Diamond Clarity - A PriceScope Guide
Diamond Clarity Basics
What is diamond clarity?
Clarity refers to the existence of internal and external imperfections that characterize an individual diamond. A diamond's clarity determines value, along with the other 4 Cs of Carat Weight, Cut, and Color. You may also hear clarity referred to as "purity" or "quality" in the diamond trade. Diamonds with perfect clarity are very rare, as most diamonds will have microscopic inclusions or blemishes.
The Centenary Diamond
273.85 carats - D Color, Flawless Clarity
©De Beers Group
How important is diamond clarity?
After carat weight, clarity has the biggest influence on price; the fewer the inclusions, the higher the price. There are many reasons why people choose higher clarity diamonds over those with lower clarity. In some cultures, higher clarity is symbolic of purity, and higher clarity diamonds are certainly more rare, but for many, a medium clarity diamond is desirable. The choice is yours.
What are the different diamond clarity grades?
F - Flawless
Flawless diamonds generally show no inclusions or external blemishes at 10X magnification.
*Fun Fact - Did you know that approximately 1 in 100 people can see VS2 inclusions? If you are one of these nearsighted individuals, then you may prefer a VS1 clarity diamond...or you can always wait a decade until your ability to focus up-close drops away. ;)
The Nitty Gritty of Clarity
How is diamond clarity graded?
Diamond graders evaluate clarity by looking at:
Size – What size is the inclusion?
Quantity – How many inclusions?
Type – What kind of inclusion? Feathers, crystals, pinpoints, needles, and clouds are examples of different types of inclusions.
Color or Relief (reflectivity) – How much does an inclusion stand out from the diamond?
Placement – Where is the inclusion located within the diamond?
Do Different Labs have Different Clarity Grades?
In the 1950s, the clarity grades F, VVS, VS, SI, and I were established by GIA from terms already used in the diamond trade. Many labs use the same grade names, but some labs use variations and different systems. For example, AGS uses a numerical grading scale. Here is AGS lab's approximate clarity grading equivalents. For more information visit: AGS Laboratories
Some European and other international gem labs use the term "Pique" (pronounced Peekay) for the Included grades - using the abbreviations P1, P2, and P3, rather than I1, I2, and I3.
What is SI3?
EGL and EGL USA introduced an SI3 grade in 1992. Because of the big price difference between I1 and SI2, many dealers used SI3 for decades. The World Federation of Diamond Bourses wants labs to introduce SI3, and most refuse, but many have softened their SI2 grades.
* Note - Ultimately diamond grading reports are just "expert opinions" under 10 power magnification. Even GIA has given different clarity grades for the same diamond. Remember, humans are grading clarity in the labs, and while they are highly skilled, there will be a certain level of subjectivity among graders.
Clarity Grading Plots
Most grading reports have inclusion plots. (marked in red for internal and green for external features) They are useful for identification. Often only the main "grade makers" are plotted, and additional inclusions are listed in comments; "pin points not shown" etc. A worrying comment is "Clouds Not Shown,” because a cloud drawn on plots can look so bad that no one would buy the diamond. Clouds are only a problem on SI1 and lower clarity diamonds if no other inclusion is marked on the plot, i.e. the cloud is the grade maker. Big clouds can dull the diamond. But it is rare for even I1 diamonds to be dulled by inclusions.
(left) clarity grading plot of an I1 clarity diamond (right)
photos courtesy of Russian Gemology Center
What is an "Eye Clean" Diamond?
Eye clean is a trade term that is used to describe diamonds that do not show inclusions without the aid of a loupe or microscope. The term is a subjective one, as people will have varying vision levels and personal tolerances for inclusions. Pricescope did a survey asking trade members to define eye clean. The consensus is:
No inclusions visible to the unaided eye when viewed from the face up position in daylight equivalent or fluorescent lighting from approximately 6-12 inches from the eye using 20/20 vision.
For more information, please visit this article: What is an Eye Clean Diamond?
Feathers are one of the most common diamond inclusions. Diamond feathers are not necessarily a cause for alarm. Remember that diamond inclusions should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. We asked several participating diamond appraisers and diamond cutters to give us their analysis of feathers. Expert opinions can be found in this article: Diamond Feather Inclusions: A Durability Risk?