Diamonds – Clarity Explained

By Dirk Rendel

This time, we’re going to be looking at a magical thing called “Clarity.” If you don’t know what the word clarity means, it basically means “clearness.” But don’t think that this is Color. That isn’t the kind of clear I’m talking about. By clear, we’re discussing an absence of flaws. So let’s hop in already and see what this whole clarity thing is all about.

In diamond lingo, the flaws that might be present in any given diamond are known as “inclusions.” Put simply, a diamond’s clarity is the term for the amount of imperfections that may be present on your diamond. Imperfections on the surface are known as blemishes, while the imperfections inside the diamond are, you guessed it, inclusions.

Now, before you start becoming a diamond snob and turn your nose up at any flawed diamond, keep in mind that most diamonds are indeed filled with inclusions. After all, they’re pieces of carbon that have been smashed down by the earth’s pressure. Do you think that might have an effect on your stones? At any rate, the inclusions can be many things but, often, they’re several things. Cracks are often found inside diamonds, as are bubbles of air. The surface area of most diamonds also often have scratches, pits, and any number of superficial damage. Sometimes a crummy diamond cutter will make some lovely man-made blemish, just to show nature that we can do it better and faster.

If you haven’t noticed yet, there seems to be a grading system for each and every part of a diamond’s potential worth. But don’t fret, my friends. We can make sense of it all and come out better at the end.

F- Okay, so when you grade diamonds on their clarity, you begin with the top notch, the highest possible grade. This grade is known as “flawless” and includes all diamonds that don’t have any blemishes or inclusions. Think of it as the “mint condition” of baseball cards and you’ve got the right idea. But rare is the baseball card, no matter how minty, that can compare to the price of a true flawless diamond. Flawless diamonds are so rare that you’ll likely never even see one, much less be able to afford one. But don’t worry, there are quite a few lower tiers of diamond quality that should more than suffice.

IF- Whereas the “F” stands for “flawless”, IF stands for “internally flawless”. Put simply, the inside is flawless but there are minute flaws on the surface. But internally flawless diamonds are also very rare. Not as rare as flawless, naturally, but you’ll still be paying quite a premium for these babies.

VVS- This grade stands for “very very slightly included”. Yes, diamond experts love redundancy and to further illustrate that point, diamond graders divide this category still further, into VVS1 and VVS2. Very very slightly included 1 is a bit better than very very slightly included 2, but both are absolutely fantastic choices. They have the smallest of imperfections that you can only spot if you have a microscope, and even then you’ll have trouble locating them.

VS – Just a notch under VVS is VS. Again, there are two tiers: VS1 and VS2. Like VVS, you won’t be able to see these imperfections without a microscope but they will be easier to spot than VVS. Still, this applies to diamond experts and an untrained person may still not be able to find these imperfections.

SI- SI stands for “slightly included” and, like VS, they come in two grades, SI1 and SI2. With a microscope set at 10x magnification, you can spot these a bit easier but, again, the naked eye can’t even detect these imperfections.

I- “I” stands for “included” and, this time, there are 3 grades. I1, I2, and I3. These diamonds do have flaws that can be seen with the naked eye and, generally, it is recommended that you don’t buy any of these diamonds.

So what should you buy? Well, essentially your only real options are VVS and VS. Flawless and internally flawless will probably be well out of your price range and the “I” range is something your really should stay away from. The “SI” grouping can often have good choices, though, and they are known as “eye clean” because the naked eye can’t discern any real flaws.

So now we’ve got the field narrowed down a bit. We can choose between VS or VVS, and then within each one we can choose the number one or number two rating of clarity. And here it comes down to what you’re willing to spend. Let’s assume we’re going with an Ideal cut and we don’t know if we want VS or VVS. With that in mind, we can assume that a VVS 1, the best VVS, can easily cost an arm and a leg. Diamond prices fluctuate daily but this is definitely going to hold true throughout time. So that’s the VVS1. Now the VVS2, one notch lower but in the same clarity range, can be up to 20% less when every other factor is equivalent. Quite a drop for the same clarity grade, don’t you think?

And yet it gets better. The VS1, the best of the very slightly included range, can likely net you a further drop in price, meaning it should be quite a bit more affordable for an ideal cut. And then, of course, the VS2 is a further drop. So when you look at it, a VVS1 can conceivably cost you thousands more over the price of a VS2. And virtually nobody will be able to tell the difference, especially with the naked eye.

And since we want to put all the factors together in diamond buying to make sure that every facet is to your liking, don’t you think it makes sense to save money on this “C” and spend more on cut, or color, or virtually any other aspect of the purchase?




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