Whether your stone is crystal clear or has noticeable inclusions in it, clarity is the grading system that helps us understand how clean a diamond is.
- Avoid high clarity grades (i.e. VVS1 / VVS2, IF, FL) as the cost of a diamond rises considerably as you move towards the flawless end of the spectrum.
- For the best use of budget, start your search in the clarity range of ‘Very Slightly Included’ and ‘Slightly Included’ (i.e. SI2, SI1, VS2, VS1).
- Focus exclusively on getting a diamond that is “clean” to the naked eye (“eye clean”). This means no noticeable inclusions can be seen. > See our eye clean guide for more tips.
- Never purchase a diamond with I1 / I2 / I3 clarity grade as the inclusions are prominent and not worth the cost savings.
- Take advantage of inclusions positioned on the diamonds outer edge. These diamonds are less expensive and the inclusion itself can be hidden by the prong of the setting.
A Diamond’s Clarity Grade Is All About Inclusions
Second in importance after Cut, diamond clarity refers to the degree to which a diamond is free from inclusions. If you’re just getting started, inclusions are naturally occurring imperfections found within diamonds. The most easy to spot inclusions show up as a black crystals within a diamond. Since inclusions take away from the visual effect of the diamond, it makes sense that the more inclusions found within a diamond, the poorer the clarity grade. Likewise, the FEWER the inclusions, the better the clarity grade.
Like all things in nature, imperfections come in all shapes and sizes. Because of this, diamonds are evaluated in a lab and given a ‘clarity grade’ based on the presence, size, type and location of these inclusions. Diamond clarity grade (in most cases) is a good representation of what the diamond will look like and so diamond prices are affected by clarity grade. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the clarity grade, the higher the price.
The Different Clarity Grades of Diamonds
Diamond clarity grades range from
Internally Flawless (IF),
Very Very Slightly Included (VVS),
Very Slightly Included (VS),
Slightly Included (SI) and
Included (I). Within each of these ranges, additional grading exists to help identify if a diamond is on the high side of the range or the low side.
For example, consider a Very Very Slightly Included (VVS) stone. Within the VVS range, diamonds can be given a grade of either VVS1 or VVS2, the better of the two being VVS1. To the untrained eye of a consumer, there’s no real difference; But to a trained gemologist viewing the stone under magnification, the inclusions in the VVS1 will be less apparently and hence the superior grade.
The figure below gives a good visual representation of the different clarity grades.
Not All Inclusions are Created Equally
No two diamonds are alike. The same can also be said for inclusions. Because diamonds can have differing types and placements of inclusions, and also varying degrees of inclusions, two diamonds with the same clarity grade can look drastically different.
Have a look at the two real diamond images above. The diamond on the left is an eye clean SI2 from James Allen. The one of the right, also an SI2 from James Allen, is littered with inclusions and definitely not eye clean. Both stones are graded SI2 meaning their price will be similar. Because the diamond on the left has far less visible inclusions, it’s a smarter buy. The above is a great example where spending a bit of extra time combing through SI clarity diamonds can net you a great eye-clean diamond without the extra budget!
Already Have a Clarity Grade in Mind?
Many of our readers who reach out to us for recommendations already have a clarity grade in mind. In many cases, the clarity grade they’re targeting is higher than what is actually needed to get an eye clean diamond. As an example, we get a lot of readers looking for VVS1/VVS2 stones who feel they need to set a large budget to achieve this. If you’re in a similar situation where you have a high clarity grade in mind, consider taking the time to explore diamonds from each of the other clarity grades. This will help you get familiar with the variations of inclusions across the clarity range. What you may find is that although you are targeting a VVS1 clarity grade, you see several VS1 clarity grade diamonds that look the same as your VVS1 diamond. You will likely even find a SI1 diamond that shares the same clean look at your intended VVS1. This becomes an opportunity to get a lower clarity grade, save on budget, and all without comprising on the look and performance of your diamond.
Clicking on any of the image will bring up the actual stone.
Learn About Clarity … and then Forget About It!
Once you understand all about diamond clarity grades, you’ve successfully developed an understanding that will allow you to easily navigate diamond websites. At this point, put diamond clarity aside and focus exclusively on identifying eye clean diamonds. This ensures that you are paying for a diamond that is clear of inclusions to the naked eye and not paying for a classification on paper.
The Importance of Real Diamond Images and 360 videos
Diamonds garner a lot of attention so it’s important to make sure it looks great from every angle. Diamond retailers have made this incredible easy by offering high resolution images of actual diamonds and, more importantly, 360 degree views of in-house diamonds. These tools are extremely valuable for shoppers by enabling you to inspect your diamond from every angle and evaluate the degree of clarity. Inclusions which might go unseen in a diamond image are brought to light when viewed in 360.
Standard Diamond Image
From this head on angle, there do not appear to be any inclusions
For more, check out our 360-degree diamond image buying guide that provides more depth and examples.