Tue, 22 Sep 2009

What is an Eye Clean Diamond?

There 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 consumer.

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?

Forget 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?

If 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.

eyeclean_image001.jpg               eyeclean_image002.jpg

magnified vendor photo               approximate actual 1ct size

Age, Vision, and Personal Preference
Are 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? 
Personal 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.  
Whenyou come to your own conclusion about what constitutes eye clean, youcan communicate that definition with any vendor with whom you choose towork.  Know your comfort level, and be confident when you need toexpress your own definition of “eye clean” to vendors.

Vendor Definitions(in alphabetical order)

1. Abazias
Approximately 5-6″ from eye from all top angles. Includesidentifications of inclusions from side and bottom to locate andattempt to find from a top angle, using fluorescent white lighting and20/20 vision.

2. Engagement Rings Direct

A. Basically the distance I would place the diamond would be about 10inches.  It is important to know that GIA and AGS grade clarity fromthe crown or top side of the diamond.  Clarity is not based on thepavilion side.  Thus, if you have a very white diamond and a centercarbon spot even a VS2 may be seen by the viewer.  After placing thediamond approximately 10 inches from your eye if you do not see theinclusion then the diamond can be considered eye clean.  Certaininclusions are better for eye clean such as clouds over crystals.  Thereason is that clouds are a little more scattered in the diamond than asingle crystal.  Of the 3 main inclusions in the SI- clarity(clouds/crystals and feathers) I would rate the feather the easiestfollowed by the crystal and then the cloud.  There are times that thediamond may have twinning wisps, which are groups of clouds that arescattered throughout the diamond.  It is rare to find this inclusionbut this type of inclusion would be rated eye clean.  It is when theinclusion is on the borderline line of SI1/SI2 (even though many SI2diamonds are also eye clean.) that the eye clean issue comes intoplay.  Thus again, all diamonds must be viewed prior to stating anopinion.
Editors note: Diamonds of SI and lower with clouds as the main ‘grade maker’ can suffer a loss of brilliance and fire.
B. The trade uses fluorescent lighting as the default for gradingdiamonds.  I don’t think LED lights are very effective and I personallydo not use them.
C. This is tricky, because my eyes are 20/15 and have been trained to lookat diamonds for 33 years, so my answer is really based on the viewersvision and understanding of the clarity SI1/2 as it pertains to “Eyeclean.” trainedto look at diamonds for 33 years, so my answer is really based on theviewers 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. Welisten to our clients to learn what they want in clarity.  We explainthat diamonds which are considered “eye clean” by the trade may notnecessarily 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. Interms of orientation, it is from the top of the stone.  In terms ofdistance, there is no specific number I can give you, because thedistance required to see eye-visible inclusions increases as the sizeof the diamond increases.  In other words, you are forced to look veryclosely at small stones because of their petite nature while largerstones may have visible inclusions at an arm’s length.

6.  I.D. Jewelry

I’llgive you the same definition I acquired during my time studying at theGemological Institute of America.  When we were taught how to gradediamonds for clarity, the words that were repeated over and over againwere to “grade clarity based on first glance”. Firstand foremost is your light source.  It should be daylight or itsequivalent such as a florescent light.  Also, don’t forget that yourdecision should not be made after hours of inspecting the stone…it mustbe at first glance.  That is not to say that you look at it for asecond and say I’ll take it.  It is however, to say that you, yourselfmake a realistic judgment. After that point you can further inspect thediamond, but keep in mind that the clarity grade has already HONESTLYbeen given by yourself. Lastly,the distance at which you should look at the diamond should be what iscomfortable for your vision in order to get a clear view of what youneed to judge.  And, a small insider tip:  If you really want to see ifthe diamond is eye clean, put the diamond in your hands and get as muchgrim on it as you can. This will make inclusions, if any, much morevisible.  It will also give a good idea of what your diamond will lookdays after your purchase

7.  James Allen

Face-up from a distance of 10 inches using standard overhead fluorescent lighting (office environment)and20/20 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

Diamondsare “eye clean” when examined with the naked eye, in good lighting, bysomeone with normal 20/20 vision from approximately 6-12 inches andappear to have no noticeable imperfections.
10. Pearlman’s Fine Jewelers

Eyeclean, although not a standard term of grading, refers to a stone thatwhen viewed without enhancement (ex. a loupe or microscope) undernatural light and at an average distance, appears to be free ofinclusion 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 willinspect the diamond in three types of lighting: natural, fluorescent,and halogen.  The expert will look at the diamond prior to referring toits 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

AtAngara, “Eye Clean” means that there are no flaws that are visible tothe unaided eye through the face of the stone (sometimes called topdown).  This would include all types of inclusions, both surface andinternal, of any type.  We assume normal vision (20/20 or corrected ifoff) and diffused lighting.  Generally we use bright white lights sinceclarity and color grading is done in the same room.

