Diamond clarity is one of the four most important quality characteristics of a diamond (the 4 Cs). But exactly how crucial is clarity when choosing a diamond, especially compared with color and cut?
How Diamond Clarity Affects Appearance
The level of clarity in a diamond tells you how many internal and external flaws the stone has as well as how big and visible they are.
Diamonds with fewer inclusions look cleaner, and light can pass unobstructed through such stones, making them sparkle.
Diamonds that are heavily included, on the other hand, look dirty. Their inclusions stick out and detract from the appearance of the stone, especially if they block some of the light that would otherwise have entered it.
What Kind of Clarity Should I Be Looking For?
In order to make sure that clarity does not spoil the appearance of your diamond, you should make sure that it doesn’t have any inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye.
When looking at the stone, you shouldn’t be able to see any flaws that stand out. It doesn’t matter that much if you can see any inclusions with a microscope or loupe as you and other people won’t ordinarily be looking at the stone using magnification.
Should I Go for the Best Clarity?
The top clarity grade on the scale of the G.I.A. (Gemological Institute of America) is FL, also known as Flawless. These diamonds don’t have any inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye or even under 10x magnification.
However, Flawless stones are also extremely rare and therefore pricey. It is rarely worth it to spend so much money on such a diamond when there are lower clarity grades that are cheaper, and their inclusions are still invisible to the unaided eye.
Remember: Clarity only needs to be good enough to make your diamond look good. If clarity is bad, it will spoil the appearance of your stone. Once you get above a certain threshold, however, any further improvement in clarity doesn’t make a visible difference but costs you more money.
What Clarity Is Good Enough?
Any clarity grade whose inclusions are not visible without magnification is a good choice. However, in order to get the most for your money, you should look for the lowest clarity grade in which inclusions cannot be seen with the naked eye.
This means that a diamond graded VS2 or SI1 is a good choice; any clarity lower than SI1 has some visible inclusions. The difference between an SI1-grade diamond and a higher graded one is mainly in the visibility of the inclusions under magnification.
What Can Be More Important Than Clarity?
A quality characteristic that can make a bigger difference than clarity is cut. The more proportional a diamond’s cut is, the better it can maximize the brilliance of the stone. An ideal cut captures as much light as possible in the diamond and reflects it back.
Another important characteristic is color. A change in its grade makes less of a difference than a variation in cut, but if a diamond is too tinted, it will look yellowish and less bright.
How to Choose Diamond Clarity, Color and Cut
First, make sure that the diamond you choose has no inclusions visible with the naked eye. This means that you can focus on stones with clarity graded VS2 or SI1.
You can even get a diamond graded SI2 if it will be set in a mounting that will hide its sides: Stones of this grade only have visible inclusions near the periphery, but from the top, these diamonds look clean.
Next, choose a color grade in which the diamonds don’t look visibly tinted. Usually, grades G and H are good enough, and diamonds of higher grades don’t look significantly different when seen in isolation.
If your stone is going to be set in yellow gold, you can go with a lower grade such as I, J or even K – the yellow reflections of the metal will blend with the stone’s slight tint, and it won’t be that visible.
When it comes to selecting cut, you should make sure that it has good proportions. An ideal cut will provide you with enough brilliance that can make poor color and clarity look better than they really are.
A disproportional cut, on the other hand, can make your diamond look poor even if all its other quality characteristics are fine.
The G.I.A. grades cut with the following grades: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor. Of course, Excellent is the best choice, and if you can afford it, it is highly recommended. If not, try to get a diamond that is rated at least Good, and avoid stones with Poor cuts.