Diamond Shopping: What You Need to Know About Diamond Clarity

Determining which clarity of diamond to select can feel a bit like shopping for the Emperor’s New Clothes. A diamond free from all natural inclusions will command a much higher price than one that shows the telltale signs of “nature’s fingerprints.” The bottom line is, you will pay much more for things you can’t see!

Flawless diamonds are very rare. Most diamonds will contain what experts call inclusions. These can be microscopic carbon crystals, tiny fissures in the crystal structure, or just a small pinpoint or cloudy spot. Clarity is an important criterion in diamond selection because internal inclusions may affect how the diamond reflects light back to the eye. Keep in mind that most clarity characteristics in stones graded SI-1 or higher will only be visible under magnification. Still, a one and a half carat diamond of good color with only slightly visible internal inclusions may sell for $10,000.00-$12,000.00. But if you are lucky enough to find even an internally flawless diamond of comparable color and size, expect to pay upwards of $16,000.00.

Diamonds with a clarity grade of SI-2 or lower may have natural characteristics that can be seen without the aid of magnification. If a flawless diamond is beyond your budget, consider the following: inclusions are observable evidence that you are buying a natural diamond. Clarity characteristics can add personality to a diamond and make it easy to identify. Not all clarity characteristics are negatives. Imagine a gentleman rejecting Marilyn Monroe on account of the distinct beauty mark on her face!

Once you determine your budget, you will find an enticing array of diamonds to choose from. Understanding how clarity affects a diamond’s price and performance will give you the necessary knowledge to make a smart buying decision, one you will be happy with for years to come.

Buyers Guide: How To Purchase Diamonds

Buying a diamond should be a great experience and one that is not confusing or overwhelming.  Like any other large purchase you make, education and knowledge is key.  Before purchasing your diamond make sure you have at least a basic understanding of the 4Cs, diamond shapes, diamond terminology, and what to look for on a diamond grading report.  This will prepare you to ask the right questions and will give you the confidence that the decision you make is the right one for you.

The 4Cs of Diamonds: Cut, Clarity, Carat Weight, Color

Diamond Cut

Of the 4Cs, Gemologists believe that cut has the greatest influence on a diamond’s beauty.  Cut is the factor that determines the diamond’s fire, sparkle, and brilliance.   Diamonds have a unique ability to effectively manipulate light.  This unique quality can only be realized with an extremely high level of accuracy during the cutting and polishing process.  Where nature dictates the uniqueness of color and clarity, humans affect the cut.  While cutting diamond rough, cutters must not only consider the proportions of a diamond, but also the craftsmanship of overall symmetry and polish as well.

A diamond’s brilliance comes from light entering the crown and reflecting from one facet to another and returning back out the crown.  A diamond that is cut too shallow or too deep will not reflect light properly and the diamond will not be as brilliant as a diamond with an excellent cut.

Diamond Clarity

Clarity refers to the absence of clarity characteristics in the diamond. The GIA clarity scale consists of 11 grades ranging from flawless to included.  When determining a diamond’s clarity grade, GIA considers the size, nature, color, position, and quantity of clarity characteristics under 10x magnification.  The lesser the number of inclusions or blemishes a diamond has the higher clarity grade it will receive.  A diamond with no inclusions using 10x magnification will be considered flawless and is very rare and more costly.

Inclusions

An inclusion is a clarity characteristic either totally enclosed in a polished diamond, reaching or extending into it from the surface, or one that is caused by treatments or the cutting process.  Note – Inclusions caused by treatments or the cutting process may not always be documented on the diamond certificate.

Blemishes

A blemish or external clarity characteristic is on the surface of the diamond only and can be caused by wear, the cutting process, or may be a result of the diamond’s crystal structure.   Blemishes play a lesser role than inclusions do when determining the clarity grade, but may affect the polish grade.

GIA Clarity Grades

FLFlawless – no blemishes or inclusions under 10x magnification.

IFInternally flawless – no inclusions and only very minor surface blemishes.

VVS1 and VVS2 Very, very slightly included – very, very small microscopic inclusions extremely difficult to see under 10x magnification.

