In Depth: Diamond Clarity
If you’re researching engagement rings, you probably know that diamond clarity is one of the 4Cs (clarity, color, cut, and carat weight), the four grading factors set out by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and used by professionals worldwide. You might also be wondering what exactly “clarity” means and how it affects diamond value. We’d love to explain more about this important metric in detail.
What Does Diamond Clarity Mean?
The term clarity refers to the presences of internal inclusions and blemishes that occur naturally within the crystal structure of a diamond. The fewer inclusions, the better the diamond clarity rating and the more valuable the diamond will be.
The vast majority of diamonds have inclusions, but higher quality ones with good diamond clarity have inclusions that are imperceptible to the naked eye, since clarity is graded at 10x magnification.
The GIA, the foremost global authority on gemstones, created a diamond clarity scale with grades assigned for each level to measure the prevalence of inclusions. To give you a better idea of what each diamond clarity grade means, we’ve summarized it here.
Flawless is the best diamond clarity designation possible. A flawless diamond is is free of any inclusions, both internal and on the surface. These are quite rare, especially in larger carat weights.
Internally Flawless is a diamond free of any internal inclusions; the only noticeable inclusions are on the surface. With additional polishing, an Internally Flawless diamond can be made Flawless, which is the highest clarity diamond available.
VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds have only extremely small inclusions in the crystal structure, and under 10x magnification these would be difficult to see, even for a trained professional. These diamonds are completely clean to the naked eye.
VS1 and VS2 diamonds have small inclusions in the crystal structure, which are visible to a trained observer under 10x magnification. These diamonds are almost always clean to the naked eye.
SI1 diamonds have inclusions in the crystal structure that are noticeable under 10x magnification. Not all SI1s are created equal, though. Stones with SI1 diamond clarity ratings at the top 15-20% of the grading range will still be clean to the naked eye. However, most commercially available SI1s are not clean to the eye.
SI2 diamonds have inclusions in the crystal structure that are easily noticeable under 10x magnification. In the majority of cases, SI2 diamonds are not clean to the naked eye. However, there are rare occasions when an SI2 is clean to the eye and therefore can offer value to the buyer.
I1, I2 and I3 diamonds have extensive inclusions throughout the crystal structure that are very obvious under 10x magnification and are also noticeable to the naked eye. Diamond clarity and color are the most difficult metrics to detect without assistance, so if the inclusions are visible without magnification, then the diamond is of very poor quality indeed. At Kwiat, we feel that diamond clarity I1, diamond clarity I2, and diamond clarity I3 stones should be avoided altogether.
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Which Diamond Clarity Grade Is Right For You?
Kwiat diamonds are limited to the Flawless to SI range and are clean to the naked eye. We advise you to buy a diamond with clarity above the threshold where an inclusion is visible without magnification. Stones from diamond clarity I1 to diamond clarity I2-I3 ratings have noticeable inclusions and blemishes.
Besides an intrinsically lower value, there are other reasons to avoid a low clarity diamond. Unfortunately, once you notice an inclusion or blemish, your eye will return to it again and again. This detracts from the visual beauty and your own appreciation of the diamond over time.
What Is The Best Diamond Clarity For Your Budget Range?
Though prices range across the clarity diamond scale, we believe a diamond that looks clean to the naked eye will seem beautiful to the wearer regardless of its grading, whether it be Flawless, VS2 or SI1. Because of this, people often find that they don’t need to move very high within the clarity range to find a diamond they love.
How Diamond Shapes Show Clarity Differently
Some diamond shapes are better at masking inclusions. Diamonds that have round brilliant cut faceting, such as round, cushion, and oval shapes, as well as radiant-cut rectangular stones, hide internal inclusions well. More distinctive shapes that also use round brilliant faceting, such as heart, pear, and marquise cuts, will also readily conceal any inclusions that may be present in the stone.
Conversely, certain shapes showcase diamond cut and clarity by their design. Diamonds that have a step-cut faceting pattern, such as the emerald cut and Asscher cuts, are designed to be more window-like, allowing you to see more clearly into the heart of the diamond. They are particularly prized because of the way they showcase clarity, so internal inclusions will be more apparent to the naked eye.