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4Cs of Diamonds;
Diamond Clarity

Selecting a diamond involves a careful look at its visual characteristics. This plays a crucial role in the diamond’s aesthetic appeal and monetary value. Among the primary things to consider are the diamond’s color, carat, and cut – three of the renowned ‘4Cs’. While these three C’s are known to play large roles in a diamond’s visual aesthetics, the 4th C, clarity, is still an attribute that’s important to consider when choosing a stone. Even though the clarity grade isn’t always perceptible to the naked eye, it still plays a large role in a diamond’s overall appeal and value. 

What Exactly is Diamond Clarity?

Clarity is a measure of a diamond’s absence of internal and external imperfections – known as “inclusions” and “blemishes”.  Inclusions are the internal flaws within a diamond stone, such as crystals, feathers, or clouds, while blemishes are the flaws that are on the external side – scratches, nicks, etc. 

Most inclusions are the result of the diamond formation process deep inside the earth. Different stones are subject to different conditions when being made, and these conditions can bring forth cracks, impurities, or breaks in a diamond’s lattice structure. Blemishes, on the other hand, are oftentimes created by humans and are byproducts of improper cutting or maintenance. 

Collectively speaking, inclusions and blemishes are known in the diamond world as “flaws”. 

With regards to value, diamonds of higher clarity grades are more expensive as they possess a smaller number of flaws. Note that in most cases, a diamond’s imperfections are oftentimes visible to the naked eye. This is why a diamond’s clarity is sometimes considered as the least important when it comes to the aesthetics of a stone. 

How is Diamond Clarity Graded?

The Gemological Institute of America uses a 11 grade scale to judge a given diamond’s clarity. The 11 grades are further divided across six categories, which can be found below:

Fig 1. Gemological Institute of America's diamond clarity scale.
Fig 1. Gemological Institute of America's diamond clarity scale.

 

  1. Flawless (FL): Flawless diamonds are ones that are untouched by time or turmoil and have no inclusions or blemishes detectable under 10x magnification.

  2. Internally Flawless (IF): An internally flawless diamond doesn’t have any inclusion and only very minor or insignificant blemishes.

  3. Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): When a diamond has a VVS1 or VV2 grading it means the inclusions are very slight, usually even skilled graders will struggle to locate them.

  4. Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): A slightly included diamond has detectable inclusions.

  5. Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): Inclusions are noticeable.

  6. Included (I1, I2, and I3): When a diamond is included, it features both inclusions and blemishes.

Factors that Influence Diamond Clarity

Generally speaking, diamond flaws are any identities within a given diamond that prevents the natural flow of light throughout it. These include crystals, feathers, clouds, knots, and cavities. 

The type and severity of these imperfections can affect a diamond’s value, and if big enough, can be seen with the naked eye. 

Here are some important factors to consider when evaluating a diamond’s imperfections: 

  • Location of Inclusions: The position of inclusions within the diamond is crucial for assessing clarity. Inclusions in the center or near the top surface (table) of the diamond are more visible and can reduce its value more than those located at the bottom (pavilion), which are less noticeable.

  • Size of Inclusions: Larger inclusions are more visible and can lower the clarity and value of the diamond. Smaller inclusions are less noticeable.

  • Color and Clustering of Inclusions: The color of inclusions and whether they are clustered together matter. Darker and grouped inclusions are easier to spot and hence can have a bigger impact on the diamond’s value.

  • Surface Blemishes: Consider the placement of surface flaws like nicks and scratches. On a diamond’s front facing surface, these flaws are more visible. 

While a diamond’s imperfections are typically hard to spot on their own, jewelry professionals, on top of their knowledge, have the tools available to make analyzing these flaws easier. One such tool is a loupe, which allows jewelers to look at diamonds at 10x magnification – the standard magnification used to grade by the GIA. 

 

Selecting the Right Diamond: A Careful Balance

When it comes to a diamond’s price, a higher clarity grade definitely makes the diamond more expensive. For aesthetics though, a higher clarity grade doesn’t always equal a better looking diamond. Since a lot of diamond imperfections are invisible to the naked eye, when choosing a stone it’s important to consider the diamond’s clarity against other factors, like the diamond’s cut or carat.

Fig 2. Examples of round cut diamonds at different clarity grades.
Fig 2. Examples of round cut diamonds at different clarity grades.

A diamond with a poor clarity grade can still reflect light brilliantly – and look great – with the right cut. Similarly, a bigger diamond – even with more inclusions – can entice the wonder that you’re looking for, than a smaller diamond with less inclusions.

In conclusion, selecting the right diamond is a balance of understanding and weighing the importance of all of the 4Cs: Cut, Color, Carat, and Clarity. Each factor contributes uniquely to the beauty and value of a diamond, making the selection process both a financial and emotional decision.

At Kim Quang Jewelry, we’ve dedicated over 40 years to guiding our clients through the diamond world. Whether you’re looking to find the perfect stone or looking for advice on setting it on a new, or even an existing piece, our door in San Diego is always open for consultation. Our decades of experience in jewelry is at your service, and we stand by to show you the world class jewelry experience that we are known for.