VS1Very slightly included – very small microscopic inclusions difficult to see under 10x magnification.

VS2Very slightly included – very small inclusions somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification.  These diamonds represent a good value to someone looking for a high quality diamond, as the very small imperfections do not affect the beauty of the diamond.

SI1Slightly included – small inclusions that are easy to see under 10x magnification. This clarity is an excellent choice for someone looking to stay within a budget, but wants a diamond that will look as good as a higher clarity diamond except when viewed under magnification.

SI2 – Slightly included – small inclusions that are visible under 10x magnification. Depending on their location within the diamond, they may sometimes be visible to the unaided eye without magnification.  SI2 diamonds are attractively priced and typically no visible difference can be seen without magnification.  If you are interested in an SI2 diamond and would like us to personally verify if it is eye-clean, please give us a call at 1-800-979-1910.

I1* and I2Included – imperfect with inclusions that are obvious to the unaided eye and may affect the diamond’s durability.

I3*Included – imperfect with inclusions that are extremely obvious to the unaided eye and pose a definite threat to the diamond’s durability.

*At Since1910.com, we do not sell I1, I2, and I3 clarity diamonds.

Diamond Carat Weight

Carat weight refers to the size of the diamond.  Carat is the standard term used for the weight of a diamond and received its name from the seed of a carob tree.  The carob seeds were used by early diamond traders on scales as units of weight for small amounts of diamonds because of their consistent size.  The weight of the carob seed was 200 milligrams and the weight of a carat is exactly 200 milligrams or as it is know today, 0.2 grams

Many believe that the term carat represents the size of the diamond however; carat represents the weight of a diamond.  One carat is divided into 100 points.  So, for example, a quarter carat or 25 point diamond weights .25 carats (cts).   Diamonds weighing over one carat are expressed as carats and decimals.   They are measured to the hundred thousandths of a carat and rounded to a hundredth of a carat.   For example, a 1.25 stone would be described as one point twenty five carats.

The cost of a diamond is not measured in weight alone.   Several diamonds of the same weight can be priced considerable different.  When calculating the cost of any diamond, clarity, cut, and color are major factors as well.

Diamond Color

Color refers to the absence of color in the diamond.  Diamonds composed of pure carbon are colorless and extremely rare and costly.  Most diamonds contain nitrogen, boron, or hydrogen all of which impact color.  A majority of white diamonds sold on the market today contain traces of nitrogen, which causes slight shades of yellow or brown.  Small, subtle differences in color can make a substantial difference in a diamond’s value.

In a effort to eliminate confusion related to diamond color, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) implemented the color grading system in the 1950s which is still being used industry wide today.   Diamonds are graded on a scale beginning with the letter D (colorless) and ending with Z (light yellow or brown).   When creating the new color scale GIA chose to start with the letter D as a means of starting over.  Prior to GIA implementing the D-Z scale, other systems all of which were inconsistent and inaccurate, already used the letters A-C, numbers 0-3, and the Roman numerals I-III.  It is important to note that diamonds at the end of the color range with a noticeable yellow tinge are not considered fancy yellow color diamonds.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Diamond Color

  • When a diamond is well cut the diamond’s refraction and dispersion will often disguise certain degrees of color and may make a darker diamond appear whiter when viewed with the unaided eye (without magnification).
  • The size of the diamond will also affect the appearance of its color.  Color can easily be seen in larger diamonds as opposed to smaller diamonds.  Often times it is difficult to see color in diamonds under a 1/2 carat with the unaided eye.
  • The shape of the diamond will affect its color as well particularly step cut diamonds such as the Asscher and Emerald that have large open facets and do not display the brilliance of other cuts.  The center of these diamonds display a “window effect” where some of the color in the diamond can appear washed out and make it appear whiter then its actual color grade.  The shallower the cut of the diamond the more apparent this will be.

Diamond Shapes

Diamond shape is the basic outline of the diamond.   Here are some popular shapes sold today.

Round Brilliant is the most popular.  It consists of 56 to 58 facets and displays the most brilliance, fire, and scintillation of all diamond cuts on the market today.

