Clarity relates to the existence of the internal and external characteristics of a diamond. These characteristics are often referred to as inclusions or birthmarks, which appear within or on the surface of the diamond. Inclusions may be crystals, foreign material or structural imperfections that appear as tiny cracks. The number, size, location, and visibility all affect the ability of light to pass into and out of the diamond freely, therefore affecting the brilliance.
Understanding Diamond Clarity Ratings
The rarest, and therefore the most valuable diamonds have a clarity rating of FL (Flawless) or IF (Internally Flawless). Diamonds with a clarity rating of VVS1 or VVS2 are excellent diamond clarity options and are virtually flawless with only minute inclusions within the stone. It would be extremely difficult to view the inclusions in this quality of diamond even with 10 times magnification, and impossible to view with the naked eye. A diamond with the clarity grade of either VS1 or VS2 still possesses exceptional clarity. In VS1 graded brilliant cut diamonds, such as Round, Princess, Marquise and Pear, it is impossible to see inclusions with the naked eye. And only a mere 1% of VS2 grade brilliant cut diamonds contain inclusions that it would be possible to spot with the naked eye. This makes it extremely unlikely that the presence of inclusions could either be seen, or in any way affect the visual beauty of the stone. A diamond with an SI1 clarity rating is the lowest grade with flaws often invisible to the naked eye, making it an extremely popular grade among diamond shoppers. SI2 inclusions are usually visible to the naked eye, although they will require close inspection.
The illustration below gives an example of the inclusions or birthmarks that can be seen within the stone under a 10x magnification.
In the 1950's a diamond clarity grading scale ranging from I3 to flawless was developed. The 'flawless' diamond is most sought after and deemed ‘rare’. The following grading table gives the official grade, description and accurate comments of the various diamond clarity ratings.
|FL||Flawless||No internal flaws or external flaws on the stone. Extremely rare diamond.|
|IF||Internally Flawless||No internal flaws but 1 or 2 very small surface flaws, undetectable to naked eye. Extremely rare diamond.|
|VVS1||Very, Very Slightly Included||Very difficult to see marks under 10x magnification. An excellent and rare diamond.|
|VVS2||Very, Very Slightly Included||Very difficult to see marks under 10x magnification. An excellent and rare diamond.|
|VS1||Very Slightly Included||Inclusions not visible to the naked eye. Difficult to see marks under 10x magnification.|
|VS2||Very Slightly Included||Inclusions not visible to the naked eye. Difficult to see marks under 10x magnification.|
|SI1||Slightly Included||Inclusions not visible to the naked eye. Inclusions visible under 10x magnification.|
|SI2||Slightly Included||Inclusions not visible to the naked eye. Inclusions visible under 10x magnification.|
|SI3||Slightly Included||Few marks visible to naked eye. Inclusions visible under 10x magnification.|
|I1 / I2 / I3||Included||Marks visible with naked eye.|
McQueen Jewelry Buying Tip:
If you cannot tolerate imperfections, even those you cannot see, choose a VVS2 or better diamond. About 10% of all diamonds sold fall into this category. The most popular clarity range is the VS1-VS2 diamond. These diamonds appear flawless to the naked eye, and are a fraction of the price of a truly flawless diamond. Almost half of all diamonds purchased fall into this range. The next most popular range is SI1, where the inclusions are usually not significant enough to impact the appearance of the diamond for the casual observer. Often, customers will opt for this clarity range in exchange for a higher cut or color grade. This combination often results in a beautiful, lively diamond with imperfections detectable only upon close inspection. In diamonds under 1 carat, the same can be said for an SI2 grade. In diamonds over 1 carat (where clarity is more important, and SI2 inclusions are often easier to detect), an SI2 is often half the price of a VS1 diamond. About one third of diamonds sold fall into the SI1-SI2 range. If you are primarily concerned with size and price, an I1 may be your best option. While the inclusions are visible to the unaided eye, many customers find it to be well worth the sacrifice for what it affords in size.
The larger the diamond, the easier imperfections are to detect; therefore clarity becomes more important. For diamonds over 2 carats, a clarity grade of VS2 or higher is the safest bet for avoiding any signs of visible inclusions. In diamonds between 1 and 2 carats, clarity grades of SI1 or better will not have inclusions easily visible to the naked eye. In diamonds under 1 carat, clarity should be considered the least important of the traditional 4 Cs. Brilliant-cut diamonds (such as round, princess, cushion, oval, pear, and marquise) hide inclusions better than step cuts (emerald, asscher). When purchasing a step-cut, move up one clarity grade (e.g. purchase a VS2 instead of an SI1 if you desire the lowest grade that has no visible inclusions).
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