Clarity, one of diamonds' four basic 'C's, refers to how free a diamond is from inclusions and blemishes, internal and external features that negatively affect a diamond's shine, beauty, light refraction and its value.
Inclusions are features such as small materials caught inside the diamond during its formation. A blemish could be a chip - a small nick on the surface of the diamond caused by an external force. Some of the imperfections are visible to the naked eye. Other can only be seen under magnification. A diamond will be assigned a clarity grade based on the size, nature, position, color and quantity of clarity characteristics as well as how visible they are.
Diamond certificates include Reference Diagrams, plotting diagrams used to show the location and type of clarity features and to serve as a graphic map of the clarity findings. They are a top view and a side view of the graded diamond with symbols marking the location and type of feature.
Getting the Most Out Of a Diamond
When a rough diamond is considered for polishing, the polisher will usually try to manufacture a polished diamond with the highest possible value. This usually entails avoiding inclusions present in the rough diamond, or polishing a diamond in such a way that it hides the inclusion as much as possible.
An inclusion below the table is more visible than an inclusion near the girdle or under the bezel facets and affects the value based on how visible it is.
When GIA examines a diamond to determine its diamond clarity grade, it considers five factors:
• The size of the clarity characteristics – A larger inclusion will typically result in a lower clarity grade.
• The number of the clarity characteristics – More inclusions means a lower clarity grade.
• The position of the characteristic is also important – Are they located on the table or in an inconspicuous place?
• The nature of the blemish or inclusion is examined to see if it will affect the structure of the diamond.
• The clarity characteristics are checked for relief – whether they result in any color being present.
Diamond clarity is graded on an 11-step scale. The following is GIA's list of grades with their definitions:
Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds are extremely rare and considered more beautiful, which is why clarity is a main component of a diamond's price.
From the best clarity, value changes dramatically between clarity groups. The first and most dramatic large change is between IF and VVS1, the next is between VS2 and SI1 and the last big change is between I1 and I2. The following graph details these declines, based on current market prices of 1 carat, D color, round diamonds:
There are different kinds of inclusion and other imperfections that may be found in a diamond and each has a different impact on value. In previous articles, we discussed the physical attributes of a diamond, focusing on characteristics such as Irregularities, Carat and Cut. Our intention is to bring awareness to these features as part of the Crystal Clear philosophy. This is what we intend to do here as well. That is why we are not diving into all the fine details.
Who Takes the Lead?
As with other characteristics, there is an interplay between the different diamond characteristics in determining value and they are in a manufacturer's mind when considering how to polish a rough diamond. Should the diamond be as free as possible from inclusions at the expense of size, or should size be retained at the expense of clarity, resulting in more inclusions in the polished diamonds?
The same can be asked in regards to the proportions of a diamond. Should the polisher aim for a better Cut Grade or should he make a small compromise so an inclusion can be removed?
An analysis of current prices in the market shows that preferring weight to clarity will result in higher value. As the table above shows, size usually trumps clarity for value, except when looking at the lowest clarities – I1 and I2.
The following is a further analysis of value, comparing size and clarity of D color diamonds:
Based on current prices in the market, preferring Cut grade to Clarity will result in higher value, as the table below demonstrates:
Clarity and Irregularities
The standard magnification in the diamond industry is 10X. Any inclusions not visible under 10X magnification are much less important. However, when a grading lab examines a diamond, it may inspect it under a higher magnification. At times, features not seen under 10X magnification are revealed.
When this happens, the lab may refer to such features in the Comments part of the report, and this is where Irregularities may come into play.
It must be stated again that it is not the goal of this article to detail every possible Clarity combination or the intricacies of the value interaction between clarity and other characteristics of a diamond. It is to bring awareness of this component of value and highlight it as part of the Crystal Clear philosophy's drive for transparency.
By being aware of this information, a well-informed decision can be made when considering the value of a diamond, especially if considering a diamond as part of a wealth preservation belief.
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