Diamond Clarity

Checking diamond clarity
Photo: Mavoimages / Adobe Stock
In this guide, we’re going to learn which is best, which offers the best value, the whole scale, and the inclusions and blemishes that you might encounter!

Today we’re looking at the third of the 4 c’s; clarity. We’ve dealt with carat and cut, and now it’s all about the imperfections that may exist inside and outside of the gem. Ultimately, there are a number of factors that affect the clarity of a diamond but two of the biggest are size and shape. In this guide, we’re going to learn which is best, which offers the best value, the whole scale, and the inclusions and blemishes that you might encounter!

Which Clarity is the Best for Diamonds?

If you’re looking for the very best quality diamond, this will come with a Flawless (FL) rating. Even when magnified at 10x, this diamond will not show any blemishes or inclusions. The diamond is as clear as possible, and it is therefore considered the best of all diamonds.

In all likelihood, you won’t be buying a Flawless diamond for a number of reasons. Firstly, of all the diamonds in the world, it’s thought that less than 1% are awarded this classification. Since most diamonds have at least some inclusions, finding a Flawless diamond is very rare. As a result, prices are high. According to some sources, only 6% of all customers go for a FL diamond.

Which Clarity is the Best Value?

While Flawless diamonds are the best in quality, they aren’t the best for value. Instead, we recommend starting your search at Very Slightly Included (VS). Why? Because this is the point at which affordability and quality meet perfectly. More affordable than Flawless, Internally Flawless, and Very Very Slightly Included, VS is the level where inclusions still aren’t visible to the naked eye. Assuming your partner won’t put the gem under a microscope after the proposal or gift giving, you’ll have a clear enough diamond for a strong price.

Considering that VS diamonds are clear to the naked eye, they essentially have the same appearance as diamonds with higher grades. The only difference when paying out for higher grades would be the cost (and the fact that you’d need to constantly explain that you went the extra mile for a Flawless diamond).

Diamond Clarity Scale

We’ve seen some of the clarity labels with the diamond scale, but let’s look in more detail.

  • Flawless (FL) – Rare and expensive, Flawless diamonds are 100% free from inclusions.
  • Internally Flawless (IF) – While inclusions still aren’t visible at 10x magnification, you might see some tiny surface blemishes (we’ll discuss the differences in the next section!).
  • Very Very Slightly Included (VVS) – At this level, trained eyes will start to see inclusions under 10x magnification. Sometimes, this clarity level will be split into VVS1 and VVS2, with the latter offering more inclusions. Of all transactions, just over one-fifth pay for VVS diamonds.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS) – Again, this category can split into VS1 and VS2. We’re at the meeting point between quality and affordability, and this is why around 43% of all customers opt for this level of clarity.
  • Slightly Included (SI) – Now, 10x magnification will show inclusions and some SI1 diamonds show inclusions even without magnification. Around three in ten people buy SI diamonds.
  • Included (I1) – Since minor inclusions are now visible without magnification, jewelers will only stock a small number of diamonds with this clarity level.
  • Heavily Included (13 and 12) – Finally, we recommend steering clear of diamonds that are obviously included. For most jewelers, they will never stock Heavily Included diamonds.

Types of Inclusions/Blemishes

Although some sources might use these two terms interchangeably, they are actually very different. With a blemish, this is a mark or flaw in the surface of the gem. Meanwhile, an inclusion is a crystal of diamond or perhaps even a foreign material that sits within the stone, thus changing the appearance. With this in mind, blemishes generally refer to exterior damage while inclusions are interior issues.

Here’s some examples of exterior blemishes:

  • Chips
  • Polish lines
  • Dark spots
  • Light spots
  • Scratches
  • Breaks
  • Nicks
  • Pits

An inclusion might be one of the following:

  • Crystals
  • Minerals
  • Internal graining
  • Clouds
  • Cleavage
  • Feathers
  • Cavities
  • Knots

Conclusion

At this point, you should be confident and comfortable comparing different diamonds. Remember, VS is the most popular category since these diamonds are more affordable than the higher qualities and the inclusions are never visible to the naked eye. As you drop below this level, there’s always a risk of the damage becoming visible. For the untrained eye, a VS diamond will look just as beautiful as a FL diamond!