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Get the Facts About Diamond Clarity

Understanding Diamond Clarity Makes You a Better Shopper

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Close up of a cut diamond, with copy space
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

What Is Diamond Clarity?

Diamond clarity is a term used to describe the absence or presence of flaws inside or on the surface of a diamond or other gemstone. A perfect stone with perfect clarity, or clearness, is rare, and most flaws that do exist in jewelry grade diamonds cannot be seen without looking at the gems through a jeweler's magnifying loupe.

Terms that Refer to Diamond Clarity

Diamond Inclusions

  • Imperfections, or flaws, inside a diamond.
  • Tiny spots of white, black, or other colors.
  • Cracks. Some cause no problems at all. Other could cause the stone to split.
  • Colored and uncolored crystals.

Diamond Blemishes

  • Blemishes are flaws on a diamond's exterior surface.

  • Many exterior flaws are the result of the diamond cutting and polishing process.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades diamond clarity using 10X magnification. They tag diamonds as:

Fl, Flawless

  • No internal or external flaws.

IF, Internally Flawless

  • No internal flaws. Slight external blemishes.

VVS1 & VVS2, Very, very slightly included.

  • Minute inclusions. Difficult for even an experienced grader to detect.

VS1 & VS2, Very slightly included

  • Minute inclusions. Not easily seen by an experienced grader.

SI1 & SI2, Slightly included

  • Inclusions that are noticeable to an experienced grader.

I1 & I2 & I3, Included

  • Obvious inclusions that may affect transparency and brilliance.

If you read the detailed explanations for each diamond clarity category, you'll find that flaws usually cannot be seen without magnification, even by an experienced jeweler. Most are tiny imperfections that do not affect a diamond's brilliance. It often isn't until you reach the bottom level of "I" categories that imperfections begin to detract from the beauty of the diamond. Don't be concerned if the clarity of the diamond you choose is not near the top the scale.

The Location of Diamond Flaws Affects a Gem's Looks and Integrity

It's important to consider where a diamond's flaw is located in relation to the gemstone's cut, because some flaws are more noticeable when positioned in specific areas, and some flaws might compromise a diamond's durability. Your jeweler can offer advice about poor positions of flaws.

In her book "Diamonds, The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide," the author encourages us to get to know the imperfections within our diamonds, pointing out that since no two diamonds are alike, the flaws provide an important road map that may help us identify our property.

Clarity Enhanced Diamonds

Diamond clarity can be enhanced with treatments, but not all enhancement techniques are permanent. The two most popular treatments are:

Diamond Laser Treatments

  • A laser is used to remove some types of inclusions. An experienced jeweler can usually see the trail left by the laser.

    Laser treatments are permanent.

Diamond Fracture Filling

  • Tiny cracks in a diamond are filled with a colorless substance.

  • Fracture filling is not considered permanent.

Treatments allow us to own a diamond that appears to be of a higher clarity than it truly is. Treated diamonds should cost less, so it's important to buy diamonds from a jeweler you trust, one who evaluates and discloses any type of treatment that's been performed.

Diamond clarity is just one of the characteristics you should consider before you buy a diamond. Consider diamond color, diamond cut, diamond carat weight, price and other factors. Your quest to purchase a diamond is kind of like a large jigsaw puzzle -- it's only when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place that you find the perfect diamond for you.

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