Diamonds that are absolutely clear are the most sought-after and, therefore, the most expensive.
But many diamonds have inclusions, scratches, trace minerals or other tiny characteristics that can detract from the pure beauty of the diamond.
The GIA and AGSL use a comprehensive system of rules and standards to summarize the number, location, size, and type of inclusions present in a diamond.
IF - FL
Internally Flawless / Flawless – No internal or external imperfections.
Flawless diamonds are scarce.
If you see anything at all on diamonds with a Flawless clarity grade, you can be assured that it is merely dust.
Very Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS1 are not visible at all under 10x magnification.
These tiny pinpoints can only be seen under a powerful microscope.
Very Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS2 are sometimes just barely visible under 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe).
When they are visible, they are quite challenging to find and can often take quite a while to locate.
Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) – VS1 diamond clarity inclusions are just barely visible under 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe).
When looking for VS1 clarity inclusions with a loupe, it can sometimes take a good few seconds until the pinpoint is located.
Unlike VVS2 clarity inclusions, a microscope is never needed to locate a VS1.
As you can see here, a VS1 clarity inclusion is still quite small and will never be visible to the naked eye.
Very Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – VS2 clarity inclusions are almost always easily noticeable at 10x magnification (standard jeweler’s loupe).
Occasionally, the inclusion will be located in a difficult-to-spot location, but otherwise, the inclusion is large enough that it can be spotted quickly under magnification.
VS2 Clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.
The sample photo is somewhat of an extreme example.
We specifically looked for a VS2 that was black and in the center of the stone to more easily illustrate the size of a VS2 inclusion.
The inclusion in the sample photo might very well be visible to the naked eye as a result of it being black, in the center, and in an emerald cut (which do not mask inclusions at all).
Slightly Included (1st Degree) – SI1 Clarity inclusions are easily found with a standard jeweler’s loupe at 10x magnification.
With most shapes (to the exception of step cuts like Asscher and Emerald Cuts), SI1 clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.
As with the VS2 sample above, the diamond for the sample picture of an SI1 clarity inclusion is an extreme example chosen to show the maximum size and worst possible case of an SI1.
One must remember that a clarity grade can be based on many different inclusion points within a diamond.
It is less common (especially for SI1 and lower) that the clarity grade is based on one concentrated inclusion.
Usually, there are a number of smaller spots and clouds of tiny spots that make up the clarity grade.
In these cases, since each individual inclusion is tiny, the diamond looks clean to the naked eye.
Slightly Included (2nd Degree) – SI2 clarity inclusions are seen clearly and obviously with the help of a jeweler’s loupe.
With step cuts like Emerald and Asscher cuts, an SI2 clarity inclusion will most likely be visible to the naked eye.
With other brilliant shapes (basically all the different common shapes), an SI2 clarity inclusion will sometimes be clean to the naked eye.
As with the SI1 sample photo above, we specifically chose a concentrated black center inclusion to illustrate just how bad an SI2 can get.
A center black SI2 on an Emerald Cut is about as bad as an SI2 as there is.
As we mentioned above regarding an SI1, in most cases, the SI2 clarity grade is made up of several (or many) smaller inclusions.
In these cases, since the SI2 is spread out all over the stone, and not concentrated in any one area, the diamond is usually eye-clean.
Included (1st Degree) – I1 clarity inclusions are even more apparent and seen than SI2 clarity inclusions.
Most I1 inclusions are visible to the naked eye – even on brilliant cuts.
I1 clarity inclusions are so obviously visible on step cuts (Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts) that you rarely see them produced.
This is why the sample picture features a princess cut diamond and not a step cut.
Just because the sample picture is as hideous as it is doesn’t mean you can’t find an eye-clean beautiful I1 clarity diamond.
We show them here to show how bad each clarity grade can get.
How is diamond clarity graded?
Diamond graders evaluate clarity by looking at:
- Size: What size is the inclusion?
- Quantity: How many inclusions?
- Type: What kind of inclusion? Feathers, crystals, pinpoints, needles, and clouds are examples of different types of inclusions.- Color or Relief (reflectivity): How much does an inclusion stand out from the diamond?
- Placement: Where is the inclusion located within the diamond?
What is an "Eye Clean" Diamond?
"Eye clean" is a trade term that is used to describe diamonds that do not show inclusions without the aid of a loupe or microscope.
The term is a subjective one, as people will have varying vision levels and personal tolerances for inclusions.
Generally, we can call a stone “eye clean” when: no inclusions visible to the unaided eye when viewed from the face-up position in daylight equivalent or fluorescent lighting from approximately 6-12 inches from the eye using 20/20 vision.
Examples of inclusions
Price/quality ratio sweet spot
It is recommended to select an "eye-clean" diamond — one that has no inclusions visible to the unaided eye.
An excellent value, diamonds of this clarity are much less expensive than IF- or FL-grade diamonds and typically do not contain visible inclusions that detract from the beauty of the diamond.
If you're considering an SI grade diamond, call to speak to a diamond and jewelry consultant who will review the diamond to ensure the inclusions are not visible with the unaided eye.
But, if you'd rather not compromise on clarity yet are budget conscious, choose a diamond with a good cut and G or H color.