If you are looking to buy a diamond, one of the most important characteristics you should pay attention to is its clarity. Let’s see how diamond clarity is graded and how you can evaluate it when choosing a stone.
What Diamond Clarity Means
Diamond clarity is a measure that refers to how clear a stone looks when examined under magnification as well as with the naked eye.
The more internal flaws (inclusions) and surface blemishes a diamond has, and the more visible they are, the lower the stone’s clarity grade.
Examples of diamond flaws include black carbon spots, lines, visible crystal structures within the stone, etc.
How Is Diamond Clarity Graded?
The clarity of diamonds is graded by qualified gemologists, who examine stones under 10x magnification. Depending on how easy it is to spot flaws in the diamond, a clarity grade is assigned to it on a predetermined scale.
One of the most reputable organizations that grade diamonds for clarity and other characteristics is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The scale used by the GIA also happens to be one of the most widely used standards for clarity evaluation.
Here are the possible grades a diamond can get on the GIA clarity scale (from highest to lowest): FL (Flawless), IF (Internally Flawless), VVS1/VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included), VS1/VS2 (Very Slightly Included), SI1/SI2 (Slightly Included), I1/I2/I3 (Included).
How Can You Evaluate Diamond Clarity?
Unless you look at a diamond under 10x magnification, it would be very hard to determine the exact clarity grade of a stone.
Even if you do use a jeweler’s loupe, you would have a hard time pinpointing what level of clarity you are looking at unless you are experienced in diamond grading.
Nevertheless, you can still get a rough idea of the broader clarity range a stone falls into just by looking at it.
Here is a quick guide to how different clarity grades may look when you inspect a stone:
FL / IF / VVS Clarity: FL diamonds do not have any inclusions visible inside them, even when using a 10x loupe. The only difference between this grade and IF clarity is that IF diamonds have some blemishes on their surface, but not inside.
VVS-clarity diamonds have some tiny inclusions within, but these flaws are so small that even experienced graders have a hard time seeing them under magnification.
So, if you cannot readily discern any inclusions in a stone under 10x magnification, then it is likely that its clarity is in the FL-IF-VVS range.
VS1-VS2 / SI1 Clarity: Diamonds with clarity graded VS1, VS2, or SI1 have inclusions that can be seen under magnification but are usually invisible to the naked eye.
Occasionally, some flaws may be visible without a loupe, but these inclusions will usually be few and small, and will not be located prominently.
If you can see inclusions in a stone with a 10x loupe but not without it, then it is likely that the diamond falls into this clarity range.
SI2 Clarity: Stones in this clarity grade have inclusions that are easily seen under magnification. Often, they are also visible with the naked eye. You may find eye-clean diamonds among these stones if you take the time to sort through them, but most of them aren’t. The inclusions are more numerous compared to those in SI1 stones, but they are usually not as prominent as in I-clarity diamonds.
I1 / I2 / I3 Clarity: If a stone has inclusions clearly visible to the naked eye, and if the flaws are numerous and/or located centrally (i.e., easily visible through the center of the stone’s top surface), then the diamond’s clarity is most likely in the I1-I2-I3 range.
Keep in mind that these guidelines are only approximate.
For example, sometimes you might see a VS-clarity stone with a clearly visible inclusion or an I1 diamond that doesn’t look much more included than an SI2 one.
The best way to find out the clarity grade of a stone is to read its grading report or to have the diamond evaluated by a grading lab.
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).