Demystifying The Clarity of Your Diamond
Lab-grown diamonds come in many different colors, shapes, sizes, and grades. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a lab-grown diamond is its clarity grade, but for many people, clarity can also be one of the most confusing aspects of the 4C’s of diamonds.
I hope this blog will help you dispel the clarity grading process, so you understand how to choose the right lab-grown diamond for your dream engagement ring.
What is diamond clarity?
Diamond clarity is the absence of imperfections such as blemishes and inclusions. The more “pure” a diamond is, the higher the clarity grade. The size, position, and visibility of imperfections called inclusions will significantly impact a diamond’s clarity.
Clarity refers to how well light reflects or bounces off the stone’s surface. A flawless lab-grown diamond has no imperfections that will affect the way your diamond interacts with the light.
Do lab-grown diamonds have inclusions?
Lab-grown diamonds do have inclusions like natural diamonds do. However, since lab-grown diamonds are human-made, their inclusions are formed differently.
High-pressure, high-temperature diamonds (HPHT) are lab-grown diamonds created in a molten metallic solution so they can have metallic inclusions, something that does not happen to natural diamonds.
Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) lab-grown diamonds do not have metallic inclusions but may include graphite or mineral inclusions due to their formation process.
The GIA’s 4C’s of Lab-Grown Diamonds are unique and can be found here.
How are blemishes and inclusions formed in diamonds?
Natural diamonds are created under immense heat and pressure deep within the earth. While the diamonds are forming, tiny crystals can get trapped in the diamond. These crystals can cause irregularities in the diamond’s structure as they grow. As a result of this process, each diamond will have unique features and qualities. Like a snowflake or a fingerprint, each diamond is one-of-kind!
This same natural process is mimicked in a laboratory but at a much faster rate – 6 months rather than billions of years! Because the same chemical process is used to form the diamond, similar inclusions and blemishes can form. However, most lab-grown diamonds have higher clarity grades due to the fact that they are grown in a controlled laboratory rather than naturally. You also pay less of a premium for higher clarity lab-grown diamonds because of this. However, lab-grown diamonds do have inclusions. A keen eye for clarity is just as important when choosing the right lab-grown diamond for you, to make sure it has all the brilliance and sparkle you are looking for!
Why Clarity Feels So Complicated
Clarity is the most complicated and least straightforward of the 4C’s. This is because three factors dictate clarity:
- The type of inclusions
- The placement of inclusions
- The quantity of inclusions
It’s the compounding variables of these three qualities that play into the clarity grade of your diamond. No two diamonds, whether they are natural or lab-grown, can EVER have the exact same clarity map, even if they fall into the same clarity grade category, because they will always have a different number and type of inclusions. Even if the inclusions are similar, the placement will vary!
In my opinion, this is what makes understanding clarity so complex.
What is a diamond inclusion vs. a blemish?
A diamond inclusion is an internal characteristic, while a diamond blemish is an external or surface characteristic. No diamond is entirely pure, but when searching for your diamond, you will want to find something as free of imperfections as possible to optimize the return of light, enhancing how your diamond sparkles!
How is diamond clarity graded?
The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is the most trusted source of diamond quality standards. They created the 4C’s of diamonds, including cut, color, carat, and clarity.
The GIA grades lab-grown diamonds using the same 4C’s method to assess the quality of natural diamonds.
The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale includes six categories. Some of these categories include sub-categories, so in total, there are 11 very specific diamond grades.
- Flawless (FL) No inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification
- Internally Flawless (IF) No inclusions visible under 10x magnification
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) Inclusions so slight they are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) Inclusions are observed with effort under 10x magnification but can be characterized as minor
- Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) Inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification
- Included (I1, I2, and I3) Inclusions are detectable under 10x magnification which may affect transparency and brilliance
You can take a look at the interactive GIA Clarity Chart here.
Types of inclusions
Not all inclusions are created equal!
Certain types of diamond inclusions are more offensive than others, and they are formed in different ways.
The different types of inclusions include:
Hair-like inclusions often formed during the bruting process.
