Everyone notices the freckles that some people have as opposed to the conventional birthmarks of others because they are very unique. They are considered to be beautiful and, in some quarters,
sexy. The same cannot, however, be said about certain birthmarks.
In the world of diamonds, birthmarks are considered imperfections that are found on diamonds by reason of the fact that they are formed from deep within the earth’s surface. These imperfections make the diamond unique and one of a kind because none of them are the same.
There are many types of inclusions that we will see below, for instance, the diamond you see here below is this one, an SI2 diamond on Blue Nile that has 6 types of inclusions!! Covering most of its table!
If you look at the GIA certificate of that diamond, and then check the clarity section on it, you will see this, which is a representation of all clarity inclusions found on the diamond, their locations and types:
Is that diamond you would ever pick? Yes it’s 1.5 carat and considerably cheap for that carat & high cut, but with all the visible inclusions, I doubt you will get one!
On the other hand, the image you see here looks much better, and it’s for this diamond on James Allen:
Here is its clarity section from the GIA certificate:
A lot of difference right? That’s why YOU MUST see the certificate before making a purchase.
But are all inclusions the same? Which are worst and should avoid? Which are “okay” to have? And how they affect diamond total clarity?
What are Diamond Inclusions?
Diamonds are created under tremendous pressure & heat under more than 100 miles on earth, 2000 Fahrenheit and more than 70000 pounds per inch square pressure will definitely leave some imperfections on the diamonds surface, these imperfections are called diamonds inclusions.
Diamonds with no inclusions are very rare, rare to the level that most jewelers (not only customers) live their life without seeing one.
All diamonds (except flawless) have inclusions, some of them are clearly visible to naked eye (these are worse of course), while most of them are not, unless you check the diamond with a loupe.
This image for example that belongs to this diamond on James Allen, it’s 1 carat, with an excellent cut! But would you pick it?
We know that the average range for 1 carat diamond is around $4.5k to somewhere around $7k, but would you get that diamond even if it’s for $4k? $3.5k? Even $3k? I doubt!
The diamond (as you may have seen on JA) is priced at $2480, while it has a good color grade, excellent cut! But yet, it’s that cheap because of the clarity inclusions (or disasters) it has!
Are all inclusions Equal?
Diamonds are unique to each one, has different types & effect (on appearance & price), some worse than others and better to be avoided, while some are okay in most cases!
What are Diamond Inclusions Types? Images Included!
Let’s take a look at the most popular inclusion types found on diamonds, which are worse and should be avoided:
Crystals are simply put a collection of small diamonds or minerals trapped inside a larger one during formation. Some of them are invisible to an unaided eye. They are many types, white crystals, black, colored, or transparent (colorless).
It is easy for the white to blend in but you may have a hard time with the black & transparent.
The more the color, the better you should avoid since it will have more effect on diamond brilliance, as a rule of thumb, you should try to avoid any colored crystal inclusion.
Here is a diamond from Blue Nile with a crystal inclusion on its table:
When diamonds are formed, the pressure could make crystals turn into a needle-like shapes. They are usually white in color or transparent.
Most diamonds you will see while shopping for your diamond will have a needle inclusion, it’s one of the most common inclusions found on diamonds.
Needle inclusions are usually seen under magnification as it’s not easy to detect them with naked eye, if you saw the needle looks “clustery”, you better avoid that diamond.
Keep in mind one thing here, we know for a fact that diamonds are the strongest stone on earth! But be careful with long and deep needles, such cracks can make the diamond less strong, more vulnerable to break!
More on this below when we see the worst inclusions types to avoid.
Here is a diamond with many needles, they are hard to be seen if they are small, and almost invisible to naked eye.
The image here (which belongs to this diamond) has a clearer needle on the table, but remember that this is 20x magnified image, and this inclusion is most probably not visible to naked eye:
These are inclusions that appear as white dots and are not really visible, they can be either white or black crystals, they are very tiny and don’t have much effect on diamond clarity.
The image here shows a pinpoint, as you see, it’s very tiny and barely can be seen under magnification:
Clouds are sometimes referred to group (cluster) of pinpoints or crystals in general, it’s called cloud when these pinpoints are very close to each other so that they form a “cloud” of inclusions
They are not usually visible but if they are bigger, they could affect the gem’s light performance.