Asscher is a stepped square cut also known as the modified square emerald cut.  It consists of 72 facets and resembles the shape of an octagon.

Cushion is not as brilliant as many of the more modern cuts, but has a classic romantic look that definitely stands out in a crowd.

Emerald is a cut that provides a very elegant classy look and is known for its long lines.  The pavilion is cut with large rectangular facets to create an open effect or optical appearance.

Heart is known as the most romantic of all shaped diamonds.  The heart consists of 59 facets and is essentially a pear cut with a cleft at the top.

Marquise resembles the shape of a football when viewed from above.  The marquise is bright, clear, and has a great deal of sparkle.

Oval is an adaptation of the round brilliant and usually looks larger than the round brilliant of the same carat weight.

Pear is half oval and half marquise.  The pear has 58 facets and displays the brilliance, fire, and sparkle of the round brilliant.

Princess is square shaped with uncut pointed corners.  The princess has 58 facets and is known for its brilliance, fire, and sparkle.

Radiant has 70 facets and has the brilliance and fire of the round brilliant.  The radiant is square/rectangle in shape with cropped corners.

Diamond Certificates

A diamond certificate (aka – diamond plot, diamond grading report) is a document certifying a diamond is genuine and is created by a group of gemologists after the diamond is carefully evaluated.  The report contains information such as carat weight, color, clarity, proportions, and a cut grade for round diamonds.   The certificate also contains a “blueprint” of the diamond’s clarity characteristics.

To understand all aspects of the diamond grading report, click on the GIA link below:

http://www.gia.edu/lab-reports-services/diamonds/diamond-reports/index.html

To understand all aspects of the diamond anatomy, click on the GIA link below:

http://www.diamondcut.gia.edu/05_diamond_anatomy.html

diamonds

Understanding Diamond Clarity

In a previous post we discussed diamond clarity and the GIA clarity grading scale.  In this post we wanted to take a closer look at each clarity grade to give you a better understanding of why diamonds with a higher clarity grade are more rare and therefore more costly.

For diamonds in the VVS range and lower the grader is looking for clarity characteristics totally enclosed within the diamond or extending into it from the surface.  For Flawless or Internally Flawless diamonds the grader is looking for clarity characteristics on the surface of the diamond.

GIA Diamond Clarity Grading Scale

Flawless (F)

F diamonds have basically no inclusions or blemishes.  They are extremely rare, so rare in fact that many will never see one.  A Flawless diamond can have some clarity characteristics and still be considered Flawless such as: extra facets, naturals confined to the girdle, or internal graining.

Internally Flawless (IF)

IF diamonds may have blemishes, but no inclusions.  In the 1970’s GIA added this clarity grade for diamonds that didn’t meet the strict guidelines of Flawless.  The blemishes on an IF diamond can be removed by polishing.

Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2)

VVS diamonds contain very tiny inclusions that are difficult to see under magnification.  The inclusions in VVS1 diamonds are extremely difficult to see in the face up position and they may be visible only through the pavilion.  Inclusions in VVS2 diamonds are very difficult to see.

Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2)

VS diamonds contain minor clarity characteristics that range from difficult to see (VS1) to somewhat easy to see (VS2) under magnification and to a trained grader.  In some very rare cases, a VS diamond may have eye-visible inclusions.  The common inclusions found in a VS diamond are clouds, crystals, or groups of pinpoints.  These inclusions do not affect the diamond’s beauty and are a great choice for engagement rings.

Slightly Included (SI1, SI2)

SI diamonds contain inclusions that are visible when viewed under magnification and some may also be visible to the unaided eye.  The common inclusions found in SI diamonds are crystals, feathers, and clouds.  Because some SI diamonds are “eye-clean” they offer a great value for your money.

Included (I1, I2, I3)

I diamonds contain inclusions that are visible to the unaided eye.  Since 1910 does not offer I clarity diamonds.

To learn more about diamond clarity characteristics, visit our diamond education section

Shop all Since 1910 diamonds to find the right one for you

What is an Emerald Cut Diamond?

