the Four Cs Of Diamonds
Because natural diamonds are created under an incredible amount of pressure and not
grown in a laboratory, it's no surprise that most diamonds have flaws.
A diamond's "clarity" grade is all about the flaws (or lack thereof).
There are two types of flaws:
"Inclusions" are flaws such as air bubbles, cracks, and non-diamond minerals found within the diamond.
"Blemishes" are scratches, pits, and chips (some blemishes occur during the cutting process, most often at the girdle).
- Blemishes: found on the surface of the diamond
- Inclusions: found within the diamond
Because they are less common, diamonds with no or few inclusions and blemishes are more highly valued and priced.
For diamond clarity grades F through VS, inclusions (internal flaws) are NOT
visible to the naked eye.
Here's how diamonds are graded for Clarity
Diamonds are examined for flaws and inclusions under 10x magnification.
Grades range from Flawless (diamonds which are completely free of blemishes and inclusions), to Included 3
(diamonds which possess large, heavy blemishes and inclusions that are visible to the naked eye).
Clarity Grade Descriptions
- F (Flawless): No internal or external flaws. Extremely rare, these diamonds come with a price tag to match their rarity. Expect a flawless one-carat round brilliant diamond to cost a minimum of $20,000.
- IF (Internally Flawless): no internal flaws, but some surface flaws. Rare, but with prices for an internally flawless one-carat round brilliant diamond starting around $5,000, affordable for many people.
- VVS1-VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions very difficult to detect under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $4,000).
- VS1-VS2 (Very Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions seen only with difficulty under 10x magnification. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $3,750).
- SI1-SI2 (Slightly Included 1 and 2): Minute inclusions are visible under 10x magnification, and may be visible by the unaided eye. Easy to find in a wide range of prices (for a one-carat round brilliant diamond, prices start around $3,500).
- I1-I2-I3 (Included 1, 2, and 3). Inclusions visible under 10x magnification as well as to the human eye. We do not recommend buying diamonds in any of these grades.
REMEMBER: For grades F through VS, a diamond's clarity grade has an impact on the diamond's value,
not on the unmagnified diamond's appearance.
While the presence of these clarity characteristics (inclusions and blemishes) do lower the clarity grade of a diamond,
they can also be viewed as proof of a diamond's identity. GIA certificates include what is known as a "plot" of a
diamond's inclusions — think of it as a "diamond fingerprint." Since no two diamonds are exactly the same,
comparing the uniqueness of your diamond's clarity characteristics with the plot provided on the
diamond certificate offers assurance that the diamond you pay for is the same diamond you receive.
Which Diamond Clarity Grade Should I Choose?
While Flawless diamonds are the rarest, a diamond does not
have to be flawless to be stunning.
In fact, until you drop to the "SI" and "I" grades,
a diamond's clarity grade has an impact on the diamond's value,
not on the unmagnified diamond's appearance.
Diamonds with VVS and VS grades are
excellent choices for both value and appearance.
More affordable (and still a great choice) are those diamonds which gemologists call "eye-clean" -
diamonds with no inclusions visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are often found in the SI1 and SI2
and unless the recipient carries a 10X loupe (a strong jewelry magnifying glass), she won't
see the inclusions.
As to I1-I3? Maybe when there's a diamond grade that's defined as "you can see the flaws just by looking at the diamond,"
nothing more needs to be said.
To be fair, not everyone notices even visible flaws in a diamond. And not all "visible"
flaws are "equally" visible — think about the difference between dripping mustard on a starched white dress shirt
and dripping mustard on a brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt. Obviously, one shows up a lot more than the other —
visible diamond flaws are like that.
But if you choose to buy an I1-I3 diamond (which we don't recommend), know that some
people will look at it and immediately see the flaws.