This diamond has 4 clouds on its table & crown, they might not be easily seen without knowing their location on the GIA certificate:
5. Twinning Wisp
This inclusion looks like stretch marks but on a gem, it’s a bit different from the cloud that it’s a series rather than a group of pinpoints/crystals, it even can be a series of cloud as well, and it is said to be caused by a pause during formation, the resumption of which leaves the gem dented.
Usually the twinning wisps are found in fancy shape diamonds, if the wisp is large, look for another diamond.
Here is a diamond with 4 twinning wisps on Blue Nile.
These are inclusions that have reached the surface area of the gem. They can actually be seen with naked eyes and they affect the durability of the gem, if they are large, you better avoid this inclusion in a diamond, it’s worth to mention that knot inclusions extend to the surface after fashioning.
This inclusion is called feather because of its shape. It is basically a crack in the inside of a gem. It causes durability issues if placed close to the girdle area, often white and feathery in appearance, here is how feather looks like under extreme magnification:
The problem with feather inclusions is not only that they affect clarity, but if they are near the diamond surface, it might affect diamond durability as well, better to be avoided if large or reached the surface.
The image you see here (which belongs to this diamond on Whiteflash) has two feathers right in the middle of its table, a bit to the left if you see them (you can see a magnified image on the website, just click the image to follow the link):
This inclusion is an opening on the edge or surface of the gem. This happens mostly from wear and tear. Chips can be corrected by cutting and reshaping but where they are considerably large, cutting could affect the carat weight of the gem.
This is an angular opening or a hole in the center of a gem, such inclusions are created when part of a feather breaks away, and sometimes when a crystal that is surface reaching drops out, they are however not really noticeable.
This occurs from a blow to the surface of the gem which extends inside. Diamonds are quite fragile hence this inclusion.
Bruise inclusion is less common in diamonds, and probably you won’t come across one when you shop for your diamond, but if you find a diamond with bruise, be a little careful if it’s visible or a bit large, because it’s that type of inclusions that you want to avoid in your diamond.
These inclusions are called bearding because they really look like hair (beard hair), they often occur in the cutting phase. While it’s not much of important if it’s tiny, but if a girdle is heavily bearded, its appearance will look a grey and fuzzy fringe, almost as if it has been scratched.
12. Indented Natural
Indented Natural is a portion of the rough diamond’s original surface, it can’t be fixed with the polish because it dips below a polished diamond’s surface.
This diamond on Blue Nile has 3 indented natural diamonds as you might see on the certificate, but they are very tiny, almost invisible even under 20x magnification.
These are the main inclusions types that you might witness while browsing for your diamond, as you already noticed, looking at the diamond itself isn’t enough in most cases, you MUST see the certificate to understand what types of inclusions the diamond has.
It’s worth to mention here that the clarity section you saw above in GIA certificate is only available for diamonds that are 1 carat and above, so don’t get surprized if you see a GIA certificate without a clarity section.
Are All Inclusions Bad?
The diamond inclusion or clarity chart is basically a grading of diamonds according to their inclusions.
Which Are the Worst Inclusion Types to Avoid?
We’ve seen the different types of inclusions, and at this point we know that they have different effect on the clarity grade, and on diamond ability to reflect light generally.
In order of worseness level of inclusions, here are the worst inclusions that you need to do your best to avoid:
1- Black Carbon Spots / Crystals:
These are the worst inclusions you don’t want in your diamond, black spots literally block the light from going through the diamond when it gets to the spot location.
They look like small pieces of crushed tiny pepper and should be avoided even if the spot is underneath the stone (which will be covered under the setting), note that we are only talking about black crystals and not all of them, only black.
2- Top / Center-Located Inclusions:
While this is not a specific type, but any notable inclusion in the top or center of the diamond will be very harmful to your diamond.
Look at this diamond on James Allen and see the inclusion location on the middle, this location is a killer one for any inclusion to “destroy” the diamond brilliance, when you look for a diamond, try your best to get a clean surface from the top.
This diamond has many other visible inclusions as well, but we wanted to highlight how important the location of an inclusion is.
3- Long Fracture / Crack:
Have you ever imagined that someone can break a diamond? What about the 10/10 grade of strength on Mohs Scale?
