Diamond is one of the top-selling jewels due to its enviable properties, especially its brilliance. However, in reality, everyone tries to buy the best diamond for the best price, so the best option is to look for a better clarity grade diamond to not compromise its beauty, sparkle, and brilliance in an affordable range. Therefore, among 4Cs of diamonds taken under consideration while choosing a perfect diamond, clarity is an important attribute that plays a critical role in its sparkle and beauty.
The formation of diamonds takes between 1 to 3 billion years under extreme temperature and pressure, and at a depth of about 80-120 miles, the perfect diamond is rarely found. Most diamonds have surface inclusions, and blemishes and the number of inclusions varies from diamond to diamond. Let’s discuss the clarity and the most famous clarity range of diamonds across the globe.
Clarity is a qualitative metric related to visual appearance that determines whether you find any inclusions in the diamond or not. The clarity grades depict if there are fewer inclusions and significantly impact diamond’s value. Most inclusions are not as noticeable with naked-eye, so under standard conditions, we use 10X magnification to determine the clarity range.
Following is the most observed clarity scale ranging from flawless to grade of I3.
- Flawless (FL) or Internally Flawless (IF)
No inclusions or only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10X magnification. An internally flawless stone has blemishes but is free of inclusions. Blemishes include things like scratches and nicks that exist only on the diamond’s external surface. Such perfect diamonds with no inclusions are scarce, thus costly and valuable
- Very Very Slight Inclusion (VVS1 and VVS2)
Minute inclusions that range from extremely difficult to very difficult to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10X magnification. For example, VVS2 diamonds have inclusions that you can’t even see with the naked eye. Even with magnification, it is tough to see them.
- Very Slight Inclusions (VS1 and VS2).
Minor inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10X magnification. Even with the magnification, lighting, and camera setting, inclusions in such diamonds are hard to see, which is why it stands for very slightly included. Technically you can see these inclusions somewhat at 12 inches away, but honestly, one in every thousand people will see it even if they are looking for it. Compared to VS2 diamonds, it is smaller in inclusion but more prominent than anything you see in VVS2. Sometimes VS1 is streaky, but you won’t see these streaks in real life, but it would be slightly less sparkly because of that.
- Slight Inclusions ( SI1, SI2, and SI3)
Under 10X magnification, it has noticeable inclusions but not prominent via the naked eye. S1 stands for slightly included and means that at 12 inches away, you can barely see the inclusions. So it looks a bit scratchy and streaky just overall. It is recommended that even if you want to buy a diamond in the SI range, try to buy it with most inclusions on the sides of the diamond to hide them under the ring setting clasps. Sometimes SI diamonds look cloudier, which is worse as it takes away the sparkle of the diamond, which besides carats size is what makes diamond most beautiful and impressive.
Different clarity ranges are starting from SI2 and above, but SI1 and SI2 range would be tricky. Diamonds that are in the SI range include SI1 and SI2; these stones will have inclusions internally. Still, it’s essential to know how visible these inclusions are when they are not under magnification. SI1 and SI2 can be eye-clean but finding SI2 eye-clean diamond is less common.
- Imperfect (I1, I2, and I3)
Using a 10X magnification, a skilled grading professional can see significant inclusions, affecting transparency and brilliance. I mean inclusion that means there is a visible blemish in the diamond and is of low quality. Its cloudiness takes away the sparkle of the diamond.
Most Famous Clarity Range
SI1 is the most famous diamond clarity considering the blemishes and price range. It is the first clarity range that has inclusions not visible to the naked eye from various sides or angles. All the clarity ranges below SI1, i.e., from SI1 to I3, have visible imperfections or flaws. In the case of SI1, to observe the inclusions, you have to use a microscope or 10X loupe. In any shape, either its princess cut, round brilliant cut, or cushion cut diamond, SI1 is considered the best quality in an affordable range that makes it famous worldwide. Buying a low clarity grade like VS2 and SI1 can save you hundreds of dollars. You can also consider buying IF diamond, but it will cost a lot more, and in the end, both will look the same.
The second most popular range is VS1 and VS2 as they appear flawless to the naked eye and affordable compared to the genuinely flawless diamond. VS1 clarity and higher will always be eye-clean as it does not show visible spots, 95% of VS2 diamonds are eye-clean as sometimes there are visible imperfections but rarely. When you aim to buy VS1 or higher clarity grade, you don’t have to worry about the inclusions, but for the range of VS2, S1, and S2, you have to evaluate thoroughly as not all diamonds in this range are eye-clean. Along with that, you can’t solely rely on a grading report or the inclusion plot, as clarity plots can be misleading sometimes due to the reflection of the inclusions by the pavilion facet.
The five factors that play an essential role in the clarity of the diamond are
- Size of inclusion
It is directly linked to the clarity grade; as bigger the inclusion, the more it will be prominent and visible.
- Nature of inclusions
It depends on the level of penetration in the diamond. If it is situated only on the surface, i.e., not penetrated, it is considered a blemish. The penetrating one is known as inclusion.
- Number of inclusion
Clarity grade will be much lower if it has several inclusions
- Location of inclusion
Location of the inclusion is the most critical factor, i.e., if it is situated close to the central proximity, it is more visible. It has a more significant impact on the clarity grade of the diamond. If it is close to the girdle, it is difficult to see and has a lower impact on the clarity grade. in the case of near the pavilions of the diamond, it can reflect, and facets will act as a mirror
- Relief of inclusions
It refers to how prominent or noticeable the inclusion is in comparison to the host diamond. The higher the relief, the darker the color will be, thus impacting the diamond’s clarity.
The shape, size, and carat weight also impact the clarity grade of the diamond. Different shapes have different standards for clarity. Always prioritize the cut quality as it has the most significant impact on a diamond’s appearance and brilliance. A diamond’s size also plays a role in understanding how much clarity it should have. For example, in 1 carat stone, facets are concentrated, so can easily conceal any inclusions within the smaller stone. In a larger diamond, everything is magnified and has a lot more surface area, so inclusions can easily be spotted.
Eye-cleanliness is paramount
Flawless diamond means that there are no inclusions visible at ten times magnification. In the case of an eye-clean diamond, when you look at the diamond from the face up view in such a way that it is 6-12 inches away from your face and without magnification, you will not be able to see the internal inclusions and your attention will likely be on the diamond’s sparkle. The inclusions in such diamonds are apparent. They blend with the facets of the diamond, so under magnification, it is still challenging to see those inclusions. Without magnification, such diamonds would be an “eye-clean” diamond. It is recommended to prefer the cheapest eye-clean diamond and the key to buying lower clarity diamonds is to look for eye-clean stones where inclusions are well-spread out.
It is advised to check certification to be very careful regarding cloudiness other than clarity as it diminishes sparkle and scintillation. This means the diamond won’t pop when you look at it. Some diamonds have so many clouds and graining within the stone but no crystals; it will create a very cloudy and hazy appearance. You will consider it worse than having a completely clean diamond with one dark crystal because when there are so many clouds and graining, it will take all of the brilliance and sparkle of the stone. Thus the diamond that has fewer overall inclusions and just a few tiny crystals has a lot more sparkle and brilliance and better life performance than the diamond that has clouds and graining