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.
When 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 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 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 SI2diamonds are also eye-clean.) that the eye clean issue comes into play.  Thus again, all diamonds must be viewed prior to stating an opinion.
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 grading diamonds.  I don’t think LED lights are very effective and I personally do not use them.
C. 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 clean.” trained to look at diamonds for 33 years, so my answer is really based on the viewer’s 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/spotlighting and 20/20 vision. We 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 lamps, 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. In 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

I’ll 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”. First and foremost is your light source.  It should be daylight or its equivalent such as a fluorescent 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 HONESTLYbeen given by yourself. Lastly, 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)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

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

Eye 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 daylight and 20/20 vision

12. Union Diamond

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

At Angara, “Eye Clean” means that there are no flaws that are visible to the unaided eye through the face of the stone (sometimes called topdown).  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
Eye-clean 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 examined. 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 than20/20 corrected vision, the whole deal is off. You MUST have a 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 eye-clean.
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?”

The 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 eyesight 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 closeup.  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 10power 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 0.10 ct or ten-point diamond, sometimes visible in 1ct diamonds and almost always visible in 10 ct 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 spotlighting 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 SIand 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 upgrading standards. This is a case of buyer beware if need be then be sure to ask the vendor before buying a stone.


Now 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 needs.
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 view 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. This 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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