No two diamonds are the same. You’ve probably heard this phrase and the reason for it is because of the inclusions. But what exactly are inclusions? Well when a diamond is forming and growing under intense pressure, there are impurities that are included in its molecular structure.
These impurities are a very common feature of diamonds. Two stones of the same clarity grade will have differences in inclusions in terms of where they are located, their size, and number. They will affect the sparkle of the diamond. The more of them and the more visible inclusion are, the less sparkle the stone will have.
The GIA has set a standard for judging the clarity of diamonds and it is the industry-accepted scale. It is a subjective scale which means that diamonds will be classified in a range. That said, note that this chart is the most acceptable for consistency and accuracy.
In the 4Cs, the third most important factor when evaluating your stone is clarity. This is because you will only be able to spot imperfections when looking at the diamond under a 10X magnification. This also explains why the diamond cut is the most important element in the evaluation of the stone.
The imperfections or inclusions in the diamond will, therefore, affect the clarity rating of the stone. Diamonds that have more inclusions will be ranked lower in the GIA clarity scale.
If you are on a budget, go for a stone that has inclusions which can only be visible when looked at very closely. Mostly this will not be the case though. You can pick one that is rated S1 on the GIA clarity grade.
The imperfections will be microscopic and will therefore not affect the beauty of the stone. However, the less there is the more sparkle the diamond will have. Only the rarest high-quality cut stones will have the least blemishes or inclusions.
How diamond clarity is graded
When grading diamonds, a gemologist will only use 10X magnifications. When it comes to smaller stones of below 1 carat in size, they will usually come with a smaller GIA report known as the dossier. This dossier will not have a diamond plot on the GIA certificate. On the other hand, larger stores of above 1 carat in weight will have a diamond plot on the GIA certificate.
Note that the process of grading a diamond on its clarity is subjective. A gemologist will search for the inclusions, their type, size as well as where they are located on the stone. They will also come up with the right grade based on some of the inclusions and then providing the stone with the right grade.
Regardless of what is the cut or size of the diamond, it is important to consider the clarity grade of the diamond. After the gemologists have noted the inclusions and have mapped them out, then there will be a plot that will map out the location as well as the size of the inclusions. This plot is a sketch of the face-up appearance of the diamond.
You will get the plot of the dossier or the GIA certificate of the diamond. Keep in mind that different types of inclusions will be shown with different symbols on the diamond plot. Make sure that you look at both the grade as well as the plot of the stone that you are interested in.
On the GIA report, surface blemishes will be shown with a green color and a red color will show the internal inclusions. Black color will show extra facets on the stone.
You will not be able to tell about how severe the inclusions are from the plot alone, but you can always ensure that you check the clarity grade of the diamond.
It is also important to read the comments section in the GIA clarity grade to see whether there are some other inclusions that still cannot be seen. Often the very small inclusions that will not see udder a 10X magnification will be noted in the comments section.
Of course, if the plot shows very many inclusions, then the diamond will not be very appealing or desirable.
Inclusions in diamonds can occur during the diamond forming process or they can occur during the cutting process. The majority of these imperfections will, however, be formed during the formation of the diamond.
One thing to keep in mind is that all the natural diamonds will have inclusions in them. Always take a look at all the inclusions that you will find in the GIA grading report.
This refers to a break in the diamond’s structure that starts from the surface and extends inside. This is a quite common clarity characteristic. The location of the feather is important as those that are near the girdle or the surface of the diamond can be quite visible. Some feathers, however, will be less visible and near-colorless. Others may appear white due to light refraction.
When a section of the feather breaks away, what is left behind is a cavity. Note that you should avoid larger cavities as these can be noticeable.
These form in the diamond during its growth stage. Crystals come in two main colors—white and black. While the white crystals can be less viable, the black crystals can be more visible. You want to avoid diamonds that have large black crystals as some of them can be visible even with the naked eye.
This is a very small dot inside the diamond. It can only be seen with 10X magnification.
These are pinpoints that are too small to see even with 10X magnification and are located inside the diamond. When a diamond has too many of these, it may appear cloudy and its sparkle will be affected. Less of them means that the diamond will be clear.
These occur during the diamond’s formation. They are a series of pinpoints, clouds, and crystals. Often tiny and are the result of the diamond stopping to form and then continuing the formation process. Note that these are more desirable compared to crystals.
This is a small remnant of the skin of through diamond and will usually be left behind during the cutting process. Mostly it will be located on the girdle of the diamond.
The main difference between a natural and an indented natural is that the indented natural angles inwards. It is a part of the rough skin that is left on the stone to boost its weight. Sometimes It is the portion of the rough diamond that is left unpolished during the cutting process.
The GIA Clarity Grades:
The GIA clarity scale ranges from FL-I3. The grades are arrived at by observing the diamonds under 10X magnification.
FL – Flawless
Flawless diamonds have the highest rating as they lack any imperfections or inclusions when observed at 10X magnification.
These are rare diamonds and will often be small cuts. They have amazing brilliance or clarity depending on the cut. Less than 0.1% of all cut diamonds will be rated as flawless and will have no imperfections whether it is inside the diamond or on the surface of the stone.
IF – Internally Flawless
In an internally flawless diamond, only a skilled diamond grader will be able to notice any blemishes. These will often be on the surface and some can be considered polishing details. There are no blemishes in the interior of the diamond.
This causes the IF diamond to still offer amazing brilliance. They are extremely rare and will also fetch a high premium. The blemishes will not affect the sparkle of the stone.
