Diamond Clarity

If you’re like many of the people who come into our custom design jewelry company in Seattle and Bellevue, you’re highly concerned with the clarity of the diamonds that are to go into your custom piece. At Joseph Jewelry, you have a number of attractive selections to accommodate different tastes and budgets.

What are Inclusions?

Almost all diamonds contain very tiny natural birthmarks known as inclusions or blemishes. Blemishes refer to imperfections on the surface of the stone, and include things like pitting, scratches, or chips. Inclusions, on the other hand, occur within the body of the diamond. An inclusion may be made up of crystals of other minerals, another diamond crystal, or structural imperfections such as cracks in the stone that appear cloudy. For the purposes of grading, all imperfections are referred to as inclusions, regardless of where on the diamond they occur. The number, size, color, location, orientation and visibility of inclusions will affect the clarity of a diamond. The clarity grade is assigned based on the overall appearance of the stone as viewed under 10x magnification, and not as seen to the naked eye. Most inclusions present in gem-quality stones do not affect their performance or structural integrity.

However, depending on the severity of the inclusion, they may significantly impact the diamond's ability to refract and reflect light. The smaller and scarcer the inclusions are, the less likely it is that they will interfere with the passage of light through the diamond. The higher the clarity grade of a diamond, the higher its value, with the exceedingly rare Flawless (FL) diamond fetching the highest price. Like fingerprints, no two diamonds are exactly the same, so minor inclusions or blemishes can be useful as unique identifying characteristics particular to a specific diamond. Additionally, as synthetic diamond technology improves, inclusions and blemishes can be used as proof of your diamond's natural origin.

Grading According to Clarity

Here is the Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) scale for grading clarity. Again, these six categories are based on the appearance of the stone when it is viewed under 10x magnification, generally using a jeweler's loupe:

Diamond Clarity scale

  • Flawless (FL) – No blemishes or inclusions. Extremely rare.
  • Internally Flawless (IF) – No inclusions and only small surface blemishes. Very rare.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS) – Minute inclusions visible only to a skilled grader. Sub-grades are VVS1 (higher clarity) and VVS2 (slightly lower than VVS1)
  • Very Slight Included (VS) – Minor inclusions, some of which are visible without magnification. Sub-grades include VS1 (higher) or VS2 (lower).
  • Slightly Included (SI) – Noticeable inclusions, some visible to the naked eye. Sub-grades are SI1 (higher) and SI2 (lower)
  • Included (I) – Inclusions are obvious and easily visible without magnification and may even be large enough to threaten the durability of the stone. Sub-grades are I1 (highest), I2 (middle), and I3 (lowest).

Since this scale refers to flaws visible under magnification and not to the naked eye (we cannot stress this enough), a technically "flawed" diamond may still be a beautiful – not to mention affordable – option.