Diamond Pricing and the Four C’s – Part2 (Clarity)

This is part two (of four) of our Diamond Pricing and the Four C’s article. Read Part one here (Color).

Clarity

Clarity is measurement of how many imperfections a diamond has, either inside the diamond or on the surface, and to what extent those imperfections affect the appearance and value of the diamond.

The two types of diamond imperfections are blemishes (on the surface of the stone) and inclusions (inside the diamond itself). Inclusions and blemishes can greatly affect the value of a diamond, especially if they are visible to the unaided eye or cause the diamond to appear murky. In addition, cracks near the surface can reduce the diamond’s resistance to fracturing.

Diamond Clarity is graded on the industry-standard GIA scale, that ranges from Flawless (diamonds that are completely free of inclusions), to Included 3 (diamonds which possess heavy inclusions visible to the naked eye).

diamond clarity

Flawless (FI) The very rare “Flawless” diamonds will show no blemishes or inclusions even when examined with 10x magnification.
Internally Flawless (IF) When viewed with 10x magnification, IF stones will show no inclusions and only insignificant blemishes.
Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) VVS diamonds contain minute inclusions very difficult to see under 10x magnification. Any inclusions will be invisible to the unaided eye
Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) VS diamonds will contain only minor inclusions. These inclusions are visible with 10x magnification. However, the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.
Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) SI stones contain noticeable inclusions under 10x magnification. SI1 inclusions are usually invisible to the unaided eye. With close inspection, SI2 inclusions are often visible to the unaided eye
Included (I1, I2, and I3) I-grade diamonds contain inclusions which can usually be seen with the unaided eye. These flaws can seriously affect the transparency and brilliance of the diamond and may impact the diamond’s durability. In general it is best to avoid these grades, especially in larger sized diamonds.

Below is an I1 clarity diamond with a clearly visible “feather” type inclusion…

I1 Clarity Diamond, note visible inclusion highlighted in red.

I1 Clarity Diamond (1.00 Carat, G color, Excellent cut) $4,170, note visible inclusion highlighted in red.

Inclusion Plot for the I1 clarity diamond.

Inclusion Plot for the I1 clarity diamond.

Fortunately, most diamonds don’t have such obvious flaws. So the GIA report that comes with your diamond will include an Inclusion Plot [See above] that shows the locations and types of inclusions your diamond has.

A couple points about the inclusion plot: The “grade-setting” (worst) inclusion will be listed first. Internal imperfections are labeled in red and external imperfections are labeled in green.

There are a number of different types of inclusions. The amount of inclusions and the type and location of these inclusions will dictate the diamond’s clarity rating. Some common examples you will see on a GIA report are:

  • Crystal – A crystal is a small impurity of another mineral embedded within the diamond crystal lattice. When viewed with overhead lighting, these crystals may appear as black spots.
  • Pinpoint – A pinpoint is simply a tiny crystal and appears as a small point, often white colored, when viewed under magnification.
  • Needle – Needles are crystal impurities in the shape of a long, thin “needle” when viewed at 10X magnification. Needles may appear as black or whitish lines.
  • Cloud – A cloud is a grouping of pinpoints. The pinpoints are often tightly packed together and too small to be viewed individually so together they appear as gray or whitish clouds within the diamond.
  • Feather – Feathers are small microscopic fractures or cracks within the diamond. Generally, feathers do not pose a durability problem under normal wear and care. Depending on the viewing angle, feathers can be reflective, whitish, colored or transparent.
  • Twinning Wisps – These are inclusions in diamonds that have twisted together during the time of diamond formation.

graphclarity1

As with color, if price were no object, you would simply choose a flawless or internally flawless diamond and move on. However you would pay a significant premium for an IF diamond compared to a VS1 diamond but without any visual (to the unaided eye) benefit.

Looking at the chart of Diamond Prices vs Clarity Grade, the numbers are the percentage relative to the price of a VS1 clarity diamond. (For example, a VVS1 clarity diamond costs about 20% more than a VS1. A VS2 is 10% less than a VS1, a SI1 is 25% less and so on…)

Diamond Clarity Buying Tips

Most people are happy with a diamond in the VS1-SI1 range. The inclusions are still invisible to the unaided eye, yet they are significantly less expensive. These grades offer the best quality for the price.

SI2 diamonds can be a bargain hunters delight. While the inclusions tend to be more visible, the price can be half that of a VS1 diamond. So with a little investigative work, the SI2 sleuth can find some great deals. One excellent tool that is available at James Allen is their “360o Diamond Display Technology”. Every diamond at James Allen has a 360o 15x resolution movie made of it so you can view the diamond’s inclusions. Are the inclusions black or white (black are more noticeable), can they be hidden under a prong or bezel setting, etc. Also check out our Bargain Hunting SI2 Diamonds page for more information.

If you’re on a tight budget you might want to look into the I-grade diamonds. I-grade diamonds are popular in “preset” engagement rings that you might find at Zales. Preset rings are those in which the diamond is already mounted in the setting and the two are sold together as opposed to higher end stores where you buy the setting and diamonds separately. You can find terrific deals with preset rings as long as you keep in mind that the diamonds are of a lesser quality. Also visit our Engagement Rings For Under $1000 page for more info.

…Continued in Part Three of Diamond Pricing and the Four C’s (Cut).