Personally, Diamond Clarity is the hardest to decipher out of all the Diamond 4Cs. There are 2 main reasons. First, the grading does not follow an ordered list, for example, the alphabet order used for Diamond Colour Grades.
At a glance, I know that a C colour is a better grade when compared to H Colour because of the alphabetic order. But the terms used for Diamond Clarity are, just to name a few, VVS1, VS2, I2, SI1, and etc. How do I know what these grades really mean?
Second, I cannot tell the difference between the different Diamond Clarity grades just by looking at the diamonds. Most of the time, the differences are more visible when viewed under magnification. Let us look at how the Diamond Clarity is graded by GIA.
The Diamond Clarity is graded based on the absence of inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions are small imperfections in the diamond while blemishes are on its surface. Small crystals growth trapped in a diamond during formation deep in the earth causes the inclusions. Although the grade of the diamond clarity affects the value of the diamond, most of the inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be visible to the naked eye.
Diamond Clarity Scale
A diamond’s clarity is evaluated under 10x magnification and classified into 6 categories, with some categories further divided.
No inclusions and blemishes can be seen under 10x magnification
Internally Flawless (IF)
No inclusions can be seen under 10x magnification
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 & VVS2)
Minuscule inclusions that are extremely or very difficult to see under 10x magnification, even by a skilled grader
Very Slightly Included (VS1 & VS2)
Small inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification, by a skilled grader
Slightly Included (S1 & S2)
Inclusions noticeable under 10x magnification and S2 may be visible to the naked eye
Included (I1, I2, & I3)
Inclusions obvious under 10x magnification and are usually visible to the naked eye
Types of Inclusions
The term ‘inclusion’ is commonly referred to as flaws found in a diamond. Unless it is a flawless diamond, you’ll be able to see some inclusion characteristics on the GIA certificate. There are many types of inclusions and not all are equal. Let us review them one by one and find out what types of inclusions to avoid.
Even with the hardness of a diamond, there are times where they experience bruises. Most often, It is found in the crown of the diamond, but can also appear in various sizes and other locations.
The bruise inclusion is caused by a strong and sharp blow on the diamond surface. The force impacts the insides of the diamond, causing small feather inclusions. The cutters are usually the culprit for this type of inclusion when they rush through the job and use the polishing wheel with too great an impact.
A cavity is an indentation or a hole on the diamond. During the polishing process, an internal inclusion may fall out of its pocket and create a cavity.
Most cavities are tiny and will only be noticeable under magnification. However, a cavity will trap oil and dirt at a much faster rate and causes it to look like a “decay” at that part of the diamond.
Try to avoid having a diamond with a cavity. In the event where you must purchase a piece with a cavity, find one that is near the crown or girdle. The impact of a cavity on the clarity is much more if it is close to the pavilion or table.
In some rare occasions, a diamond might chip from accidental bumps or wear and tear. A chip inclusion is usually near edges or facet junctions. Narrow chips can easily be removed from re-cutting and polishing of the diamond.
To remove a wider chip, however, may result in loss of carat weight after a major re-cutting.
A cloud is formed from a cluster of pinpoints in the diamond. For clarity grades of VS1 and above, the cloud inclusions are usually tiny and subtle. If the cloud inclusion is too big, it may cause the diamond to have a white and hazy appearance.
Also known as baby diamonds, crystal inclusions are little bits of diamonds or other mineral deposits trapped in a larger diamond during its formation. Crystals come in different shapes, sizes, and colour. The colour of the crystal depends on the type of mineral. For example, garnets are red, peridots are green.
When choosing a diamond with crystal inclusions, only go for the white ones. Chances are, they are invisible to the naked eye if it is not too big. On the other hand, dark crystals must be avoided at all cost. Also, take note of where the crystal inclusion is.
It is more difficult to be detected if crystals are under the crown facets, as compared to being under the table.
The feather inclusion is a small crack inside the diamond. It may look like a bird feather from some perspectives, but it is invisible to the naked eye most of the time.
It is important to look out for the position of the feather. If they are near the girdle area or any cavities, it may cause durability issues for the diamond.
An indented natural is a part of the original diamond that leaves a slight indent. It is usually located along the girdle of the diamond and is difficult to see.
One of the most common reasons for this inclusion is the diamond cutter left an indented natural in order to retain the carat weight.
A knot inclusion happens when a crystal reaches the surface of the diamond. This can be usually be seen with the naked eye as the knot creates an impression that the diamond has a raised section.
A knot inclusion also will affect the durability of the diamond in the future.
Laser Drill Hole
Most laser drill holes are small and cannot be seen by the naked eye. A laser drill hole inclusion occurs when the diamond cutter drills a tunnel into the diamond to remove a dark internal inclusion.
A needle inclusion is a long thin crystal that was included in the diamond. It is usually white or translucent, which makes it extremely hard to be seen by the naked eye. Having said that, avoid diamonds that have lots of needle inclusions within a small cluster.
Based on our experience, pinpoint inclusions are by far the most common type of inclusion. They are usually white and appear like a point of light when viewed under magnification. They are otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
When three or more pinpoint inclusions cluster together, it becomes a cloud inclusion.
Due to poor conditions, a diamond may stop development during the formation process. And twinning wisps are formed when it resumed its development in the future.
Twinning wisps look like stretch marks on a diamond due to growth defects in its crystal structure. It comprises a party of crystals, clouds, feathers, and pinpoints. Avoid the twinning wisp inclusions if possible.
Choosing the Optimal Diamond Clarity Grade
Diamond Clarity is one of the least important aspects out of the Diamond 4Cs. The naked eye cannot see most inclusions and blemishes. In addition, it does not affect the visual effects of a diamond significantly. In order to maximize your budget, go for diamonds between grades VS1 to VVS1 as the inclusions are not visible without magnification.
We recommend reading about the Diamond Cut, Colour, and Carat Weight in our previous articles before making any purchases. We have also included buying tips and recommendations. Need more tips? Sure, we have compiled a comprehensive list of buying tips! Call or book an appointment to visit us at the Draco Diamonds workshop to know more about choosing the right diamond!