Clarity describes the presence or absence of inclusions within the diamond and blemishes on its surface.
These slight "birthmarks of nature" make every diamond quite unique. However, they do affect the beauty and value of the diamond. These natural birthmarks are often referred to as inclusions. The fewer inclusions a diamond has the more rare and valuable it is. Diamonds which contain numerous inclusions are less brilliant because inclusions interfere with light passing through the diamond.
The GIA (Gemological Institute of American) clarity grading scale outlined below is the most widely accepted clarity grading system in the world. GIA’s clarity grading scale specifies eleven grades:
Flawless (F, FL)
Internally Flawless (IF)
Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1-VVS2)
Very Slightly Included (VS1-VS2)
Slightly Included (SI1-SI2)
Included (I1, I2, I3)
The illustrations shown below are actual plots from GIA diamond quality reports in which GIA assigned a clarity grade. Plots are drawn using different colors of ink to distinguish between blemishes and inclusions: red for inclusions, green for blemishes , cavities, naturals, knots and laser drill holes, and black for extra facets. If you would like to learn more details about how a diamond is plotted, click the following link: Learn More About Plotting Diamond Clarity.
GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and the AGS (American Gem Society) provide the most accurate certifications and clarity grades. Both GIA and AGS provide diamond plots that detail every internal and external characteristic that is visible in a diamond at 10X magnification.
Diamond certifications from EGL (European Gemological Laboratory), IGI (International Gemological Institute) and other gemological laboratories usually plot only the more noticeable internal and external characteristics. Minor inclusions that are difficult to see may not be shown on the plot.
GIA Clarity Grading System
It is important to be know that inclusions and blemishes are much more difficult to see in the actual diamond than they usually appear as drawn on the diamond plot.
F, FL: (Flawless)
- Flawless diamonds show no inclusions or blemishes of any sort when examined by a skilled grader under 10X binocular magnification
IF: (Internally Flawless)
- No inclusions, and only insignificant surface blemishes. Normally, what separates IF from FL diamonds are characteristics that can be removed by very minor re-polishing.
VVS1 and VVS2: (Very Very Slightly Included)
- Minute inclusions that are difficult for even a skilled grader to see under 10X binocular magnification. In VVS1, they are extremely difficult to see, visible only from the pavilion, or small and shallow enough to be removed easily by re-polishing. In VVS2, inclusions are still difficult to see. Typical inclusions: scattered pinpoints, taint clouds, slightly bearded girdles, internal graining, and tiny feathers, chips and bruises.
VS1 and VS2: (Very Slightly Included)
- Minor inclusions ranging from difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when examined using 10X magnification. Typical Inclusions: small included crystals and feathers, distinct clouds, and groups of pinpoints.
SI1 and SI2: (Slightly Included)
- Noticeable inclusions that are easy (SI1) or very easy (SI2) to see when examined by a trained grader using 10X magnification. Typical inclusions: small included crystals, clouds, feathers.
I1, I2 and I3: (Included)
- Obvious inclusions that are often easily eye-visible face up; in I3 they may threaten durability. Typical inclusions: large included crystals and feathers.
Select a diamond that is better than eye perfect. The Certified Gemologist-Appraisers recommend selecting a diamond with a clarity grade between FL and SI2. Diamonds with a clarity grade of SI2 usually will not display inclusions to the unaided eye in diamond sizes under one carat. When selecting a diamond which weighs between one and two carats, it is best to select a diamond with a clarity grade of SI1 or higher to be sure no inclusions will be visible to the unaided eye. Diamonds that weigh over two carats may require selecting a diamond with a clarity grade of VS2, VS1 or higher.
Is Clarity Quality less important than Carat Weight, Cut and Color quality? If your goal is to select the most attractive and brilliant diamond possible within a specified budget, it is important to consider selecting a diamond with a better cut quality, larger size or a higher color grade than it is to select a diamond with a very high clarity grade. For example: Consider two diamonds that are nearly the same in price. Both diamonds weigh one carat. One diamond has VS2 clarity grade, very fine cut and fine white D color The other diamond has a FL (flawless) clarity grade, average cut and near white H color. Because FL and VS2 clarity grades appear the same to the unaided eye and differences in cut quality, color and size are very apparent, the D color VS2 will obviously be the most beautiful diamond for the price.
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