Shopping for Diamond Clarity, How Perfect Does it Have to Be?
Like Men, Few Diamonds are Perfect. Like men, most gemstones aren’t perfect. 99% of the all the diamonds you’ll ever lay your eyes on have flaws in them. Diamond clarity is really interesting to delve into, so come with your Santa Barbara Diamond Educator and check it out!
Flaws, Inclusions and Blemishes in Diamonds
Technically speaking, flaws are all the tiny crap and junk inside a stone. Flaws inside of a diamond are called “inclusions.” Flaws on the outside surface are called “blemishes.” A stone is “perfect” if it has none.
Like men, perfect stones are few and far between. But really we don’t have the eyes of a hawk so imperfect can look perfect to us.
Inclusions in Diamonds
Inclusions come in a myriad of different sizes, shapes, and colors. The most common are dark, black specks called carbon spots.
Carbon spots come in all different shapes and sizes. Some diamonds have just a few; others have so many, they make the stone look almost black.
In the past, they used to use black diamonds on saw blades. Now they mount them in jewelry and call them “chic!” But then so do I. I actually love black diamonds, but that’s another story for my blog!
What do Inclusions Look Like?
Some inclusions look like fuzzy areas. Some look like clouds. Some inclusions can be seen with the naked eye. Most require the use of a loupe (a small jeweler’s magnifying glass). Which you should always use!
If your jeweler doesn’t have one, you’re either in the donut shop next door…or something’s fishy. In either case: leave.
Other factors being equal, the rule of thumb is the fewer inclusions in a diamond, the better it is. And of course, the more expensive it is, too.
Are Inclusions Bad?
Are all inclusions bad? No. Like I said, almost every diamond you’ll look at contains them. As long as they don’t cloud up the overall appearance and detract from the light refraction, they should be OK. Light refraction is about how much light bounces back out of your diamond, versus how much went in. More is better! There’s nothing wrong with a small inclusion here or there.
Besides, if every diamond was flawless, how would you tell your diamond from your sister’s? I like to think that inclusions add character and uniqueness to a diamond. Like men!
Your Diamond Should Have a Fingerprint!
Inside your diamond the inclusions are like a unique fingerprint. By knowing what your diamond’s inclusions look like, you’ll always have confidence that your diamond is your diamond when it comes back from a service visit.
One of my client’s picked a diamond to buy from me with what we laughingly called the “Mickey Mouse” inclusion. their were three inclusions, two bigger circles above and a tiny one below, like Mickey Mouse. The inclusions were only noticeable under magnification, but were easy for her to remember.
Diamond Clarity Grading Scale
Most diamonds in America are clarity graded with the much respected GIA (Gemological Institute of America) scale. Most diamond sellers use this respected scale as well. It is an industry standard. Here’s the scale:
IF – Internally flawless
VVS1 – Very, very small inclusions
VVS2 – Very, very small inclusions but slightly more than a VVS1 grade
VS1 – Very small inclusions
VS2 – Very small inclusions but slightly more than a VS1
SI1 – Slight or small inclusions
SI2 – Slight or small inclusions but more than a SI1
I1 – Imperfect or included (inclusions are visible to the eye)
I2 – Imperfect or included but more than an I1
I3 – Imperfect or included but more than an I2
Clarity Grades Explained
It’s very difficult to see the inclusions in a VVS diamond. It takes magnification and lots of practice. Stones of this nature are priced accordingly: high!
VS diamonds are excellent stones, as well. Again, it takes magnification to see the inclusions.
Inclusions in an SI diamond can easily be seen under a loupe. You’ll find lots of these gems on the market and factoring in good color and cut, can make excellent choices. I recommend SI diamonds all the time.
Think of diamond clarity as a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid are the IF, internally flawless diamonds. At the bottom are the I clarity diamonds. So the fewer inclusions you demand, the scarcer your choices are and the more expensive the diamond.
As you might have guessed, “I” clarity diamonds are less expensive. Their inclusions are bigger and more extensive and can be seen without magnification.
Again, taking into account good color, cut, and carat weight, you can find nice stones, but in the “I” clarity grade, they’re harder to discover.
How Big’s Your Wallet?
If you can afford a VVS or a VS diamond, that’s great! If however you’re young and just starting out and your wallet’s feeling light, there are many good SI diamonds on the market.
If your future diamond has been cut nicely, and has good color, an SI diamond can have lots of pizzazz and sparkle and be an affordable choice.
It’s actually not unheard of for an SI diamond to show better than a VS one due to its color and cut. Don’t shy away from them SI’s. I’ve seen lots of brilliant, fiery stones with an SI clarity.
Large Diamond Advice
When you are choosing a larger diamond you’ll want to go with higher clarity grades. I’m speaking of 2 carats and above.
When you chose an emerald cut or Ascher cut diamond, higher clarity is more important.
Emerald and Ascher cuts have longer lines and more open unfaceted areas to see into and less sparkly faceting underneath. Therefore the diamond needs to be more perfect in clarity, because inclusions are more visible to the eye than with round brilliant cuts, princess cuts, etc.
My Six Step Diamond Shopping Advice
1. Learn to use a loupe.
2. Print out a Clarity Grading Chart and Color Grading Chart.
3. Read the rest of this diamond shopping series to educate yourself. See links below.
4. Look at a few diamonds till you feel confident that you can see the differences in clarity and color.
5. When shopping in stores or online, know that a great clarity grade on a diamond certificate doesn’t guarantee a sparkly diamond.
