If you're in search of the perfect diamond engagement ring, then look no further. We've put together a helpful guide of the most frequently asked questions about the diamond clarity chart. With so many options, it can be difficult to know which diamond quality is right for you.
With our helpful diamond buying tips, you'll be a pro at spotting which diamond clarity is best. You will also learn the most important facts when it comes to diamond grading, including the difference between an internally flawless diamond and one with blemishes or noticeable inclusions. Take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about diamond clarity and view our chart below to become a diamond clarity scale expert.
Diamond Clarity Guide
What Is the Diamond Clarity Scale?
The diamond clarity scale is just one of the 4Cs of diamond quality. A diamond's clarity is graded by looking for blemishes under 10x magnification by a trained gemologist. This scale consists of 11 different grades:
Internally Flawless: This grade is the best of all clarity grades. An internally flawless diamond(IF) means it contains no blemishes or inclusions. This is the rarest type of diamond available, in fact, most jewelers have never even seen one, and the price point will reflect that.
Flawless: Just a step down from internally flawless, a flawless diamond(FL) is still an extremely rare grade to find with no inclusions or blemishes on the outside of the diamond.
VVS1: VVS1(aka very, very slightly included for those of us who aren't hip with diamond clarity chart slang) represents diamonds that have minute inclusions that are so minimal that it's hard for a skilled grader to see them even under 10x magnification.
VVS2: Ranking just below VVS1 diamonds, gems in the VVS2 group contain the same minuscule inclusions but more of them or in more significant positions within the stone. However, the VVS2 group still represents a near-perfect diamond.
VS1: VS stands for very slightly included and it represents a group of diamonds that contain minor inclusions that are only visible when enhanced. VS1 diamonds are always eye-clean, meaning that they have no imperfections that are visible to the naked eye.
VS2: The lower grade of the VS clarity group, VS2 inclusions are usually large enough to be quickly spotted using a standard jeweler's loupe. That being said, gemstones in the VS2 group still lack obvious inclusions and are "eye-clean".
SI1: Ranked within the lower half of the clarity chart, SI1 diamonds (slightly included) have noticeable inclusions that are very easy for a trained grader to distinguish under 10x magnification. Inclusions in these stones are sometimes visible to the unaided eye. However, when they are eye-clean, SI1 diamonds are often considered the best value stone in most diamond shapes.
SI2: SI2 diamonds can be something of a gamble. While they can come at an incredible price, it's likely that they also have several noticeable inclusions. While eye-clean SI2 stones exist, over 70% are not. Inclusions in an SI2 diamond also tend to be more obvious and darker than that of an SI1.
I1: Included to the 1st degree, I1 diamonds have noticeable inclusions under a standard jeweler's loupe and are seldom eye-clean.
I2: I2 gemstones are diamonds of the 2nd degree and their imperfections can noticeably impact a diamond's beauty, transparency and brilliance.
I3: The lowest end of the spectrum, diamonds in the I3 category have several visible inclusions that are easily seen without the aid of a microscope. Stones in the I3 category may also be more susceptible to chipping and breakage.
How Are Clarity Grades Determined?
Diamond clarity grades are determined using the GIA system which takes into consideration the stone's size, nature, color, position and number of clarity characteristics detectable under 10x magnification. Grading is determined on a case by case basis and one stone's clarity grade doesn't always come down to the same factor as that of another.
The GIA system was developed to protect the consumer and to ensure that all jewelers can communicate effectively when grading a diamond by using the same terminology.
Most importantly, the clarity scale allows consumers to buy fine jewelry with confidence.
Which GIA Diamond Clarity Is the Best?
Inclusions and blemishes are not necessarily flaws. Almost no diamond is perfect and most gemologists see a stone's inclusions as identification tools to help separate natural diamonds from synthetic ones. That being said, some diamond clarities are more preferred over others.
While it may seem like a no-brainer that Internally Flawless diamonds and Flawless diamonds are best, that's not necessarily the case. Yes, these stones have almost no inclusions, but they are incredibly rare and incredibly expensive. You'll pay far more for a larger carat IF or FL diamond than you would for a gem with microscopic inclusions.
If you're on a budget, a diamond in the VS1 or VS2 category is a great option as they reveal no inclusions to the naked eye and come at a much more affordable price. The Slightly Included range is also a good choice. Bonus: opting for a stone with a lower clarity rating often means you can amp up the carat size.
What Are the Different Types of Diamond Inclusions?
There are several different types of inclusions including bearding, cavity, chip, cloud, crystal, feather, graining, indented natural, knot, needle, pinpoints and twinning wisps.
Bearding: Bearding is identified as hair-like lines that appear during the cutting process. These lines usually begin around the girdle and work their way to the surface of the stone.
Cavity: Just like in your teeth, a cavity inclusion is a deep, large opening in the diamond's surface. Cavities often occur during the polishing process and they tend to trap dirt and oil.
