Clarity really can be confusing.
Because some diamonds look way better than others, and they are the exact same clarity.
Take I1 clarity diamonds, they are included, have eye visible flaws, but still, one may face up like an SI clarity, and the other just looks worse.
Compare the two I1 clarity diamonds below:
They look like two different clarity grades…
But both are the same carat weight, same clarity, color, cut, and even price. They should look almost identical, but don’t (so if you buy a diamond sight unseen, you’ll probably get the worst).
This can be said of any clarity grade.
Compare the SI2 clarity diamonds below:
SI1 clarity is the same:
There is a visual difference, right?
So why do some clarities look good, and some look bad?
Some grades look so good, that at first glance they could be mistaken for a much better stone. Compare the I1 clarity diamond below to a Flawless diamond:
|CARAT, CLARITY, COLOR, CUT, POL, SYM, FLUOR||PRICE||VIEW|
|1.01, I1, F, EX, EX, EX, NONE||$3,960||VIEW|
|1.05, FL, F, EX, EX, EX, NONE||$10,160||VIEW|
You see those price differences?
So why the difference in looks and appearance?
Well, it really comes down to a bunch of deciding factors:
- The size of the inclusions
- Whether or not these flaws are visible to the unaided eye
- Where the inclusions reside (dead center, table, under the facets)
- What color the inclusions are (black, white)
- If the inclusion is inside (called inclusions), or outside of the stone (on the surface called blemishes)
Notice I left out 1 very important item:
The amount of inclusions
While the amount does impact the grade some, it’s not the main criteria. Because a diamond could be perfect except for 1 single inclusion, and that inclusion could be enough to have it graded the lowest clarity grade possible.
Likewise, a high clarity diamond, like VS could have ten flaws. You just don’t know…
Usually flaws are graded by this:
- FL – Flawless: No blemishes or inclusions (other than maybe a natural on the girdle).
- IF – Internally Flawless: No inclusions inside the stone, but may contain some slight blemishes on the outside.
- VVS1-VVS2 – Very Very Slightly Included: Small imperfections difficult to locate under 10x magnification. You really need to look very hard, and most people (unless you’re an expert) won’t see anything at all.
- VS1-VS2 – Very Slightly Included: Minor inclusions that range from hard to see flaws, to inclusions that are easier to spot.
- SI1-SI2 – Slightly Included: Flaws that are easy to see under magnification (SI is the best selling clarity grade there is).
- I1-I2-I3 – Included or Imperfect: Flaws that can be seen without magnification (no microscope or a 10x jeweler’s loupe needed. You can look down and see black spots, lines, clouds, fissures, cracks…
These are the main guidelines used to determine clarity grade.
Which is why the drastic differences between them.
Some other characteristics to note:
SI2 clarity flaws:
SI2 clarity is the clarity that separates the visible flaws from the invisible flaws. And the definition of SI2 usually states: From the top view (looking straight down into the diamond), you shouldn’t see any flaws with the bare eye. But, from a side view (looking through the pavilion), you can see them.
Here is where the ‘amount’ can hurt you:
I’ve said that the amount of flaws doesn’t matter much, except if they are highly visible, then it looks like an eyesore. But if a diamond has too many flaws, fractures, fissures (which are common in I clarity diamonds), then that stone is weakened. The integrity and structure of the stone is diminished. Meaning, it could break easier along those fault lines. It could crack more, bust in half… The whole diamond gets brittle when it’s filled with flaws (picture Swiss cheese crumbling apart). So buyer beware if you purchase a cheap stone that’s full of imperfections.
Okay, but the question still isn’t answered:
Why the difference in same clarities?
It all comes down to one thing: OPINION.
Every single diamond is different, and all go through intensive inspection, visual analysis, even multiple experts to compromise and arrive at any given grade.
So, like the SI1 clarity grade examples above, if the flaws are easy to see under magnification, and none are eye-visible, then it will be an SI regardless of what the flaws look like.
If these same flaws are mixed with hard to spot flaws, then it may bump that clarity grade up to a VS stone instead.
What do the numbers mean?
The difference between the numbers (like VS1 and VS2, or SI1, or SI2) are levels. And usually where the flaws reside answer which level it’s listed as. If the flaws are more center, it usually pushes the grade to a 2. If the flaws are hidden under the crown facets more, it will probably be bumped to a 1.
And, if the flaws are black or white help determine as well… For black flaws stand out more and are more visible to the eye (with or without a microscope). White flaws tend to blend in more and become invisible.
So every flaw, every line, every detail is taken into consideration (and listed on the diamond plot). Everything combined helps decide which grade that diamond goes into.
So it really doesn’t have anything to do with how many flaws there are, it’s if they’re noticeable, and where they are located.
This is why some diamonds face up like flawless diamonds. But if one of those flaws is eye-visible, then it’s included. End of story. The rest of the diamond could be stunning and clean, it only takes 1 flaw to ruin a grade.
Clarity is the least important 4C:
It’s true, all the other 4C’s are more important when it comes to looks, beauty, and price…
This is why you should never rule out any clarity grade when shopping for stones (some people won’t even look at an included diamond).
But by viewing them side by side, comparing diamonds of all different clarities, you’re sure to find a diamond that appears just as nice for a much better price.
This is also why it’s wise to shop at James Allen or Blue Nile, for you can compare thousands of diamonds side by side, see inside the stone from all angles, spin them around, and really decide which diamond clarity is right for you. Plus, their diamonds are priced lower than any mall store (by tons). You’ll be shocked at the savings!
Select your price, your carat weight, your color range… And then compare the diamond by looks versus the actual clarity grade.
And also note that fancy shaped diamonds (any stone other than the round) are usually cheaper by 20%-50%.