Diamonds are among the most expensive gemstones available today. In choosing a diamond, the stone should be evaluated based on color, carat, cut, and clarity–often referred to as the 4 Cs. The Clarity grade pertains primarily to the internal characteristics, known as inclusions that are located within a diamond. These “birthmarks” are created when a diamond is subjected to extreme heat and pressure during its formation process deep below the Earth’s surface. When a jeweler is looking to get an idea of a diamond’s clarity grade, he/she will most often use a 10x loupe magnification tool. In a laboratory setting graders will use a special microscope to examine the diamond.
Jewelers and graders look to five different characteristics to assign a clarity grade to a diamond:
- the size of the inclusions
- the type of inclusions present within the diamond. Diamond inclusions come in a multitude of forms with names like clouds, pinpoints, needles, and twinning wisps. Each has their own characteristics and therefore affect the diamond differently.
- the amount or quantity of these inclusions.
- the relief or color of these inclusions. Inclusions can be different colors such as white, black and red. White inclusions are favorable to the clarity grade as opposed to the other two.
- the position of the inclusions. For example, inclusions located on the table will hurt the clarity grade more than those located near the girdle.
You will know how to distinguish diamonds based on their clarity by looking at these symbols and their meaning:
- FL – Flawless; no inclusions or blemishes. A perfect clarity grade.
- IF – Internally Flawless; no inclusions only minor blemishes on the surface
- VVS1, VVS2 – Very, Very Slightly included; the inclusions are difficult to detect even for a very skilled grader.
- VS1, VS2 – Very Slightly Included; the inclusions are very minor and can range from very hard to see to very easy to spot for a skilled grader.
- SI1, SI2 – Slightly Included; the inclusion can be seen when magnified 10x and may be seen by the naked eye.
- I1, I2 &I3 – included; the inclusions are easily seen with the naked eye
Diamonds with a clarity grade ranging from Flawless – VVS2 are rare and therefore command a much higher price. FL and IF diamonds are extremely rare and expensive. Most consumers will purchase a diamond that falls within the VS2-SI2 range. The reason is that this allows you to obtain an eye clean diamond that is very nice quality as well as being reasonably priced. However, one must keep in mind that no two diamonds are alike and that clarity grading is subjective based on the factors described above. One SI1 or SI2 diamond may be perfectly eye clean while another one may not be.