What is Diamond Clarity?

Diamonds are without a doubt some of the most beautiful naturally occurring objects on earth. With every gem stone taking millions of years to form, each resulting diamond is truly unique, with subtle but important differences that help determine their value and radiance, both of which dictate one of the most important traits of any diamond: clarity.

The Different Grades of Diamond Clarity

Clarity is defined under a specific set of parameters that are known to any jeweller. This diamond clarity chart is ranked as follows:

  • Flawless (abbreviated as FL or IF)
  • Very, very slightly included (VVS1 or VVS2)
  • Very slightly included (VS1 or VS2)
  • Slightly included (Sl1 or Sl2)
  • Included (I1, I2 or I3)

“Flawless” diamonds have no external or internal flaws and as such are the most sought after, highest valued stones available.

“Very, very slightly included” diamonds have defects, however these are considered small enough that detection under 10X magnification is difficult. 

The diamond rank of “Very slightly included” refers to stones with defects that are difficult to spot with the naked eye.

Stones which fall under “Slightly included” on the diamond chart will have imperfections that can be scrutinised with the naked eye.

“Included diamonds” are those with the most internal and external flaws. 

Diamond grading allows for the most valuable diamonds to be discerned, and with flawless stones being both the rarest and most desired, prices will often reflect this. An example can be seen below:

The Types of Flaws Found Within Diamonds

In general, there are two types of flaws commonly found within a diamond. These are:

  • Inclusions
  • Blemishes

An inclusion is defined as a naturally occurring material (such as another mineral) that is locked within the diamond itself. Cracks and air bubbles are also grouped into this category. Blemishes are issues on the surface of the diamond alone including pits or scratches.

There exist other specific flaws which can likewise affect diamond clarity and how it will ultimately be graded:

Crystals can sometimes occur when the diamond is forming. These can be black (carbon), red (garnet) or green (peridot). There are even instances when another smaller diamond will form within its larger host. 

Clouds are another type of inclusion. These are smaller crystals that can make the diamond appear "hazy" when light is shined through. If these are diffused throughout the rock, most jewellers will not view clouds as a cause for great concern.

Needles are thin inclusions within the surface of the diamond. Depending upon their length and location, they may dramatically affect how the stone is graded.

Chips tend to be man-made defects. These are usually caused by the normal wear and tear of the diamond over the years. Chips can range from minor pitting to a very noticeable crack. Once again, the size and location of the chip will impact its ultimate grading. Chips are often easily discernible by the naked eye, as in the below example.

Diamond Clarity and Buying Options

As suggested by the extensiveness of the diamond clarity chart, the highest diamond rank of “Flawless” is therefore the highest in terms of price. Many consumers instead opt for stones with slight inclusions (Sl1, Sl2 or Sl3) which, beyond the grading of diamond charts, are suitable quality for many common jewellery applications. This is also an excellent alternative for anyone who desires a larger stone without hampering their budget. Those who are concerned about imperfections which can be visible to the naked eye should instead choose diamonds with very slight inclusions (VS1, VS2).

To learn more about clarity, carats, cuts and colours, please have visit our diamonds resource page. 

Other diamond quality factors: