Clarity is a measure
of the number and extent of flaws in
the diamond. Generally speaking, the fewer the flaws,
the more valuable the diamond. Completely flawless (FL) diamonds
are extremely rare -- only a few hundred "FL"
diamonds are produced per year worldwide.
There are several grading systems
used to describe clarity. The most popular system is
the Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) scale,
which ranks diamonds as Flawless (FL), Internally Flawless
(IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS), Very Slightly
Included (VS), Slightly Imperfect (SI), and Imperfect (I):
||I1 I2 I3
Although seemingly subjective, the
GIA scale has specific criteria to
differentiate between the different grades:
FL: Completely flawless.
IF: Internally flawless--
only external flaws are present, which can be removed
by further polishing the stone.
VVS1 - VVS2: Only an
expert can detect flaws (inclusions) with a 10X microscope. By
definition, if an expert can see a flaw from the top
of the diamond, it is a VVS2. Otherwise, if an expert
can only detect flaws when viewing the bottom of the
stone, then it is a VVS1.
VS1 - VS2: You can see
flaws with a 10X microscope, but it takes a long time
(more than about 10 seconds).
SI1 - SI2: You can see
flaws with a 10X microscope.
I1 - I3: You can see
flaws with the naked eye. Consider avoiding I2-I3
There are many different types of
flaws. The best way to become acquainted with them is
to look at lots of diamonds. The more common ones are
Pinpoint: A very small white dot
on the surface of the stone-- by far, the most common
Carbons: A very small black dot on the surface of
the stone. Less common than pinpoints.
Feathers: Small cracks within the stone, similar in
look to broken glass. Small internal feathers are
harmless (other than lowering the clarity rating of
the diamond), but large feathers can become a problem
since the crack can grow as the diamond ages.
Clouds: Hazy areas within the diamond, actually made
up of many small crystals that are impossible to see
Crystal Growth: A small crystalline growth within
the diamond. Looks like a small diamond within the
Unfortunately, it is very difficult
for an inexperienced consumer to accurately judge a diamond's clarity.
Your best bet is to gain an education by asking a reputable
jeweler to show you a few diamonds under a microscope, until you
get a good feel for the differences. Ask your jeweler
to point out the flaws in several stones until you can
detect pinpoints and other flaws by yourself. Any jeweler
recommended by FindMyJeweler will be happy to assist you in
gaining this valuable education.
One pitfall to avoid when shopping
for clarity is the "clarity-enhanced" diamond.
Clarity-enhancement is an artificial process used to "fix"
flaws on an otherwise good stone. Although a clarity-enhanced
diamond can look nearly flawless (in some cases it
is impossible to detect the enhancement), it is intrinsically
worth as much as a flawed stone. Furthermore, the stone's durability
is nowhere that of a pure diamond. Be sure to confirm
with your jeweler that the stone you are considering
is not clarity-enhanced. Double-check
this fact on the GIA certificate. If you do not receive
a GIA certificate with your stone, ask the jeweler
to state on the appraisal that the diamond is not clarity-enhanced.
Clarity vs. Cut. If you're purchasing an emerald cut
(or any other step cut), consider purchasing a diamond
with clarity greater than SI1. Clarity flaws are much
more readily visible in step-cut stones than in brilliant-cut
stones such as the traditional round brilliant, marquise, or
People often make clarity the least
"important" of the 4 Cs when purchasing their
diamonds. The rationale is obvious -- when viewing the ring
with the naked eye, an SI1 diamond will look exactly the same as
a perfectly flawless FL stone.