Diamond clarity is one of the “four C” rating criteria that play a role in determining the price of a diamond. As you might expect, diamonds with higher clarity grades are more valuable than otherwise similar diamonds with lower clarity grades.
It’s generally thought that clarity, along with carat weight, is one of the four Cs that are easy to understand. It’s also often said that the clarity grade of a diamond has the least impact on the final price of the diamond. This isn’t to say, though, that diamond clarity is completely insignificant. As with the other four Cs, diamonds with a wide range of clarity ratings are available, and the difference in price from one end of the spectrum to the other can be substantial, a point which should be of interest to people looking to buy diamonds for investment purposes. For casual buyers, large differences in diamond clarity can be relatively easy to see with the naked eye.
What is diamond clarity?
A diamond’s clarity rating refers specifically to the degree to which imperfections are present on the surface of the diamond as well as inside the diamond. The fewer imperfections a diamond has, the higher its clarity grade will be.
True “flawless” diamonds, or diamonds that have absolutely no imperfections, are extremely rare. In other words, diamonds should generally be expected to have flaws. What really differentiates a diamond with respect to clarity is the degree to which the flaws it has are visible. Diamonds with a small number of microscopic flaws receive high clarity grades, while diamonds with very low clarity grades may have flaws that are easily visible to the naked eye.
Flaws on the interior of a diamond are called inclusions, and flaws on the surface of a diamond are called blemishes. Both types of imperfections come in various forms. Some types of inclusions include clouds, feathers, and cavities, while some types of blemishes are scratches, nicks, and polish lines.
In some respects, slight flaws in a diamond are actually considered desirable. One of the reasons for this is that artificial diamond making technology and techniques have advanced to the point that humans can now create diamonds that are very difficult to distinguish from the real thing. The flaws possessed by natural diamonds are in some respects the most conclusive proof that they are the real deal. Flaws can also be useful in helping to identify specific diamonds. So, although the term “flaw” sounds negative, buyers certainly shouldn’t be scared of diamonds that have them.
What diamond clarity grades are there?
Unlike the diamond “cut” grade, the diamond clarity grading system is fairly easy to understand and applied consistently by different certifying authorities. The clarity grades are as follows:
- F (Flawless): for diamonds with no external or internal flaws
- IF (Internally Flawless): for diamonds with no inclusions and a small number of blemishes
- VVS1-VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included): for diamonds with a small number of inclusions that are very difficult even for gemologists to see under 10x magnification
- VS1-VS2 (Very Slightly Included): for diamonds with internal flaws that are difficult to see under 10x magnification
- SI1-SI2 (Slightly Included): for diamonds with inclusions that are easily seen under 10x magnification
- I1-I2-I3 (Included): for diamonds with inclusions that are visible to the naked eye
Which diamond clarity grade represents the best value?
The best value can usually be found with diamonds with a clarity rating of VS1 or VS2. The flaws within these diamonds are impossible to see with the naked eye, so if you want to choose a diamond for purely aesthetic purposes, these diamonds are as good as flawless. At the same time, all other things being equal, VS1 or VS2-rated diamonds can be much less expensive than diamonds with a clarity grade of VVS1-VVS2 or higher. This means that VS1-VS2 is almost certainly the best combination of value and quality.