A Guide to Spotting Diamond Inclusions and Blemishes

The best diamond clarity ranking is FL – flawless, this is a diamond with no imperfections visible to a trained grader at 10X magnification.
Despite their outward appearance, the majority of diamonds in the world are not perfect and will typically have inclusions and blemishes.
Unique Diamond Crystal Inclusion
Unique Crystal Inclusion in a Natural Diamond
An inclusion can range in severity from benign to outright unsightly, and diamond clarity is determined by the number, size and visibility of inclusions and blemishes in the diamond. Even though chips and naturals are not considered "inclusions", their significance should not be overlooked. 'Blemishes' are defined as superficial, not internal, imperfections.
Diamond inclusions can also serve as "fingerprints" that help identify a diamond positively, allowing us to differentiate natural diamonds from synthetics. We can sometimes determine the geographic origin of a diamond based on very unique inclusions.
The majority of inclusions in gem-grade diamonds are not visible to the naked eye, but there are some types of inclusions that can be problematic. Inclusions and blemishes are not inherently bad, but how they affect the beauty or durability of a diamond is what matters most.
Using our high-resolution photos and videos, we’ll help you better understand the visual impact an inclusion may have on a diamond below.
It's important to understand that the diamond inclusions you see are sometimes only visible under high magnification to a trained diamond grading expert, and that they cannot be seen by the naked eye.

1. Bearding

Beared Girdle
Bearded Girdle - Photo courtesy of GIA
A bearded girdle (or bearding) occurs when improper bruting processes cause hair-like inclusions to form across the diamond's girdle area. It is recommended to avoid girdles with a heavy beard and a white fuzzy appearance.
In essence, these fuzzies are basically teeny tiny feathers that extend from the girdle around the stone's edge inwards toward the center.
Bearded girdles can be a source of controversy in the diamond industry because some assert that bearded girdles are polish characteristics, while others insist that bearded girdles are inclusions.

2. Graining

Internal Graining
Internal Graining Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
Graining diamond inclusions result from crystals growing unevenly, creating waves or lines.
Different types of graining exist, including colored graining (brown and white are most common), reflective graining, surface graining, and transparent internal graining. Diamonds with colored or reflective graining can have negative visual effects and may affect the clarity grade.
The report will include a comment when internal graining affects clarity. It is possible to confuse surface graining with polish lines, and when present, these will be noted in the comments.

3. Crystal

Diamond Crystal Inclusions
Diamond Crystal Inclusions
Crystal Inclusion
Diamond inclusions are mineral crystals enclosed within the diamond. There are a wide variety of crystal types, from colorless minerals (possibly tiny diamonds), to black (usually referred to as “carbon”), and even colored minerals such as garnets, peridots and sapphires!
Because a dark inclusion is more likely to be visible to the naked eye colored inclusions are generally less desirable. A colorless or transparent crystal inclusion, on the other hand, would have less effect on the diamond's appearance.

4. Cavity

Diamond Cavity Inclusion
Cavity Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
Cavities are holes or divots on the surface of a diamond that appears to be dug out. In layman’s terms, a cavity can be thought of as a hole on the surface of a diamond.
Cavities are often associated with knots, which are crystals that are at a surface of a polished diamond. A cavity can result when they are dislodged.

5. Knots

Diamond Knot Inclusion
Knot Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
Knots are caused when a crystal inclusion reaches the surface of a diamond.
With diamonds, it is not so easy to dislodge a knot, especially if it is well embedded in the diamond. Knots are unlikely to leave cavities during wear - in most cases, this occurs during the cutting process.

6. Etched Channel

Diamond Etched Channel Inclusion
Etched Channel Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
Etched channels are linear cavities caused by chemical processes during formation. Similarly to cavities, if they are small enough, they are not a significant issue. It is important to note, however, that their size and location can sometimes increase the durability risk.
Eventually, they may become more visible due to dirt trapped in them. The buildup can be removed by a professional cleaning, but cavities and etched channels are difficult to clean on your own.

7. Laser Drill Holes

Laser Drill Hole Inclusion
Laser Drill Hole Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
A laser drilled hole leaves a threadlike inclusion that is a telltale sign of artificial enhancement of the diamond to improve its appearance. To reach an embedded crystal inclusion, a tunnel is drilled from the surface of the diamond. Diamonds with laser drilling are often treated with acid baths or injected with filler materials to mask inclusions.
It is sometimes possible to see with the naked eye the network of tunnels that are created within diamonds when laser drilling is carried out extensively.
Whiteflash does not deal in treated diamonds, so you will not see laser drills mentioned on any of the lab reports associated with our in-house diamonds.

8. Cloud

Diamond Cloud Inclusions
Diamond Cloud Inclusions
Cloud Inclusion
Microinclusions within a diamond are called clouds. These areas of tiny pinpoint inclusions can vary in size, density, and sparsity. Diamond clouds can scatter light and diminish the amount and quality of light returned to the eye by diamonds depending on their size and concentration as well as their location.
A cloud inclusion, however, typically affects only a very small area of a diamond and impedes light performance no more than a feather, crystal, grain line, or twinning wisp.
Light performance is very unlikely to be adversely affected by cloud inclusions in the higher clarity grades (VVS and VS).

