When diamonds are created deep within Earth at extreme pressures and conditions, natural flaws are inevitable by-products of the formation process. As a result of Mother Nature’s actions, the type and number of flaws present in a diamond can vary from one stone to another.
In diamond grading, the characteristics of the flaws are categorized into blemishes (external flaws like scratches and chips) and inclusions (internal flaws like pinpoints and crystals). Collectively, they are classified together under a single terminology called clarity characteristics. Obviously, the lesser amount of flaws a gemstone has, the higher the clarity grade and value it possesses.
Interestingly, a diamond’s clarity characteristics works in a similar fashion like our fingerprints do. No two stones are exactly the same and the location of the inclusions can help identify one against another. Typically, a lab report would include a plot that indicates the locations and types of inclusions found in the diamond. An example of this is shown in the circled diagram below.
Typically, You Will See Full Reports For Diamonds Larger than 1.00 Carats.
Dossier Reports Are Typically Used For Diamonds Smaller Than 1.00 Carats.
The grading process involves a skilled gemologist examining the diamond under a 10X powered microscope. A flawless diamond is one that doesn’t have any external blemishes or inclusions and is abbreviated as FL. The lowest clarity grade represents a severely included diamond with huge eye visible flaws and is abbreviated as I3.
Generally speaking, diamonds with VS2 grades or better are usually eye-clean (inclusions cannot be seen without the aid of a loupe). Stones within the SI1 and SI2 ranges may be eye clean and offer good value for money. However, each individual diamond in the SI ranges must be judged separately and eye cleanliness is subjective to an individual’s eyesight and the kinds of inclusions present.
I usually don’t recommend stones below I1 clarity grades as they usually have inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye and may also pose durability issues.
Here’s a technical breakdown of the individual grades found in the GIA grading system. Be sure to click the links for a more detailed look into each rating and understand how the various grades look like with real-life photographic examples.
- FL (Flawless) – No inclusions or visible blemishes under 10× magnification.
- IF (Internally Flawless) (IF) – No inclusions. Minute blemishes are allowable (surface graining or details of polish) but barely visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
- I1, I2, and I3 (Included) – Inclusions are very obvious using 10× magnification. Besides potential durability issues, they can also adversely impact the diamond’s transparency and brilliance.
Based on the amount and type of questions I receive frequently, many people have a hard time deciding on the clarity grade for their stone. Did you know that most people have misconceptions that a higher clarity grade would always result in a diamond that sparkles more?
Does the clarity of the stone really affects how brilliant or sparkly the stone is? For practical reasons, do people really need to buy an internally flawless gemstone that is free from any inclusions?
We’ll reveal the answers to you on the next page. More importantly, read on to discover the best grades you should buy and the underlying reasons why…