Diamond Clarity: Grading Scale and Buying Tips

Diamonds are among the most sought-after gemstones in the world thanks to their hardness, brilliance, and sparkle, which make them gems unsurpassed by other stones. Diamonds also symbolize love, which makes them prized presents for a man’s significant other.

While diamonds are generally beautiful, they are not without defects. Diamonds are minerals composed of pure carbon made through the exposure to intense heat and pressure, which also produce birthmarks or inclusions within the diamond. A flawless diamond is a rare gem that most jewelers will never have a chance to see in their lifetimes and are therefore more expensive than the common ones.

Since most diamonds have different birthmarks per stone, jewelers grade each to know the actual value of the gem. The clarity gradings for diamonds are FL or Flawless, IF or Internally Flawless, VVS1 and VVS2 or Very, Very Slightly Included, VS1 and VS2 or Very Slightly Included, SI1 and SI2 or Slightly Included, and I1, I2, I3 or Included.


Flawless diamonds comprise around 1 to 2% of the total number of diamonds there are. Their rarity is from their seeming lack of inclusions and blemishes visible under 10x magnification.

Internally Flawless diamonds contain only blemishes on the facet or the surface of the diamond.

Very, Very Slightly Included diamonds contain minute inclusions that are very difficult to see. A skilled grader needs to use 10x magnification to spot the inclusions.

Very Slightly Included diamonds possess minor inclusions that are much easier to spot than those of VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds using 10x magnification. VS1 and VS2 diamonds tend to be cheaper than higher quality diamonds while still being eye-clean.

Slightly Included diamonds have more noticeable inclusions than the other diamonds that are sometimes visible to the keen eye without using magnification. A lot of people opt to choose from SI1 and SI2 diamonds to get the most of their money by searching for eye-clean stones.

Included diamonds have the most noticeable inclusions that can be spotted even without magnification. Some people still choose to buy the I1 as long as they can find an eye-clean sample, which is considerably more challenging to achieve. The I2 and the I3 aren’t given much thought for jewelry since their inclusions are much more visible compared to the I1.

Jewelers provide the grades for clarity mentioned above based on the size, number, position, nature, and color and relief of the inclusion seen in the diamond.

Grading Factors for Clarity

A diamond’s clarity grading decreases when the inclusion is noticeable. Diamonds falling under the VVS1 and VVS2 grades have minute inclusions that are otherwise unseen by the naked eye while I2 and I3 have bigger ones that affect its beauty.

Multiple minor inclusions spread out across both the table and the facet contribute to bringing down the grade of the diamond. It is a given that a diamond has inclusions and jewelers don’t factor in how many there are in a gem but how many are visible that would also affect the stone’s brilliance.

Some diamonds have inclusions present in areas where it would be challenging to spot like those found on the girdle, which limits the effects on grading. However, there are inclusions positioned under the table and close to a pavilion which becomes reflectors that show reflections of the sole inclusion present in the stone.

The nature of the inclusion, what type it is, affects the grading of the diamond. A pinpoint visible under 10x magnification won’t significantly affect the stone’s grade, but a cloud would affect the gem’s brilliance. Any imperfection found outside the diamond are blemishes, different from inclusions.

An inclusion’s color and relief essentially means how easily seen it is. The more visible it is, the lesser the grading is. Grading using this factor is dependent on how much contrast is present between the inclusion and the diamond.

Buying Tips

No diamond is perfect. Every diamond has an inclusion, but the rarest ones are classified flawless since they seemingly don’t have imperfections. With rarity comes high prices though and it might be financially impossible to get the best.

Buying diamonds with lower clarity grades aren’t compromises either since the differences between the high-quality ones and the eye-clean ones are hard to spot.

Even when you have the money, automatically buying either FL or IF diamonds might not be wise. Diamonds are spectacular stones and merely going for the one that graded highest in clarity can hurt your budget. The best choices one can get for lower costs come from the VS1 to the VS2.


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