Under 10x magnification, most diamonds contain natural “inclusions,” microscopic crystals within the diamond. These are the birthmarks that make each stone unique. The number, size and position of these inclusions affects the value of the diamond.
The clarity scale of the Gemological Institute of America ranges from Fl (flawless) to I3 (many inclusions visible without magnification.) Here’s where it gets interesting: Under 40x magnification, these microscopic crystals can be seen within every so-called “flawless” diamond. And without magnification, not even a jeweler can detect the clarity difference between a “flawless” diamond and the much-less-expensive SI1.
Clarity, like color, is a measurement of rarity, not beauty. And in the absence of magnification, the less rare SI1 is visually identical to the higher clarity grades, but significantly less expensive, so…
Because they’re made underground, most diamonds have small inclusions and blemishes. When referring to inclusions, diamond experts often use the term “internal characteristics” instead. Internal characteristics of natural diamonds are what gives the diamond its character and uniqueness.
- Crystals or minerals
- Internal graining
- Polish lines
- Dark or light spots
For the best value, select a diamond with inclusions that can’t be seen through the crown without magnification (also known as eye-clean diamonds), such as an SI or VS clarity grade. These diamonds are much less expensive than the extremely rare Flawless (FL) or Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds.
Diamond shape and cut play with and impact diamond clarity in different ways.
Diamond Shape — Some diamond shapes require a higher clarity grade than others. Emerald and Asscher-shaped diamonds (referred to as step cut) are designed with rectangular facets that emphasize transparency and let you see farther down into the diamond, which can make inclusions more visible. For these diamond shapes, choose a clarity grade of VS1 or better to ensure the inclusions will not be visible.
Conversely, round, princess, oval, marquise, pear, and heart-shaped diamonds may not require as high of a clarity grade. Cut with a brilliant facet pattern, which reflects light from many different angles, these shapes naturally hide many inclusions.
Diamond Size — As diamond size increases, the size of the facets (the multiple mirror-like surfaces on the diamond) also increases. This can make inclusions more visible. Be sure to prioritize a higher clarity grade as the size of your diamond increases.
When diamonds are graded, they are magnified 10x. The clarity grade of a diamond is based on the most noticeable inclusions when magnified by 10x. Any inclusions or characteristics that don’t get factored into the grade may still be noted on what’s called a diamond plot chart.
The five diamond clarity factors are:
- Size— First to get looked at is the size of a characteristic or inclusion. The larger or more noticeable a characteristic, the lower the likely clarity grade.
- Number— Next is the number of easily seen characteristics, not the number of total characteristics. Having fewer characteristics means a higher clarity grade.
- Position— The third factor is the position of a given characteristic; is it under the table (most visible) and close to a pavilion? This position turns inclusions into reflectors, which have a bigger impact on the clarity grade.
- Nature— Then there is the nature of a diamond characteristic, or whether it’s internal or external. Internal characteristics cannot be graded as flawless or internally flawless diamonds.
- Colour and relief— Colour and relief is essentially a measure of how easily seen a characteristic is, or how much contrast there is between the characteristic and surrounding diamond.
To most people, the word ‘diamond’ conjures images of the ever-popular and always classic round stone. Going this route is almost guaranteed to get you the reaction you’re looking for, but you can also choose one of the more unique shapes collectively referred to as ‘fancy cuts’.
Shape does not affect the quality of the diamond. If your diamond is cut properly, its brilliance and value will be there. The shape of the rough diamond dictates the shape of the finished diamond. The diamond cutter’s job is to maximize the weight, remember? So buy the shape you like best. Buy the shape that works with your favourite mounting. Or buy the mounting that works with your favourite diamond shape. Regardless of the criteria you use in making your choice, you can be absolutely certain that your Spence “first look” diamond is cut for maximum impact. Because Colorful Doug and Uptight Sean set out to find “the headwaters of the Nile” in 1986. And 11 years later, they got their “first look.” And they’ve kept it ever since.