By Ashley Bailey
, Wednesday, August 23, 2006 12:00 AM
Almost all diamonds have natural characteristics called inclusions. Inclusions are formed during crystallization. Some are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. The clarity grade indicates how clean or included a diamond is under extreme scrutiny.
F and IF mean the diamond is Flawless or Internally Flawless when examined by a trained professional under 10 power magnification. Such diamonds are very rare and are costly.
VVS1 and VVS2 stand for Very Very Slight inclusions. This means the professional found it very difficult to see minute inclusions under magnification. There is practically no chance an observer will see such inclusions with the naked eye.
VS1 and VS2 stand for Very Slight inclusions. VS1 is difficult for a professional to see with 10 power magnification. VS2 is easier to see, still under magnification. It is very unlikely that an observer will see VS inclusions with the naked eye.
SI1 and SI2 stand for Slightly Included. This means a professional easily saw inclusions with 10 power magnification, but may or may not be able to see them with the naked eye. Whether or not a diamond is “eye-clean” to an observer will be discussed in a moment.
I1, I2 and I3 stand for Included. These inclusions are easily seen with magnification and are also visible to the naked eye.
As with color, you should always consider where the diamond was graded. Grading is subjective and some laboratories give easier grades than others. In the United States the GIA and AGS are widely considered the strongest laboratories.
The most important question for many shoppers, especially on the internet, will be whether or not the diamond being considered is “eye-clean.” This is a useful term, but there is no official definition. Distance, lighting and human vision can all be different, so you should have clear expectations when asking this question. Our own definition of eye-clean:
No inclusions visible face-up at a distance of 8-10 inches in natural lighting to a person with 20/20 vision.
10 inches is the “distance of most distinct vision” as defined by the American Gem Society, so this is a logical standard and it gives us a working baseline for our customers. If a strong lab like AGS or GIA did the grading, it is likely that anything VS2 and above will be completely eye-clean. But every SI1 and SI2 diamond is different. Some have inclusions visible to some people and many others don’t. If eye-clean is important to you a clear definition between buyer and seller is critical (click for more information on Eye-Clean).
Clarity grades are assigned in the face-up view, not looking from the side or the bottom. An inclusion that is not visible from the top may be visible from the side, where there is more transparency.
Inclusions are more difficult to see in well-cut diamonds because of maximized brilliance, dispersion, scintillation and contrast. This is another reason that cut is so important in a diamond. Another thing to remember is that rounds and princess cuts have more facets than most other cuts, and can hide inclusions better.
There are many types of inclusions and blemishes. It’s important to mention one in particular, known as a feather. A feather is a tiny fissure inside a diamond. In some circumstances it could pose a problem with durability. Diamond cutters usually plan around these inclusions, but it is always wise to seek expert advice if there is a concern.
As with color, clarity-perception varies among people. One person may see an inclusion that is completely invisible to another. Age and nearsightedness influence your perception, so it won’t be the same 10 years from now as it is today. It’s also a matter of personal preference. Some people insist on flawless diamonds. Other people just want the diamond to be eye-clean, and still others consider inclusions to be natural ‘birthmarks’ in the diamond which make them special.
It is often possible to hide inclusions near the girdle with a prong while setting.
There is a process where a diamond is drilled to remove an inclusion, called ‘fracture filling.’ We sell only natural diamonds and do not deal in those with color or clarity enhancements. Sellers who do are required to disclose the fact that they were so treated.
Clarity is quite simple. If you don’t want inclusions, a grade like VS or VVS will practically guarantee that you will never see one. If you want to find an eye-clean SI1 or SI2 diamond you will need to work with an expert you can trust to find one that meets your expectations.
- Know what level of clarity you desire.
- Consider which lab assigned the grade.
- Establish a clear definition of ‘Eye-Clean’ with the seller.
- Consult an expert about any feather in your diamond.
- A prong may be able to hide an inclusion near the girdle.
- A level of imperfections can be an advantage, as they serve as a fingerprint for a diamond.
- “SI3” is used by one lab. We consider it a soft I1 grade.
>>Next: Cut Information
For more specific questions ask our experts