Clarity of Diamonds
Anyone who has researched diamond engagement rings for more than a few minutes online will be able to tell you about the four Cs: cut, colour, clarity, and carat. When shopping for a ring, you are likely to be bombarded with these terms frequently; however, few jewellers will actually explain what each of them means.
Let’s take a deeper look at our third C on the list: clarity. We’ll explain what this means and how it is determined, as well as its various categories and grades.
What Is the Clarity of a Diamond?
Even if you are shopping for a non-diamond engagement ring, chances are you’ve researched diamond rings enough to have heard of the term “diamond clarity.” While perfection is unattainable, there are many levels that are as close to perfect as you can get.
Simply put, a clarity rating is given based on the number of inclusions (internal), and blemishes (external), which constitute the imperfections that a diamond may have. This is not to say that every imperfection is a reason to discard a diamond–many of these can be either corrected or hidden behind settings and cuts so as to be imperceptible to the naked eye.
Clarity Isn’t Always Easily Detectable
Most imperfections in a diamond aren’t even visible without the aid of a 10x magnification eyepiece or scope. Even if the diamond is not in a setting where imperfections can be hidden, you’d be hard pressed to identify its imperfections in all but the most egregious cases.
If you’ve ever looked at a ring in the jewellery shop, perhaps the jeweller has offered you to look at the stone through their 10x magnifier, or maybe you’ve seen them examining stones with it themselves. Using a 10x magnifier is typically the gold standard for categorising and grading diamonds.
With the 10x magnifier, a diamond’s aspects start to become much more pronounced. What was once imperceptible is now glaringly obvious to even the casual observer.
What Causes Imperfections?
Diamonds are formed due to extremely high pressure and temperature deep within the earth. Because diamonds are made of carbon, a diamond may sometimes fail to completely crystalize.
This can cause tiny black flecks of carbon to remain trapped within the diamond, and other types of imperfections that may affect clarity could be cracks, chips, or pitting. These may affect the way light moves through the diamond, and therefore impact its clarity and value.
Who Categorises and Grades Diamonds?
If the jeweller were to hand you a 10x magnifier to examine higher grade stones, to your untrained eye, many imperfections may go unnoticed–this is the purpose behind trained gemologists that are certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Nearly every diamond above half a carat, very likely, has a GIA certificate attached to it. The GIA is the most well-known certification in gemological studies, and gemologists certified through the GIA attend courses at one of only ten schools across the world. In addition to its school campuses, the GIA also maintains nine grading and gem identification labs.
While diamonds are the most popular gem the GIA certifies, the organisation also has experts in gems of all kinds, including topaz, emeralds, sapphires, and opals. In fact, the very idea of the 4 Cs was invented by the GIA in 1953.
What Are These Categories and Grades?
The GIA has set out six categories for the clarity of diamonds, some of which are divided into grades. They are as follows:
- Flawless (FL): No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification, but can be characterised as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3): Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification, which may affect transparency and brilliance
Choosing The Right Clarity
While perfect diamonds may technically exist, they almost certainly didn’t start out that way. Skilled diamond workers identify flaws before they begin their cuts for an engagement ring and work carefully to either eliminate or hide imperfections beneath their cuts so as to maximise the value of their stones.
Thanks to both the diamond workers and the grading professionals who have developed these categories and grades, it’s now easier than ever for you to know exactly what grade your diamond is to ensure you always get the most valuable diamond for your loved one–just be sure that, if you’re proposing, you remember which finger is for the engagement ring!