Clarity and color are two of the most important quality characteristics of a diamond. But is there a way you can determine their grades for a particular stone? Let’s see how diamond clarity and color are graded, and how you can assess them.
Diamond Clarity Scale
Diamond clarity is graded using letter grades, which indicate how many visible flaws (inclusions) can be detected in a stone when viewed under 10x magnification.
The most common grading scale is that introduced by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and consists of the following grades (from highest to lowest clarity): FL (Flawless), IF (Internally Flawless), VVS (Very Very Slightly Included; consists of sub-grades VVS1 and VVS2), VS (Very Slightly Included; has sub-grades VS1 and VS2), SI (Slightly Included; includes sub-grades SI1 and SI2), I (Included; consists of sub-grades I1, I2, and I3).
Diamond Color Scale
Color in diamonds is graded depending on whether a stone has yellow hues and how visible they are.
The GIA classifies diamond color in color groups, which contain individual color grades.
Here are the color groups according to this scale (the grades each group contains are in brackets): Colorless (grades D, E, and F), Near Colorless (G, H, I, J), Faint Yellow (K, L, M), Very Light Yellow (N, O, P, Q, R), Light Yellow (from grade S down to Z).
Determining Diamond Clarity
Assigning a clarity grade to a diamond is done by trained gemologists, who examine the stone under a microscope.
Unless you are a professional jeweler and are using grading equipment, it is very hard to assign an exact clarity grade to a diamond.
However, you could guess the approximate grade of a stone by looking at it with a 10x loupe. Here are some guidelines to help you determine what clarity a diamond has:
If you cannot see any flaws (lines, black spots, or blemishes) inside the stone when looking at it under 10x magnification, then the diamond most likely falls into the FL/IF/VVS1/VVS2 clarity range.
If a diamond doesn’t have visible flaws but you can see some inclusions when looking at it with a jeweler’s loupe or microscope, then the stone has a clarity grade that is probably VS1, VS2 or SI1.
Some of these stones may occasionally have flaws visible with the naked eye, but such inclusions will nevertheless be hard to detect.
Some diamonds have inclusions that are visible to the unaided eye but that are relatively small and located towards the edges of the stone.
Such diamonds are likely to be classified as SI2 – they are not clean enough to be considered SI1, but they are also not as visibly included as the stones in the I-clarity range.
Finally, stones that have flaws that are relatively big and easily visible to the naked eye would most likely be classified as I1/I2/I3-clarity diamonds.
Determining Diamond Color
It would be very hard to determine the exact color of a diamond unless you have a set of benchmark stones of each color grade (also called “master stones”) to compare the diamond being graded with.
Here’s how you can at least guess in which color group a stone is likely to fall:
If you cannot detect any visible coloring in a stone, it is most likely either a Colorless or a Near Colorless diamond. (Near Colorless stones graded I or J have a very slight yellowish tint that is still hard to see.)
Diamonds with a yellow tint that is slight but nevertheless visible most likely fall into the K-L-M grading range.
Stones with a light yellow hue that is easily visible are usually classified as Very Light Yellow (N, O, P, Q, or R). The yellow in these stones is not intense, but it is also not as faintly visible as that in K-L-M diamonds.
Diamonds that have a clearly visible light to strong yellow color would most likely be assigned a grade anywhere from S to Z.
In sum, it is very hard to pinpoint the exact clarity or color grade of a diamond, and even if you follow the above guidelines, keep in mind that your assessment is likely to be off.
The best way to determine the characteristics of a diamond is to have it graded by a professional or look at the stone’s grading report, if it has any.
Where to Buy Diamonds and Diamond Jewelry?
For diamond jewelry, we highly recommend James Allen because it shows real photos and videos for each diamond so you can take a 360-degree look at any stone before buying it.
For colored diamonds, we recommend Leibish & Co., which specializes in fancy color diamonds (use code JewelryNotes200 at checkout to get a 5% discount).