If a diamond has a short needle, that’s not a big issue, but if the needle / crack is too long, and it runs all the way through the diamond, and the diamond slammed against a wall so hard, it “might” split the diamond into halves, but this is very rare and totally depends on the crack depth and length.
Look at this diamond (at 6 o’clock), you can clearly see a long crack, it’s not that long to break the diamond, but this is the type of inclusions you want to avoid.
This is very important, you can ignore very small clouds, but if a cloud is covering a good portion of the diamond surface, the diamond will look hazy and milky, this will affect its look, and more importantly, its brilliance.
Look at this diamond in 360-degree on Blue Nile, here is a screenshot of its clarity section on its GIA certificate as well.
It’s not only that the cloud covers a lot of space on the diamond surface, what’s worse is the location, right in the middle of the table.
Inclusions Characteristics that Affect Diamonds
Sometimes gems with inclusions are purchased because the inclusions are the source of beauty in the gem. Most inclusions, however, affect the gem’s clarity or grading, however this could depend on a number of factors:
When gems are graded, the grading comes after the gem has been inspected under 10x magnification. The reason is that the inclusions are mostly visible under magnification. The size of the inclusion impacts greatly on the grading. Where the inclusion is large, the gem is graded lower than where the inclusion is little, and this makes sense, that’s why an eye-clean diamond (VS1 for example) will not have any inclusions that you can see, while the same exact inclusions (if happened) with a larger size will probably make the same diamond an SI1.
When the inclusions in a gem are numerous, it affects the grading as it will make the gem very unattractive.
Where the inclusion is situated in the gem goes a long way in grading. If it is at the table facet, it is most visible and generally affects how the gem is seen since the table is the like the mirror of the gem and it is the first place considered when looking at a gem. Where it is at the girdle, it is rarely visible. Where the inclusion is at the culet, it reduces the value of the gem because such inclusions can reflect throughout the gem, this image explains how each location affect the overall clarity.
When inclusion is closer to the color of the gem, it lowers its relief. Therefore inclusions like crystal that are translucent or white have less impact on the gem than inclusions that are dark.
Different types of inclusions that we mentioned previously have different degrees of impact on a gem’s clarity and grading. For example, pinpoints have a lesser impact because they are barely visible even under 10x magnification. Other inclusions like feathers can have a greater impact as it could cause gems to crack.
Do All Inclusions Have the Same Weight / Effect?
We’ve seen above the most inclusion types that might affect clarity. But a good question is:
Do all inclusions have the same effect on diamonds? Or Some inclusions are worse than others?
The latter question is the right one of course, not all inclusions are the same, and they don’t have equal effect on diamonds, some of them are very bad, and in some cases, a diamond graded as SI1 or SI2 might be a VVS if it doesn’t have a specific inclusion (depends on type and location).
Look at these two diamonds on Blue Nile:
Both diamonds are SI1 clarity-graded, but if you look at the GIA certificate for both of them, and exactly on the Clarity Characteristics section (please note that this section is only available for diamonds over one carat), you can see a huge difference in number of inclusions found on each one.
The first one has around 9 inclusions on its crown, and this is “relatively” a low number of inclusions, yet it was graded as SI1 not higher! Will see shortly why.
The second one has tons of inclusions all over the its crown! And it was graded SI1, same as the first one.
By the way, both of them have excellent polish!
Why is this?
That’s because not all inclusions are equal, some inclusions can’t be that harmful to the diamond brilliance, but others leave a huge impact on diamond ability to reflect light, and they are considered much worse than others.
Diamond Clarity Grades
One of the most important factors in any diamond is the clarity, Clarity is one the 4Cs of diamonds, and it’s graded into 6 categories based on the cleanness of a diamond.
We’ve covered the detailed grades with real images in our Clarity article, but in short here, these grades are:
Diamonds graded FL have no inclusions or blemishes visible to the eye at 10x magnification. These diamonds are extremely rare and are very expensive. Only 1 in 5000 diamonds are rated flawless.
These are diamonds that do not have inclusions but only blemishes. These blemishes are barely visible under 10x magnification. Only about 3% of diamonds are ever rated IF and if put side by side with FL, they are quite similar to the unskilled eye.
Very Very Slightly Included
Inclusions in diamonds here are difficult to see at 10x magnification. For VVS1, inclusions can only be seen from the pavilion while for VVS2 diamonds, their inclusions can only be seen from the crown.