VVS1 – Very Very Slightly Included 1
The inclusions in the VVS1 stone are extremely hard to spot even under a magnification of 10X. Highly skilled grading experts will be able to spot them. You can get the best value for your money with this grade because the stones will have pretty much the same brilliance and sparkle as the FL and IF stones yet come with a lower price.
This is because the inclusions are so tiny that the light refraction will not be affected at all. While the inclusions can be spotted while looking through the pavilion under higher magnification, the diamond is still considered eye-clean.
VVS2 – Very Very Slightly Included 2
The VVS2 diamonds have inclusions that can be seen as being more visible than VVS1. That said they are still extremely small. When it comes to the higher clarity grades, VVS2 offers the best value and will not compromise on the brilliance and sparkle of the stone.
Even under 10X magnification, the inclusions are not easy to spot. In VVS2 diamonds, the most common inclusions that you are going to find are feather, natural, cloud and pinpoint.
VS1 – Very Slightly Included
The inclusions in Very Slightly Included diamonds are slight and will only be visible under magnification. The VSI is quite the popular range because the inclusions have very slight effects on the sparkle of the diamond and yet are not visible to the naked eye.
The main factor when grading VS1 diamonds will be the size of the inclusion that sets the grade. Most common inclusions are VS1 diamonds include the feather, indented natural, needle, cloud, and crystal. What’s more, is that you can get a VS1 diamond at a great price even better than VVS2 diamonds.
VS2 – Very Slightly Included 2
When considering the price, this will be lower than the VS1 diamonds. The difference is that the inclusions in VS2 will only appear larger than VS1 diamonds when looked at under magnification. This is also a very popular diamond clarity grade since the inclusions are not noticeable by the naked eye and yet the pricing is within reach of buyers on a budget.
The inclusions are microscopic which means that the diamond will still have sparkle and brilliance. Their location does not have much impact on the stone. Some of the most common types of inclusions in VS2 diamonds include indented natural, crystal, feather, cloud, and the twinning wisp.
S1 – Slightly Included 1
When going for a slightly included diamond it is always a good idea to choose stones that have more inclusions instead of a single inclusion. This is because a single inclusion will be large and more visible to the naked eye.
However, with more inclusions, these will not be visible to the naked eye and the price is good especially for the budget-conscious. You will get a stone that is still brilliant. This clarity grade is considered high while still coming at an excellent price.
Also, when evaluating the S1 clarity grade, pick a stone that has the inclusions more to the center of the diamond. Note that such diamonds are rare. The most common type of inclusions in such stones are the twinning wisp, indented natural, knot, cloud.
When evaluating the stone take care to note stones that are visible to the naked eye or one that looks milky or hazy. Analyze each diamond singularly so you can make the best purchase decisions.
SI2 – Slightly Included 2
The slightly included 2 diamonds will have high sparkle. However, they will have inclusions that can be spotted even without the magnification. However, keep in mind that most inclusions in this clarity grade will not be spotted by the naked eye.
Note that you want to avoid stones that have a single inclusion. Many inclusions are preferable.
You should also avoid stones that have a grade setting that is large, center crystal or cloudy. The crystals that will be largely center crystal will be more visible without the magnification. Most common inclusions include feathers, twinning wisps, knots, clouds, and larger crystals.
When you are on a budget, going for an SI2 diamond can be a great choice.
I1 – Included 1
Even while the inclusions in this diamond are visible to the naked eye, they are still able to provide sparkle and brilliance. Depending on where the inclusions are located, they are visible without magnification when analyzing the stone closely.
These types of stones are ideal for the budget conscious and you can get a larger carat weight. When evaluating the stone, avoid those that have a single large inclusion situated towards the center of the girdle. Instead, many inclusions are more preferable.
While the inclusions will not affect the structural integrity of the stone, the common types of inclusions in I1 clarity grade include feathers, crystals, activities, clouds, and knots.
Note that it is advisable to avoid diamonds in the I2 or I3 clarity grade as the clarity will start to be affected by the many inclusions in the stone and reducing brilliance and sparkle.
Remember that the best I1 diamond will have inclusions scattered across the stone instead of concentrated in a particular area. Otherwise, the sparkle and brilliance of the stone will be affected.
A nice trick when choosing a setting is to pick one that could potentially hide inclusions on the outside of the stone.
Note also that for I graded diamonds which have clean looking plots, many lack sparkle and maybe cloudy or hazy. It is always a good idea to talk to your gemologist for advice on how to pick the best diamond in the I clarity grade.
Tips on picking the right clarity grade
The main thing to watch out for is an eye-clean diamond. This is one that doesn’t have any visible inclusions when it is observed by the naked eye and without any magnification. The advantage of this is that you can get a great looking diamond with excellent sparkle at a great price.
It is also a good idea to talk to a diamond expert when choosing a diamond that is graded VS2 or below. Note that stones that are in the same clarity grade may look different so also ask to see the video and images of the stone. You will be able to make the best decisions in this case.
When going for a diamond that is much lower on the clarity grade such as I1 or I2, it is crucial that you contact a gemologist who will inspect and evaluate the diamond for you. They will ensure that you get the best-looking stone in this clarity grade and help you pick one that doesn’t inclusions that affects clarity and sparkle.
When going for a diamond that is below 1 carat in size, and one that has the GIA certification, it will have a dossier that doesn’t have a plot of the diamond inclusions. When going for these sizes and when the clarity grade is below VS2 get advice from a diamond expert to ensure that the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. It is always the best idea to double-check even while the certification will tell you about the inclusions.