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Explaining Clarity Grades: Beyond The Letters and Numbers

Based on seminar given by Diane Flora, CGA, here is an overview of the grading techniques used by the GIA to determine the clarity grade for loose diamonds. During the seminar, Diane Flora explained the 5 factors that are used: relief, position, nature, number and size. Each factor is equally important but play a different role in the a specific diamond’s clarity grade and ultimately the diamond price.

Let’s take a look at each of the 5 factors:

What clarity grades means for you when picking a diamond

When you’re looking at different loose diamonds, make sure to evaluate the clarity by looking at the five factors. The first check is to see if the imperfections are eye-visible. If an inclusion is eye-visible it does not automatically mean a stone is graded “Included”.

When a diamond is graded as Internally Flawless, it will no inclusions at all. If a pinpoint is visible through the pavilion, the diamond usually receives a VVS1 diamond clarity grading, unless the pinpoint is visible through the crowns, in which case it would receive a VVS2 grading. When an inclusion is larger, the clarity grade can typically go no higher than VS1. Below VS1, it becomes harder to predict the clarity grade as the varying combinations of the 5 factors determine the grade.

The GIA clarity grading process

Wet grading is the technique used by GIA graders. They use a wet sponge or brush with a little soap to wipe the surface of the diamond to remove dust and surface reflections. Soap is used to prevent water from collecting on the diamond in the form of beads, which would distort the image. After the initial face-up impression of the diamond, grades will then check the condition of the culet by looking through the table. If the culet is chipped, the diamond will not be graded as Internally Flawless because chipping is considered a form of imperfection.

Then the stone is “divided” into 8 sections, each containing a part of the pavilion, girdle, bezel, star facet and two lower girdle facets. Each of these sections is examined by the GIA diamond grader under high magnification to find any inclusions. The diamond is then observed face up under 10x magnification under lab conditioning lighting. Any visible inclusions are identified, mostly for their position. In the end, a final unaided eye check is done to determine the condition of the clarity under normal circumstances. For example, does that little inclusion on the side make the 2 carat diamond ring you love look less sparkling? Only then, after the process is finished, will the GIA diamond grader determine the clarity grade. The detailed results of the grading are stated in the GIA diamond grading report to show how each of the 5 factors have been assessed.

Now that you know the process of the professionals, you should be well-equipped to take an analytical and critical look at the diamond clarity of the loose diamonds you are considering to buy. These factors carry the same importance across different diamond shapes, so whether you’re looking for a princess cut engagement ring or cushion cut engagement ring, you know exactly what to look for and what makes them sparkle.

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