Understanding the 4 C's - Clarity

Unlocking the Mysteries of the 4 C's: Carat, Cut, Colour, and Clarity in Diamonds - By Melissa Holt DGA

Diamonds have long been regarded as the epitome of luxury and sophistication. Their dazzling brilliance and timeless appeal make them one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. However, what many people don't realize is that not all diamonds are created equal. In fact, one of the most critical factors that determine a diamond's value and beauty is its clarity.

Clarity is one of the famous "Four C's" of diamonds, along with Carat weight, Colour and Cut. It refers to the presence or absence of internal and external imperfections, often referred to as inclusions and blemishes, respectively. Understanding diamond clarity and how it is graded is essential for anyone looking to purchase a diamond or work in the jewellery industry. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of diamond clarity and its grading.

What Is Diamond Clarity?

Diamond clarity is a measure of a diamond's purity and transparency. It assesses the presence and visibility of internal flaws (inclusions) and surface irregularities (blemishes). These imperfections can affect the diamond's brilliance and overall visual appeal and these imperfections can be naturally occurring or could also have been caused during the manufacturing process.


The Clarity Grading Scale

 Diamonds are graded for clarity on a scale established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), one of the most respected authorities in the industry. The GIA clarity scale consists of the following grades:


 Flawless (FL): These diamonds have no internal or external flaws visible under 10x magnification, making them exceedingly rare and valuable.


Internally Flawless (IF): IF diamonds have no internal flaws but may have minor surface blemishes that are barely detectable under magnification.


Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Diamonds in this category have minute inclusions that are extremely difficult to detect even under magnification.


Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): VS diamonds have minor inclusions that are not easily seen without magnification.


Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): These diamonds have noticeable inclusions when viewed under 10x magnification, but they may still appear clean to the naked eye. A diamond is graded at SI2 or below if the inclusions are just noticeable to the naked eye.


Included (I1, I2, and I3): Diamonds in this category have significant inclusions and blemishes visible to the naked eye. They are usually more affordable but may lack the brilliance of higher clarity grades and their durability might also be compromised.


Factors Affecting Clarity

Several factors can influence a diamond's clarity, including:

Nature of Inclusions: The type, size, and location of inclusions can impact a diamond's clarity grade.

Position of Inclusions: Inclusions near the centre of the diamond are more visible than those near the edges.

Number of Inclusions: A higher number of inclusions may lead to a lower clarity grade.

Size of Inclusions: Larger inclusions are generally more noticeable and can lower the clarity grade.


Choosing the Right Clarity Grade 

The choice of clarity grade depends on personal preferences and budget. While a flawless or internally flawless diamond is the pinnacle of purity, many people find that diamonds with lower clarity grades (such as VS or SI) offer an excellent balance of quality and value. It's essential to prioritize what matters most to you: a flawless appearance or a larger, more budget-friendly stone.

Types of Inclusion

Not all inclusions are created the same and there are many forms of natural inclusions including pinpoint, feathers, knots, crystals and clouds. Mineral inclusions might also be present and this happens when minerals from surrounding rock were incorporated into the diamond as it was forming. One of the most common inclusions appear as small black flecks encapsulated into the stone. External blemishes are those on the surface of the diamond and in some cases could have been caused by the manufacturing such as during the cutting and/or polishing process. 


One of the most fascinating inclusions are 'Naturals', these are small features found on the girdle of a diamond and are one of the biggest clues that a diamond is a natural gem. Naturals are little indents around the girdle and there can be up to four on a diamond if it has been cut and polished from a rough Octahedral. Often mistaken for chips, these indents have characteristics which differ from chips so can be identified as naturals. These are more often seen on vintage and antique stones where they have been left and not polished out like they often are on modern cut diamonds.

Clarity treatments

Fracture filling and laser drilling are both clarity treatments used to enhance a diamonds appearance if inclusions are present. In fracture filling, glass in injected into fractures within the diamond and laser drilling creates a small channel into the inclusion allowing it to be bleached. It's important that any treatments are disclosed when purchasing a diamond. 


Diamond clarity plays a crucial role in determining a diamond's value and visual appeal. Understanding the clarity grading scale and the factors that influence it empowers consumers to make informed choices when purchasing diamonds. Whether you're a seasoned jewellery expert or a novice in the world of diamonds, clarity is a fundamental aspect of this enchanting gemstone that should not be overlooked. So, the next time you admire a stunning diamond, take a moment to appreciate its clarity, which is the hidden beauty within and always ask to look through a loupe into the stone!

Remember, each diamond is unique, and its individual characteristics, including clarity, contribute to its distinct charm. By mastering the art of grading diamond clarity, you can enhance your appreciation for these precious gems and assist others in selecting the perfect diamond.

If you have any further questions about the clarity of your stones or any other aspect of diamonds, feel free to get in touch with us at email@holtsjewellery.co.uk

We'd be delighted to assist you in your quest for the perfect piece of jewellery.