The Emerald cut diamond received its name when a diamond cutter chose to cut diamond rough in the shape of an Emerald using the same method as they would for cutting an Emerald shaped gemstone.  Emerald shapes are cut with “stepped” facets, which means the facets resemble steps on a staircase.

emerald cut diamondThe Emerald cut provides for a very elegant classic look and is known for its long lines.  The pavilion (bottom portion of the stone) is cut with large rectangular facets to create an open effect or optical appearance.

Since Emerald cut diamonds are designed with larger facets, you need to be sure that you are familiar with the qualities of a good cut.  Like the Asscher cut you always want to choose cut, color, and clarity over weight.  An Emerald diamond makes a beautiful engagement ring as a solitaire or set with other stones.

To learn more about Emerald cut diamonds visit our diamond education section

What is an Asscher Cut Diamond?

The Asscher cut diamond was developed in 1902 by the Asscher Brothers of Holland and is a variation of an Emerald cut.  The Asscher cut is a stepped square cut also known as a Modified Square Emerald cut.   This cut offers a small table (largest facet on a stone) high crown (top portion of the stone) deep pavilions (lower portion of the stone), and cut corners.   With its 72 wide step facets it resembles that of an octagon and sparkles like the Round Brilliant.

The Asscher was designed to draw your eye to the center of the stone.  Because of this, cut, color, and clarity are very important factors to consider when choosing this cut.  Always purchase the best stone within your budget.  When choosing an Asscher weight should be the last thing you consider.

To learn more about Asscher cut diamonds visit our diamond education section

Asscher Cut Diamond

The 4Cs of Diamonds: Diamond Weight

Diamond weight is described using two terms: carat and point.   Carat is determined by measuring the distance across the top of diamond and is always listed in millimeters.  When measuring diamond weight it is important to factor in the cut grade.  In a well-cut diamond, the maximum amount of light enters and exits through the table making the diamond look larger than a poorly cut stone.

Like color and clarity, carat weight is a key factor in determining the value of a diamond. Diamond prices vary by carat weight increasing at the full and half-carat weights.  Diamonds just below these weight changes will be less costly and a majority of the time size is undetectable.  For example, a 1.00ct diamond will be in a different price point than a .98ct diamond, but the size will not be noticeable.   Also, since larger diamonds are more rare and costly than smaller diamonds a 1.00ct single diamond will cost much more than several smaller diamonds equaling a total carat weight of 1.00ct.

Diamond Measurements

Carat = 100 points or 200 milligrams

Point = 0.01 or one-hundredth of a carat

diamond weight chart

What carat weight is right for her?

There are several important factors to keep in mind when determining carat weight.

Price – diamond cut, we feel, is the most important of the 4Cs and you should always choose a well cut stone over weight.  If carat weight is important to you and you would like a larger stone, you have some flexibility in terms of price with color and clarity.

Finger size – a 1.00ct diamond will look much larger on someone with a size 4 finger than a size 8 finger.

Setting – certain settings can make a diamond appear larger than it actually is.  Our personal shoppers can help you determine which setting is right for you if you don’t already have something in mind.

Visit our education section for more on diamond weight

The 4Cs of Diamonds: Diamond Clarity

Of the 4C’s, diamond clarity is the most understood characteristic of a diamond.

Diamond clarity actually refers to the absence of clarity characteristics (aka – diamond inclusions, diamond blemishes) seen in almost all diamonds sold on the market today.  Diamonds without clarity characteristics are extremely rare and valuable.  Many clarity characteristics are not visible to the unaided eye and do not affect the beauty of the diamond.

In an effort to create consistency when comparing one diamond to another, GIA (The Gemological Institute of America) developed the clarity grading scale in the 1940’s and 1950’s; which is still used today. The scale consists of 11 grades ranging from flawless to included.  When determining the clarity grade GIA considers the size, nature, position, color, and quantity of clarity characteristics that are visible using 10x magnification.

GIA Clarity Grades

diamond clarity chart

FL – Flawless

IF – Internally flawless

VVS1 and VVs2 – Very, very slightly included

VS1 and VS2 – Very slightly included

SI1 and SI2 – Slightly included

I1, I2, and I3 – Included

We are often asked…which clarity grade is right for me?  Like color and shape, clarity is a personal preference and largely determined by budget.