9. Needle

Diamond Needle Inclusion
Needle Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
This inclusion resembles a tiny rod that is usually white or transparent in color. In clusters, they may adversely affect the clarity of the diamond.
They can look like tiny streaks of light inside the diamond. Inclusions such as needles are fairly common, so don't be surprised if you see them on a diamond grading report.
Fortunately, a few tiny scattered needles are usually harmless. The problem only arises when they band together in a cluster.

10. Pinpoints

Diamond Pinpoint Inclusion
Pinpoint Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
The term pinpoint inclusion refers to a tiny crystal that is embedded inside a diamond and is white or black in color. A 10x magnification shows these internal crystals as tiny dots.
Among the different types of inclusions in a diamond, pinpoints are considered the most benign. Even trained gemologists have difficulty identifying them. A diamond's grading report may not mention pinpoint inclusions because they are so imperceptible.

11. Twinning Wisps

Diamond Twinning Wisps Inclusions
Diamond Twinning Wisps Inclusions
Twinning Wisps Inclusions
Twinning Wisps occur when the crystal structure of a diamond becomes distorted during growth. Twinning wisps are sometimes hard to see because of their amorphous and somewhat transparent nature, and for this reason many people think they are preferable to other inclusion types such as black crystals.
They often have a threadlike appearance and it is possible for them to exhibit a slight yellow or brown coloration, making them somewhat easier to see.
Diamonds with fancy shapes, such as emerald cuts, are more likely to have twinning wisps because of the type of crystals they are usually cut from. If twinning wisps are numerous or dense enough, the diamond may appear cloudy.

12. Feather

Diamond Feather Inclusions
Feather Inclusion
"Feather" inclusions are small breaks in the diamond crystal lattice. They are usually not a problem, but can cause durability issues if they are large enough, especially if located near a point, and sometimes on the girdle, which can make them more susceptible to damage due to hard impacts.
Feather inclusions are not all bad, you can find them in almost any diamond. In general, diamonds with higher clarity grades, such as VS and VVS, will not cause any issues and should be evaluated individually.
Please feel free to contact us if you are unsure about the diamonds you have shortlisted, and we will help you make an informed decision.

13. Chip

Diamond Chip Inclusion
Chip Inclusion - Photo courtesy of GIA
The term chip refers to an opening on the surface of a diamond caused by an impact on a facet junction, the girdle edge, or the culet. Chips can be unsightly and also make the diamond prone to further damage.
It is not uncommon for diamonds that have been worn for many years to have some small chips, especially around the girdle. If severe enough it is recommended to repair a chipped diamond by repolishing or recutting.

14. Indented Natural

Diamond Indented Natural Inclusion
Indented Natural Inclusion
As a result of leaving a small part of the raw diamond crystal on the finished diamond, a natural is present. This is done in order to maintain symmetry without removing material all around the perimeter. Thus, leaving a natural enables the cutter to retain more carat weight than if it were completely removed.
It is typical for them to be small and confined to the girdle area, but they can also be quite large if the cutter was taking liberties. A small natural that is confined entirely to the girdle may not necessarily even be plotted on a grading report.
Naturals are normally considered blemishes; however, if they are significantly indented, they are classified as internal inclusions and called “indented naturals”. Naturals are often mistaken for chips.

15. Cleavages

A cleavage inclusion is a straight crack. These cracks may be deeper in some cases and can split the diamond apart.
This inclusion is considered a serious flaw and diminishes stability, and is one we would generally advise you to steer clear of when purchasing your diamond.

Expert Advice: Diamond Inclusions To Avoid

Due to misguided fears and a lack of understanding, many people get too hung up on buying high-clarity diamonds. It is generally recommended to avoid diamond flaws with these characteristics:
When surface breaking inclusions are present, durability can be a concern. This is not to say that you should avoid all feathers, cavities, chips, and naturals. Featured at the girdle of diamonds with very thin girdle height, these conditions can pose a risk. In most cases, it is the very thin girdle that poses the greatest risk, rather than the feather inclusions!
On diamonds with points such as princess cuts, marquises, or pears, surface-breaking inclusions pose a particular problem. It is already vulnerable at the point, and any inclusion increases its vulnerability.
It is also recommended to avoid inclusions that affect transparency. Obviously, this is a matter of degree, and it must be assessed by a trained eye if there are any indications on the lab report that the transparency may be diminished.
It's common to find crystals, clouds, feathers, twinning wisps, pinpoints and graining inclusions in diamonds. It is not uncommon for many diamonds to contain all of them!
The feature listed first under Keys to Symbols under the stone plot on a diamond report is considered the most prominent and is the grade-setting feature. Inclusion severity determines the grade of a diamond, not simply the presence of one or more internal characteristics.
A diamond with a clarity grade of VS1 or higher is almost never affected by durability or transparency problems. There are some exceptions to this rule, but diamonds rated Si1-VS2 are usually free from durability concerns. Transparency and durability issues must be evaluated carefully in clarity grades Si2 and below. The best value range in terms of clarity are carefully vetted diamonds in the grades VS1, VS2 and Si1.
Inclusions are reported by the GIA or any other trustworthy gemmologist, but not their density. It is therefore essential to conduct a thorough inspection before making a purchase.
You should consult with a vendor with experience, such as Whiteflash, and get professional advice. We’re here to help you make an informed decision when it comes to diamond purchasing; if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out and one of our experts will be happy to help.

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