Clarity is one of the grading scales 結婚對戒 known as the four Cs that are used to evaluate the quality of a diamond. The 4 Cs include clarity, color, carat, and cut. Many prospective diamond buyers do not fully understand the clarity grading scale. This article gives more information on diamond clarity, including some advice in how you can weigh this factor relative to the other features of a gemstone to help you decide what to prioritize.
In short, diamond clarity refers to the extent of flaws, blemishes, or impurities inside or on the surface of the gemstone. Clarity can impact the brilliance and sparkle of a stone as well as its direct physical appearance. There are several kinds of imperfections for diamonds, including specks or blemishes of other minerals as well as surface imperfections. While some of the imperfections may occur naturally, it is possible for some of these flaws to be created during the cutting process. In fact, completely perfect diamonds are extremely rare and unaffordable for most buyers. Even so, most flaws in diamonds can only be detected by a trained eye with a microscope.
How is Diamond Clarity Evaluated?
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has set up a grading system in order to categorize diamond clarity. These are:
– Flawless (FL). This indicates that the diamond has neither external nor internal flaws. Essentially, this diamond clarity grade means that the gemstone is perfect as far as clarity is concerned.
– Internally flawless (IF). While the diamond may have no internal flaws, it may have minor external imperfections. FL and IF are often categorized as a single grade.
– VVS1 and VVS2. This refers to the “very, very slightly included” category, with minimal blemish on the diamond. These imperfections are so minute that even an experienced grader may have difficulty in seeing these even with the aid of the usual jeweler’s tools. Needless to say, the imperfections here are nearly always invisible to even the sharpest unaided eye. VVS1 diamonds are slightly higher grade than VVS2 but both are extremely high-clarity stones of great value.
– VS1 and VS2. These refer to the “very slightly included” category. The imperfections here are also small, but bigger than the VVS1 and VVS2 flaws. They may or may not be visible to the naked eye.
– SI1 and SI2. This is the “slightly included” category with imperfections that are easily noticeable by expert graders. Anyone looking very closely at the stone should be able to see them as well.
– I1, I2, and I3. This is the “Included” category, with the most significant and visible flaws in or on the surface of the stone. Although a quick glance might not reveal such flaws, they are obvious on any close inspection to the unaided eye. Many reputable diamond and jewelry distributors do not carry included diamonds.
Clarity and Fancy Colored Diamonds
Note that while fancy colored diamonds like a chocolate diamond or canary diamond are also evaluated using the 4Cs, compared to colorless diamonds, diamond clarity is far less of a factor for colored diamonds. This is because the color of the gemstone can more easily conceal any flaws that can affect clarity, so it has less of an effect compared to colorless diamonds.
Keep Diamond Clarity in Perspective
While diamond clarity is a significant factor to consider when evaluating diamonds, it is one of four major elements to be aware of. In some cases, the imperfections on a diamond can only be detected by a microscope, so people end up passing over a good gemstone just because it does not have an FL grade, no matter how undetectable the imperfection may be. As you can see from the scale, at the higher end from FL/IF, VVS, and VS, there may be no visible difference to the naked eye. In fact, VS and SL diamonds are the most commonly purchased diamonds because of prices. Lower clarity diamonds are still brilliant, still sparkly, and still incredible gems. Some people consider clarity to be the least important factor of a diamond, yet clarity differences can have a huge impact on the price of the stone. Always keep this in mind when balancing clarity with carat, cut, and color for your diamond. Keep this wider perspective in mind so you can accurately evaluate for yourself whether the diamond is a good choice based on your requirements, preferences, and budget.
When you are shopping for a diamond engagement ring, a diamond pendant, diamond earrings, or any piece of diamond jewelry; one important factor is the “Clarity” of the diamonds that you choose. Clarity is one of the 4Cs that are used in setting the price of diamonds. The definition of clarity is “the quality or state of being clear”. Having a diamond without anything inside of it is extremely rare, especially in larger diamonds. Because of this rarity factor, as a diamond becomes “cleaner” it also becomes more expensive.
Of all the diamonds that are mined every year, only about 20% are “clean enough” to be used in diamond jewelry with the other 80% of the diamonds being used for industrial purposes. So if you have a diamond with the highest possible clarity grade then it really is one in a million, making it even that much more special!
What makes up the Clarity of a diamond?
The two factors that will determine a diamond’s clarity are the things that are on the outside, these are called blemishes, and the stuff on the inside of the diamond, these are called inclusions. A diamond will almost always have some other things that were caught up inside of it as it was growing below the surface of the earth. Because diamonds are on average 3.3 billions years old, they have grown very slowly. As they grew, the diamond encountered other materials in their neighborhood where they were formed. The process of having something “included” inside of a diamond crystal took hundreds, thousands, or millions of years to happen. So when you see inclusions inside of a diamond it is like looking back in time over millions or even billions of years. Diamonds most commonly have other diamonds captured inside of them… that’s pretty cool, you get more than one diamond with your purchase!
