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The clarity of a diamond is one of the basic characteristics that define its overall quality and price. If you have decided to purchase a well-planned diamond, it is important to consider the fundamentals of clarity and how they actually affect price.
Clarity can be a misleading property to the less knowledgeable as a diamond with a higher level of clarity is no more beautiful or brilliant than another to the naked eye.
The clarity of a diamond is the property that classifies a diamond according to the tiny internal defects (inclusions) and external defects (blemishes) it possesses. The amount and visibility of inclusions determine the internal properties of a diamond.
This means that the lower the visibility or existence of imperfections and inclusions, the higher the clarity and therefore the higher the price of the diamond. Understanding that it is almost impossible for a natural diamond, which is manufactured underground under conditions of high pressure and temperature, with the presence of other minerals, to be formed without flaws, hence how rare and valuable they are.
Most of the time, imperfections in commercial diamonds are so small that they become impossible to detect, even for a trained eye, unless using a special lens (x10). Therefore, clarity does not necessarily affect the aesthetics of a diamond.
Since clarity is not necessarily a visible property, there are many myths about it, most of them unfounded by price. One clearer diamond is not brighter than another. You don't even need to invest all your money in a flawless diamond, indeed it will be much more beautiful and rare, but you won't notice this difference.
This is not to say that you should never think about clarity when buying a diamond. The larger the cut, the greater the chance of revealing an imperfection. Some diamond cuts maximize the internal properties of the stone so investing in clarity is necessary.
A well-cut diamond of perfect clarity is an almost impossible marvel to see and a spectacle from any angle. This is why collectors value this property the most.
The internal properties of a natural diamond are unique and unrepeatable. It works similar to fingerprints, so it is possible to recognize a diamond among thousands if you know its internal structure such as the position and angle of inclusions.
Inclusions and surface imperfections give character to a natural diamond and differentiate it from one created in a laboratory. Interestingly, in a market with such well-made synthetic diamonds, an inclusion is what certifies the natural origin of a stone.
There are several standards for measuring the clarity of a diamond, but the most recognized and respected is the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) standard which was released in 1953 and is implemented to this day with only slight variations.
The GIA standard measures the clarity of a stone in 6 categories, 11 types in total.
An FL diamond has no inclusions or imperfections even when viewed with a x10 magnifying glass. They are extremely rare and represent the highest standard of diamond clarity.
IF diamonds have no visible internal inclusions even when viewed with a x10 loupe. Small surface imperfections from diamond cutting may be noticeable if looked at closely.
VVS1 Has an inclusion only visible with a microscope and invisible with a x10 magnifying glass.
VVS2 Has inclusions only visible under a microscope and almost impossible for an expert to see with a x10 magnifying glass.
VVS1 has higher quality than VVS2 and are difficult to detect even for an expert. They are still very rare diamonds, only slightly behind an IF.
VS1 has inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye and are difficult to see even with a x10 magnifying glass.
VS2 has inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye and an expert can locate them only with a x10 magnifying glass.
The VS1 type represents a higher clarity than VS2. These diamonds are the most popular commercially because the difference in price compared to a VVS is considerable and to this point the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
In the particular case of VS2, care must be taken with stepped diamond cuts such as emerald or Asscher that may show visible inclusions, albeit very small (less than 5% of VS2s of these cuts).
SI1 Presents medium or many small inclusions that are visible at some angles and easy to identify with a x10 magnifying glass.
SI2 Presents inclusions visible to the naked eye.
Grade SI1 represents higher quality than SI2. Although the inclusions are visible, in the SI1 you can find quite clean stones whose brilliant cut disguises very well the inclusions that only a connoisseur would notice if he closely details the stone, at an excellent price. In the case of the SI2 there is the possibility of finding certain types of inclusions that are not quickly noticed if the cut of the diamond has been expertly handled. This is not always possible, but they offer a value-for-money stone whose imperfection would go unnoticed.
Included diamonds (I2/I3) are not commercial in the fine jewelry world because the impact on the aesthetics of the stone is significant and evident even to the least knowledgeable. Only in very specific cases would an I1 diamond be acceptable to be considered an upscale piece.
Inclusions are formed for many reasons, therefore, there are different types of inclusions. Some are less visible than others or affect the aesthetics of the diamond to a lesser extent.
Some inclusions can be crystalline, which occur when other tiny diamonds get trapped while another larger diamond was forming. This can happen with other crystals. When a crystalline inclusion can reach the surface it is called a knot. Feathers are internal cracks in the diamond that if they reach the surface can compromise the structure of the diamond.
A needle is a small elongated and thin inclusion that is identified by its particular appearance and by its reaction with light resembling a beam suspended inside the diamond. A point is a very tiny crystalline formation within the diamond, if a large number of these points are grouped together they are called clouds.
Several elements are involved in the "visible" clarity of a diamond and determine whether the inclusions and imperfections are large enough to classify a diamond in a certain category.
The closer to the pavilion and just below the table a particular inclusion is located, the more visible it can become, which directly affects the diamond's visible clarity.
There are inclusions that are clear and even transparent, making them unnoticeable to the naked eye. Others are darker and logically more visible without a magnifying glass.
The shape given by the cut of the diamond directly determines the visibility of many inclusions. In general, the brilliant models such as round, radiant and princess cuts conceal the clarity of the diamond very well because the brilliance "distracts" or hides many inclusions.
Square, rectangular and step cuts expose much more of the diamond's internal characteristics by exchanging brilliance for transparency. This makes inclusions more noticeable in these cuts.
The larger the diamond, the larger the facets. This makes inclusions much more easily noticeable. For any diamond of one carat or more, clarity becomes an increasingly important factor.
A tiny dot is not an inclusion that you can easily notice, even at x10 magnification. A cluster of dots starts to become a problem. This is true for any inclusion. Many inclusions in the same diamond, no matter how small, deteriorate the internal quality of the diamond, even if you can't see them.
If you are a diamond collector or would like to invest in the top quality gemstone industry, don't expect anything less than a FL or IF. Beyond that, there is no need to invest a fortune in a high clarity diamond if you are neglecting other properties.
Diamonds in the SI (SI1) and VS grades are diamonds that fetch considerably lower prices and whose imperfections are not visible without magnification. They are also called eye clean. They will be a beautiful alternative and will give you the freedom to invest in better color grades, companion stones, metals, designs, fancy cuts....
If you love fancy step cuts (who wouldn't) then investing in quality moves up the priority scale a bit.
The GIA report is the most rigorous of all precious gem property grading standards. A GIA report signed by a graduate is valuable and is usually a prerequisite for diamonds from one carat and up.
This report has many advantages because it allows you to really identify all the internal characteristics of the diamond, certifies it as an authentic natural piece and, in addition, if it has a clarity chart or plot it will allow you to distinguish it from any other which helps to protect certain jewelry from counterfeiting.
When buying GIA certified Diamonds from Albert Hern you will receive the printed certificate.