For both, the inclusions are of course not visible to the naked eye and look similar to the flawless grades. These diamonds have clarity and are equally expensive.
Very Slightly Included
Inclusions in gems so graded are very visible under 10x magnification but are described as minor. They are not however visible to the naked eye. Their slight inclusions do not affect clarity or transparency. These gems are divided into VSI1 and VSI2.
Diamonds of this grade have inclusions that are visible under 10x magnification. Some of these inclusions can be visible to the naked eye when observed under close inspection. They are divided into SI1 and SI2 gems (EGL introduced SI3, but it’s not internationally adopted).
Diamonds of this grade have inclusions that are obvious under 10x magnification. The inclusions are always visible to the naked eye and sometimes may affect the durability of the gem. They also reduce transparency and the brilliance of the gem. They are divided into I1 through I3.
How Inclusion Location Affects Clarity Grade?
Look again at the image above, and particularly on diamond 1 lower girdle facet (bottom right at 5 o’clock), you will see there is a small inclusion there, and on the keys section, it will tell you that this inclusion is Cavity.
This inclusion type & location had a huge impact on lowering the diamond clarity grade to SI1, but it’s not the only thing that ended the diamond with SI1.
The inclusions found on the very first image to the left (crown of 1st diamond) are located at the worst location in a diamond (look again here using 360-degree, it’s easily visible), in many cases, they will be seen by naked-eye, and more importantly, they hugely effect diamond brilliance since light go through the crown.
So in a nutshell, inclusion location is very important to determine clarity grade and overall brilliance, always look for a diamond with less or no inclusions on the top, or on the girdle (and its upper/lower facets).
How Clarity / Inclusions level Affect Diamond Pricing?
After all information we saw above, it would be good to mention how these inclusions (which define the clarity grade for any diamond) affect diamonds pricing.
To have a reasonable comparison, we will freeze our search to these characteristics, and then see how changing clarity level will affect pricing.
Polish & Symmetry: Excellent
We will use our favourite online store James Allen for the prices reference, for one main reason, as of writing this, James Allen inventory is larger that Blue Nile (they are head to head on this by the way).
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: SI2 Clarity Grade
We ran a search on James Allen with the above characteristics, it returned 47 diamonds, with prices between $3790 to $5300.
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: SI1 Clarity Grade
This search on James Allen with the predefined filters as we just listed returns 77 diamonds, ranging between $5170 to $6360.
Note the huge increase in price, for just one grade in clarity, that’s simply because SI2 is not eye clean in most cases, while SI1 is the exact opposite, eye clean in most cases.
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: VS2 Clarity Grade
Same search (here), returned 77 diamonds as well, from $6420 to $7570.
We also see a huge increase in price, think of it, people go to VS2 to stay safe in terms of visible inclusions since it’s 100% eye clean, let’s see if this changes with VS1.
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: VS2 Clarity Grade
We got 46 diamonds, priced between $6930 to $7900, as you see, the price difference is reasonable for 1 grade in clarity, that’s because both VS grades are eye clean.
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: VVS2 Clarity Grade
30 diamonds, with price range between $7340 and $8280, also reasonable price difference from VS2.
Average Price for 1 Carat Diamond: VVS2 Clarity Grade
38 diamonds, between $7880 to $8870, also reasonable price difference compared to VVS2.
Summary on Clarity & Inclusions Visibility Effect on Pricing:
In short, jumping from visible inclusions to eye clean diamond is the most expensive jump in terms of clarity as we saw from SI2 to SI1.
Also a huge jump is seen when we go from the recommended level SI1 to VS2, that’s because people prefer staying away from any possibility of visible inclusions.
Price Jumps between higher grades are reasonable, somewhere around $500 for cheapest & most expensive diamonds in that range.
Diamonds Inclusions Summary
The inclusions in a gem can only be visible where the gem is loose. When it is in its setting, grading may be difficult because the prongs or the bezel may hide the inclusion. This could also be a good thing when gems with inclusions are purchased. The inclusions could be made to hide in plain sight with the chosen setting.
Whereas the freckles as stated above add beauty and are considered unique characteristics of an individual, they do not impact on the value attached to such person. Diamonds are however inanimate and are assessed based on the idea that they should, in fact, be perfect.