What's in Your Stone? 13 Inclusions That Make Up Diamond Clarity

Author David Millette
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Date Jul 19, 2015

A diamond's value is largely based on the grades of its four main characteristics called the Four C's which includes: Cut, Color, Carat, and Clarity. Some of these characteristics are easier to see in the diamond than others. For example, if a diamond has an undesirable color grade, you will notice a yellow or brown hue in the stone.

A diamond's clarity grade, on the other hand, can be more difficult for the untrained eye to see. As a result, people tend to have a difficult time comparing the clarity of two diamonds against each other.

We think that it's important to know what's in your stone before you buy it, so we want to explore everything involved in evaluating a diamond's clarity. We'll go over some of the imperfections a stone can contain, how they affect the overall clarity grade, and how to determine the right clarity grade for your needs. So give this a read before your purchase is set in stone (pun intended, but probably not appreciated):

When determining the clarity grade of a diamond, gemologists look for imperfections in the stone. In the diamond industry, imperfections that are contained within the stone are referred to as inclusions, while imperfections on the stones surface are called blemishes.

Some of these imperfections were formed millions of years ago during the diamond's formation, while others are man made and developed at some point after the diamond was cut. In this article, we will focus on both types of inclusions so you have a thorough understanding of what's in your stone.

Internal Diamond Inclusions

Crystal: A crystal structure (can be a diamond or other gemstone) that was trapped inside of the diamond during formation

Crystal Diamond Clarity

Needle: A thin crystal that has the appearance of a small rod

Needle Diamond Clarity

Pinpoint: A small crystal that looks like a tiny dot

Pinpoint Diamond Clarity

Cloud: A grouping of pinpoint inclusions that has a cloudy appearance

Cloud Diamond Clarity

Twinning Wisp: A mixture of crystal inclusions that form when a solidified diamond continues to grow years after solidifying

Twinning Wisp Diamond Clarity

Feather: A slight crack in the diamond

Feather Diamond Clarity

Indented Natural: A section of the rough diamond's original surface that is under the polished diamond's surface

Indented Natural Diamond Clarity

Laser Drill Hole: This is a man made tunnel that reaches the surface of your stone. It's created when gemologists use a lazer to remove more visable inclusions.

Laser Drill Hole Diamond Clarity

External Diamond Inclusions

Knot: A diamond crystal that is exposed to the surface of a diamond after it has been cut and polished

Knot Diamond Clarity

Chip: An opening caused by damage to the diamond

Chip Diamond Clarity

Cavity: An opening caused by a feathered section breaking off or a knot falling out during the polishing process

Cavity Feather Diamond Clarity

Bruise: an area where the stone has been damaged after impact with a hard object

Bruise Diamond Clarity

Bearded Girdle: Small feathers that extend from the girdle to the surface of the stone. Usually formed during the cutting process.

Bearded Girdle Diamond Clarity

How Diamond Clarity Is Graded

Now that you know what types of imperfections can exist within a diamond, you may be wondering how gemologists use them to determine a clarity grade. Depending on the grading scale that a gemologist uses to grade a stone, the answer to this question varies. We use the GIA grading scale when evaluating our diamonds, as it's considered to be the most respected diamond grading system in the world.

GGIA trained gemologists consider five major factors to categorize a diamonds inclusions, including: the type of inclusions present, the number of inclusions, the size of the inclusions, the position of the inclusions, and the color of inclusions.

Ultimately these factors all come down to one simple rule: how visible are the inclusions? The clarity grade that a diamond receives depends on how easy it is to notice the imperfection in a stone to the naked eye and under the 10x magnification of a jewelers loupeloupe. The more visible they are, the lower the clarity grade.

This grading system contains six categories, some of which are split up into multiple grades which gives the scale a total of 11 grades. The categories in order from most to least valuable are: Flawless, Internally Flawless, Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 & VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1 & VS2), Slightly Included (SI1 & SI2), and Included (I1, I2, & I3). Of these groupings flawless and internally flawless are the only two that consist of a single grade because they are extremely rare. All other groupings have two grades, except for Included which has three. These extra levels of distinction help jewelers to classify how rare a stone is more precisely and ensure that you pay a fair price for your diamond.

So what do these six groupings actually look like in person? Let me tell you:

Flawless:Free from all blemishes or inclusions at 10x magnification

Internally Flawless: No inclusions visible at 10x, insignificant surface blemishes only

Very Very Slightly Included: Minute inclusions - extremely difficult to see at 10x

Very Slightly Included: minor inclusions - may be visible face up at 10x

Slightly Included: Noticeable inclusions - visible at 10x (may be visible through the pavilion to the naked eye)

Included: Obvious inclusions visible to the naked untrained eye.

To help you get a sense of how many inclusions you can expect at each clarity grade, we've included a sliding scale provided by the GIA. Play around with it below and see what you can expect to find:

How To Pick The Right Diamond Clarity

Now that you know everything you'll ever need to know about diamond clarity, you're probably starting to think about what clarity grade you will want to get in a stone. One thing you'll want to consider is how important is it to you to have fewer flaws or flaws that aren't easily visible?

Sometimes, even when looking at the diamond through a magnification loop, there's a good chance you won't even notice inclusions until you reach an SI2 or lower. In the diamond industry we refer to diamonds with no visible inclusions as Eye Clean Diamonds. These tend to fall in between the Flawless and SI2 grade, and if you're able to live with the fact that there's imperfections visible under magnification this is a great way to make the most of your budget when buying your diamond.

With that being said, everyone values clarity differently. A woman like Beyonce may expect a flawless diamond while someone who doesn't have a celebrities budget may be just as happy with some visible inclusions. At the end of the day it all comes down to how important diamond clarity is to your soon to be fiance, so find out her preference before you pick out her diamond.

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