Tue, 22 Sep 2009

What is an Eye Clean Diamond?

are several threads discussing the definition of “eye clean.”  On the
surface it seems like a fairly straightforward concept, but what
constitutes eye clean varies for both consumers and vendors.  Rather
than try to define the subjective, Pricescope has asked contributing
vendors, appraisers, and experts to give us their company definitions
of eye clean in an effort to improve communication from vendor to


They were asked to include these three factors:


1)  Distance and orientation


2)  Type of lighting


3)  Vision type


Each vendor/appraiser/expert has a different definition, but the general 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.


Now, what is your definition?


the lab report and the loupe.  Hold a diamond in your hand from your
preferred focal distance and look into the stone in natural light. 
What do you see?  Or rather, what don’t you see?


you’re shopping at your local jewelry store, you can look at loose
stones or diamonds set in rings to gauge your tolerance for
inclusions.  If you are shopping online, however, it’s a bit tricky,
because you will often see blown up photos of diamonds, which
purposefully show inclusions; a 6.5mm diamond may appear 10 times
larger on your monitor.  Eye clean is determined by seeing the stone in
person, but it’s good to keep the actual size in perspective.  Reducing
the diamond image size may help you visualize.



                 magnified vendor photo                                     approximate actual 1ct size




Age, Vision, and Personal Preference


you content with a flash of sparkle from a distance, or are you the
type to hone in and analyze every angle of your diamond and commit any
inclusion to memory?  What is your age?  What is your vision level? 


tolerance is key.  If you are older and farsighted, but still desire a
flawless diamond, then that is your choice.  There is the notion of the
“mind clean” diamond.  Some may not be able to see inclusions with the
naked eye, but they still require Flawless to VVS stones, because they
hold special significance.  Some may be extremely nearsighted with
“loupe-vision,” seeing inclusions with meticulous detail.  Some may
prefer to see inclusions as a way to identify a particular stone, or
simply because they find them intriguing.  It’s up to the individual.  


you come to your own conclusion about what constitutes eye clean, you
can communicate that definition with any vendor with whom you choose to
work.  Know your comfort level, and be confident when you need to
express your own definition of “eye clean” to vendors.




Vendor Definitions (in alphabetical order)


1. Abazias

Approximately 5-6″ from eye from all top angles.  Includes
identifications of inclusions from side and bottom to locate and
attempt to find from a top angle, using fluorescent white lighting and
20/20 vision.


2.  Engagement Rings Direct


Basically the distance I would place the diamond would be about 10
inches.  It is important to know that GIA and AGS grade clarity from
the crown or top side of the diamond.  Clarity is not based on the
pavilion side.  Thus, if you have a very white diamond and a center
carbon spot even a VS2 may be seen by the viewer.  After placing the
diamond approximately 10 inches from your eye if you do not see the
inclusion then the diamond can be considered eye clean.  Certain
inclusions are better for eye clean such as clouds over crystals.  The
reason is that clouds are a little more scattered in the diamond than a
single crystal.  Of the 3 main inclusions in the SI- clarity
(clouds/crystals and feathers) I would rate the feather the easiest
followed by the crystal and then the cloud.  There are times that the
diamond may have twinning wisps, which are groups of clouds that are
scattered throughout the diamond.  It is rare to find this inclusion
but this type of inclusion would be rated eye clean.  It is when the
inclusion is on the borderline line of SI1/SI2 (even though many SI2
diamonds are also eye clean.) that the eye clean issue comes into
play.  Thus again, all diamonds must be viewed prior to stating an


Editors note: Diamonds of SI and lower with clouds as the main ‘grade maker’ can suffer a loss of brilliance and fire.


The trade uses fluorescent lighting as the default for grading
diamonds.  I don’t think LED lights are very effective and I personally
do not use them.


This is tricky, because my eyes are 20/15 and have been trained to look
at diamonds for 33 years, so my answer is really based on the viewers
vision and understanding of the clarity SI1/2 as it pertains to “Eye


to look at diamonds for 33 years, so my answer is really based on the
viewers vision and understanding of the clarity SI1/2 as it pertains to
“Eye clean.”



3.  Good Old Gold


Half an arm’s length in distance or roughly 15” using diffuse/ambient/office lighting and direct/spot lighting and 20/20 vision.


listen to our clients to learn what they want in clarity.  We explain
that diamonds which are considered “eye clean” by the trade may not
necessarily be “eye clean” to them.
  Some people want “eye clean” when observing the diamond from the bottom as well.


4.  Wink Jones—High Performance Diamonds


No inclusions visible face-up at a distance of 8-10 inches in natural lighting to a person with 20/20 vision


5.  Icestore


Eye-visible has much more to do with the nature and location of the

inclusion in any given diamond, regardless of size or what can or cannot be

seen at arm’s length.  This philosophy also reduces the error created by

variations in any single individual’s visual acuity.