Visit our education section for more on diamond clarity

What is a Diamond Blemish?

Blemishes are clarity characteristics on the surface of a diamond.  Some blemishes are natural and some occur when the diamond is cut, polished, or from every day wear.    Some blemishes can affect the diamond’s clarity grade, but many have no impact on the diamond’s brilliance.

Some of the more common blemishes…

Scratches are fine lines on the surface usually the table that can be removed by re-polishing the diamond.

Nicks are chips in the diamond usually around the girdle.

Pits are holes in the diamond’s facets and are usually hard to see unless one is in the table facet.

Extra facets are additional facets added the diamond to polish away a flaw or to save diamond weight.

Naturals are part of the diamond’s original rough surface left unpolished.   They are usually left along the diamond’s girdle to produce a larger carat weight stone.  When left on the girdle, naturals will not affect clarity grade.

Learn more about the 4C’s

What is a Diamond Inclusion?

A diamond inclusion is a clarity characteristic that is completely enclosed within the diamond or extends into it from the surface.  Some people think of inclusions as “flaws” or “imperfections,” but since no two diamonds have like inclusions, think of them as what makes the diamond you choose special and unique only to you.  Take the time to get to know your diamond and you’ll see how truly unique and “perfect” it is.  Flawless diamonds are rare and costly, so most of the diamonds on the market today do have inclusions.  Many do not impact the beauty of the stone, but there are some that will affect the brilliance or durability of the diamond.

Some of the more common inclusions…

Bearding is tiny hairline cracks alone the girdle of the diamond.

Cavities are large crevices or holes where the diamond is missing.

Crystals are minerals and other diamonds that form within the diamond.  They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.  Many minute crystals that look like tiny specks under 10x magnification are called pinpoints.  Crystals can lower the clarity grade of a diamond, but collectors also seek after them looking for that very unique mineral.   The most common crystal colors are white and black.  Black crystals are often referred to as “carbon spots,” which is an inaccurate term.

Cleavage is a straight flat crack.  A cleavage may split the diamond apart along the length if hit in just the right spot.

Clouds are hazy or milky looking areas within the diamond.  Most clouds are made up of tiny crystals too small to be seen alone under 10x magnification.  Clouds can often times be difficult to find, but when they are large and dense they make the diamond appear white.

Feathers are cracks within the diamond that look exactly like their name, feathers.   Small feathers don’t usually affect the durability of the diamond unless they reach the surface of the stone.

Growth and grain lines are fine lines caused by irregular crystallization that may make the diamond look oily or hazy.  Colorless growth or grain lines usually don’t affect the diamonds clarity grade unless there is a large amount present, but may affect the diamond’s brilliance.   White and colored lines will affect the diamond’s clarity grade.

Knots are included crystals left exposed on the surface by polishing.  They look like bumps on the diamond.

Pinpoints are tiny crystals that look like small specks under 10x magnification that can either appear alone or in groups.  When grouped together they can make a diamond look hazy.

Learn more about the 4C’s

diamond inclusions

Image shown is a feather

Image shown is a cloud

Image shown is a cloud

diamond inclusions

diamond inclusions

Image shown is bearding

Image shown is bearding

diamond inclusions

Image shown is a very unique "bird" shaped crystal

diamond inclusions

Image shown is pinpoints

Can you compare one diamond to another?

With shape, weight, and cut all being equal you can compare like diamonds in terms of color and clarity. Diamonds of the same clarity can differ quite a bit. Let’s take a SI1 clarity diamond for example. When looking at the diamond’s plot or at the diamond directly through at 10x loupe the clarity characteristics can be quite different and you’ll want to choose the one that is most appealing to you. Unless flawless, all diamonds will have clarity characteristics and only you can decide what you’ll be happy looking at each day. When comparing like diamonds I suggest looking at no more than 3 at one time. Keep narrowing it down always keeping your top choice each time.

Use our diamond comparison tool to find the perfect stone.