by Suzanne Sachs • 5 min read
THE BASICS --
Diamond clarity, the judgment of a stone’s crystalline perfection, is graded based on both internal flaws as well as surface defects. But what exactly do the different ratings of clarity mean for stone quality? Understanding the diamond clarity scale can help you better classify a diamond’s perfection and decide if its quality is what you are looking for in one of these precious gems.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW--
Defining Diamond Clarity
• What is Diamond Clarity?
While diamond clarity has always been recognized as a valuable trait for these precious gems, the standardized scale for grading diamond clarity was not introduced until 1953. Today, jewelers, gemologists, and lapidaries worldwide use the same scale to communicate diamond clarity so there is no confusion about the quality or condition of a stone.
Diamond Clarity Chart
Imperfect Clarity Diamonds:
• I1, I2, I3 – Imperfect
What Does i1 mean in Diamonds?
Deep inclusions are obvious and visible to the naked eye. These diamonds are not often used for jewelry, as their significant structural flaws weaken the stones and greatly diminish their value.
SI Clarity Diamonds:
What Does SI mean in Diamonds?
• SI1, Si2 – Slightly Included
Small flaws are readily visible at 10 times magnification, and may still be visible to the naked eye when closely examined. These stones are often used for engagement rings and diamond jewelry.
VS Clarity Diamonds:
What Does VS mean in Diamonds?
• VS1, VS2 – Very Slightly Included
These diamonds only show very small, minor flaws when viewed under 10 times magnification. Many cut diamonds fall into this clarity grade, and are popular for diamond engagement rings and other jewelry.
VVS Clarity Diamonds:
What Does VVS mean in Diamonds?
• VVS1 and VVS2 – Very, Very Slightly Included
Only very small, relatively insignificant flaws are detectable. These flaws are usually challenging to see even when magnified 10 times, and can be hard even for trained professionals to spot.
Flawless Clarity Diamonds:
• IF – Flawless and Internally Flawless
What Does Flawless mean in Diamonds?
These diamonds show no internal flaws or inclusions, but may still exhibit surface flaws such as chips or scratches. Many high quality vintage diamonds are labeled as IF due to years of wear that produces surface flaws.
Each flaw rating may also be accompanied by a number – I1, I2, I3, SI1, SI2, VS1, VS2, VVS1, VVS2 – to further quantify the overall stone clarity. High numbers indicate a somewhat more flawed stone, but not quite enough imperfection to be moved to the next lowest classification.
A freshly mined, newly cut diamond can have a higher clarity grade than the same stone may be rated after years of wear, particularly if it is not treated carefully or stored appropriately. Over time, small surface blemishes can develop, and if not repaired, may develop into more serious flaws as material penetrates into the diamond at that weaker point.
What You Need to Know About Judging Clarity
A diamond’s clarity is judged not only on the type of flaws, inclusions, or imperfections. In addition to the overall character of flaws, the following traits are all factored into the diamond clarity scale:
• Number of Flaws
Total number of flaws in the stone.
• Size of the Flaws
Size and composition of different flaws.
• Surface Flaws
How close to the surface flaws are, which impacts durability over time.
Visibility of the flaws, both to the naked eye as well as under magnification.
How flaws affect a diamond’s brilliance or color.
• Positioning of the Flaw
Whether the flaws change what types of jewelry the stone can be used in. Another, more subjective factor is how different flaws may affect a diamond’s versatility and what types of jewelry pieces or setting styles it can be used in. Flaws that may have dramatic impacts on a stone’s durability or versatility will have especially strong influences on an overall clarity rating.
Understanding Diamond Clarity When Buying an Engagement Ring
When buying an engagement ring, a loose diamond or any piece of diamond jewelry, it is important to carefully read the gemologist’s clarity report to determine the nature of any flaws and how they impact the stone and its overall value. The better you understand the diamond clarity scale, the easier it will be to compare clarity between different stones as you make the best selection for your budget, visual preferences, and diamond investment.
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