Appraisers and Experts

Dave Atlas
Eye-cleanmeans that at a distance of about 10 inches, an expert is unable to seeor “virtually” unable to see any inclusions in the diamond beingexamined. 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 beable to sell it to a customer as “eye-clean,” although there is acertain BS factor one must just smile about.  If you have other than20/20 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. Thisis with the caveat that you have not louped the diamond first to locateany inclusions and unfairly “hone in” on them, nor do you have intensetransmitted light coming in through the side of the diamond to “lightup” 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?”

Thebig question: “at what Clarity grade could I see inclusions?” Unfortunately that is not how lab grading systems work. The answer froma 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. Asimple eye sight test is to place one end of a ruler against your cheekand run your finger up and down the ruler to measure how close you canfocus.  As we get older most people lose the ability to focus closeup.  If you are youngor short sightedyoumay be able to focus closer than 15cm (6 inches) and you may be able tosee some VS2 inclusions, especially in larger diamonds of say 2 caratsor more (as diamond size increases sotoo are the allowable sizes of VS and lower inclusions).  Sometimes SI2 diamonds can be found withseveralsmaller inclusions spread throughout the diamond that are eye-clean tothe sharpest eyed people.  Remember that no one can see your diamondfrom closer than 30cm (one foot) unless you take the piece off and handit to them. 
  2. Atthe Flawless to VVS1 border the visibility of an inclusion under 10power magnification is the only factor that makes the grade. As gradesget lower the size of the inclusion relative to the size of the diamondbecomes the grading criteria. For example a single SI1 inclusion shouldbe impossible to see in a 0.10ct or ten point diamond, sometimesvisible in 1ct diamonds and almost always visible in 10ct stones.
  3. Lightingplays a big part in inclusion visibility. Shaded daylight on a cloudyday is good, direct sunlight or any type of bright spot lighting is badbecause the bright flashes make it hard to see into the stone. Dimlighting is bad because we have trouble focusing when our pupils arewide open. 
  4. Beware– labs make less mistakes than people think; try not to become anarmchair expert and out grade the pro’s. For example what may seem tobe a lucky find may have a surface reaching crack or feather on thecrown side, which most labs will grade harshly, downgrading the stoneby a grade or even more. Since cracks can lead to damage, you may wantto avoid them. However that only feathers that meet the surface are anissue, and these will be marked in green on a grading report plot(things inside the diamond are plotted in red). Likewise the search forthe perfect SI2 diamond often leads to a diamond with a cloud or milkyhaziness and reduced brilliance.
  5. “Avoidtable inclusions” is common advice, but that VS2 inclusion in the crownmight make a stone an SI1 if it were in the table.  Graders take theposition, the shade, reflections and many other factorsinto account.Youcan look for a diamond with inclusion(s) near the girdle which you cancover with prongs. It is wrong to call most inclusions ‘flaws’ whichimply breakage is likely. Diamonds rarely break except in the case ofsurface reaching feathers; sometimes carefully placing these justbeside a prong is enough to protect from a sharp blow, but still notsubject the diamond to undue risk while being set. 
  6. Consumerssometimes complain that a diamond with a comparatively high claritygrade 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 SIand VS stones to have an inclusion right in the center of theoctahedral crystal. Usually the crystal is sawn so the inclusionappears as a thin line (as shown in red) and the large facet on eachside just below the girdle acts like a big window making it very easyto see the inclusion.  Lab grading criteria usually ignore this as mostlabs work to face up grading standards. This is a case of buyer bewareso if need bethen be sure to ask the vendor before buying a stone.


Nowthat you’ve read how some Pricescope vendors define eye clean, you canfurther modify their definitions to suit your own preferences.  Forexample, eyesight, lighting, and other subjective factors willinfluence whether a diamond appears to be eye clean. If you areconcerned about eye-visible inclusions, please discuss your preferenceswith a vendor who can help you identify a stone that will meet yourneeds.
Thank You
Special thanks to the participating Pricescope vendors.  We appreciate your contributions!

Many vendorsand grading institutionsconsidera diamond to be eye clean based solely on how it appears from theface-up view.  However, some enthusiasts may prefer a diamond to be eyeclean from the pavilion viewing angle as well.  Certain settings exposea diamond’s pavilion, and many enjoy the pavilion/culet view.  Be awarethat some vendors may give a buyer eye clean approval from the face-upviewonly. 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. Thisstrictly graded SI1 inclusion is close to the table. The center andright photos were taken by focusing deeper into the diamond making itharder to see the inclusion. In the four smaller photos below, theinclusion is easily eye visible. 

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