Diamond clarity is a key component in the grading, evaluating, and pricing of colorless diamonds. It also has a significant impact on the beauty and sparkle of a diamond. Every natural diamond has some level of inclusions, which is a key difference between lab created and mined diamonds. However, not every inclusion is visible to the naked eye, i.e. too small to view without magnification.
What is diamond clarity?
The term diamond clarity indicates the extent to which a diamond lacks physical and chemical inclusions. This is important because a diamond with too many or too intrusive inclusions will have decreased brilliance and beauty, making the stone less appealing and less valuable.
Such inclusions usually occur during the natural formation of the stone but can sometimes be man-made during the cutting and polishing process too.
- IF - Internally flawless diamonds. This is the highest clarity grade a diamond can be given. It means that even under an x10 magnification the stone is completely clear of any blemishes and inclusions.
- FL – Flawless diamonds. Similar to IF, FL is also clear of any inclusions at x10 magnification which is why some institutes combine the two grades. According to the GIA grading, there are some minor differences between IF and FL diamonds but none of them are visible to the naked eye.
- VVS1 & VVS2 – Very very slightly included diamonds. These two grades are may sometimes show miniscule inclusions barely visible under x10 magnification. VVS1 is a step higher than VVS2 but both are still eye-clear and highly valued clarity grades.
- VS1 & VS2 – Very slightly included diamonds. The inclusions in diamonds of these two grades also require x10 magnification but are much easier to spot. Under specific conditions, some VS2 diamonds may have inclusions noticeable to the naked eye.
- SI1 & SI2 – Slightly included diamonds. Here inclusions are easy to spot with an x10 magnification and are usually noticeable to the naked eye. Even when their inclusions are not directly seen their effect in the decrease of the stone’s brilliance is noticeable. Nevertheless, even in these grades, you can find stones that look good with the right cut and color grade.
- I1, I2 & I3 – Included diamonds. These grades always have noticeable inclusions. I2 and I3 are almost never sold for jewelry purposes and few vendors offer even I1 diamonds. Still, if you look through enough I1 diamonds you can sometimes find a budget-friendly I1 stone that looks good with a specific cut, color, and ring setting.
Which diamond clarity grade should you choose?
The higher you go on the clarity scale the better the quality is but the prices rise exponentially as well. For most people, the IF, FL, VVS1, and even VVS2 grades tend to be unnecessarily expensive with few noticeable differences between these grades.
The clarity grades that offer the best trade off between beauty and value are the VS and SI grades. These often look equal to diamonds with higher clarity grades. Instead of focusing on the clarity grade per se, it’s best to look for a visually clean diamond, regardless of the grade.