The Clarity Of A Diamond: Buy A Flawless One or With Minor Inclusions
An unobstructed passage of light through a diamond makes it even more lustrous.
Clarity is one of the four key parameters to rate a diamond for its preciousness and the market value. While the other three factors are Cut, Color and Carat weight, Clarity tells us about the internal and external visual appearance and structural attributes of a diamond.
Inclusions or obstructions affect a diamond’s brilliance. The particles present inside the structure can also alter the durability and strength of this beloved stone.
Naturally occurring diamonds are found in rough shapes which have blemishes or inclusions due to the presence of solid, liquid or air particles. These inclusions are trapped in the diamonds during their formation process* – resulting in structural imperfections.
Diamonds are naturally formed by asteroid impacts, tectonic activities or prolonged extreme pressures and temperatures deep in the earth’s mantle.
However, synthetic diamonds or lab-grown diamonds may be better in clarity (molecular quality) than their natural counterparts. It is because the technology behind the diamond manufacturing procedure has evolved to leave minimum to no defect, thanks to the advancements of modern equipment and production practices.
Given the better chemical structure and lesser internal defects, are the synthetic diamonds more expensive than the natural ones?
Absolutely not. Preferred by the people, the demand for natural diamonds stays very high. This is why the synthetic diamonds are 20-90% cheaper than the natural ones. Simply said, man-made gems cannot compete with the exchange value of natural diamonds. What can we say about the aspect of natural beauty.
Interestingly, particles or blemishes in a diamond are sometimes considered as proof of its natural origin. With improved technology and precision machines, the manufactured yield of diamonds is flawless most of the times.
Coming back to the valuation, here’s how the Clarity affects the price of diamonds – Clearer the diamond, higher its value.
Bigger particle(s) would reduce the clarity grade, hence the price. If lodged inside the diamond, a particles becomes an inclusion and its presence on the surface makes it a blemish. An inclusion nearby the center of a diamond should lower its quality and reduce its price.
A flawless solitaire has no particles present in its structure. Of course, this type of perfection would be the rarest of the rare.
There are renowned diamond certifying institutions like Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society (AGS) and the International Gemological Institute(IGI) to tell you everything about the impurities present in a diamond, helping you to make a purchase. Loose diamonds are generally pre-certified by the industry experts to measure the 4 Cs, i.e., Cut, Color, Carat weight and Clarity before they are used in the jewelry.
Checking a diamond for clarity – The naked eye examination
Most inclusions, particles and defects are not visible to the naked eyes. If a diamond is big enough, say 10 carats or the size of a nail, you may be able to see a small bubble, a little dot or a small crack with the help of a household lens.
However, a simple visual inspection is not only impractical but a non-viable method to analyze the true characteristics of a diamond. A 10-carat piece (even 1 carat) is expensive enough and deserves a professional opinion from a prestigious diamond grading company. If a retail outlet has a microscope to show you all the flaws in a diamond but has no certificate to prove the worthiness of the gem in question, then you should get in touch with a diamond grading lab and request for a detailed analysis, which is why we elaborate below:
Prominent diamond labs throughout the world have a similar grading system to test the Clarity of diamonds. A detailed report would tell you if a diamond is perfect with no inclusions, or the inclusions are visible under 10 times magnification or even noticeable to the naked eye.
The Clarity Grading Scale of a Diamond
The grading process for clarity is done under a laboratory environment with magnification equipment and darkfield illumination – a job best left for the experts. Nevertheless, we care for the following results:
- FL (Flawless): No Inclusions. A perfectly clear diamond.
- IF (Internally Flawless): A minor blemish but no particles or inclusions.
- VVSI (Very Very Slightly Included): Barely noticeable inclusions under magnification.
- VSI (Very Slightly Included): Top range of clarity, very minor inclusions.
- SI (Slightly Included): Noticeable inclusions with 10X magnification, invisible to the naked eyes.
- I (Included): Inclusions may be visible to the naked eyes, may affect the durability/wearability of diamonds.
The above rating system is commonly used by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and is subdivided for a comprehensive report, as shown in the image. Not just the number of particles, a grading certificate tells you about the type, location, size of inclusions and any possible defect.
However, a diamond is certified and finally priced only after taking into account the four quality factors – Carat, Color, Cut, and Clarity. Inclusions in the larger stones are more visible, given their size. But then, the carat weight takes the value up. You may choose a VS-rated diamond for a beautiful wedding ring, whereas an SI-rated diamond is also a popular choice.
Some of us have a preference for the color instead, i.e., a whitish-transparent type of diamond for an engagement ring without worrying about the inclusions. A collector may be interested in a flawless diamond valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, passing it down from generation to generation.