Understanding Diamond Clarity

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2018 at 12:57 pm by Shelley's

Most people have heard about the four C’s pertaining to diamonds.  One of them stands for clarity.  The clarity of a diamond refers to its freedom from imperfections.  Physical imperfections.  Not color or cut – just the physical makeup of the diamond.

It is not crucial to know the entire grading scale for diamonds.  Here are three things that will help a lot: (1) if the grade starts with the word “imperfect” (as in I-1, I-2, or I-3) that means there are flaws that most people can see with the naked eye. (2) If the grade starts with the words “slightly imperfect” (as in SI-1 or SI-2) that means that there are flaws, not visible to most of us mortals, but easily visible with ten power magnification.  (3) The higher grades start with the word “very” and they have smaller inclusions, and thus are more expensive.  To the naked eye, one cannot tell the difference between a “slightly imperfect” diamond and a “very slightly imperfect” diamond and yet the “slightly imperfect” one is more than slightly better in price.

Figure 1: Courtesy https://www.gia.edu/gia-about/4cs-clarity

What are the flaws?  Some are internal.  The most common internal inclusions are crystals, often microscopic diamond crystals, growing inside the host diamond but with a different orientation, so when light is happily traveling through the diamond, it hits this crystal, and stops.  And its then that you see a spot in the diamond, white or black.  Black spots are considered worse than white spots. Here is an example of a white crystal:

Clarification:  Diamonds are carbon.  So when folks see a black spot they call it carbon, but it hardly ever is. I know for sure that diamonds are made of carbon because a few years ago a couple was shopping in our store for a diamond ring.  After a few moments, our sales clerk noticed that one of the diamond rings was missing.  After a search, it did not turn up so the police were called.  The officer concluded that the lady must have swallowed the ring.  (You are right, she was not entirely sober.)  She was taken to the hospital and an X-ray spotted the ring.  The radiologist later told me that the ring was bright and clear, but the diamond did not show up at all because carbon does not show on X-rays.

Some internal crystals are extremely minute, but if a bunch of them gather in one spot, it creates an inclusion we call a cloud.  There can also be cracks inside a diamond, but these usually come to the surface. This diamond is has a large cloud of crystals that cover nearly the entire diamond:

Figure 3: Courtesy http://www.diamond-jewelry-pedia.com/diamond-inclusions.html#.WjBMkEqnGUk

On the exterior of a diamond, a small chip is considered a flaw.  Also, if the cutter did not do a good job, a facet edge can have a small group of lines extending into the facet.  This is called a beard.  A crack that reaches the surface can create an unstable spot, which if struck or bumped, could lead to damage of the diamond. Here is an example of bearding on a diamond:

Figure 4: Courtesy http://www.diamond-jewelry-pedia.com/diamond-inclusions.html#.WjBMkEqnGUk

There are really just two things to consider when evaluating clarity.  Does a flaw diminish the beauty of the diamond?  If so, the price should go down.  Does a flaw create the possibility of damaging the diamond?  If so, the credit card should not go down.

Some of the language regarding diamond clarity can be unclear.  We are always happy to answer questions.

You can also take a look at our collection of loose diamonds, and put your knowledge of clarity to the test.