The Four Cs: Clarity Grading

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) created the first, and now globally accepted standard for describing diamonds: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight.

The creation of the Four Cs meant two very important things: diamond quality could be communicated in a universal language, and diamond customers could now know exactly what they were about to purchase.

In this article we take a comprehensive look at Clarity Grading. If you prefer a more condensed version please check out our: “The Four Cs: An Overview” article.

In this article we take a comprehensive look at Clarity Grading. One of the 4Cs that make up a diamond's value.

Clarity grading is done with a loupe or microscope under 10X magnification.

When we talk about diamond clarity we actually refer to the absence of inclusions and blemishes in the particular diamond in question.

Natural diamonds are the result of carbon exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth. This process can result in a variety of internal characteristics called ‘inclusions’ and external characteristics called ‘blemishes.’

An internal carbon-spot "inclusion" on left vs a surface scratch "blemish" on right.

An internal carbon-spot “inclusion” on left vs a surface scratch “blemish” on right

Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these characteristics, as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone.

While no diamond is perfectly pure, the closer it comes, the higher its value. Together, inclusions and blemishes make up a diamond’s clarity characteristic.

Blemishes usually only affect the clarity grade in the top two categories (Flawless and Internally Flawless), whereas inclusions affect all grades.

Both inclusions and blemishes appear in a diamond at different stages of a diamond’s formation. Inclusions may be present from a diamond’s creation, whereas blemishes may appear during cutting, setting, or even the wearing of a diamond.

Both of these clarity characteristics can dim the brilliance of a diamond, though some are so minute that they are invisible to the naked eye.

GIA’s clarity grading system is made up of eleven diamond clarity grades – terms used worldwide by jewelers and consumers alike

GIA’s clarity grading system is made up of eleven diamond clarity grades – terms used worldwide by jewelers and consumers alike:

FLAWLESS (FL)

No inclusions and no blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

INTERNALLY FLAWLESS (IF)

No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED (VVS1 AND VVS2)

No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED (VVS1 AND VVS2)

Minute inclusions that range from extremely difficult to very difficult to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

VERY SLIGHTLY INCLUDED (VS1 AND VS2)

Minor inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

SLIGHTLY INCLUDED (SI1 AND SI2)

Noticeable inclusions that range from easy to very easy to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification

INCLUDED (I1, I2, AND I3)

Obvious inclusions are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance.

Many inclusions and blemishes are too tiny to be seen by anyone other than a trained diamond grader. In some cases, a diamond can have a flawless clarity, or a total absence of any blemish or inclusion.

Since rarity and value are related, a diamonds with a flawless clarity are incredibly rare and thus, the most valuable of all diamonds.

Flawless diamonds are very rare – so rare, that it’s possible for a jeweler to spend a lifetime in the industry without ever seeing one.

But always keep in mind that two diamonds of equal clarity can have very different values (and prices) depending on three other factors within the 4Cs: carat-weightcolor, and cut.

We hope you found this article helpful in getting an overall sense of  how Clarity affects the quality and subsequently the cost of a diamond. However, should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask Our Jeweller” 

Source: The Gemological Institute of America

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If you’re hungry for even more information on diamond clarity grading be sure to check out our video-post! (it was produced by The Gemological Institute of America)

You may also enjoy this “interactive application on The Four Cs.

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