Clarity-enhanced diamonds can be a good option if you are looking to save money but don’t want to compromise on clarity. Let’s see what clarity-enhanced diamonds are and what effects clarity treatments have on these stones.
Diamond Clarity Defined
Diamond clarity refers to how easy it is to see flaws (inclusions) in a stone with a 10x loupe as well as with the naked eye.
Clarity is graded on a scale, and one of the most widely referenced grading systems is that introduced by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). The highest clarity grade on this scale is denoted by the letters FL (which stands for “Flawless”), and the lowest clarity is assigned the letter I (for “Included”).
What Is Diamond Clarity Enhancement?
Simply put, to enhance the clarity of a diamond means to remove some or all of its visible inclusions. Thus, clarity-enhanced diamonds have been treated to eliminate some of their flaws, and as a result, the natural structure of these stones has been altered.
Some diamond sellers subject heavily included diamonds to clarity-enhancing procedures in order to increase the clarity grades of these stones. The goal of enhancing diamond clarity is to sell the treated diamonds at a higher price than they would otherwise fetch.
Methods to Enhance Diamond Clarity
The most widely used clarity-enhancing methods are laser drilling and fracture filling. Fracture filling is actually a supplementary treatment that is applied to diamonds that have already undergone laser drilling.
Let’s see how each of these treatments is done:
Laser drilling involves making microscopically thin tunnels in the stone with laser, each going from the surface to a particular inclusion, and then using the drilled channel to dissolve the flaw with heat or acid.
The little tunnels in the stone are not readily visible, although at a closer look, you might be able to spot them, especially if you are using a loupe.
Fracture filling is the process of filling the tunnels created through laser drilling with a transparent, crystalline substance. The goal of this treatment is to make the drilled channels less visible.
Diamonds that have been subjected to fracture filling can be identified by looking closely at them under light. Usually, the filling will reflect light differently from the rest of the diamond, and this effect could be visible.
Pros of Clarity-Enhanced Diamonds
The good thing about clarity enhancement is that it can create cleaner diamonds from stones that are visibly included.
Clarity-enhanced diamonds are usually cheaper than untreated stones of the same clarity, and you can get a reasonably clean treated stone at a bargain price.
Laser drilling is a relatively safe procedure, and its effects are permanent. Laser-drilled stones usually look as good as regular diamonds and are no worse in terms of durability.
Issues with Clarity-Enhanced Diamonds
Although laser drilling is usually safe, this treatment can weaken a stone if too many of its inclusions are removed, especially if they are big. When a flaw is removed through laser drilling, there is an empty space left in its place, and the bigger it is, and the more such hollows are in a stone, the weaker the diamond becomes. And if the tunnels drilled in it are too many, they can make the stone easier to crack if hit hard.
In general, laser-drilled diamonds that were of very low clarity before being treated and have had a lot of inclusions removed should be avoided.
Fracture filling has its own problems. The biggest issue is that the filling can crack or melt if exposed to high heat, which is commonly used when repairing jewelry. Fracture-filled diamonds should also not be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners because the filler can get damaged.
A less severe problem is that the glass-like filling can affect the sparkle of the diamond.
In general, because of the potential issues with them, fracture-filled diamonds are recommended to be avoided unless you are looking for a bargain purchase. If you want to save money by buying an enhanced diamond, perhaps it is a better idea to choose one that has only been laser-drilled, with no additional filling.
Further reading: More details on clarity enhanced diamonds and on comparing clarity enhanced diamonds with non-enhanced diamonds.For more information on diamonds: Read our Diamond Cut Quality Guide.