Every diamond in a jewelry store has a certain quality about it.
But Are they correct?
The image to the right is an I2 clarity.
Would you have know that?
Let’s take a look an SI1 clarity diamond (pictured directly below). You know it’s an SI1 because the salesperson tells you it is. That information was probably taken off the tag. But if the salesperson didn’t tell you the actual clarity, would you be able to tell?
You see, listening to a salesperson tell you what the clarity is, and really knowing and understanding it, are two totally different things. To understand clarity, you must microscope the diamond and look at the inclusions yourself.
Imperfections and blemishes tend to take on a whole new meaning up close.
What about a VS compared to SI?
Being able to tell what a clarity rating should be, will not only help you decide upon the right diamond to buy, but it will also show you if what the jeweler is saying is correct.
And that’s a big plus.
Jewelers could be telling you a diamond is an SI1, when in fact, it could be an I1. Would you know the difference? It’s almost scary to think about.
Take a look at the examples given below.
See if you can guess the correct clarity of each diamond. There are 9 images of diamond plots, they represent all different types of clarities. Those clarities will either be VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, or I3.
I won’t tell you how many of each group are shown – I don’t want to make it too easy…. (yeah right!)
Good luck on choosing the correct clarity (write your answers down so you can check them afterwards).
Not easy is it?
Only one of the images shown above is a VS1 clarity (#7), all the rest are either SI or I clarity.
With so many differences in the stones, you can see how it gets very difficult to judge if a clarity is high or low (even with only 7 clarities to choose from).
Fact is, most diamonds are rated by where the inclusions fall within the stone, how close to the center they are, and if they are hidden underneath the facets or not.
Here are the answers to the test:
1) SI2 2) I1 3) SI1 4) SI1 5) I1 6) I2 7) VS1 8) SI2 9) SI1
How did you do?
Most people would probably get at least half of these right, even if they are just guesses.
See how tough it can be?
See why there is so much controversy over clarity and ratings? Grading clarity is so opinionated. It’s not a perfect science.
Let’s try another test
Below are 3 images of diamond plots. This test will be different (any maybe harder) because these images could be any clarity rating there is: FL, IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, I3.
Can you tell which diamond is which clarity?
Write your answers down:
Another tough test.
(Is it getting any easier?)
The correct answers are:
1) SI2 2) I2 3) SI2.
Not really fair is it? I give you all of 11 clarities to choose from, and then only use 2 (notice there is no SI3 listed. Learn more: SI3 clarity diamonds). I used these examples for a good reason. These clarities (SI2 – I2) are some of the most common clarities of diamond found in jewelry stores today. It’s good to know them and get familiar with them.
Out of all of the clarity ratings (FL, IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, I3), pick the right clarity for these next 3 diamonds…
Write your answers down:
The correct answers are:
1) VS2 2) SI2 3) SI2.
SI2 is the most questionable clarity rating there is. It falls right above the I clarity group and borders on eye-visible inclusions (fact is, from a side view you probably can see inclusions in an SI2 diamond).
Since every single diamond is different, and inclusions and flaws will be of all different shapes, sizes, orientation, color, depth and placement, it gets pretty difficult for any one person to accurately judge a diamond’s clarity perfectly.
Even GIA (the founders of the 4 C’s) use at least 3 diamontologists to grade each and every diamond. They arrive at a mutual agreement before it’s put on a diamond report. See, it’s not easy for anybody, even the experts. But it does get easier with practice.
Scope the diamonds:
Study the diamond plots. Look at all the different clarities and ratings. Compare them. View them from all different directions and even upside down in a microscope. It’s the only way to truly test yourself. Learning hands on.
Take a look at the image to the left.
What clarity is this diamond?
Can you tell?
Take a guess…
Here’s the answer:
I3 clarity diamonds are the lowest possible clarity rating that any diamond could have. They are at the very bottom of the diamond clarity chart. Looking at an I3 diamond will show you tons of flaws, lines, cracks, carbon spots, and clouds. To the bare eye it would look like black pepper in a cloud of murky salt.
Not very pretty!
I3 clarity diamonds can take your breath away. “GASP!” Most people are shocked and stunned at what they see under a scope.
Below I3 clarity diamonds, are what they call “industrial diamonds” Industrial diamonds are those that are used in tools, drilling, sanding, and sawing (think dentist drills).
Here’s a list of clarity definitions and their meanings to help you better understand them.
FL – Flawless diamonds have no inclusions inside or outside the diamond whatsoever. You won’t see a thing under 10x magnification. Perfection.
IF – Internally Flawless diamonds have no inclusions inside the diamond, but may have a few blemishes or naturals outside of the diamond (on the surface).
VVS1 & VVS2 – Very, Very Slightly Included diamonds have very small inclusions. Dots. Pinpoints. Just tiny things. Very beautiful diamonds. Very rare. Very expensive.
VS1 & VS2 – Very Slightly Included diamonds may have small inclusions or blemishes inside and outside of the diamond. VS diamonds won’t have any black spots, cracks or fractures in the stone. Awesome diamonds. Simply stunning. My favorite clarity of all time.
SI1 & SI2 – Slightly Included diamonds are those that have inclusions that are larger and easier to spot under a microscope or a 10x jeweler’s loupe. Inclusions can be black carbon spots (although small), along with pinpoints, clouds and even small fractures (SI2 clarity can have eye-visible flaws).
I1 – I2 & I3 – Imperfect clarity diamonds are the lowest clarity grades there are (I1 being the best of the 3 ranges: I1, I2 and I3). Imperfect diamonds usually all have eye-visible inclusions in them – diamonds that you can look at and see big black spots, long cracks, and fissures. A lot of I clarity diamonds will look so foggy that they appear solid white (like a piece of salt). Others will look like a jigsaw puzzle inside. I clarity diamonds lose sparkle and brilliance because light cannot pass through the stone. I clarity diamonds make up half of the diamonds on the market. But hey, at least they’re cheap.
Hopefully in time you’ll get more comfortable viewing diamonds under 10x magnification. You may find that inclusions are a fascinating and intriguing world. I mean just think about it… It’s Mother Nature’s fingerprint.
Look at the diamond plot to the right. What clarity would you call this diamond? (It could be any clarity).
Ready for the answer?
If you chose SI1, then you’re in very good standing.
SI1 clarity diamonds are one of the most popular clarity groups on the market. It’s wise to know them.
SI1 clarity faces up very well. They are a very nice average quality diamond and usually don’t have too bad of a price tag either.
One grade higher than the SI1’s are the VS clarity groups.
VS clarity is the best clarity to buy in my book. Very clean. Very sharp. I love VS clarity diamonds. But they do get a little more expensive (although well worth every penny).
Clarity is all about how much you are willing to spend for perfection.
Last but not least…
It wouldn’t be a perfect world, without a perfect diamond.
(Pictured left – I would take a couple of these…)
Diamonds and clarity are objective and can bring about a lot of debate. That’s why certification is always advisable.
With a certified diamond (preferably GIA) you can rest assure that the quality listed on the diamond report is the quality you bought. It just makes life so much easier. Certified or not, it’s always wise to double check the clarity under a scope anyway, just to be sure… You never know.
Being able to tell what clarity a diamond is, takes time and talent. You have to have a trained eye for picking out tiny, little imperfections.
Can you imagine if everything we bought was scrutinized as much?
So get to it…
Grab a diamond.
Grab a microscope.
View the clarity.
Can you tell what it is?
Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist and Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
Let Richard help you choose the best diamond, the most dazzling engagement ring, and save as much money as possible. Read more about the author here. Follow Richard on social media; Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Contact Richard Scott here.