Chip: Smaller than a cavity, a chip is a small, shallow opening on the surface of the diamond. Chips are typically found near the culet, girdle or facet junctions and are most commonly caused by general wear and tear.
Cloud: The term cloud describes a cluster of pinpoints or crystals found near each other. Cloud inclusions can sometimes compromise a diamond's appearance resulting in a hazy look that negatively reflects light.
Crystal: Crystal inclusions are often easily spotted by the naked eye making them more undesirable. This inclusion forms when a mineral crystal is contained within the diamond and can appear reddish, green, black or clear in color.
Feather: Depending upon the viewing angle, a feather inclusion can appear transparent or almost invisible. However, once the diamond catches the light, a small white crack or fracture is revealed. Feather inclusions can cause durability issues and should generally be avoided.
Graining: Appearing as faint lines or streaks, graining is caused by irregular crystal growth and is milky or hazy in appearance.
Indented Natural: Indented natural inclusions occur when an area of the rough diamond's surface dips below the polished diamond's surface. This inclusion is typically found near the girdle.
Knot: Sometimes resembling a raised area, knots occur when a white or transparent crystal can be seen on the facet surface of a polished diamond.
Needle: Resembling a thin needle-like bubble, needle inclusions are usually white or transparent in color and can be seen under 10x magnification. If these inclusions begin to cluster they can destroy a stone's clarity.
Pinpoints: Teeney tiny dots, pinpoint inclusions are very small white or black crystals that are trapped within a diamond. Pinpoint inclusions are visible under 10x magnification.
Twinning wisps: Sometimes thousands of years in the making, twinning wisps occur when a series of clouds, crystals or pinpoints begin growing in a different direction during a diamond's formation process.
What Are Some Diamond Buying Tips?
Know What Your Significant Other Wants
Between Asscher, Marquise, Emerald cuts and more, it's important to have a general idea of what kind of diamond best fits your future spouse's style. There are stealthy ways to determine this such as stalking Pinterest boards and asking their friends or you can be upfront with your loved one and ask what kind of ring they're looking for.
Understand the 4Cs of Diamond Quality
Carat, clarity, color and cut, the 4Cs represent specific characteristics that are graded by a trained, highly skilled professional. Each factor is then measured against the Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) ranking system, which depicts the widely accepted standard for diamond grading.
Know Who You're Working With
Knowledge is power, and when making a big purchase such as an engagement ring it's important to work with an expert. Be sure that your diamond professional is credentialed, such as a GIA Graduate Gemologist (GG) or Applied Jewelry Professional (AJP). This information is easily accessible online as GIA provides a quick retailer lookup to help you find a jewelry store near you with GIA-trained associates and GIA-graded diamonds.
Once you decide who to work with, establish a good rapport with your local professional to ensure that you feel comfortable discussing your wants, needs and concerns. This person should be a good communicator who is open to any questions that you may have about the process so that you can work together to find the best fit for you and your loved one.
Ask for the Grading Report
To learn even more about your stone, ask for a scientific grading report. These reports typically come from GIA or another recognized association and include information on your diamond's composition, natural or lab-grown alternative details and disclose any treatments the stone has undergone to influence its clarity or color. The grading report acts as proof of your diamond's quality and if your seller is not willing to provide this information it is a good idea to work with a different vendor.
Keep Your Diamond Safe
After deciding which gemstone is right for you there are some ways to protect your purchase. First, consider having your diamond independently appraised to verify its value. Once you have this information you can decide if you would like to take out an insurance policy to protect you in the case of physical loss, theft or damage to the stone. Insurance policies can also aid with the cost of replacement, repair or reimbursement.
Another safety measure that you can take is getting your diamond laser-inscribed with the number listed on its GIA report. This information makes it easier to identify the stone if it ever becomes lost or stolen.
Keep it Clean
Lastly, make sure that you understand how to properly care for your diamond and fine jewelry. Your jeweler can provide tips on how to keep your stone clean or you can find plenty of information here on the trusty world wide web.
Other Related Diamond Clarity Topics
If you still have additional questions about the diamond clarity scale, take a look at some additional diamond shopping tips.
What Is More Important: Color or Clarity?
Which is more important can vary depending upon the shape and cut of your stone. Inclusions are fairly noticeable in diamonds with step cuts such as Emerald and Asscher, Cushion cuts also fall victim to inclusions due to their large tables. In these cases, clarity grade is more important than color. The opposite is true for shapes such as Round, Radiant, Oval, Princess and Pear which are good at hiding imperfections so color grade can be prioritized over clarity.
Is Diamond Clarity I2 Good?
I2 diamonds are priced lower than other clarity grades because they have noticeable inclusions and blemishes. Stones in this category are generally considered low quality and aren't sold by most reliable jewelers.