The Diamond Clarity Scale: A helpful guide for those new to diamonds
Diamonds are highly valued and appreciated for their beauty. The diamond industry is extensive, and experts devote their lives to acquiring comprehensive knowledge about every facet of these precious stones.
Among the various methods for evaluating a diamond, clarity is considered to be one of the more complex factors. Carat, color, and cut, the other primary elements, can be easily determined through a quick observation or basic tools. In contrast, assessing clarity requires extensive knowledge and significant experience.
This article explores the art and science of diamond clarity, providing insight into the skill involved in this significant grading factor.
This information will provide answers to any questions you may have about diamond clarity and give you an advantage when shopping for your next piece of jewelry. Let's begin.
Diamond Clarity Defined
Clarity refers to the evaluation of imperfections present on the surface or inside a diamond, and it is a significant factor in determining its value.
Flaws, also referred to as inclusions, may not appear significant to those without knowledge in the field, but in the diamond industry, even a minor imperfection can significantly reduce the potential value. This is why gemologists and jewelers utilize loupes and 10x magnification to inspect the interior of each stone.
This assessment serves as a means of protecting both consumers from overpaying for a diamond and ensuring that sellers receive their fair value.
Appraisers and certifiers utilize various reference points and past teachings to make informed decisions, thoroughly examining each stone.
Clarity is one of the 4 C's of diamond quality, and some consider it to be the most significant. Cut is seen as more subjective, and carat is less important if the diamond has flaws.
In the modern era, color preference is not considered a top priority.
Clarity is an important factor for diamond buyers as even minor flaws can greatly impact the price. Among the 4 C's, clarity is consistently considered the most significant.
Clarity Grading Factors
When assessing diamond clarity, jewelers rely on grading factors to establish a universal language and ensure consistent understanding of what to observe under the microscope.
The American Gemological Society provides the grading factors that all jewelers and appraisers in the United States follow as the standard.
Size is a measurement of the flaws within the stone. The larger the blemish or inclusion, the more it will affect the clarity scores. This also takes into account the relative size of the flaws compared to the size of the stone.
Nature refers to the flaws found in a stone, either within its structure or on its surface. We will further explore the various categories later, but for now, it is important to note that flaws within the stone are known as inclusions, while surface flaws are called blemishes.
The number represents the total count of flaws identified. This typically pertains to the quantity of easily visible inclusions, with a lower number being preferable.
The position of an inclusion or blemish in a stone is significant as it determines its location. Inclusions or flaws that are situated directly under the table of a diamond, which is close to the top when looking down, are more concerning than a small scratch deep within the body.
Relief, also known as color, refers to the contrast between a flaw and the surrounding material. This contrast affects the severity of an inclusion, with a dark internal scratch or cavity being more problematic than a lighter flaw that is more difficult to detect.
By learning this lingo, you will gain insight into the operations of diamond graders.
Different types of inclusions and blemishes can be found.
Now that you are aware of the primary factors involved in assessing a stone's flaws, it is important to note that there is additional information to consider. Various types of inclusions and blemishes should be examined, and jewelers utilize specific terminology to effectively communicate the flaws they discover.
Certain flaws have different significance when evaluating a stone, and they can occur naturally or result from human error during extraction or cutting. These minor variations have a significant impact on the final determination.
A small impact mark on the surface of a stone is referred as a bruise. This can cause crooked lines within the diamond and greatly lower its rating. Larger bruises may even be visible without magnification.
The most common blemishes observed on a stone's surface are cavities and chips. Cavities are angular openings caused by unintentional material removal, while chips are less severe but still affect clarity.
Blemishes can appear as extra facets and may be mistaken for intentional cuts, but experts can differentiate these errors from deliberate cuts. Surface markings often indicate an underlying issue.
When considering inclusions, shape, size, and contrast are important factors. Inclusions are small bits of matter within the stone that differ from the surrounding material. Knots are transparent crystals that emerge on the surface of the stone.
When observing a diamond, it is possible to spot small clusters of specks known as clouds. These clouds are not always mentioned in grading reports for lower clarity diamonds and can only be seen with 10x magnification.
Extended inclusions can pose difficulties as they extend beyond a single chunk or cavity. A needle is considered a preferable option in this case due to its short and thin structure, resembling a small rod. Feathers, on the other hand, present a greater challenge with fractures that extend further and occasionally reach the surface.
The twinning wisp is a series of individual inclusions that form a long strand of irregularity. They typically move in unpredictable directions and have the ability to branch off.
These are the common blemishes and inclusions that are frequently mentioned, but experienced jewelers also use terminology that may sound unconventional. Continue reading and researching to learn more about the various shapes and types of flaws found in diamonds.
The GIA Diamond Grading System
The Gemological Institute of America has been using the same diamond grading system since 1953, which is broken down into six categories and 10 clarity grades. This system provides enough detail to inform you about what to expect at each level.
There are numerous books and courses available on this topic, but we will provide a brief overview of each category to help you get started.
Flawless (FL) diamonds are characterized by having no inclusions or blemishes, making them extremely rare. Less than 1% of all diamonds in the world achieve this grade and are priced accordingly.
Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds may have minor surface blemishes that can be observed under a microscope, but they do not have any internal inclusions. To the naked eye, these flaws are not visible.
VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds contain microscopic inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye or even under 10x magnification.
Diamonds classified as Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2) have minor inclusions that are visible under magnification but cannot be detected with the naked eye or a loupe.
Slightly Included (SI1, SI2) diamonds have visible inclusions when viewed at 10x magnification but are still considered eye-clean. They offer good value when purchasing large pieces of jewelry with numerous stones, such as big Cuban Link Chains.
Diamonds that include inclusions and blemishes will be easily visible without the need for a microscope. Some retailers choose not to sell these items in order to maintain high standards of quality.
When selecting diamonds, it is important to choose wisely and consider clarity as a guiding factor. Whether you are investing in a large diamond or looking for quality simulant diamond jewelry, the information provided here will be beneficial.