Choosing the Right Diamond Clarity Grade

Diamond Clarity: Beauty versus cost

Diamond Clarity is usually ranked on the GIA grading scale (shown below). It may come as a surprise, but the GIA Clarity rankings are based on the rarity of a diamond, not necessarily it’s beauty, brilliance or value. A diamond with a high Clarity ranking can be rare and expensive, but downright ugly if it does not meet high tolerances for Color and Cut as well.

Gemologists grade diamonds for Clarity using a 10-power loupe. (reference: http://beyond4cs.com/clarity/)

clarity chart

A diamond is considered ” Eye Clean” if it has no flaws visible to the naked eye. This is an important distinction if you are looking for the best value when buying a diamond. On the scale above, notice that all diamonds SI3 and above are “Eye clean”.

While the difference in Clarity between an SI3 diamond and an IF diamond cannot be discerned with the naked eye, the difference in cost can be well over 400% in a diamond of 1 carat or more. As mentioned above, the GIA Clarity scale rates and prices of diamonds based on their rarity, not their perceived brilliance and beauty.

If you want the privilege of owning a rare masterpiece of nature, then we welcome you to consider diamonds above the SI Clarity range. However, unless the viewer has a magnifying loupe, or a microscope available, they will not be able to see the difference.

If you are buying a less expensive diamond that is graded I1 or I2 for Clarity, then there are some important considerations to be made. If your diamond is certified, then you can tell in advance of buying the diamond where the inclusions are and how they will affect the beauty of your diamond by evaluating the gemologist’s Plot of your diamond.

types of inclusions

For more examples and images of different types of inclusions, go to http://beyond4cs.com/grading/clarity-characteristics/types-of-inclusions/

How to evaluate a diamond plot:

The Plot on the certificate at left indicates the location and type of inclusions found in your diamond.

Since this is an I1 diamond, it is important to note that there will be at least one inclusion visible to the naked eye, but where it is located is most important.

In the top view diagram, you can see a fairly large grouping of crystals indicated in the upper left area. Otherwise, the diamond is fairly clean, with some small clouds, crystals. a small needle and a small feather shown on the bottom view (none of these would be visible to the naked eye).

In short, this plot indicates a very good value for a moderately priced I1 diamond.

In the 30X photograph below, notice the grouping of crystals in the upper left. These inclusions can be almost completely hidden under a prong when the diamond is set. If the same group of crystals were located at the center of the diamond, it would detract from its beauty. However, both diamonds would be rated I1. Only the plot gives you an accurate evaluation of your diamond’s clarity rating.

If you are buying an uncertified diamond that is graded I1 or I2 for Clarity, then you will have to depend on the seller’s reputation and skill at choosing a diamond with visible flaws. The photograph above is a good example of how we choose our I1 rated diamonds. We look for visible flaws that are toward the outer edge of the diamond, those that will least affect the perceived beauty of an I1 diamond.

i1 and i2 included diamonds

How we choose an I2 diamond: The photographs below are all diamonds that would be rated I2 for Clarity. As you can see, there are broad quality differences in what a gemologist would call an I2 Clarity grade.

Acceptable I2: medium feather at center and some black crystals at top left edge. Unacceptable I2: clouds throughout and obvious black crystals in the center of the diamond Unacceptable I2: dense clouds and large feathers throughout. Known in the trade as “white smash”.

We choose I2 diamonds that have the characteristics of the first photo above: the body of the diamond is clean enough to allow for an acceptable return of light to the viewer’s eye. Many retailers buy the less expensive type of I2 diamonds that are riddled with black crystals or include very dense clouds and feathers.