Diamond Clarity System
The GIA diamond clarity grading system came in to play to avoid any confusion used in the past by jewelers. Throughout history, jewelers were using terms such as “loupe clean” or other terms that really didn’t mean much. When the clarity grading scale was developed, it simplified misunderstanding in clarity talk, but unfortunately, it is overly complex confusing and adversely effects prices.
The industry set the standard 10x power magnification for the grading of diamond clarity. That is a fine place to start however it is a fact that if we use a 100 x power magnification we see additional flaws the 10x magnification could not detect.
Fact: A “D- FL” diamond has flaws when viewed under 1000 x magnification!
Which brings us to the question, “Why do we have so many clarity grades when the human eye has limited capabilities?”
If you examine the diamond price list the difference between a VVS1 and a VVS2 is large while the visual difference is imperceptible to the best eyesight. In fact, in the grading laboratory, a subjective judgment must be made on the clarity grading leading many times to overlapping clarity grades having profound effects on the final price paid.
The point here is simple perhaps a grading system of FL- IF, VVS, VS, SI, and IP would be a far superior grading system leaving much smaller variations (not to mention confusion) within the clarity grades and bring a finer degree of order to the diamond price list.
Types of “Internal Blemishes or Inclusions”:
- Solid inclusions, which may be black or white and vary from a pinpoint to a large mass.
- Bubble, which is transparent and roundish and may be very tiny to fairly large.
- Cloud, which is a group of very tiny transparent bubbles or inclusions too small to be seen individually but gives a clouded appearance.
- Cleavage or feather, a cleavage crack that looks like a feather when viewed from the top of the diamond.
- Butterfly, and inclusion with cleavage cracks around it, that from some directions look like the wings of a butterfly.
- Crack, a fracture in a non-cleavage direction.
- Graining, twinning which although usually visible externally may also be visible internally as phantom parallel lines. Occasionally there are a different color from the rest of the diamond.
- Growth line, and internal jagged line which can be seen to have fine serrations under higher magnification.
- Fringe, a series of radical cracks penetrating into the diamond from the girdle.
- Bearded girdle, like a fringe, but fire and caused by bad cutting. Actually a fault of make.
- Fezals, shallow, white, wispy inclusions in a twinning plane.
Types of “External Blemishes or Inclusions”:
- Chips and nicks.
- Pit and cavities.
- Flats on the girdle.
- Naats on the surface. Raised surface feathers that break the surface of the diamond.
- Polishing lines.
- Burn marks caused during polishing.
- Natural, near or on the girdle.
- Rough girdle.
- Rough or broken to the culet.
- Twinning lines or naat. External line or parallel lines caused by polishing over a twinned area.
Avoid paying for Quality Grades Your Eyes Cannot See!
The purpose of listing all the types of internal and external inclusions is to make the buyer aware of the variety of imperfections in diamonds. The bottom line is, “Can you see the inclusions Yes or NO?” Diamonds with visible inclusions should be avoided. A diamond graded I1 (Imperfect One) is still 97% clean but you can see flaws! No one walks around with a microscope in their pocket.
How to Read Between The Lines
Best diamond value is a “D” color and clean “SI1” clarity properly cut diamond. “D” is the Best color grade and “SI” by GIA definition is “eye clean” meaning you cannot see any imperfection with the unaided eye. If you see a “G-VS1” next to a “D-SI1” same shape same carat weight diamond, the “D-SI1” will always outperform the “G-VS1” but the “G-VS1” will cost more! On the other side place a “D-FL” next to a “D-SI1” And tell me you like the “D-FL” so much more that you are willing to pay 3 – 5 times more depending on the carat weight. Make your own study of the diamond price list and it will become apparent this is great advice!
This article was contributed by Frank Fisher.