Understanding Clarity Grades of Diamonds

Buying diamonds is a complex process. It involves understanding the factors that affect the quality and consequently the price of the diamonds. It can be overwhelming for a new buyer because it involves terminology that may sound esoteric and obtuse. We have touched on these parameters in our previous blog.

 In this blog, we will focus just on the Diamond Clarity and what its grades signify. In order to simplify things for a non-technical person, we have used images of diamonds certified by GIA (Gemological Institute Of America) as a visual aid to show the difference between the clarity grades.

The diamonds are graded for clarity under 10x magnification. If there are no impurities or inclusions under this magnification, then the diamond is classified as flawless. The flaws in a diamond are categorized under two heads:

  1. External Flaws
  2. Internal Flaws

 

The external flaws in a diamond are those that are on the surface of a diamond. These are normally the result of mishandling or human error in the polishing of diamond. Some of the external flaws are:

  1. Scratches: These may have been caused by the two diamonds rubbing against one another and can be removed by polishing. However deeper scratches may be difficult to remove.
  2. Chips: These are the portions of diamonds that have been broken from the surface esp sharp and thin edges. Normally the culet, which is the pointed portion of the round diamond is prone to such chipping when it is accidentally struck with any hard surface
  3. Naturals: These are the original surface of the diamond that has been left unpolished and depending upon the position it may or may not affect the visual beauty of a diamond
  4. Pits: These are small holes on the surface of the diamond. Although these are not visible to the naked eye, they reduce the luster or fire of diamond by interfering in the reflection of light from the surface.

 Internal flaws are the flaws that occur or happen when the diamond is getting formed.  These are beyond human control.  Some of the internal flaws are:

  1.  Pinpoints: These are minute crystals usually white in color and are the most common of the internal flaws. Most pinpoints do not affect the clarity of the diamond and are not visible to the naked eye.
  2. Needles: These are again crystals in the form of long and thin needles. These are again not visible to the naked eye.
  3. Cloud: Sometimes a group of pinpoints forms a cloud.  While a small cloud is not visible to the naked eye, nevertheless it does affect the clarity grade of a diamond.
  4. Feathers: These are cracks that resemble the feathers. Depending upon the size of the feather, it affects the clarity grade of the diamond.
  5. Graining: Graining is caused during the formation of diamond and these grains cannot be removed during polishing.
  6. Knots: These are diamond crystals that extend to the surface of the diamond and affects both the clarity and durability of the diamond.
  7. Cleavage: These are the cracks in a diamond that run parallel to the crystallographic planes. Big cleavages can cause the diamond to split while setting.
  8. Spots: These are black in color and reduce the beauty of a diamond.

The objective of this blog is not to present an academic and technical treatise on the clarity of diamonds but to help a customer make an informed decision while making the purchase. So we will start with brief labeling of the quality grades and then explain the quality grades with images of diamonds.

Below are the diamond clarity grades in the descending order (highest clarity first) of the clarity:

IF – (Internally Flawless) – No flaw or blemish is visible under 10x magnification

VVS-1 & VVS-2 – (Very Very Slightly Included-1 & 2) – Very minute inclusions are present which is difficult to spot/see even by a skilled grader

VS-1 & VVS-2 – (Very Slightly Included -1 & 2) – Minor inclusions visible under 10x magnification

SI-1 & SI-2 & SI-3 – (Slightly Included-1&2&3) – Under 10x magnification, these grades have noticeable inclusions which are easily seen

I-1&I-2 & I-3 – (Included-1&2&3) – These grades have obviously visible inclusions under 10x magnification.  Sometimes, these inclusions might be visible to the naked eye too.

 

VVS - Clarity Grade:

VVS Clarity Graded Round Diamond

VVS Clarity GIA  Graded Emerald Cut Diamond

 

VS - Clarity Grade :

VS Clarity Graded Round Diamond By GIA

VS Graded Emerald Cut by GIA

SI - Clarity Grade:

Si-2 Graded Round Diamond -by GIA

Si-2 Graded Emerald Cut Diamond by GIA

 

I - Clarity Grade:

I-2 Graded Round Diamond By GIA