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Diamond Clarity – Flawless, VVS2, Or SI1? A Rating Guide
What does Clarity mean?
When you buy a diamond engagement ring, diamond pendant, diamond earrings, or diamond jewelry; An important factor is the “Clarity” of the diamond that you have chosen. Clarity is one of the 4Cs that are used to determine the price of a diamond. The definition of clarity is “the quality or state of clarity”. Having a diamond with nothing in it is very rare, especially in larger diamonds. Because of this rarity, when diamonds become “clean” they become more expensive.
Of all the diamonds mined each year, only about 20% are “clean” enough to be used in diamond jewelry and 80% of the other diamonds are used for industrial purposes. So if you have a diamond with the highest clarity grade, it’s actually one in a million, making it even more special!
What makes up the Clarity of the diamond?
The two factors that determine the brightness of a diamond are the things on the outside, these are called blemishes, and the things inside the diamond, these are called inclusions. Diamonds almost always have something else trapped inside them as they grow underground. Because diamonds are about 3.3 billion years old, they have grown slowly. As they grew, they encountered other materials around the place where they were created. The process of having something “embedded” in a diamond crystal takes hundreds, thousands, or millions of years. So when you see inclusions in a diamond, it’s like looking back millions or billions of years. Diamonds often have other diamonds trapped inside them… so cool, you get more than one diamond with your purchase!
A typical input is as follows–
* Contains crystals or minerals
* The beard
* Indoor planting
* Twin joys
Blemishes are anything outside of a diamond. Most of these are a result of the diamond cutting process and can be removed using a diamond cutter. These are not that important and usually do not play a major role in determining the diamond’s height.
Common defects are as follows–
* polish line
* External grain
* Additional features
The clear notes are as follows–
NY (Flawless)- No inclusions or defects of any kind at 10x magnification as seen by an experienced trainer.
IF (Internal Flawless)- Flawless when examined by an experienced grader using 10x magnification, there will still be minor flaws.
VVS1 and VVS2 (Very, Very Small Inputs)- Contains minute inputs that are difficult even for experienced students to see under 10x magnification.
VS1 and VS2 (Minor Inclusions)- Contains minute inclusions such as small crystals, clouds or feathers, when viewed under 10x magnification.
SI1 and SI2 (Small inclusions)- There are inclusions (clouds, crystals, knots, holes and feathers) that are noticeable to experienced trainers under 10x magnification.
I1, I2, I3 (Inclusions)- Contains inclusions (may be large feathers or large embedded crystals) that are visible under 10x magnification and may affect transparency and brightness.
The combination of inclusions and defects along with size, number, location, quality and color will determine the clarity of the diamond. There is a lot of variation involved in making the perfect diamond… that’s because diamonds are like snowflakes, each one is different.
A little history about the Clarity system.
Today we have a very clear diamond grading system that everyone understands and has worked well for years… it wasn’t always like that. Years ago, if someone described the clarity of a diamond and said it was a “clean”, “piqué”, or “loupe clean” diamond, would you know what they meant?
Richard T. Liddicoat of the Gemological Institute of America introduced the current system in 1953 and it was immediately adopted as the universal system for classifying diamond clarity. Eleven different clarity grades convey the beauty of a diamond regardless of the customer’s geographic location or language.
Along with defining these eleven clarity grades, the GIA also states that clarity grading is performed by a trained person using a controlled “darkfield” lighting environment, and 10X magnification corrected for spherical and chromatic aberration. Wow! it’s very technical! However, this system is easy to understand.
How can you know the Clarity of the diamond?
You, who are not fully trained in this system, may not be able to accurately determine the brilliance of a diamond. A Gemologist who is trained in all the variables involved will be able to determine the exact grade and will also be able to show you why a diamond is so important.
The best way to make sure a diamond is clear is to have a diamond report issued by a reputable gemological laboratory. The best reports are from GIA, AGSL, or GCAL. Nationally known and respected laboratories use several grades that must agree on the characteristics of all diamonds before issuing a report.
What Diamond Clarity is best for me?
The price of a diamond will change, go up or down, as the clarity goes up or down. For diamonds of the most common colors, cuts and weights, in general, look for a 15 to 20% change in price for each change in clarity. A diamond with a clarity rating of FL (Flawless) is not more beautiful than a diamond with a clarity rating of SI1 (Slightly Included 1) but FL clarity can cost twice as much as an SI1 diamond.
From FL to SI1 clarity grade, inclusions and/or defects are only visible when you look at them using 10X magnification. I don’t know anyone who walks around with a 10X magnifier in their pocket to look at people’s diamonds…sorry, let me correct that, but I don’t know anyone except jewelers and Gemologists (including myself) who walks around with a 10X magnifier in his pocket.
You need to see for yourself what these different light notes really look like. I know many people look at the clarity grading chart and see that VVS2 or VS1 is “in the middle” of the chart and think that’s what they want to consider when buying a diamond.
There are only a few diamonds that can go into the nearly impossible FL and IF grades and a few more diamonds that can go into the very tough VVS1 and VVS2 grades … diamonds from those grades. When you get down to VS, SI, and I, it gets bigger and more diamonds move into those grades. SI1 is more “in the middle” than VVS2 or VS1.
Find a good Gemologist to teach you or do some online research on diamond clarity grades, it’s not that hard. When you buy larger diamonds, make sure they come with a diamond report that you trust.
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