Hazy, reflective lines that are often caused by crystal growth.
A deep opening in the diamond’s surface.
Minerals within the diamond.
A cluster of crystals formed close together.
A small crack or fracture in a diamond.
A long, thin inclusion (like a needle).
White or black crystals found in the diamond. These tend to be the least intrusive inclusions.
A combination of several inclusion types like pinpoints, crystals, feathers, and clouds.
A small opening in the stone. Typically man-made during the setting or polishing process.
A “dip” at the girdle of the diamond
That’s a lot of info….
So what’s really important when it comes to diamond inclusion types?
The inclusions I encourage my clients to look out for most are cavities and knots.
Cavities can be formed accidentally during polishing, or they may represent a void where a crystal fell out. Cavities tend to be dark in color versus feathers that are light in color and often less visible and bothersome. Cavities are one of the worst inclusions because they typically reach the surface of the diamond. A cavity can act like a jagged edge or a tiny opening in the stone. If the stone takes a hit from normal wear and tear during everyday use, it could become a more significant cavity or cause chipping or damage.
Knots are crystal inclusions that are also problematic! Diamonds that have a knot inclusion are almost always assigned a lower clarity grade because they are typically visible to the naked eye.
Placement of inclusions
Typically you want the clarity of the inclusion to be internally contained. You don’t want them to extend or reach out to the surface.
But what you REALLY want to know is, “what’s the WORST spot for an inclusion?”
When a diamond inclusion is right at the center of your stone, underneath the table, it will be the most obvious and likely have the most significant impact on the appearance of your diamond. Even if your diamond is flawless in every other way, the inclusion at the center of your stone will be hard to miss.
Quantity of inclusions
The number of inclusions within a diamond is probably the most straightforward part of a diamond’s clarity grade. The number of inclusions is simply the count of total inclusions (of any type) within the diamond. Typically, the fewer inclusions, the higher the diamond’s clarity grade will be!
How was clarity graded before the GIA’s diamond grade scale?
Just like the other 4C’s of Diamond Quality, clarity was graded very loosely in the past. Jewelers used subjective terms that were easily misinterpreted, such as “piqued” and “loupe clean.” The GIA grading scale offers a consistent, common “language” for jewelers and consumers to communicate clarity more readily.
How to determine if your diamond is “eye clean.”
Analyze The GIA or IGI Report
Take a good look at the GIA or IGI clarity report for the diamond you are considering.
I always recommend getting familiar with the report and to know the type of inclusions and the placement.
Loupe the diamond with a professional. What does this mean? You may have seen that neat tool jewelers use to look closely at jewelry. This is called a loupe! Request your jeweler to let you inspect the diamond under magnification to determine if the diamond is “eye clean.”
Here’s what I do with my clients:
- First, I identify the inclusions under a loupe.
- Next, I hand them the diamond and give them the loupe.
- As they look through the loupe, I explain what they should see, such as, “you’ll notice a black scuff mark in the upper left-hand corner of the diamond.”
- Once they can find it under magnification, I remove the loupe.
- They look at the diamond without magnification. Their eyes will automatically gravitate toward where that inclusion is.
- If they can still see it, the diamond is NOT eye-clean. But, if they cannot pick it up without magnification, it is genuinely eye-clean. In my opinion, this is the best check!
No matter what clarity grade you choose, your diamond should be “eye clean” because you don’t want the inclusions to be visible to the naked or an untrained eye.
Insider Tip: Ask your jeweler to point out a few easy-to-identify inclusions under magnification. This can be an empowering way to KNOW your diamond and can give you a sense of security anytime you bring your diamond in for repairs or cleaning so you know without a doubt that YOUR diamond has been returned to you.
How does clarity impact the price of a diamond?
As with any of the 4C’s for lab-grown diamonds, the higher the clarity grade, the higher the price point in most cases. However, the other 3C’s are additional factors that will influence the quality of a diamond and, therefore, the final cost.
All of the 4C’s work together and should be balanced to optimize your budget and get the diamond of your dreams!
Looking for more support?
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