6. Look at the diamond in person before you purchase it or have someone you trust look at it.
The Rest of the Four “C’s” Diamond Shopping Series
This is the rest of the Diamond Shopping series with the other 3 of the 4 “C’s.” Read these:
Diamond Cut and Diamond Shopping
Diamond Carat and Diamond Shopping by Weight
Diamond Color and Diamond Shopping by Color Grade
Remember when you are choosing the right diamond for you, look for qualities you admire, like sparkle and personality rather than perfection, just like a man!
I welcome your calls.
Diamond Educator and Diamond Seller,
My thanks to Ira Weissman and his educational diamond and inclusion photos that I use here with his permission from his Diamond Clarity Chart.
Your expertise blows me away! I think this is great that you enable us to have some knowledge before walking into a jeweler’s shop. It’s always comforting to have some insight on what they are selling you and saying to you. Also, I adore your philosophical approach and indeed, to find holistic beauty rather than just external is a splendid thing! Appreciatively, Lynn
Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you liked my philosophy and methods!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Great post and chock full of information for the conservative diamond buyer as well as one who has a bit more in their wallet. As a diamond educator and seller you offer crystal clear and direct buying know how. Thank you!
You are most welcome! I’m glad you liked the diamond clarity shopping information.
Calla-did you go to gemstone school for all that knowledge? I have a very powerful loop that my sister gave me. When I took a pair of diamond earrings to a jeweler-I examined the diamonds through my loop before going so I could identify my stones.I guess there’s really no way to prove that a jeweler switched diamonds. I also had a friend who had a mondo diamond ring. She had some work done on the setting and then put it back in her safety deposit box. Years later she went back to that ring and found that the diamond… Read more »
Hi Alison, I have learned my gem knowledge over the years and taken some classes on gem identification. A lot of my information was gleaned from books. I’m glad you are using your powerful loupe to get to know the magnified details of your diamond. I recommend when bringing diamond jewelry in for work, bring your loupe. Have your jeweler do a little drawing like I do when I take in a diamond. I draw a circle and put little dots and lines where I see inclusions. I call it the diamond’s fingerprint. I then have my client look through… Read more »
This was an amazing article. I’ve printed it out to keep in my purse. After 14 years of marriage to an amazing man, we’re finally in a position to start looking for a “real” wedding ring. (Due to economics, I started with a sterling silver band that wore through and now have a tunsten band. I want a diamond!)
Diamond clarity will be an important facet of my choice. Love this info!
This will be invaluable. Thank you Calla Gold!
I’m so honored my blog post will be in your purse!
Hello Calla Gold Jeweler! Where were you 24 years ago when my husband and I were shopping for an engagement ring?
Your article about the importance of diamond clarity is exactly what we could have used at that time!
We chose a pretty tear-dropped shaped diamond, and I have been happy with it forever. (And my man).
I’m glad you have a wonderful man and a beautiful clarity diamond for the last 24 years! That’s happy news.
Wow I had no idea there was this much to know about diamonds. Reminds me when I used to think a sweet white wine was what I liked. Then I went on a wine tasting excursion and found out there was a whole world I knew nothing about. It’s amazing what we don’t know until we know it. Thanks so much Calla, for this incredible wealth of diamond information. I can’t wait until next time I go diamond shopping. Boy will that be a fun experience!
I can so relate to your experiences with wine tasting. It’s an excellent analogy to being discerning about diamond clarity. One diamond can look “good enough” until you see fabulous clarity and then you’re like, “nope, that’s not good enough, I like this diamond clarity much better.”
Thanks for visiting.
What an incredibly useful guide you have provided us with Calla! Thank you for sharing you expertise on this diamond clarity! I have to say, I learned a ton of information here! Shopping for diamonds can be so frustrating, but approaching the task with some of the tools you’ve provided us with in the blog post makes the entire process so much less daunting. Knowledge is key!
I’m delighted that you found it helpful!
Your Personal Jeweler,
That’s a very useful article for diamond shoppers who usually place an over emphasis on clarity.
I’m delighted you came by and gave your review! I’m sure you’ve written a lot about diamonds yourownself!
Calla Gold, thanks for the cute guy picture and the great data on diamond clarity.
It’s understandable and your diamond clarity chart is really good too!
That cute guy was an experiment to see if I could get more people to read my blog post if I put a cute guy in it. It worked amazingly. Happily people like the data too!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Hello Calla, I am in Afghanistan. There is a merchant on Base who sells gems. He has a 1.53 Carat Certified by the IDI Indian Diamond Institute as Light Brown. I have only purchased 2 Diamonds in my life and have unsuccessfully searched the internet to find out what the difference in color is between GIA and IDI. Can you please help? Also the diamond is a Round Cut and the merchant wants $4400. I can’t see any inclusions, (black dots blurrs)and it appears relatively clear from looking at the bottom to the top, but then again we are in… Read more »
Hello Rich, I wish I’d ever seen an IDI diamond certificate, but I have not. Most diamond certification services outside of GIA grade more generously than does GIA. For example I’ve seen an EGL certed diamond that said “G” color that on a GIA cert would have said “H” or “I” color. I can’t speak for IDI, but I will say if you know someone who has a “G” color diamond on your base look at their (cleaned) diamond and the one you are considering under flourescent and incandesent indoor light side by side. The lighting is different in that… Read more »