The important thing to aim for here is to make sure the diamond that you pick for your partner is eye clean. Having her girlfriends point out that there is a big mark in the middle of her diamond can be really upsetting for her. Inclusions in a diamond never go away, so make sure that you are happy with your diamonds clarity. Inclusions can sometimes be harder to see when they are clean, and under shop lights. When you are looking at a diamonds clarity, it is really important to see every diamond first hand with a 10x magnification lens. Here are a few tips on how to hold the diamond loupe when you are looking at a diamond.
The inclusions that you might see are:
- Graphite – type Inclusions – these show up as black spots
- Feathers – these look like a small semi-circle
- Crystals – these are essentially small crystalline inclusions that occurred in the stone at the time it was being formed.
- Clouds – these are a group or mist of minute inclusions that give a cloud-like appearance.
The Clarity Scale
The clarity scale ranges from FL (flawless), IF (internally flawless), VVS1-VVS2 (very, very small), VS1-VS2 (very small) to SI1-SI2 (small inclusions) and I1-I3 (included). The different denominations after the letter grade refer to whether your diamond is at the top or the bottom of a particular group. Basically what this means is that a SI1 is more like a VS2 stone than it is a I1. (See the following figure, showing the clarity grading scale, for the full clarity range.)
Here’s how the ratings break down in more detail:
FL and IF: This is really a minor distinction, and one that you would want to have verified by a proper microscope. Basically, the difference is just that the FL rating means there are no inclusions inside or on the surface of the stone, whereas the IF rating means the diamond is just internally flawless. While there will be a difference in the cost of the stone, the grading is really only a paper difference and not discernible to the naked eye.
VVS1-VVS2: A qualified diamond grader should be able to locate the inclusion in a stone with a VVS rating in anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. When looking at a VVS stone, it is a good idea to use a 10× and a 20× loupe. Start off with the 10× loupe to see if you can locate the inclusion first, and then go up to the 20× to either confirm or continue looking. If you are not experienced with a loupe, it may take some practice to be able to focus. (See the breakout box ‘Holding the loupe’ for more information.)
VS1-VS2: The inclusion in a stone with this clarity grade should be becoming a little easier to see, depending on where the inclusion is in the stone. The best way to look for an inclusion here is to start in the centre of the stone. Then move to the outside edge of the diamond, beginning at 12 o’clock and moving clockwise around the stone. SI1-SI2: As you move down the clarity grade, the distinctions between the types of inclusions should be a lot easier to identify. While an SI1 stone is usually quite pleasant, most people today should be able to identify an SI2 stone straightaway. Sometimes if the inclusion is big enough or in the centre, you can even see it without a magnifying glass.
SI3: Beware of anyone claiming to have an SI3 clarity graded diamond. This is not a recognised clarity grade, and is basically just a nice way of saying that it is a really good I1. These diamonds will never come with an international diamond certificate and are much cheaper than an SI2. Make sure that you inspect this kind of stone very carefully with a loupe. While heavily included diamonds might be cheap now, if you ever want to trade up the diamond in the future, it will be very difficult to get a high trade-in figure.
I1-I3: This clarity grade is really at the bottom of the barrel, and verging on looking like smashed glass. You should really try to avoid this grade if you can help it. All the extra inclusions inside the stone interfere with the light as it travels through your diamond, causing it to sparkle significantly less. The only client this diamond is really suited for is the person who wants size over everything else.
Please enable flash player on your browser to view this content.
Note: ‘pique’ is an old-school word used among a lot of diamond merchants. It is interchangeable with the I1, I2 and I3 clarity grade – so if you hear a jeweller mention a ‘P1’ diamond, they are talking about a diamond with an I1 clarity grade.