Each diamond is examined in a variety of lighting conditions including

fluorescent lamp, sunlight simulating light and also sunlight, both direct

and indirect using 20/20 vision. Every diamond is examined

microscopically, with a loupe and then of course by the naked eye.


terms of orientation, it is from the top of the stone.  In terms of
distance, there is no specific number I can give you, because the
distance required to see eye-visible inclusions increases as the size
of the diamond increases.  In other words, you are forced to look very
closely at small stones because of their petite nature while larger
stones may have

visible inclusions at an arm’s length.


6.  I.D. Jewelry


give you the same definition I acquired during my time studying at the
Gemological Institute of America.  When we were taught how to grade
diamonds for clarity, the words that were repeated over and over again
were to “grade clarity based on first glance”.


and foremost is your light source.  It should be daylight or its
equivalent such as a florescent light.  Also, don’t forget that your
decision should not be made after hours of inspecting the stone…it must
be at first glance.  That is not to say that you look at it for a
second and say I’ll take it.  It is however, to say that you, yourself
make a realistic judgment. After that point you can further inspect the
diamond, but keep in mind that the clarity grade has already HONESTLY
been given by yourself.


the distance at which you should look at the diamond should be what is
comfortable for your vision in order to get a clear view of what you
need to judge.  And, a small insider tip:  If you really want to see if
the diamond is eye clean, put the diamond in your hands and get as much
grim on it as you can. This will make inclusions, if any, much more
visible.  It will also give a good idea of what your diamond will look
days after your purchase


7.  James Allen


Face-up from a distance of 10 inches using standard overhead fluorescent lighting (office environment) and 20/20 vision.


If an inclusion is visible under these conditions then we would not consider it eye-clean, regardless of its clarity rating.



8.  Leon Mege


Eye clean – VS2 or higher


9.  Old World Diamonds


are “eye clean” when examined with the naked eye, in good lighting, by
someone with normal 20/20 vision from approximately 6-12 inches and
appear to have no noticeable imperfections.


10.  Pearlman’s Fine Jewelers


clean, although not a standard term of grading, refers to a stone that
when viewed without enhancement (ex. a loupe or microscope) under
natural light and at an average distance, appears to be free of
inclusion or blemish.  Most times it is in fact not free of defect,
they are just too small to see without assistance.


 11.  Solomon Brothers


Twelve inches from your eye using north day light and 20/20 vision


12.  Union Diamond


When asked by a customer if a diamond is “Eye-Clean,” a diamond expert

inspect the diamond in three types of lighting: natural, fluorescent,
and halogen.  The expert will look at the diamond prior to referring to
its certification so that their eye is not drawn to a specific area. 
The premise is to see the diamond as either the purchaser

or the wearer would, so each stone is viewed at roughly 9 to 12 inches

(23 – 31cm) from the naked eye.  The majority of our customers want to know if the diamond is “clean” from the top.


We will often let a customer know that there is a distinct difference

between seeing an inclusion with the naked eye and finding an inclusion

with the naked eye.  Chances are, people may be able to find an inclusion

on a weaker clarity stone after turning the diamond several different

ways and looking at it against the plotting on the grading report.  The

question we try to answer is, “Can the customer actually see the

inclusions without doing these things?”  If the answer is no, then in the

opinion of the diamond expert the diamond may be considered clean to the

unaided eye, based on 20/20 vision.


13.  Whiteflash


No inclusions visible face-up at a distance of 8-10 inches in natural lighting to a person with 20/20 vision..


14. Angara  added on 10-12-2009


Angara, “Eye Clean” means that there are no flaws that are visible to
the unaided eye through the face of the stone (sometimes called top
down).  This would include all types of inclusions, both surface and
internal, of any type.  We assume normal vision (20/20 or corrected if
off) and diffused lighting.  Generally we use bright white lights since
clarity and color grading is done in the same room.



Appraisers and Experts


Dave Atlas


means that at a distance of about 10 inches, an expert is unable to see
or “virtually” unable to see any inclusions in the diamond being
  This would be under grading lights, such as fluorescent tubes accompanied by normal diffused fluorescent room lighting.  This is a “face-up” only term and does not apply at all to the pavilion or side viewing of a diamond.  “Virtually eye-clean” means the dealer can “barely” see it, or thinks you’ll be
able to sell it to a customer as “eye-clean,” although there is a
certain BS factor one must just smile about.  If you have other than
20/20 corrected vision, the whole deal is off.
  You MUST have proper vision to make this call.


Richard Sherwood


I define a stone as eye clean when you cannot spot the inclusions face up while rocking the stone under adequate lighting at a distance of about 12 inches.  This
is with the caveat that you have not louped the diamond first to locate
any inclusions and unfairly “hone in” on them, nor do you have intense
transmitted light coming in through the side of the diamond to “light
up” inclusions.
  Just normal viewing faceup with an alert naked eye search.


This would be with a person having normal 20/20 vision.  Some people have astigmatism which gives a slight natural magnification to their eyesight.  They might be able to see an inclusion in a stone, which most people would consider eyeclean.


Fluorescent lighting or north daylight coming in through a window would work for “adequate lighting”.


