Clarity – The 4 C’s of Diamond Shopping
Other than diamond color, clarity is the other most important factor in your diamond search. Clarity is a measure of how many discrete impurities there are inside your diamond. This is different than the impurities that cause coloring issues.
Remember that diamonds are created as a result of random interactions of carbon under great pressure and heat inside of the earth. When carbon is crushed and formed into a diamond, impurities can either bond to the molecules throughout the diamond affecting it’s color, or separate from the diamond and become lodged as a discrete piece of matter inside the diamond. Instead of affecting the color of the diamond, these specks inside of a diamond can be seen as visible flecks of opaque matter. The result is something that looks a lot like dust suspended in ice. See below for jewelers assessments of the defects and flaws (also known as inclusions) for both a low clarity and high clarity diamond.
Like other factors affecting a diamond’s price, getting a top of the line absolutely clear diamond is EXPENSIVE. But don’t despair. You can still buy a great diamond without getting a flawless diamond. Lets dive into the grades in the clarity scale a bit more.
- Included (I1, I2, I3) – It’s great to be included right?!?! Haha. Yes it is. However its not great to include debris inside your diamond, which is what “included” means in this context. Anyway, just ignore these diamonds. Don’t buy them unless you’re trying to reinforce the tip to a mining drill or something.
- Slightly Included (SI1, SI2) – These are diamonds that may show “inclusions” or flaws that are visible to the naked eye. My personal opinion is that you should ignore these diamonds too, but in some rare cases when budgets are tight and the inclusions are not too noticeable, it may be a decent buy.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2) – In my opinion, you should start your diamond search in this clarity range. In these clarity grades, diamonds are more or less “visible eye” clean, but you may be able to spot some flaws with a jewelers eye. For practical purposes these are great diamonds to put on an engagement ring.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2) – In my opinion, these are the best value clarity grades. You can buy a diamond that your partner could wear their whole life, and never see a flaw. If they trained with a jewelers eye for a considerable period of time, they may be able to spot some flaws under a 10x magnification.
TL;DR, buy VVS1 & VVS2 diamonds! They are great value for money.
- Internally Flawless (IF) – These are diamonds that have no internal inclusions, and may have some surface level flaw. Once you start getting into this category, the diamonds start getting very expensive, while from a practical point of view they don’t offer much more than a VVS diamond. Buy if budget is no consideration.
- Flawless (FL) – These diamonds have no internal or external flaws. If you can buy one that meets all your other criteria, congratulations. You’re much better off than me, and probably 90% of all engagement ring shoppers! Again, only buy if budget is no consideration.
- For most diamond buyers, a VVS or VS clarity diamonds are great values, and will be clear to the normal eye. Limit your search to diamonds of this grade.
- SI and I grade diamonds are not suitable for engagement rings. Opt for a smaller diamond of greater clarity if your budget allows.
- IF and FL diamonds are much too expensive and offer no (practical) benefits over VVS or VS diamonds. Most engagement ring buyers can ignore these diamond grades while shopping.
- If budget is not a concern, then stop reading this page and contact me to be your personal diamond shopping concierge! (LOL)