The third of the Four Cs: Clarity
Clarity is an important characteristic of a diamond, and it is important to know the clarity grading of a diamond before you buy it. Many people mistakenly think that diamond clarity refers to how clear it is. This isn’t so. Clarity actually refers to the internal and external imperfections of the diamond.
A diamond's clarity is determined by a trained eye viewing it under 10-power magnification. Most diamonds have very tiny natural ‘birthmarks’, called inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions are flaws within the diamond – tiny black, white, or colored spots, colored and uncolored crystals, and miniscule cracks. Blemishes are flaws on the diamond’s exterior, sometimes caused during the cutting and polishing process.
Inclusions and blemishes hamper the passage of light through the diamond, so the fewer and smaller the inclusions, the higher the quality of the diamond.
The two ends of the clarity grading scale are diamonds that are ‘eye clean’, which means that there are no inclusions or blemishes that can be seen with the naked eye, and diamonds with visible inclusions and blemishes.
From there, the clarity of a diamond is further broken down into subcategories.
The following is a list of the GIA official gradings:
FL – flawless: extremely rare
IF – internally flawless: extremely rare
VVS1 and VVS2 – very, very small inclusions (not easily seen by an experienced grader): very, very rare
VS1 and VS2 – very small inclusions: very rare
SI and S2 – small inclusions (noticeable to an experienced grader): rare
I1, I2, and I3 – imperfect (most commercially-traded diamonds belong to this category)
Most often, inclusions and blemishes cannot be seen without strong magnification, even by an experienced jeweler. They are usually miniscule imperfections that do not affect a diamond's sparkle or brilliance. The diamond’s cut is also important in this respect, because some flaws are more noticeable when positioned in specific areas.
Clarity is only one of the Four Cs that you should evaluate before you buy a diamond. We recommend that you take some time to understand more diamond basics before you start shopping.
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