Diamond Clarity Scale

What makes one diamond better than another?

Calling any diamond “great” is like calling a top of the line Cadillac, “the Cadillac of Cadillacs“.  It’s a metaphorical redundancy.  Nothing matches a diamond for representing a gift of love, because NOTHING can match a real diamond.  Only a diamond can be the representative of everlasting love, because only diamonds take millions of years to make and are hard as, well, diamonds.  But saying all diamonds are the same is like saying all Cadillacs are the same – they aren’t.  So, what makes one diamond better than another? Clarity, size, cut, and color.  In this article, we’ll focus on clarity.

In the Beginning…

Diamond Clarity Scale
Diamond Clarity Scale

The mineral, diamond is created 87 to 120 miles deep into the earth and actually started out as vegetation (trees and plants) which grew on the earth millions of years ago.  The vegetation died, decayed, sank deep into the ground and over millions of years was covered with layers of rock and other minerals creating tons of pressure.  As the vegetation dried up and hardened, it turned into peat, then into coal, and eventually into diamond.

Perfectly Imperfect

Diamond Clarity is measured by “inclusions and defects”.  These descriptors are created as diamonds are expelled to the surface through volcanic activity.  With this in mind, finding a flawless diamond with perfect clarity is harder than winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning on the same day. A perfectly clear diamond with flawless characteristics is one that has been in ideal pressure conditions for the longest period of time and then extracted from deep within the earth.  There are no limits to how much you can spend on diamonds.

Measuring Up

In 1953, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) created a scale to determine the clarity of diamonds. That scale is still used today.  In summary, it gives grades to diamonds based on the number of internal flaws (inclusions) and external flaws (defects). The more perfect the diamond, the higher the value.

The GIA diamond grading scale is divided into six categories and eleven grades.[1] The clarity categories and grades are:

Category Grade GIA diamond clarity grading scale
Flawless FL Diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification.[2]
Internally Flawless IF Diamonds have no inclusions visible under 10x magnification, only small blemishes on the diamond surface.[2]
Very Very Slightly Included VVS1 Diamonds have minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.[2] The VVS category is divided into two grades; VVS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VVS2. Pinpoints and needles set the grade at VVS.[1]
Very Very Slightly Included VVS2
Very Slightly Included VS1 Category (VS) diamonds have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.[2] The VS category is divided into two grades; VS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VS2. Typically the inclusions in VS diamonds are invisible without magnification, however infrequently some VS2 inclusions may still be visible. An example would be on a large emerald cut diamond which has a small inclusion under the corner of the table.[1]
Very Slightly Included VS2
Slightly Included SI1 Diamonds have noticeable inclusions that are easy to very easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.[2] The SI category is divided into two grades; SI1 denotes a higher clarity grade than SI2. These may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.[3]
Slightly Included SI2
Included I1 Diamonds have obvious inclusions that are clearly visible to a trained grader under 10x magnification.[2] Included diamonds have inclusions that are usually visible without magnification or have inclusions that threaten the durability of the stone. The I category is divided into three grades; I1 denotes a higher clarity grade than I2, which in turn is higher than I3. Inclusions in I1 diamonds often are seen to the unaided eye. I2 inclusions are easily seen, while I3 diamonds have large and extremely easy to see inclusions that typically impact the brilliance of the diamond, as well as having inclusions that are often likely to threaten the structure of the diamond.[1]
Included I2
Included I3

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