Common inclusions are as follows–
* Included crystals or minerals
* Internal graining
* Twinning wisps
Blemishes are the things on the outside of the diamond. Most of these are a result of the diamond cutting process and could be removed by a diamond cutter. These are not such serious items and usually don’t play a major part in determining the clarity grade of a diamond.
Common blemishes are as follows–
* Polish lines
* External Graining
* Extra facets
The clarity grades are as follows–
FL (Flawless)- No inclusions or blemishes of any sort under 10x magnification when observed by an experienced grader.
IF (Internally Flawless)- Has no inclusions when examined by an experienced grader using 10x magnification, but will still have some minor blemishes.
VVS1 and VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included)- Contains minute inclusions that are difficult even for experienced graders to see under 10x magnification.
VS1 and VS2 (Very Slightly Included)- Contains minute inclusions such as small crystals, clouds or feathers, when observed with effort under 10x magnification.
SI1 and SI2 (Slightly Included)- Contains inclusions (clouds, included crystals, knots, cavities, and feathers) that are noticeable to an experienced grader under 10x magnification.
I1, I2, I3 (Included)- Contains inclusions (possibly large feathers or large included crystals) that are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.
It is the combination of the inclusions and the blemishes along with their size, their number, their position, their nature, and their color that will determine a diamond’s clarity. There are a lot of variables involved in making a diamond a certain clarity… it is because diamonds are kind of like snowflakes, where each one is different.
A bit of history about the Clarity system.
Currently we have a diamond clarity grading system that everyone understands and has worked well for many years… it wasn’t always this way. Years ago, if someone was describing the clarity of a diamond and they said that it was a “clean”, a “piqué”, or a “loupe clean” diamond, would you know what they meant?
Richard T. Liddicoat of the Gemological Institute of America introduced the current system in 1953 and it was immediately adopted as the universal system to classify the clarity of a diamond. The eleven different clarity grades communicate the clarity quality of a diamond regardless of the geographic location or the language of the consumer.
Along with the definition of these eleven clarity grades, GIA also states that the clarity grading be done by a trained person using a controlled “darkfield” lighting environment, and a 10X magnification corrected for spherical and chromatic aberration. Wow! that sounds pretty technical! however it’s relatively easy to understand this system.
How will you be able to know the Clarity of a diamond?
You, a person who is not fully trained in this system, probably might not be able to accurately determine the clarity grade of a diamond. A Gemologist who has been trained as to all the variables involved will be able to determine the clarity grade and they will also be able to show you why a diamond is a certain clarity.
The best way to be assured of the clarity of a diamond will be to have a diamond grading report issued by a credible gemological laboratory. The best reports will be from GIA, AGSL, or GCAL. These nationally known and well respected labs do use a number of graders who must agree on all of the qualities of the diamond before a report is issued.
What is the best Diamond Clarity for me?
The price of diamonds will change, go up or go down, as the clarity moves higher or lower. For diamonds in the most common color, cut, and weight range, as a general rule, look for about a 15 to 20% change in pricing for each change in clarity. A diamond with a clarity grade of FL (Flawless) is no more beautiful than a diamond with a clarity grade of SI1 (Slightly Included 1) but a FL clarity can be more than twice the price of a SI1 diamond.
From the FL to the SI1 clarity grades, any inclusions and/or blemishes are only visible when you look at them using 10X magnification. I don’t know of anyone who walks around with a 10X magnifier in their pocket in order to look at people’s diamonds… sorry, let me correct that, I don’t know of anyone except for jewelers and Gemologists (including myself) that walk around with a 10X magnifier in their pocket.
You will need to see for yourself what these different clarity grades actually look like. I know many people who have looked at the clarity grading chart and see that the VVS2 or VS1 are “in the middle” of the chart so they think it is what they would like to consider when buying a diamond.
There are only a few diamonds that can fit into the nearly impossible FL and IF grades and just a few more diamonds that are able to fit into the extremely tight VVS1 and VVS2 grades… a single tiny, microscopic, pinpoint inclusion will easily move a diamond out of these grades. As you move down into the VS, SI, and I grades it widens out and many move diamonds will fit into these grades. SI1 is more “in the middle” than either VVS2 or VS1.
Find a good Gemologist to teach you or do some research online about diamond clarity grades, it’s really not too complicated. When you buy larger diamonds, make sure they come along with a diamond grading report that you trust.
