Clarity refers to a diamonds lack of imperfections, or “inclusions.” Although many diamonds have carbon crystals or feathers that may be viewed with the unaided eyes, very rare and expensive diamonds have few or no flaws. A diamond in which no flaws can be seen by an expert at 10X magnification is said to be “flawless.” Most diamonds do not fall into this category, and it usually takes the expertise of a gemologist to help a consumer distinguish how one diamond has a higher clarity than another.
The scale used by reputable jewelers is the one designated by GIA. The highest clarity grade given to a diamond is “flawless,” then descends down the scale depending on: how many inclusions the stone has, the nature of the inclusions, the color of the inclusions, and the position of the inclusions.
The scale adapted from the Gemological Institute of America is as follows:
- FL- Flawless. Free from all inclusions or blemishes at 10x magnification.
- IF – Internally Flawless = No inclusions visible at 10x; insignificant surface blemishes.
- VVS (VVS1-2) – Very, Very Slightly included. Minute inclusions – Extremely difficult to very difficult to see at 10x.
- VS (VS1-2) – Very Slightly included. Minor inclusions – Difficult to somewhat easy to see face-up at 10x.
- SI (SI1-2) – Slightly Included. Noticeable inclusions – Easy to very easy to see at 10x. May be visible through the pavilion to unaided eye.
- I (I1-I2-I3) – Imperfect . Obvious inclusions at 10x – Visible – easily visible – very visible to the unaided eye.
The presence of inclusions do not necessarily hinder the brilliance or beauty of a diamond. In fact, a flawless diamond that is held next to an SI1 clarity diamond of equal cut and color may be indiscernible to the naked eye, and can only be distinguished by a 10X loupe.
Inclusions are not necessarily bad, and are sometimes nature’s way of telling us a diamond is genuine. Jewelers should point out notable or interesting inclusions to buyers, especially for identification purposes.
Although it is possible for a diamond to have the same carat weight or color as another diamond, it is the limitless combination of nature’s inclusions that prevent any two diamonds from being exactly alike.