What does diamond clarity mean?

Looking to buy a diamond or piece of diamond jewelry? Find out what different types of diamond clarity mean.

People buying diamond jewelry expect the gemstone to be flawless. However, diamonds come from underground mines, where the gems formed billions of years ago from carbon exposed to extreme heat and pressure in the earth’s mantle.

The natural process results in exterior features gemologists call blemishes (external) and inclusions (internal).

Determining diamond clarity depends on the number, position, nature, relief, and size of the blemishes and inclusions and how they affect the stone’s overall appearance. The low amount of internal and external characteristics makes the diamond pure, which improves the stone’s clarity.

Diamond clarity 

In the jewelry world, diamond clarity refers to the qualitative measurement system which grades the diamond’s visual appearance. Graders give higher clarity grades to stones with more minor blemishes and inclusions.

The diamond’s clarity significantly affects the price of the stone. But most imperfections affecting the clarity grade are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, associations such as the American Gem Society (AGS) and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed the clarity chart for diamonds to rank diamonds according to their visual appearance and gave each one a clarity grade based on a predetermined scale.

The GIA diamond clarity scale

The GIA provides six categories in their diamond clarity chart, which are further divided into 11 grades, as follows:

  • Flawless. This has no blemishes or inclusions that can be seen at 10 times magnification.
  • Internally Flawless. This has no inclusion under 10 times magnification.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included. The inclusions are so tiny that skilled graders have difficulty seeing them under 10 times magnification.
  • Very Slightly Included. With some effort under 10 times magnification, graders see minor inclusions.
  • Slightly Included. The graders can notice the inclusion at 10 times magnification.
  • Included. Under 10 times magnification, the inclusions are obvious.

How do graders determine diamond clarity?

Perfect diamonds are scarce. Most diamonds in the market have some blemishes and inclusions, which occurred during their formation. Expert graders check the appearance of a diamond face up under the microscope at 10x magnification.

In grading diamonds, experts use five factors to determine clarity.

  1. Size. This refers to the size of the inclusions, which affects the stone’s visual appearance.
  2. Nature. This refers to the inclusions graders can see in the stone and the depth of their location within. This aspect likewise covers the other characteristics of the inclusions. 
  3. Number. Graders consider the number of inclusions they find inside the stone, as the quantity affects its clarity and appearance.  
  4. Location. The inclusion’s place within the diamond affects the clarity grade. Those that are closer to the center of the table are more visible.
  5. Relief. This refers to how noticeable the inclusions appear compared to the stone. Relief provides contrast, and when it is higher, it can give the diamond a darker color, affecting its grade.

Experts say that while it is necessary to understand the 4Cs of diamonds, do not look for a flawless one. A stone with a lower clarity grade will still look beautiful since the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.