When we speak of a diamond's clarity, we are
referring to the presence of identifying characteristics on and
within the stone. While most of these characteristics are inherent
qualities of the rough diamond and have been present since the
earliest stages of the crystal's growth below ground, a few are
actually a result of the harsh stress that a diamond undergoes
during the cutting process itself.
If you think about the incredible amount of
pressure it takes to create a diamond, it's no surprise that many
diamonds have inclusions -- scratches, blemishes, air bubbles
or non-diamond mineral material -- on their surface or inside.
Diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are more highly
valued than those with less clarity, not just because they are
more pleasing to the eye, but also because they are rarer.
Diamonds are graded for clarity under 10x loupe
magnification. Grades range from Internally Flawless, diamonds
which are completely free of blemishes and inclusions even under
10x magnification, to Imperfect 3, diamonds which possess large,
heavy blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.
FL: Completely flawless
IF: Internally flawless;
only external flaws are present, which can be removed by further
polishing the stone
VVS1 - VVS2: Only an
expert can detect flaws with a 10X microscope. By definition,
if an expert can see a flaw from the top of the diamond, it is
a VVS2. Otherwise, if an expert can only detect flaws when
viewing the bottom of the stone, then it is a VVS1
VS1 - VS2: You can see
flaws with a 10X microscope, but it takes a long time (more than
about 10 seconds)
SI1 - SI2: You can see
flaws with a 10X microscope
I1 - I3: You can see
flaws with the naked eye. Consider avoiding I2-I3 diamonds.
REMEMBER: For grades IF through SI, a diamond's
clarity grade has an impact on the diamond's value, not on the
unmagnified diamond's appearance.
While Flawless diamonds are the rarest, a diamond
does not have to be flawless to be stunning. In fact, until you
drop to the "I" grade, a diamond's clarity grade has an impact
on the diamond's value, not on the unmagnified diamond's appearance.
Diamonds with VVS and VS grades are excellent choices for both
value and appearance. More affordable (and still a great choice)
are those diamonds which gemologists call "eye-clean" - diamonds
with no inclusions visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are
SI1 and SI2 and unless the recipient carries a 10X loupe (a strong
jewelry magnifying glass), she won't see the inclusions.
There are many different types of flaws.
The best way to become acquainted with them is to look at lots
of diamonds. The more common ones are as follows:
Pinpoint: A very small
white dot on the surface of the stone. By far, the most
Carbons: A very small
black dot on the surface of the stone. Less common than
Feathers: Small cracks
within the stone, similar in look to broken glass. Small
internal feathers are harmless (other than lowering the clarity
rating of the diamond), but large feathers can become a problem
because the crack can grow as the diamond ages
Clouds: Hazy areas
within the diamond, actually made up of many small crystals
that are impossible to see individually
Crystal Growth: A small
crystalline growth within the diamond. Looks like a small
diamond within the big diamond
Unfortunately, clarity is very difficult to
judge accurately by an inexperienced consumer, so your best bet
is to gain an education first by looking at lots of diamonds before
making a purchase. Any good jeweler will spend the time
you need to get comfortable judging the clarity of your stone
-- ask different jewelers to point out the flaws in several
stones until you can detect pinpoints and other flaws by yourself.
Many people make clarity the least "important"
of the 4 Cs when purchasing their diamonds. The rationale
is obvious -- when your partner shows the ring to all her friends,
the likelihood that one of them will pull out a 10X microscope
to examine the flaws on her diamond are very slim. Given
that, why spend a lot of money on a VVS1 diamond when an SI2 will
look exactly the same to the naked eye?
If you're purchasing an emerald
cut (or any other step cut), consider
purchasing a diamond with clarity greater than SI1. Clarity
flaws are much more readily visible in step cuts than in brilliant