Bud Boland has been in the jewelry business for 40 years and has done everything from watchmaking, diamond setting, jewelry making, and has been a Gemologist for nearly 35 years. He is a Graduate Gemologist from GIA (Gemological Institute of America), which is also the place where he was an Instructor. He has taught about diamonds to hundreds of students from all around the world.
Pink diamonds, unlike 1 carat round colorless diamonds, are truly rare. In fact, pink is one of the rarest colors. Only red diamonds (never seen one) and blue diamonds are more rare.
Given the rarity, pink diamonds are not for the faint of wallet but more affordable ones can be found. First you have to have some understanding of the pink diamond grading scale, which is haphazard at best.
Pink Diamond Grading–a Reader’s Digested Version
Size and clarity are less important than color when it comes to pink diamond pricing. Words like Fancy, Intense, Vivid, Deep preceding the word pink, all tend to mean higher price range. Light, Very Light and Faint adjectives put the prices on the lower end of the scale–and make them more affordable to mere mortals who are not movie stars. I’ve seen faint pink that looks pink enough when set in pink gold to be desirable and faint pink that you can’t even tell it is pink. So a dealer that knows how to choose a pink and set a pink diamond is vital to bringing out the most pink possible and ending up with beautiful jewelry.
A Fancy Intense Pink diamond in a 1 carat size can run run over $100k and on up. A “qualifier” in the color as determined by the GIA can bring the price way up or way down. Add a qualifier like “brownish” in the color pink, like brownish pink, and the price falls dramatically. And many times that qualifier is a good thing because to the naked eye, the brown is not detectable nor unpleasant.
Another qualifier is orange or orangey or orangish. Then there’s purple with grades like purple pink, purplish pink, pinkish purple, pink purple and more. And wait, it gets more interesting and haphazard than that.
Valuable Pink Diamonds & Unusual Shapes
Often, when a cutter is presented with pink colored rough, they’ll cut an unusual shape to get the most carat weight out of the valuable pink rough. That’s because cutters want to make the most money they can from then end product and a carat weight counts toward this goal.
In pink diamonds, I’ve seen a harp shape (like the instrument) , funky pear shapes, a really fat or really skinny marquise and a cleavageless heart (you’ll just have to visualize that one). Others are even hard to describe without photos. You don’t usually see many round pinks in large sizes because cutting a round diamond wastes diamond rough. No one wants pink diamond dust.
The GIA Report–the only report for a pink diamond
You pay the high price of a pink diamond, you should expect NO LESS than a genuine GIA report. It can be a full report or a GIA Color Origin Report. The GIA tests for natural color. And GIA is the gold standard of reports and the only lab that knows colored diamonds. And when it comes to grading the color, you want top notch since little things can make a huge difference in price.
A GIA Color Origin Report is an acceptable report and only reports on color, carat weight and size. Often a cutter will choose a Color Origin Report in an effort to avoid having an I1 clarity grade printed on a report. It’s far less important in colored diamonds, but cutter’s are still aware of consumer emphasis on clarity. I have seen even crater-cracked intense pink diamonds that were at least I2, sell at high prices. And I’ve actually seen a very nice pinkish purple that was I2. It’s all in how they are handpicked by a good dealer. And cut is kind with any diamond brilliance. Clarity issues that would be obvious in a white diamond are many times not a all obvious in a colored diamond.
An examination by a qualified GIA graduate, a GIA gemologist or anything else is not the same as a GIA Report. And any scrambling of those letters to make you think you have an official report is bogus. Any report with an appraised value is NOT a genuine GIA report. You can check the number on the report through the GIA.
The GIA substantiates that the color is natural. Irradiated pinks are not priced on nearly as steep a scale as the natural colored pink diamonds. Irradiated pinks often have a sort of surrealistic color and they are often diamonds that were unpleasant looking as naturals and were therefore nuked to make them sellable.
Shopping for a Pink Diamond
Few jewelry stores or personnel know anything about pink diamonds. That’s because their market is typically people who are buying white diamonds. There are stores that carry more of them. But you’ll find that the prices are in the stratosphere. You are often paying for the address, the atmosphere and chandelier upkeep. So while you might very well get a fabulous product, you will pay out the wazoo for it. Which is fine if you have that kind of disposable income and you like the feeling of being in a swanky establishment .
Regardless, you really have to choose your dealer carefully. Choose one that carries more than two or three colored diamonds. If you’ve done your homework, you might recognize a salesperson who knows less than you do. If you know more than the salesperson, move on. Choose a dealer with a track record and an established reputation for carrying colored diamonds. I often see dealers offering diamonds that are treated and not disclosing this fact. I see dealers using the same photograph to sell a diamond. I see dealers who are “drop shippers” who are offering colored diamonds–dealers who do not look at the diamond but list numbers from a GIA report and they’ve never seen it.