What is ‘clarity’ in diamond grading and why does it matter?
The ‘Four Cs’ are the keys to assessing a diamond’s quality and value. In this article, we’ll explain a little more about the role Clarity plays alongside Carat, Cut and Colour.
Clarity refers to a diamond’s inclusions – or imperfections – and is scored by GIA on a scale beginning with ‘Flawless’ (perfect) and finishing at ‘Included’ (I3 being the lowest score).
This chart illustrates the grading categories:
Clarity can play a significant role in the appearance and therefore price of a diamond. The most significant element of the chart is where diamonds tip from being ‘eye clean’ to being ‘visibly included’. This difference typically occurs at the SI1/SI2 grading area (SI meaning Slightly Included), although where the ‘tipping point’ between eye clean and not eye clean is also dependent on other factors, including the size of the stone, the cut, and where the inclusions occur.
While Van Bercken recommends only purchasing diamonds that are eye clean (as a rule we only stock eye clean and GIA_certified diamonds), there is a significant price difference between a diamond that is ‘just’ eye clean, and a Flawless or Internally Flawless diamond (where all other factors are the same).
The size and position of inclusions is important beyond whether they are simply eye clean, or their significant increased value for higher clarity diamonds, because inclusions may also impact long-term durability, or reduce translucency.
All inclusions are not created equal, so here’s a guide to the imperfections that you’re like to see on a GIA certificate:
Feathers are small cracks or fractures. They can be white, or even multi-colored, and usually occur when a diamond is formed, rather than during its cutting.
Pinpoints are small deposits of minerals. They can be solitary or found in clusters. Sometimes diamonds can serve as pinpoints, thereby making for a diamond within a diamond.
Clouds are where three or more pinpoints are gathered.
Internal Graining occurs when uneven, wave-like patterns result from a diamond’s growth.
Needles are thin, elongated crystals that look like tiny rods when magnified 10x.
While each of these sound like trouble, there is an art to identifying what (if any) impact they have on the specific diamond you are considering. This is where a qualified Gemmologist comes in handy – like our fully qualified GIA graders on staff at Van Bercken.
Some people place great stock in diamonds which are as close to Flawless as possible, and certainly these are rarer and more valuable. Other customers reason that as long as the inclusions do not affect the brilliance of the diamond and cannot be seen with the naked eye, then the price difference for, say a VVS1-clarity diamond above a, say SI1-clarity diamond cannot be justified. To each their own, but if you would like advice in selecting the perfect diamond for your budget, our fully qualified staff are more than happy to help and to share their extensive knowledge.