A diamond’s clarity refers to the presence of identifying characteristics on or within the stone. Diamonds take an incredible amount of pressure to form, so it’s no surprise that a lot of diamonds have imperfections.
Simply put there are two difference types of flaws: inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions are internal flaws whilst blemishes are surface flaws. You should note that in diamond grading there is no such term as blemish. For grading purposes all flaws are called inclusions.
Inclusions may include different types of flaws such as air bubbles, small cracks, and non-diamond minerals found within the diamond. Blemishes may include scratches, pits or chips in the surface of the diamond. Some blemishes may occur during the cutting processes (most often at the girdle). As you might expect diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are worth more than those with less clarity because they are rarer.
Grading Diamond Clarity
Diamonds are graded for clarity under a 10x loupe magnification. The different grades range from Flawless (diamonds which are completely free of blemishes and inclusions), to Included 3 (diamonds which possess large, heavy blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye). The different clarity grades are as follows:
Flawless: No internal or external flaws. Extremely rare.
Internally Flawless: no internal flaws, but some surface flaws. Very rare.
Very Very Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions very difficult to detect under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist.
Very Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions seen only with difficulty under 10x magnification.
Slightly Included (two grades). Minute inclusions more easily detected under 10x magnification.
Included (three grades). Inclusions visible under 10x magnification AS WELL AS to the human eye. We do not recommend buying diamonds in any of these grades.
Whilst it’s true that the presence of imperfections (inclusions and blemishes) do lower the clarity grade of a diamond, it should be noted that they can also be viewed as proof of a diamond’s identity. GIA diamond certificates include what is known as a “plot” of a diamond’s inclusions (almost like a diamond fingerprint). Since no two diamonds are the same, comparing the uniqueness of your diamond’s clarity characteristics with the plot provided on the diamond certificate offers assurance that the diamond you pay for is the same diamond you receive.
What Grade Should You Buy
While Flawless diamonds are the rarest and most expensive, a diamond does not have to be flawless to be visually stunning. In fact, until you reach the “I” grade, a diamond’s clarity grade has no impact on the unmagnified diamond’s appearance.
Diamonds with VVS and VS grades can be a great choice for both value and appearance. More affordable are those diamonds which gemologists call “eye-clean”. These are diamonds with no inclusions visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are classed SI1 and SI2 (see list above) and unless the recipient carries a 10X loupe, they won’t see the inclusions.
Once you drop to I1-I3, flaws are visible to the naked eye and are much less sought after. Having said this, not everyone notices visible flaws in a diamond and not all “visible” flaws are “equally” visible. It’s generally not advised to buy I1-I3 diamonds.