Diamond Clarity is determined by the presence or absence of flaws in or on the diamond. The rarest of diamonds have perfect clarity, and are internally and externally flawless. The majority of diamond have some degree of imperfections, although the diamonds used in jewelry typically have very small or even unnoticeable flaws. Most diamond jewelry’s flaws can only be seen through a loupe.
Diamond imperfections are separated into two categories: inclusions – internal diamond flaws – and blemishes – those flaws on a diamond’s surface.
Inclusions are defined as those tiny flaws within a diamond. They can be spots of varying colors, clouds, feathers, or tiny cracks, crystal clusters, cavities, knots, or graining, among other things. Inclusions greatly affect the clarity grade of a diamond, as they can compromise a diamond’s internal structure and determine how well the diamond refracts light. A large inclusion can make the diamond appear cloudy.
A diamond with white inclusions will be valued more than a diamond with black or dark inclusions, as the white inclusions are more difficult to see with the naked eye. Blemishes, those flaws on the surface of a diamond, are more often a result of the cutting and polishing process than those of natural formation. Blemishes can be anything from polish lines to scratches, nicks and dents. The more severe blemishes can include chips, cracks, pits and breakage on the surface.
Diamonds are magnified to 10 times and graded based on the number, size, location, color and intensity or nature of any present inclusions. The GIA assigns one of 11 letter grades, divided into 6 categories, to a diamond when grading its clarity.
The best, and rarest grade a diamond can earn is Flawless. These diamonds, as the name implies, are perfectly free of both blemishes and inclusions when examined under 10x magnification.
The next best is internally flawless, meaning that the diamond shows no inclusions on the interior, but may still have slight blemishes. Anything flawless is a loose diamond, as the prongs used to set a stone automatically render it internally flawless once mounted.
After internally flawless, the grades enter the Very, very slightly included category, including VVS1 and VVs2 grades. These diamond exhibit miniscule flaws that are difficult to detect even at 10x magnification.
After this category is Very Slightly included, which, as you may have guessed from the elimination of a “very”, is the next step up for visibility of inclusions. These diamonds are graded VS1 or VS2. We think that VS diamonds are the best way to get a great deal on a beautiful diamond.
After this, the SI or Slightly Included category grades diamonds SI1 or SI2 that have fairly noticeable flaws to an experienced grader under a 10x magnification. They are still beautiful diamonds, and the flaws are vastly unnoticeable to the naked eye or the average jewelry lover.
The last category, I for included, grades diamonds I1, I2, and I3. These diamonds have obvious flaws that detract from a diamond’s brilliance.
The clarity of a diamond is one of the biggest components in determining its value. A flawless or internally flawless is the best that money can buy – the better the quality gets, the more the rarity increases. If you’re looking for quality without compromise then something like this 12 carat will warrant a several hundred thousand dollar budget.