Does Diamond Clarity Affect Sparkle?
Sparkle is arguably the first quality people look for in a diamond, but what gives a diamond its sparkle? It’s easy to assume that it’s brought about by high levels of clarity but, do champagne diamond solitaire rings have to have clarity to sparkle? Let’s discuss these two traits separately and determine how connected they are.
Evaluating Diamond Clarity
Before discussing how diamond clarity is evaluated, we must first understand how diamonds are produced. Natural diamonds are a result of carbon being exposed to intense heat and pressure some 150-200 kilometres below the earth’s surface. At times, this can result in characteristics within the diamond, called inclusions, and characteristics on the exterior of the diamond, referred to as blemishes. Assessing diamond clarity requires identifying the number, size, nature, and position of such characteristics, including how these affect the stone’s overall appearance. Note that no diamond is perfectly pure–but the higher its purity, the higher its clarity.
The Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) Diamond Clarity Scale identifies six categories, with some subdivisions, for a total of eleven specific grades:
- Flawless (FL)—no visible inclusions and blemishes under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF)—no visible inclusions under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)—inclusions so miniscule that a skilled grader would have a hard time seeing under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)—inclusions can be observed with effort under 10x magnification, but are characterised as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)—noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3)—obvious inclusions under 10x magnification which could affect brilliance and transparency
How Do Diamonds Sparkle?
Simply put, a diamond’s sparkle is a result of light interacting with the diamond’s cut. The quality and type of cut determine how the diamond responds to the light around it.
When light enters a diamond, it moves through it, bouncing off its facets and interior surfaces. It then either exits the diamond as white light, referred to as brightness, or it diverges into the spectral colours of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet—referred to as ‘fire.’
As you move a diamond in the light, scintillation takes place. Scintillation is an effect produced when alternating flashes of white and spectral-coloured light, as well as the contrast of dark and light, move around the diamond. This phenomenon is what is colloquially referred to as sparkle.
Choosing a Diamond That Sparkles
Examine the Diamond Under Four Different Light Sources
Observe the diamond under spot lighting, diffused lighting, mixed lighting, and natural daylight. An excellently cut diamond will show more light than dark spaces.
Select an Appropriate Shape
Cut and shape are often used interchangeably, but you’ll find that they are quite different. It’s not wrong to refer to a diamond as “round cut” or “princess cut,” but “diamond cutting” and “cut grades” are two different things.
Diamond cut grade pertains to the geometric proportions within a shape. Despite that, both shape and cut do have an impact on sparkle. If you wish to maximise sparkle, you should opt for a round brilliant cut diamond, as round diamonds have fifty-seven or fifty-eight facets while single-cut diamonds only have seventeen or eighteen. However, you may also consider other brilliant cuts such as princess, pear, radiant, oval, heart, and marquise.
Select the Best Cut Grade
The GIA Diamond Grading Report recognises five different cut grades for diamonds: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor.
Excellently cut diamonds are very bright, and display even patterns with astounding contrast between light and dark. On the other hand, poorly cut diamonds show prominent areas of dullness that don’t emit much sparkle.
While a diamond’s clarity can affect its sparkle, you’ll find that it ultimately doesn’t play a major role. When shopping for diamonds, you may ask which carat diamond is best, but it’s also important to remember the effects of the other grades. Diamonds with a clarity rating of SI2 and above seem perfectly unblemished to the naked eye, and it can be better to focus your budget on an excellently cut diamond rather than a “flawless” one, as the latter can only truly be appreciated under 10x magnification. Learn about different coloured diamonds and which diamond colour is best here.