It’s a great feeling to step out for your first diamond, and it’s normal to experience that anticipation in getting this precious stone. But numerous factors determine a gem’s value, including its cut, color, carat, and clarity. However, clarity also plays an essential role in determining how beautiful your diamond looks to the eye. And because you may work on a budget or can’t afford to pay excess for less, you’ll worry about ensuring that the gem you pay for is of good quality.
Here, we’ll discuss what a good clarity diamond should exhibit and how you can determine the stone you choose meets this need. We’ll also touch on clarity in a broader sense and describe the various elements that feature when you’re checking this quality. And finally, we’ll offer you tips on how to get the best good clarity diamonds for your every need.
Understanding A Diamond’s Clarity
If you’re familiar with diamonds and how they’re graded, you know about their range of qualities known as the 4C’s- Color, Carat, Cut, and Clarity. And while the cut and carat are heavy indicators of the diamond’s price, the clarity contributes to its brilliance.
A simple definition of a diamond’s clarity implies the degree to which the imperfections (if any) embedded in a diamond are present. While the statement may sound strange, it’s common to find such ‘flaws’ in diamonds. And these imperfections are related to the diamond’s natural formation and the processes involved in its handling and production.
To explain further, imagine a diamond forming under the earth is like a piece of plastic molded to shape in a factory. Regardless of the process required for such a production, errors like dents and smudges may surface in the plastic’s structure. The same applies to diamonds, though the flaws affect how clear the stone appears in their sense. And these ‘birthmarks’ are split into two groups, namely inclusions and blemishes
The most commonly found and difficult-to-see imperfections in diamonds are inclusions. The term refers to the natural impurities that fuse with the minerals as they form crystals. Inclusions can also come in numerous types, and the way they’re arranged makes every stone unique. And they include the following imperfections;
- Cavity- An opening on the diamond’s surface that can trap dirt and oil. They’re often filed down during production, but this costs the stone a significant weight loss.
- Pinpoints- Black or white small crystals in the gem only visible under magnification.
- Feather- A small crack within the diamond caused by the pressure buildup during its formation. Feathers may appear transparent or dark and can reach the gem’s surface, compromising its durability.
- Graining- An irregular growth flaw characterized by creases or faint lines inside a diamond.
- Crystals- Naturally occurring small crystals inside the diamond, mainly due to the trapping of mineral deposits during formation.
- Cloudiness-Carbon or other mineral deposits form a cloudy appearance in the stone. It also affects the diamond’s shine and brilliance.
Most inclusions occur when the diamond is in its formative period inside the earth, which explains why most appear inside the crystals.
While natural imperfections are generally found inside the diamond, blemishes are different. These imperfections mostly occur on the stone’s surface and result from the gem’s handling and production after mining. Blemishes result from errors during the diamond’s cutting process and wear and tear gathered from years of use. And examples of such types of imperfections include nick abrasions at the facet corner, nicks and chips, bearding, pits on the diamond’s surface, and scratches across the table.
Blemishes and inclusions are important in determining how clear a diamond is, and as aforementioned, no two diamonds contain the same type of imperfections. As such, it’s important to note these flaws and therefore determine how good a diamond’s clarity is. Experts also developed a system of grading these gems by clarity, creating a technique for deciding what stone suits the best purpose.
Diamond Clarity Grades
The diamond clarity grade is a measurement system that helps provide a standardized value expression of how many imperfections are present inside a diamond. The system is employed by numerous gemological institutions and is viewed as a legal and valid form of determining a gem’s value by clarity terms.
The system features a chart called the diamond clarity grade chart, and this consists of numerous levels for measuring how clear a diamond appears under expert scrutiny. One of the most renowned grading systems is provided by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and shared by the American Gem Society (AGS). And the grading system is based on a few factors, some of which include;
Impurity Size- The larger the impurity size, the more impact it’ll have on the diamond’s appearance. The size of the inclusions and blemishes heavily determines what grade a diamond’s clarity will fall, thus making it perhaps one of the most important factors.
Number of Impurities- The number of impurities found in a diamond also determines its clarity grade, and as such, a higher number means a lower clarity grade.
Nature of Impurity- The type of impurity found will also determine its impact on the diamond’s clarity. Blemishes may appear on the surface and not be as bothersome, but inclusions like pits may be a more pressing issue.
Location of Impurity- Imperfections closer to the table’s center will be more visible, causing a greater impact on the diamond’s clarity. However, their impacts are barely felt when they’re further from the center table and closer to the girdle. Sometimes, impurities and imperfections may occur near pavilions and be reflected when the facets act as mirrors. And sometimes, they may be seen when you focus past the cutlet, but these types have a much less impact on the clarity grade.
Relief- This refers to how noticeable the diamond’s imperfections are compared to the stone itself. It asks how much contrast can be noted between the gem and the impurities it contains. A higher relief means a darker appearance in a diamond, affecting its clarity grading.
When scrutinizing a diamond for clarity, these factors are combined, and a grade is assigned to each stone after assessment. And one of the most popular systems by the GIA diamond grading scale includes the following levels;
1. Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF)
Flawless and Internally Flawless diamonds are known for having zero impurities, making them the most expensive grades ever. They’re also the rarest clarity grades, and the chance of finding one for sale is one in one-thousandth.
2. Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
When a diamond falls under this clarity grade, its imperfections are extremely difficult to see under extreme scrutiny. The inclusions are few and so minute that you’d barely notice them under a 10X magnification. The clarity difference between stones qualified as VVS determines whether they’ll fall under category 1 or 2, the first being the clearest.
3. Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
This diamond clarity grade is used for stones with inclusions and blemishes so small that they’re slightly difficult to see under a 10X magnification. But they qualify for this grade because, unlike the VVS grades, their inclusions though minuscule, can still be seen. Popular imperfections found in VS diamonds include feathers, clouds, and crystals.
4. Slightly Included (SI1, S12, and SI3)
The Slightly Included diamond grade features imperfections noticeable to the naked eye. And common inclusions found in the SI category include knots, crystals, cavities, feathers, and clouds. The degree of contrast between the gem and the inclusions determines whether the diamond falls under S11, S12, or S13.
5. Included (I1, I2, and I3)
Most low-priced diamonds are graded under the Included category, and the reason is that their inclusions are obvious to the naked eye. They’re also easily detectable under magnification below 10X. This category features gems with the poorest brilliance and transparency due to excessive impurity content. And the degree of clarity is rated by I1, I2, or I3.
While these grades are commonly used in certifying diamonds, they’re not the only factor applied by purchasers. Another factor, Eye-Clean, is also considered when picking a stone based on clarity.
Eye-Clean means you can observe the stone under bright light and not see any major imperfections. And the degree of Eye-Cleanliness a diamond exhibits determines how much value it may offer to your need.
All Flawless and Internally Flawless Diamonds are 100% eye-clean, while VVS stones rate 99%. VS1 diamonds offer 95%, while VS2 is ranked with less at 92% clarity. But among these clarity grades, you’ll find the most expensive gems as VVS, while VS grades are of a more balanced price. But while SI1 diamonds are 50% eye-clean, the lowest eye-clean diamonds are found in SI2 at 15%, I1 at 1%, and 12 and I3 at 0%.
Clarity Grading In Lab-Grown Diamonds
It’s possible to assume that only natural diamonds require a clarity grading, but the reverse is the case. Even lab-grown diamonds can also contain imperfections and thus must be scrutinized. The reason is that the conditions for creating diamonds in the lab use similar materials as required when the natural counterparts were first formed. The chemical behavior of the elements in the gemological formation and the possible errors from its cutting and shaping can affect its clarity.
What Is The Best Diamond Clarity?
The best clarity diamond depends on your preference and budget. But in a general sense, two factors can help you easily deduct which grade levels to shop from- your budget and a stone’s clarity-to-cost comparison. If you don’t mind spending more, consider picking stones around the VS grades, as they’ll offer great eye-clean quality at affordable prices. But if you’re thinking of a lower budget, the SI1 diamonds are cheaper and can offer good clarity, though not as much as their higher counterparts.
Tips For Buying A Good Clarity Diamond
Now that you know what clarity entails regarding diamonds, it’s time to answer what a good clarity diamond should offer. Of course, it’s easy to conclude that the GIA clarity grade system should be sufficient, but other factors must come into play.
Spend Less, Gain More: While it’s easier to assume that the money spent on IF diamonds is worth the brilliance, you may be spending more than needed for clarity. A good quality VVS1 to VS2 diamond will offer you a similar eye-clean clarity quality at a lesser price. And if you desire, you can invest in an SI1, and SI2 will still provide a decent clarity rating and eye-clean quality at an even cheaper price.
Consider the Carat: A larger diamond with a low clarity grade will be more noticeable than a smaller one. Consider buying stones of VS2 or higher if you’re investing in weight above 2 carats. If you’re purchasing an SI1 stone, ensure only to buy a diamond between 1 and 2 carats, so the size easily masks its imperfections.
Consider the Cut: Inclusions are best hidden in brilliant cuts than step cuts. So, if you’re paying for a lower clarity grade, ensure that its brilliant-cut grade is higher. Round, oval, pear, cushion, princess, and marquise cuts are the best for SI diamonds. But you can afford the emerald and Asscher cuts if you’re buying a VS2 stone or higher.
Consider the Inclusion Location: It’s cheaper to buy a low-grade diamond with inclusions around the edges than the center. They’ll be hidden when the stone is mounted, thus offering you more brilliance at a lesser price.
Ask for the Certification: Always purchase a diamond legally certified by a gemological institution. Quality diamonds will come with certificates from bodies like GIA or AGS, and these documents will include the diamond plot- a map of the stone that indicates the areas where the flaws are located. If the diamond doesn’t come with proper certification, there’s a strong chance that the details are hyped or the stone is enhanced.
Check for Yourself: Don’t take the seller’s word as a fact when buying a diamond. It helps to be double sure, and if you know how to, check for the clarity yourself under a magnification glass. But if you don’t know what to look for, consider going with an expert who can tell you if the clarity grade claimed matches the observation he makes.
You don’t have to seek a good diamond without prior knowledge, and a strong understanding of the clarity factor helps you make a good decision. So, when you step out to pick a gem of your choice, ensure to put this information to good use. And when you do, you can shop with confidence for a good clarity diamond, getting great value for your money and maintaining a classy statement in your everyday wear.