September 23, 2020
Diamond clarity refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes inside a diamond. It is one of the 4Cs used to determine diamond quality and value. This complete guide covers everything you need to know about diamond clarity grading scales, what inclusions are, and how clarity affects appearance and price.
Diamond clarity is an evaluation of the number, size, relief, nature, and position of internal characteristics called inclusions and external characteristics known as blemishes.
Inclusions are tiny natural irregularities that occur when a diamond forms underground. Diamonds with fewer and smaller inclusions are considered higher clarity. Blemishes are surface flaws that occur during the cutting and polishing process.
Evaluating diamond clarity involves carefully analyzing these characteristics under magnification to determine how they affect the overall beauty and eye-clean appearance of the diamond.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond clarity grading scale is the universally accepted standard for assessing diamond clarity. The GIA clarity scale contains 11 specific grades, from Flawless to Included, based on the visibility of inclusions under 10x magnification:
Diamonds graded as SI2 and higher are considered eye-clean, meaning inclusions are invisible to the unaided eye. With an I1 clarity grade, inclusions may start to be visible without magnification.
GIA's clarity grading analysis is extremely stringent to maintain consistency across millions of diamonds. Other labs may use broader clarity grades.
Diamond clarity grading involves a comprehensive analysis of inclusions and blemishes:
This thorough examination under 10x magnification determines how various clarity characteristics affect the diamond's brilliance, dispersion of light, and apparent eye-cleanliness.
"Eye-clean" means no inclusions or blemishes are visible to the unaided eye. Eye-clean diamonds include clarity grades:
Diamonds graded SI1 and below may start to exhibit minor inclusions visible without magnification. However, inclusions that are faint, white, transparent, or situated under the bezel can still result in an eye-clean SI1 or SI2 diamond.
Depending on the number, size, nature, relief and position of inclusions in the stone, even some I1 diamonds can face up eye-clean. However, diamonds graded I1 have obvious inclusions that potentially impact transparency and brilliance.
Higher diamond clarity comes with exponentially greater rarity in nature and higher prices per carat as a result. As clarity grade declines, diamonds become far more plentiful and costs decrease steadily.
For example, a 1 carat round diamond may sell for (on average):
The difference in price between IF and I1 can be over 300% for diamonds of the same shape, cut, color and carat weight.
Clarity is one of the 4Cs that directly impacts the perceived beauty and value of a diamond. While a lower clarity grade can represent a smart purchase in some instances, diamonds with higher clarity grades will have greater brilliance and appeal.
With some education on diamond clarity characteristics, it is possible to find beautiful eye-clean diamonds across many clarity grades at accessible price points for every customer.
Understanding GIA's diamond clarity grading system is key to making an informed decision with confidence. Be sure to review the diamond under magnification yourself to evaluate the inclusions and ensure an eye-clean appearance.
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