Karl K (aka strmrdr)


Face up- No eye visible inclusions from 8 inches face up for someone with 20/20 vision.

Total from all sides: No eye visible inclusions from all sides from 8 inches for someone with 20/20 vision


Soft diffused lighting.



Garry Holloway


“What Clarity diamond should I buy to get the biggest diamond but without seeing any nasties?”


big question: “at what Clarity grade could I see inclusions?” 
Unfortunately that is not how lab grading systems work. The answer from
a consumer point of view depends on:


  1. your eyesight
  2. the size of the inclusion relative to the diamond
  3. lighting
  4. the nature of the inclusion(s)
  5. the inclusion placement (e.g. can it be covered by a claw)
  6. face up vs side view


  1. A
    simple eye sight test is to place one end of a ruler against your cheek
    and run your finger up and down the ruler to measure how close you can
    focus.  As we get older most people lose the ability to focus close
    up.  If you are young 
    or short sighted you
    may be able to focus closer than 15cm (6 inches) and you may be able to
    see some VS2 inclusions, especially in larger diamonds of say 2 carats
    or more (as diamond size increases so 
    too are the allowable sizes of VS and lower inclusions).  Sometimes SI2 diamonds can be found with several
    smaller inclusions spread throughout the diamond that are eye-clean to
    the sharpest eyed people.  Remember that no one can see your diamond
    from closer than 30cm (one foot) unless you take the piece off and hand
    it to them. 
  2. At
    the Flawless to VVS1 border the visibility of an inclusion under 10
    power magnification is the only factor that makes the grade. As grades
    get lower the size of the inclusion relative to the size of the diamond
    becomes the grading criteria. For example a single SI1 inclusion should
    be impossible to see in a 0.10ct or ten point diamond, sometimes
    visible in 1ct diamonds and almost always visible in 10ct stones.
  3. Lighting
    plays a big part in inclusion visibility. Shaded daylight on a cloudy
    day is good, direct sunlight or any type of bright spot lighting is bad
    because the bright flashes make it hard to see into the stone. Dim
    lighting is bad because we have trouble focusing when our pupils are
    wide open. 
  4. Beware
    – labs make less mistakes than people think; try not to become an
    armchair expert and out grade the pro’s. For example what may seem to
    be a lucky find may have a surface reaching crack or feather on the
    crown side, which most labs will grade harshly, downgrading the stone
    by a grade or even more. Since cracks can lead to damage, you may want
    to avoid them. However that only feathers that meet the surface are an
    issue, and these will be marked in green on a grading report plot
    (things inside the diamond are plotted in red). Likewise the search for
    the perfect SI2 diamond often leads to a diamond with a cloud or milky
    haziness and reduced brilliance.
  5. “Avoid
    table inclusions” is common advice, but that VS2 inclusion in the crown
    might make a stone an SI1 if it were in the table.  Graders take the
    position, the shade, reflections and many other factors 
    into account. You
    can look for a diamond with inclusion(s) near the girdle which you can
    cover with prongs. It is wrong to call most inclusions ‘flaws’ which
    imply breakage is likely. Diamonds rarely break except in the case of
    surface reaching feathers; sometimes carefully placing these just
    beside a prong is enough to protect from a sharp blow, but still not
    subject the diamond to undue risk while being set. 
  6. Consumers
    sometimes complain that a diamond with a comparatively high clarity
    grade has easily seen inclusions from the side or back of the stone. 
    This is a big problem with Princess cuts because it is common for SI
    and VS stones to have an inclusion right in the center of the
    octahedral crystal. Usually the crystal is sawn so the inclusion
    appears as a thin line (as shown in red) and the large facet on each
    side just below the girdle acts like a big window making it very easy
    to see the inclusion.  Lab grading criteria usually ignore this as most
    labs work to face up grading standards. This is a case of buyer beware
    so if need be 
    then be sure to ask the vendor before buying a stone.






that you’ve read how some Pricescope vendors define eye clean, you can
further modify their definitions to suit your own preferences.  For
example, eyesight, lighting, and other subjective factors will
influence whether a diamond appears to be eye clean. If you are
concerned about eye-visible inclusions, please discuss your preferences
with a vendor who can help you identify a stone that will meet your


Thank You


Special thanks to the participating Pricescope vendors.  We appreciate your contributions!




Many vendors and grading institutions consider
a diamond to be eye clean based solely on how it appears from the
face-up view.  However, some enthusiasts may prefer a diamond to be eye
clean from the pavilion viewing angle as well.  Certain settings expose
a diamond’s pavilion, and many enjoy the pavilion/culet view.  Be aware
that some vendors may give a buyer eye clean approval from the face-up
only. So if you require a diamond to be eye clean from all angles, please discuss it with your chosen vendor.


                                                        Bezel setting with exposed pavilion



Comparison of Face-up vs. Pavilion view

strictly graded SI1 inclusion is close to the table. The center and
right photos were taken by focusing deeper into the diamond making it
harder to see the inclusion. In the four smaller photos below, the
inclusion is easily eye visible. 




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