Clarity refers to the presence of imperfections, known as inclusions, in the crystal structure of the diamond. Nearly all diamonds contain some sort of inclusion, as they are part of a diamond’s characteristics and structure. An inclusion within a diamond is natural, and on the higher end of the clarity scale, does not take away from its beauty.
Inclusions are caused by nature. As a diamond forms over millions of years, the molecular bonding process is temporarily interrupted, resulting in clarity that is less than perfect. There are many different types of inclusions, ranging from microscopic specks of black carbon to feathery lines to cloudy spots. Each can have a different effect on the diamond’s clarity.
CLARITY SCALE AND GRADES
Almost all of the world’s diamonds have some kind of inclusion within. The diamond clarity grading system of the Gemological Institute of America, the world’s premier diamond grading nonprofit, measures the visibility of these characteristics under 10x magnification. Specific attributes of inclusions, such as size, type, and location within the stone, are considered when assigning a clarity grade on a scale that rates diamonds from Flawless (FL) through Included-3 (I3).
A GUIDE TO THE CLARITY OF A DIAMOND
Flawless & Internally Flawless (“IF”) – The diamond shows no inclusions when examined under 10x magnification and has the best diamond clarity rating.
VVS1 & VVS2 – “Very, Very Slightly Included” – The diamond contains microscopic inclusions that are very difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. These inclusions are never visible to the naked eye.
VS1 & VS2 – “Very Slightly Included” – The diamond contains minor inclusions that are visible to a skilled grader under 10x magnification. These inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
SI1 & SI2 – “Slightly Included” – The diamond contains inclusions that are easily visible under 10x magnification. The inclusions in SI1 diamonds are often not visible to the naked eye. The inclusions in SI2 diamonds are sometimes not visible to the naked eye.
I1, I2, I3 and beyond – The diamond contains inclusions that are obvious under 10x magnification and easily visible to the naked eye.
FLAWLESS AND INCLUDED DIAMONDS
A diamond with a clarity grade of Flawless (F) is the rarest and most valuable stone. A flawless diamond is crystal clear both inside and out, without any imperfections from millions of years of natural formation. Often, though, a diamond’s journey has a story that leaves a mark. These marks, known as inclusions, are like the earth’s fingerprint—the faintest evidence of a gem’s miraculous history.
Depending on its location and size, an inclusion may or may not have an impact on the visual appearance of a diamond. Any inclusion that is visible to the naked eye takes away from the overall attractiveness of the diamond. At Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS) and Very Slightly Included (VS), it is nearly impossible for the eye to see anything. Even at Slightly Included 1 (SI1), and sometimes at Slightly Included 2 (SI2), diamonds will appear clean to the naked eye. A diamond with minute inclusions would still receive a relatively high clarity grade because the inclusions are so hard to see.
As the clarity grade of a diamond moves below Slightly Included, it becomes less attractive and inclusions are easily spotted without any magnification. Once a diamond goes beyond an I3 on the GIA scale, it is no longer fit for use in jewelry. Stones beyond I3 become industrial diamonds, used for their hardness in drill bits, saws and other applications.
At Kwiat, we only work with a limited selection of diamonds that meet our strict clarity standards. Our range is from flawless (FL) to slightly included (SI1-SI2), and only when inclusions appear clean to the naked eye. If there are any visible imperfections, we will not use the stone in any of our jewelry.
That being said, certain inclusions (such as a pinpoint) are much harder to spot than others. Cut in just the right way and placed in the correct setting, a slightly included (SI) stone can look beautiful. This is why our design philosophy is to design and craft each ring around its center stone with its wearer in mind.
SHAPES AND CLARITY
Clarity should be viewed in terms of a stone’s overall profile. Asscher and emerald cuts more readily show inclusions because of their step cut faceting pattern. Diamonds with these cuts have a window-like appearance that allows you to see right through the stone. As a result, any present inclusion becomes more visible to the naked eye. If you have your heart set on a step cut diamond, we recommend selecting a stone with a grade of VS2 or better, with the exception of the occasional SI1 stone that is clean to the naked eye.
Brilliant cuts such as rounds and marquise shapes have a faceting pattern that is more forgiving. Selecting a diamond that is in the top 15-20% of the SI1 range, and very occasionally in the top 2-3% of the SI2 range, may be a very good choice, as long as it is clean to the eye. Keep in mind that most SI1 stones and almost all SI2 stones will not look clean to the naked eye, and it is not worth sacrificing on clarity. A diamond should be seen in person to see its true details.
CLARITY GRADE TRADE-OFFS
Selecting a diamond with an F or even VVS1-2 grade in clarity can mean adjusting your carat, color or cut requirements. Learn what works best for your budget.
CLARITY AND ITS EFFECT ON DIAMONDS
A diamond should be graded for clarity while it is loose. Once a diamond is in its setting, clarity is very difficult, if not impossible, to grade because prongs can cover inclusions. The upside to this? If an inclusion is in a place on a diamond where a prong or another part of the setting can hide it, the stone may be a worthy choice despite its imperfection.
Inclusions within a diamond should never be visible to the naked eye. If an inclusion is present, it is important to think about how it impacts the visual beauty of a diamond. If you can see it, you are likely to see it forever and it will bother you.
Clarity has an impact on a diamond’s rarity, and thus a diamond’s value. As the clarity of the diamond becomes cleaner on the grading scale, the cost will also increase. Superb clarity is just one part of what makes a stone truly captivating. But it’s important to understand that the difference between one clarity grade and the next is subtle and often indiscernible to the average person. Balancing clarity with color is a decision that will result in the right diamond for you.