Grade which is extremely valuable when buying diamonds online. Because buying a diamond online is essentially a “blind purchase”, having a proper diamond grading report will be a great tool to use in zeroing in on your diamond out of all the thousands of diamonds offered online.

Since the mid 90's I have seen the growth of online diamond retailers and in my position as the Head Gemologist for an online jewelry retailer I did end up working with most of the online diamond retailers. This is why I can wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is considering buying a diamond online to look to buy from JamesAllen.com, not only are their prices generally the lowest but they are the only online diamond retailer with real pictures of the diamonds they sell. So you are seeing the actual diamond that you will purchase and best of all you can always contact me for my opinion of the diamond you are considering before buying it or I could give a suggestion about some different diamonds.

James Allen Loose Diamonds
James Allen has a very interesting diamond website. They have.....
one of the largest and best selections of loose diamonds around,
their loose diamond prices are usually the lowest anywhere on the net,
they have top notch customer service, and best of all they are the
only online diamond retailer with actual pictures of the diamonds they sell.
Seeing is believing!  Check it out for yourself.... click here!

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If you need some help with a diamond decision,
all you have to do is ask!
Free one on one diamond buying consultation...

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