Diamond Clarity – Selecting and Understanding Diamond Clarity

Buying a diamond can be a nerve-racking experience. If you want my expert advice on buying the best diamond just drop me a note and tell me what you are looking for and how much you want to spend and I will get back to you with my personal recommendations for a beautiful stone that fits in your budget. This is a FREE service, doesn’t cost you a dime extra, (in fact I am sure that it almost every case I can save you lots of money) and there is absolutely no commitment.

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As with all the 4 Cs when it comes to diamond clarity you really need to understand what you are looking for in order to make the proper judgment and buy the best diamond for your money.  Many people lacking the real understanding jump in and end up spending way too much money for a higher clarity grade.

Diamond clarity is a measure of how “clean” the diamond is. Diamonds are natural minerals and as such will often time have certain imperfections, such as small chips , “feathers”, or “clouds”  in them, which may or may not effect the perceived beauty of the diamond. In many cases these imperfections (referred to as inclusions) are so small or in a location that has NO material effect on the beauty of the diamond.

When you look online on a site such as James Allen or Blue Nile  you will see the clarity of a diamond referred to by a letter code such as from FL for a Flawless diamond to I3 for one that is Included to the naked eye. These letters refer to the overall severity of the natural flaws of a diamond when viewed under a 10X magnification.  As you can imagine the price of a diamond will vary depending on its clarity with Flawless diamonds costing much more then ones with lower diamond clarity (but still beautiful diamonds). Here is a diamond clarity chart I put together with real word examples of various diamonds. It has large images of many diamonds so you can see for yourself the difference between each diamond clarity grading.

How Diamond Clarity Impacts Price

As I mentioned above, diamond clarity is rated based on a 10X magnification. What this means is that unless you are looking at SI diamonds or lower the imperfections will not be visible to the naked eye and most likely will not effect the reflection of light through the diamond, which is what gives the sparkle and beauty. In general looking for a diamond in the VS range of clarity will offer the best value (assuming all other diamond characteristics being equal).

For example, here are 3 diamonds listed on James Allen. Each of the 3 are Ideal cut round diamond of 1.00 Carat weight and an E color. The only factor that changes is the diamond clarity.

A VSI1 diamond

A VSI1 diamond

VVS1 – $12,080
VS1- $8,630
SI1 – $6040

As you can see you will be paying a premium of 30% for the VVS1 diamond clarity grading even though it is more then likely that you will never be able to tell the difference between it and the VS1! In this case I would not recommend the SI1 stone as the locations imperfections are likely visible to the naked eye and will in fact have an effect on its beauty.  You can read more about how I know this on the diamond certification page.

Diamond Clarity Definitions

Another important fact about diamond clarity ratings is that a grade is the result of the cumulative number and harshness of inclusions on the stone. What this means is that a diamond may have several small non-visible inclusions but it may still get an SI1 rating because of the number.  On the flip side you may find a VS2 with only one inclusion but I wouldn’t recommend it because of it being black and dead center of the table. This all comes down to my overall recommendation of buying online from a vendor like James Allen where you can see the diamonds for yourself and not relying on a diamond certificate.

One final word on diamond clarity. There is no universal guidelines for determining clarity. Each lab that certifies diamonds has its own guidelines for giving a clarity grade so make sure the diamond certificat for the stone you are interested in is from a trustworthy lab. Below are the general guidlines that GIA uses for diamond clarity grading:

  • FL/IF Diamonds: Flawless: No inclusions under 10x.
    Internally Flawless: None or only insignificant surface blemishes and no inclusions when examined under 10x. Normally, most blemishes can be removed by minor polishing.
  • VVS1/VVS2 Diamonds: Very Very Slightly Included: Contain minute inclusions that are extremely difficult for an experienced grader to locate under 10x magnification.
  • VS1/VS2 Diamonds: Very Slightly Included: Contain minor inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification. Typical VS inclusions are small crystals, feathers or distinct clouds. In some rare cases, a VS stone can contain an eye visible inclusion.
  • SI1/SI2 Diamonds: Slightly Included: Inclusions are easily visible under 10x magnification to an experienced gemologist and may be visible with the unaided eye.
  • I1/I2/I3 Diamonds: Included: Diamonds with significant inclusions.

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