Diamonds are a rare and beautiful phenomenon. Throughout history, diamonds have become the staple gemstone used in jewellery and for very obvious reasons. They are absolutely magnificent! Viewing a perfectly cut diamond is one that leaves jaws dropping around the world.
Now we have your attention, we want to help you to understand diamonds beyond their general colour and sparkle. We have compiled the most relevant information about diamond clarity so that you can make informed decisions when purchasing or investing in any of these rare and beautiful gemstones to ensure you are getting the best value for money.
What is Diamond Clarity?
Clarity refers to the degree to which inclusions or blemishes are present, or absent from a gemstone and the overall effect these characteristics have on a diamond’s potential value. Lesser blemishes and inclusions mean higher clarity. A uniform diamond clarity gauge is an essential determining factor when judging the value of a diamond. Jewellers and appraisers will consistently consider the clarity level of a diamond when putting a value or setting a price on a piece of jewellery.
How are diamonds formed?
For us to understand the importance of clarity, we must understand the formation process of diamonds. Scientific studies all agree that diamonds are formed from a liquid carbon material being crushed by tremendous pressure and high temperatures deep within our planet’s mantle, transforming into a crystal. Deposits of these crystals reach the surface via volcanic activity such as magma pipes.
Diamonds taken directly from mines are not as shiny or brilliant as usually imagined. In the course of these crystals forming, impurities can be fused, or etched into the stone as well. These impurities are the reason why naturally occurring diamonds with a high clarity are rare and command a higher price.
Inclusions and Blemishes
There are two types of flaws that can affect the look of a diamond; these are inclusions and blemishes.
Inclusions are flaws within the stone itself. While the carbon material that forms a diamond is being transformed trace elements and minerals, other crystals, or debris may be compressed into the forming structure; or structural distortions may occur due to extremes of heat and pressure.
Blemishes are external flaws that are evidence of the diamond’s journey to the surface. A polished diamond is the end result of surviving against a harsh environment. Both inclusions and blemishes play a significant role in determining the real value of any diamond.
Types of Inclusions
As stated, inclusions are visible flaws within the diamond itself. It is worth noting that truly flawless diamonds are rare, and almost all gemstones available in the market have faults and defects. These are the types of inclusions that are present in the majority of diamonds ever mined.
These are pinpoint inclusions situated close to each other, creating a microscopic haze. Although these are not visible to the naked eye, if numerous, it will significantly affect the brilliance of the gem.
These are feather-like cracks that occur within the stone, possibly due to being crushed against unyielding surfaces during formation. Generally negligible, if the crack is long enough or there are too many, feathers can compromise the strength of the diamond. Many diamonds will break into smaller fragments before they reach the surface.
This is a serious flaw for a diamond. Cleavage is a long, deep fracture similar to a feather. Severely affecting the integrity of the stone, diamonds with this flaw will split in pieces if knocked about too much.
These are diamond flaws where the crystals inside the stone extend to the surface. There are cases where knots result in small, raised areas in the facet of the stone.
These are lines caused, not by cracks but by the improper alignment of carbon atoms during crystallisation. Internal graining affects how light is refracted throughout the stone.
Crystals or Minerals
This is the presence of other crystals or minerals inside the gem. Even when microscopic, there are instances where these minerals are visible with the naked eye affecting the brilliance and clarity of the stone.
Types of Blemishes
Blemishes are diamond flaws that are seen primarily on the surface of the stone. There are cases where these blemishes are big enough to affect the clarity and brilliance of the stone. The types of flaws are the following:
These are lines that are present on the surface of the stone. It may be naturally occurring or result from mistakes in polishing the stone. Through proper polishing shallow scratches might be removed but deep cuts are there to stay.
In some cases, extra facets are intentionally performed when cutting a diamond to hide or to otherwise remove flaws in the stone. While it is still considered a blemish, the extra facets do not degrade the clarity level of the diamond.
These small chips are often found at the sides of the girdle or cutlet as a result of being knocked about either during polishing presale, or after sales due to daily wear. Nicks detract from the outward perfection of a diamond and can over time affect the integrity of a diamond.
How is the clarity of a diamond assessed?
One internationally accepted Clarity scale was created by Richard T. Liddicoat and his colleagues, who formed the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). A diamond is examined at 10x magnification through a loupe or under a modified microscope in a standardised well-lit environment.
The quantity and qualities (size, nature, position, visibility) of the flaws are assessed and recorded on a diamond mapping diagram of the diamond’s outline. The scale developed has six classes, some of which have a further grade to assign to a diamond.
1. Flawless (FL) – The stone has no visible inclusions and blemishes visible to a skilled grader when examined under 10x magnification.
2. Internally Flawless (IF) – The stone has no internal inclusions but may have minor blemishes visible to an expert grader when viewed under 10x magnification.
3. Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) – There are slight inclusions and blemishes but are difficult to see by skilled graders under 10x magnification.
4. Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) – The stone has minor inclusions and blemishes that are visible for experienced graders under 10x magnification.
5. Slightly Included (S1 and S2) – The stone has noticeable inclusions or blemishes under 10x magnification. A gem with this clarity may have flaws that are visible to the unassisted eye.
6. Included (I1, I2 and I3) – the stone has visible inclusions and blemishes under 10x magnification that may affect the brilliance and transparency.
Diamonds as an investment
Remember that diamonds are only an investment if you have purchased one that is worth what you paid for it and has the potential to increase in value. Diamonds are massively inflated products, as much of the original rough is ground, cut or polished away leaving only a fraction as a gemstone you might consider or admire. Always make sure to consult an expert gemologist who can help you determine if a particular purchase is a worthwhile diamond investment for you.
Argyle Diamond Investments pride themselves on helping hundreds of individuals start, and expand, their portfolio in the diamond investment industry. Contact them today for expert advice and enjoy the journey into the world of diamond investment.