Diamond Clarity


The clarity grade is based on any tiny natural identifiers found within a diamond.

The shape of a diamond can affect the importance of its clarity grade. While the brilliance facets patterns of round and princess-cut diamond can hide certain imperfections, step-cut shapes – such as emerald and asscher-cuts – have large, open tables. If you are searching for a step-cut diamond, we suggest looking at those with clarity grades of VS2 or higher.

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4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Diamond Clarity Refers to the Absence of Inclusions and Blemishes

Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. This process can result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes.’

Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone. While no diamond is perfectly pure, the closer it comes, the higher its value.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity Examples
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity Examples

How did the GIA Clarity Scale come to be?
Like the color scale, GIA’s clarity grading system developed because jewelers were using terms that could be misinterpreted, “loupe clean” or “piqué™.” Today, even if you buy a diamond somewhere else in the world, the jeweler will most likely use terms like VVS1 or SI2, even if his or her language is French or Japanese instead of English.

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What causes inclusions?
Small crystals can become trapped in a diamond when it’s forming. Sometimes as a crystal grows it can develop irregularities in its atomic structure.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale has 6 categories, some of which are divided, for a total of 11 specific grades.

Flawless (FL)
No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification

Internally Flawless (IF)
No inclusions visible under 10x magnification

Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification

Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterized as minor

Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)
Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification

Included (I1, I2, and I3)
Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance

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Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader. To the naked eye, a VS1 and an SI2 diamond may look exactly the same, but these diamonds are quite different in terms of overall quality. This is why expert and accurate assessment of diamond clarity is extremely important.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Flawless. No imperfections on the surface, or inclusions within. These are the most rare of all clarity grades, and therefore extremely valuable.

Internally Flawless. No inclusions within the diamond, but may have very minor blemishes on the surface. If so, they will not be visible without magnification.

Very Very Slightly Included 1. Likely to have minute inclusions that can only be seen under 10x magnification by an expert eye. These inclusions can only be seen through viewing the bottom of the diamond.

Very Very Slightly Included 2. Likely to have minute inclusions that can only be seen by experts under 10x magnification. These may be visible when viewing from the top of the diamond.

VS1 Very Slightly Included 1. The untrained eye may detect inclusions within diamonds of this grade, under 10x magnification. It can take a long time to see them, however (over 10 seconds).

Very Slightly Included 2. Slightly more inclusions than diamonds with VS1 grade, 10x magnification is still needed to detect any flaws. It can take up to 10 seconds to see them.

Slightly Included 1. More noticeable inclusions that experts can see clearly with 10x magnification. They may or may not be visible to the naked eye, depending on where they are in the diamond.

Slightly Included 2. May have noticeable inclusions that are easy to see under 10x magnification. Sometimes, the unaided eye can detect them.

Included 1. Obvious imperfections under 10x magnification. The durability of the diamond may also be compromised depending on the specific inclusions.

Included 2. Obvious imperfections under 10x magnification. There may also be eye visible inclusions, both within the diamond and on the surface. The durability of these diamonds may be compromised.

Included 3. Large and obvious imperfections that can be clearly seen with the unaided eye. These may be within the diamond and at the surface level. The durability of these diamonds is likely compromised.

4Cs of Diamonds - Clarity
4Cs of Diamonds – Clarity

Simply stated, clarity is a measure of the tiny imperfections found in most every diamond.

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A flawless diamond with little to no imperfections is often desired due to its rarity, but they are also the most costly. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that it is very common for diamonds to be formed with slight imperfections.

These imperfections are known as “inclusions” and usually occur during the diamond’s crystallization period within the earth, or from the stresses of mining and processing. Inclusions are anything from tiny white points to dark dots, cracks or scratches. The fewer inclusions, the more valuable a stone is. Clarity is evaluated using a 10-power magnification. This means that the object viewed appears 10 times its actual size. The diamond grader examines the clarity characteristics with respect to the nature and number of characteristics, as well as their size, color and position. The clarity grade assigned reflects the degree of visibility of the characteristics.

Types of Diamond Flaws
Diamonds often possess unique markings – either internal (known as inclusions) or external (known as blemishes). A diamond’s clarity grade depends on the absence or abundance of such inclusions and blemishes.

The following lists some commonly used terminology to describe a diamond’s internal and external characteristics:

External Flaws

Natural – unpolished surface,
the original ‘skin’ of rough diamond
Cleavage or feather – inclusion along atomic grain
Pit – small indentation on a flat surface
Fracture – irregular shaped break

Internal Flaws

Cavity – opening on surface
Included – inclusions within diamond
Nick – minor surface chip
Carbon spot – included crystal
Grain/twinning line – irregularity in crystal growth
Pinpoint – small included crystal (appears white)
Scratch – small groove (can be due to normal wear)
Cloud – group of pinpoints
Chip – broken along external edge
Internal grain line – visible part of internal grain structure
Laser drill hole – clarity enhancements to remove/reduce appearance of inclusions
Bearded or feathered girdle – minute to small hairline fracture extending from girdle into stone

The clarity grade of a diamond not only affects the value and price, but can also be a good indication of the diamond’s vulnerability. Heavily included diamonds can be prone to breakage.

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