The best diamond clarity might be one of the hardest things to consider when shopping for an engagement ring. Many men automatically assume that the highest clarity is the best and will sacrifice other factors to obtain a “flawless” diamond. The truth is, for the untrained eye, most diamonds look almost the same face-up regardless of their clarity grade.
Diamond Clarity Overview
The clarity of a diamond is determined by the presence of internal imperfections that form naturally in the diamond. Mistaken as flaws, these imperfections are more like birthmarks and can be very important when it comes to identifying your diamond.
The most widely used diamond clarity grading system was originally developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This system uses eleven different grades to describe the presence (or lack) of clarity characteristics in a diamond (more info).
FL or IF – Flawless or internally flawless
VVS1 or VVS2 – Very Very slightly included (VVS1 being better than VVS2)
VS1 or VS2 – Very slightly included (VS1 being better than VS2)
SI1 or SI2 – Slightly included (SI1 being better than SI2)
I1, I2 or I3 – Included (I1 being the best of the 3)
Important Factors when Selecting a Diamond Clarity
Choosing a diamond clarity is much more complicated than selecting a diamond color or even a diamond cut. There are five factors that go into determining a diamond clarity grade. While there may be specific instances when a single factor carries more weight, the clarity grade is usually the combined effect of these five factors:
Size: As it indicates, the size refers to how big or small a clarity characteristic is. The size of the clarity characteristic is also relative to the size of the diamond. Consider two diamonds with the same size characteristic, one is 3 carats, the other a half carat. The smaller diamond will have a lower grade than the larger diamond because of the relative size.
In some cases, the size of an inclusion can be so large that it affects the durability of the diamond. A large inclusion that affects the durability of a diamond will have a negative impact on the clarity grade.
Number: Simple enough, this refers to how many clarity characteristics are present. Diamonds with more clarity characteristics often have a lower clarity grade.
Position: This refers to the location of the clarity characteristic and matters because it can have an impact on how easy it is to see the inclusion. If the clarity characteristic is under the table (in the middle of the diamond), it would be more obvious than one near the edge.
Likewise, the position of the clarity characteristic can impact the durability of the diamond. Inclusions on the edge of the stone could be a problem for a jeweler when the diamond is being set.
Nature: The nature of the clarity characteristic is important because it considers the type of inclusion and how it affects the durability of the diamond.
Relief: Also called color, the relief affects the visibility of the clarity characteristic. For example, a white or colorless inclusion will be harder to spot than one that is black or dark in color.
Diamond Clarity With Best Value
Taking the five factors into consideration, you can easily find a diamond with a clarity grade SI1 to SI2 for a great value. Even though these are described as having noticeable inclusions, the untrained eye will likely see no difference between these diamonds and those of higher clarity grade.
Diamonds graded as I1 are also a great buy in most cases. With a keen eye and the right approach, you can find an incredible diamond at a great price.
What is important to look for is that the inclusions are relatively small in proportion to the size of the diamond and light in color. They should also be in a good position so that they are neither visible to the naked eye or in a location that could affect the diamond’s durability (further reading).
Lower Clarity Offers Better Bang For your Buck
To get the most bang for your buck, look for diamonds in the I1 to I3 range. Often, these diamonds sell at significant discounts because of their low clarity grade but can give the shopper an opportunity to get a large diamond that he may otherwise be unable to afford.
Compare a 1/3 carat VS1 clarity to a 1 carat I2 clarity, for what may be the same price, you’ll make a much bigger impression with the larger diamond.
Diamond Clarity Can Be Fun
Choosing a diamond clarity requires great skill and effort. But, it can be fun too. Many diamond clarity characteristics are unique in shape, appearance or type. Photographs have been taken of diamonds that have characteristics that look like animals, zodiac signs or letters of the alphabet.
Above all, it is important to remember that clarity characteristics are like fingerprints for a diamond. When you select a diamond, take the time to look at it under magnification and remember where your characteristics are located. Most certified diamonds are accompanied by a diamond plot, which shows exactly where inclusions can be found.
Diamond clarity characteristics are useful when it comes to identifying your diamond. You can be comfortable leaving your diamond engagement ring with a jeweler to be sized, knowing you’ll get your exact diamond back, because you know what to look for.
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