Many factors go into selecting a diamond, whether for an engagement ring or simulated diamond jewelry. The 4Cs of diamond grading can help you choose the best diamond. Cut, color, clarity, and carat are the 4Cs. Knowing how diamond grading affects quality will help you choose a stone within your budget.
In general, a stone's rarity and value increase as its grades improve. Internally flawless diamonds are rare and expensive. The diamond's cut affects its ability to shine and sparkle the most. Poor cutting can dull even the best diamonds. The rarest, flawless diamonds have no visible color or hues. Carat size is a diamond's weight and size. Finally, clarity is checked for flaws.
These four factors affect the quality and value of mined and lab-grown diamonds. Each affects the price of a diamond, but trade-offs can be made to stay within your budget. Clarity is one of the four main factors to consider when buying a diamond or diamond alternative.
Diamond clarity grading evaluates any surface or internal flaws. How are diamonds made? explains clarity.
Natural diamonds are formed by heating and compressing carbon deep within the earth, which can cause flaws. These defects include blemishes and inclusions. Diamond clarity is the least important factor when buying a diamond because most stones have microscopic blemishes and inclusions. Clarity is the absence of these flaws.
Diamond blemishes include scratches and nicks. Inclusions are trickier. In some cases, they may break through the stone's surface. Some inclusions are tiny diamonds or mineral crystals trapped inside a diamond. Depending on their location, these inclusions may affect the stone's appearance after it's been cut and polished. Multiple factors affect a diamond's sparkle.
Diamond Clarity Scale
GIA created the standard for grading diamond clarity. The clarity scale has 11 grades in 6 groups. Gemologists must determine the number, size, relief, nature, and position of any blemishes or inclusions to evaluate a diamond's clarity. No diamond is perfect, but many flaws are too small to see without training. The closer a diamond is to perfection, the higher its value. GIA's clarity chart has six categories.
- Flawless (FL). Under 10x magnification, a skilled grader must not see any inclusions or blemishes on a FL diamond. A diamond without inclusions is extremely rare. Only 1% of diamonds have FL clarity.
- Internally Flawless (IF). IF diamonds have no visible inclusions under 10x magnification, but may have blemishes. IF diamonds are rare, but not as rare as FL.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS). VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds have minute inclusions that are hard to see under 10x magnification. VVS2 diamonds have slightly more inclusions than VVS1 diamonds, but both are excellent.
- Very Slightly Included (VS). VS diamonds have minor inclusions that a skilled grader can identify under 10x magnification. VS1 diamonds are clearer than VS2 diamonds, but both are less expensive. Most diamonds are VS.
- Slightly Included (SI). SI1 and SI2 diamonds have visible inclusions under 10x magnification. Inclusions in SI1 diamonds are sometimes detectable without magnification, while SI2 diamonds are usually visible without magnification.
- Included (I). I1, I2 and I3 clarity make up the sixth and final grading category. A trained grader can detect these diamonds' inclusions without magnification. Inclusions can affect a diamond's clarity and brilliance.
Diamond Clarity Grade
A gemologist considers several factors to determine a diamond's clarity grade. These are mostly diamond inclusions:
- Number. More flaws mean a lower clarity grade. This includes inclusions and blemishes.
- Size. Large inclusions or blemishes affect a diamond's clarity more than small ones. A larger flaw is more noticeable without magnification or skill.
- Relief. This refers to an inclusion's visibility in a diamond. Higher relief appears darker than the rest of the stone, lowering the grade.
- Nature. This factor relates inclusion type to diamond depth or other characteristics. A blemish is a surface flaw that hasn't penetrated the diamond's interior. Inclusions are the most problematic clarity flaw.
- Position. Inclusion location determines a diamond's clarity. An inclusion near the center of the stone's table will have a greater impact on its clarity than one near the girdle, its widest rim. A table centerpiece will be more visible. Inclusions near the diamond's pavilions can also reflect. Facets act as mirrors, making imperfections hard to see.
These factors determine a diamond's clarity. Shape, proportions, and facet arrangement can obscure or highlight flaws. Poor clarity isn't fatal for every diamond.
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