The big question: “at what Clarity grade could I see inclusions?” Unfortunately that is not how lab grading systems work. The answer from a consumer point of view depends on:
- your eyesight
- the size of the inclusion relative to the diamond
- the nature of the inclusion(s)
- the inclusion placement (e.g. can it be covered by a claw)
- face up vs side view
A simple eye sight test is to place one end of a ruler against your cheek and run your finger up and down the ruler to measure how close you can focus. If you are young or short sighted you may be able to focus closer than 15cm (6 inches) and you may be able to see some VS2 inclusions, especially in larger diamonds of say 2 carats or more (as diamond size increases so too are the allowable sizes of VS and lower inclusions). As we get older most people lose the ability to focus close up. We are always searching for SI2 diamonds with several smaller inclusions spread throughout the stone that not even the sharpest eyed person can spot inclusions.
Remember that it is unlikely that anyone else will look at your diamond from closer than 30cm (one foot) unless you take the jewel off and for them to examine very closely. At Holloway Diamonds we will show you diamonds of different clarities and help you establish the grade that best suits you, your eye sight and your budget. If you prefer a higher grade, or even a Flawless diamond, we will source one for you, but because of their rarity rather than their beauty, Flawless diamonds are more expensive and many have very poor cut quality.
- At the Flawless to VVS1 border the visibility or not of an inclusion under 10 power magnification is the only factor that makes the grade. But as you go lower in grade, the size of the inclusion relative to the size of the diamond becomes important. For example a single SI1 inclusion should be impossible to see in a 0.10ct or ten point diamond, sometimes visible in 1ct diamonds and almost always visible in 10ct stones.
- Lighting plays a big part in inclusion visibility. Shaded daylight on a cloudy day helps spot inclusions, direct sunlight or any type of bright spot lighting is bad because the bright flashes make it hard to see into the stone. Dim lighting is bad because we have trouble focusing when our pupils are wide open.
- Be careful you do not try to become a grading expert. Diamonds that seem to be very harshly graded by labs are often not a mistake at all, so try not to become an armchair expert and out grade the pro’s. For example what may seem to be a lucky find may have a surface reaching crack or feather on the crown side, which most labs will grade harshly, downgrading the stone by a grade or even more. Since cracks can lead to damage, you can rest assured that Holloway Diamonds reject such stones. However only surface reaching feathers are an issue. These are marked in green on grading report plots (things inside the diamond are plotted in red). Likewise the search for the perfect SI2 diamond often leads to a diamond with a cloud or milky haziness and reduced brilliance.
Many jewellers will tell you to “avoid table inclusions”, but that VS2 inclusion in the crown might make a stone an SI1 if it were in the table. Graders do take the position, the shade, reflections and many other factors into account. The best win comes when we find a diamond with its inclusion(s) near the girdle which we can cover with prongs.
It is wrong to call most inclusions ‘flaws’ because that implies breakage is likely unless as mentioned above that there are surface reaching feathers present. If we are remodeling clients’ diamonds like this we can carefully place the feather just beside a prong to protect it from sharp blows but still not subject the diamond to undue risk while we set it.
- Consumers sometimes complain about a diamond with a comparatively high clarity grade having easily seen inclusions from the side or back of the stone. This is a big problem with Princess cuts because it is common for SI and VS stones to have an inclusion right in the center of the octahedral crystal from which 2 stones are usually cut. Because most princess cuts are sawn through the middle or just above the middle of the octahedron (as shown) the large facet on each side just below the girdle acts like a big window making it very easy to see the inclusion. The lab grading criteria may completely ignore this fact because grading labs work to face up standards. Unfortunately this is a case of buyer beware and it is a factor that Holloway Diamonds like to point out when selecting diamonds and making rings.
This strictly graded SI1 inclusion is close to the table. The center and right photo’s are taken focusing deeper into the diamond making it harder to see the inclusion. In the four smaller photo’s below the inclusion is easily eye visible.