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Clarity Grading <The Ultimate Diamond Guide>

*Do note that our writings are based on our personal opinion and only serves as a reference or guide.


In this article, we will explain what each clarity grade means visually and how certain certificates makes purchasing diamonds online risky.


Clarity Grading


The grading of clarity is based on how much and how obvious inclusions are in a diamond. GIA grades based on the size, location, and relief of the inclusion. For example, a colourless crystal will have different impact on the clarity grade compared to a black crystal in the same size and location.


GIA grades diamonds in 11 clarity grades, which refers to how free the diamond is from inclusions and blemishes. The cleaner it is, the more valuable and rarer the diamond is. The clarity grades used are:


Image Courtesy: ringsforwomen.org


The diamond clarity can determine anywhere from 20-30% of the value of the diamond. The price jumps drastically from each range (IF to VVS), (VVS to VS), (VS to SI) and (SI to I).


Flawless/Internally Flawless:


These are diamonds which are free from any inclusions. They are totally clean. A internally flawless diamond as the name suggest is clean on the inside, but may have polishing lines on the surface which are removable.


One thing to note is, when you purchase a flawless diamond, and say you set it into a setting and wear it, it could eventually become a internally flawless stone, due to the possibility of scratching the surface during normal wear.

Very Very Slightly Included


They have minute inclusions that are extremely difficult to find. They may have some pinpoints inclusions (little dots) but are extremely difficult to locate. Any crystal inclusions (dots whose outline can be seen) in a microscope are automatically demoted to a VS grade.


The difference between VVS1 and VVS2 is where the pinpoint is located. VVS2 if it is on the table, VVS1 if it is less visible on the side.


For reference on how miniscule diamond inclusions can be, a VVS Diamond would take us around 5 minutes under a 50x microscope to locate. We would not even try looking for the inclusion with a 10x loupe. Can you imaging trying to find it with just your eyes? It is impossible.


Very Slightly Included


They have minor inclusions that are difficult to find. All kinds of inclusions are possible in this grading, including fractures which are known as feathers, crystals, etc.


The difference between VS1 and VS2 is based on overall visibility of the inclusions.


For reference on how tiny the inclusion in this grade is, under a 50x microscope to locate, a VS Diamond on average would take us 15 seconds or more. However, when used a 10x magnification loupe, a VS diamond would take us a much longer time, sometimes even 10 minutes to locate the inclusion. Could you imagine trying to find the inclusion with just your unaided eye? Good luck, it will be a tough challenge.


Slightly Included


They have noticeable inclusions which are easy to find, sometimes even eye-visible. Feathers and indented naturals are common here.


We generally would not recommend diamonds with this clarity grading. They should not be put in ultrasonic cleaners as there is a risk of the diamond cracking.


* GIA does not give a SI3 grading but this is used in the Rapaport price list as the gap between SI2 and I1 is big.


Included


They have obvious inclusions and are quite visible to the unaided eye. This are considerably industrial grade diamonds and the durability of the diamond is affected.


Some retailers have also marketed them as salt & pepper diamonds. However in our opinion, this is the last thing we would buy.


Type of Inclusions


Here are the types of inclusions in a diamond with the most common on the top bullet point:


  • Pinpoint, Crystal [1], Needle, Cloud

  • Feather [2], Knot, Natural [3], Cavity

  • Twinning Wisp [4], Internal Graining

  • Others: Bruise, Nick, Chip, Extra Facet, Laser Drill Hole, Etch Channel


How Inclusions May Make Buying Diamonds Online Risky?


Some sites like JamesAllen will show what the diamond looks like with a 360 degrees video, but their certificates are only shown upon request which you have to contact their customer service.


With the certificates shown, do note that the GIA certificate will not always provide a diamond plot diagram of the inclusions, or cut proportions, depending on the type of certificate. Hence you might only be able to rely on the uploaded pictures.


GIA Diamond Dossier Certificate

The GIA Diamond Dossier Certificate shown is a typical GIA certificate that does not provide a diamond plot. Also this certificate does not give cut proportions.


Under the clarity characteristics, they would describe the type of inclusion, be it cloud, needle or crystal.


This means that you know there is a inclusion, but you will not know exactly how big it is, or if a crystal, will it be a colourless or black crystal.


You can only rely on the product pictures uploaded to make your decision.



 
GIA Diamond Grading Report Certificate

Now for the GIA Diamond Grading Report Certificate. which is the full report.


However, similar to the Diamond Dossier Certificate, note that crystal colours are also not stated.


Also, another type of inclusion to avoid is called the twinning wisp, show above previously. These are stress lines in the diamond that are visible and may cover a significant portion of the stone.


In our training in GIA, we are taught that we should represent twinning wisps with just 2 lines, even if there are plenty which covers majority of stone.



These are some limitations that a diamond certificate will not be able to inform you, which leaves you to the diamond videos and pictures uploaded to try to detect them.


There are also other important reasons such as cutting proportions that may make it risky. Read our Buying Diamond Online Precautions here to have a clearer understanding. This is especially important if you intend to buy a diamond online.


In our opinion, if you are confident in relying largely on the diamond images and the information that the certificate can provide, buying diamonds online would be a good cost savings option compared to many retailers.


However if you want to make sure you find the best diamond, it becomes very important to view the diamond in real life with the explanation of a gemologist who will related other aspects like fire, scintillation that will not be mentioned on the certificate.



Our Recommendations on Clarity


In our opinion, clarity is the second most important factor (behind cut) to the beauty of a diamond, and you should always engage the assistance of an expert as even in the same clarity grade, the appearance could be vastly different.


There could be two stones with the same grade D VS2, but one exhibits no visible black crystal inclusion on the face up, while the other one exhibits a noticeable black crystal inclusion, and reflections of it on the side.


Generally, we recommend our clients who focus more on prices, to get a VS clarity, because the difference between a VS and a VVS diamond is due to the presence of crystal inclusion. Thus we can specially find a VS diamond with a small crystal inclusion on the side that is very difficult to observe even under a 10x loupe in the expert’s eye. It will still look very clean and brilliant, while omitting the price tag of a VVS grade diamond.


All in all, the diamond certificate alone will not tell you how the blemish or inclusion affects the appearance of the diamond, but the actual diamond seen in real life and a proper jeweller will and should.

Head back to our Ultimate Diamond Buying Guide to learn about the other components of diamond grading.


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