A DIAMOND'S CLARITY
Clarity describes the presence or absence of inclusions within the diamond and blemishes on its surface. These slight birthmark type indications make every diamond unique. However, they can also affect the beauty and value of the diamond. These natural birthmarks are often referred to as inclusions. The fewer inclusions a diamond has, the rarer and more valuable it is. Diamonds that contain several inclusions are less brilliant because inclusions can interfere with light passing through the diamond.
Nearly all diamonds have some inclusions, which are evidence of the natural evolution of the original diamond crystal. Inclusions are like the fingerprint of the stone, as they're different in every diamond, and are indicators of a stone's origin. Clarity grades range from Flawless (FL), where under 10x magnification a diamond is completely free of inclusions, to Imperfect 3 (I3) where diamonds possess large, heavy inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. Though flawless diamonds are the rarest, a diamond does not have to be flawless to look amazing. Diamonds with VVS and VS clarity grades are excellent choices for both value and appearance. Even diamonds with an SI rating don't necessarily have visible inclusions and can be a more affordable option. The clarity grade is verified in a grading lab certificate that accompanies your diamond.
Diamond clarity grading is done with specially-designed microscopes, using ten-power magnification. Each diamond is evaluated by multiple gemologists and given one of the following clarity grades:
Flawless (FL) - These stones have no imperfections inside or on the surface of the stone under the magnification of a loupe of 10 power.
Internally Flawless (IF) - No internal flaws. Very rare and beautiful diamonds, which are quite expensive.
VVS1, VVS2 - Very, Very Slightly Included: Very difficult to see inclusions under 10x magnification. An excellent quality diamond.
VS1, VS2 - Inclusions are typically not visible to the naked eye. Less expensive than the VVS1 or VVS2 grades. Even properly graded VS2 diamonds can have visible inclusions in very large sizes or diamonds that do not have many facets which make flaws more visible such as an emerald shape.
SI1, SI2 - These stones have inclusions which are fairly easy to see under a loupe with a 10 power magnification, or visible to the naked eye. Some SI clarity diamonds do have visible inclusions and should be evaluated carefully. SI clarity diamonds can be some of the best values, since inclusions are not always visible to the naked eye, and prices are reasonable when compared to higher clarity grades.
SI3 - Some grading labs can give diamonds an SI3 grade. GIA and AGS do not use this grade, but some other labs do. An SI3 diamond would probably be given an I1 grade by the GIA.
I1 - These stones have inclusions which range from barely visible to very easily seen by the naked eye, but there should only be one major flaw, which cannot be too obvious. Overall, the diamond should still look nice. However, I1 clarity grades vary quite a bit, so they should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis before purchasing them. If your budget only allows for an SI3 or I1 clarity diamond, be sure to examine it thoroughly before purchasing, and make sure the inclusions do not detract from the overall beauty of the diamond.
I2, I3 - These diamonds have inclusions visible to the naked eye, and can have any combination of black spots, clouds, feathers, or other inclusions that typically detract from the appearance of the diamond.