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4C’s of Diamonds – The Second ‘C’: “Clarity”

In my last blog 4C’s of Diamonds, I talked about how diamonds are graded based on their “Color”. Both the color and the clarity characteristics of a diamond are controlled by Mother Nature. The remaining two “Cs”, namely the Cut and the Carat Weight, on the other hand, are controlled by men. During diamond cutting and polishing process, we can slightly enhance the color of a diamond by experimenting with cutting parameters and light reflection principles, but the natural color and clarity of an original rough diamond cannot be changed. (There are lab treatments that can alter the natural color and even the clarity of a diamonds, but then the diamond losses its rare “Natural” characteristics. If a stone undergoes any lab treatment, it is certified as a “treated” stone.)

Out of all 4C’s of diamonds, Colour, Clarity, Cut and Carat Weight, both the Colour and the Clarity characteristics of a diamond are controlled by Mother Nature. The remaining two “Cs”, namely the Cut and the Carat Weight, on the other hand, are controlled by men.

Similar to its Colour, the Clarity of a diamond is also a significant factor affecting its value. To understand a diamond’s clarity, let us first understand what exactly we mean when we refer to the term “Clarity”. Natural diamonds are formed when carbon molecules undergo extreme temperature and pressure hundreds of kilometres underneath the surface of the earth. The chances of forming a perfect crystal under natural uncontrolled environment, which requires stable growth condition for a long period of time, are extremely rare. Therefore, flawless diamonds are very rare to form and very expensive to buy. Majority of the diamonds carry one or more flaws in the form of other elements or even carbon impurities present in the crystal structure.

When we talk of Diamond Clarity, we refer to the Inclusions or Blemishes present in a diamond.
a. Inclusions – Any flaw that is found underneath the surface of the diamond
b. Blemishes – Any irregularities or scratches present on the surface of the diamond

Inclusions are always natural – air bubbles, cracks, other materials, microscopic dust particles, and the like. Blemishes, on the other hand, can be natural or man-made. Blemishes might be a scratch on the surface, a minor chip, or anything else that mars the surface. Just like the diamond colour, the lesser or insignificant the inclusion, the higher the price of the diamond.

Interesting Trivia: The world’s largest gem-quality cut diamond is a D colour, internally flawless diamond – the Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa diamond, which now adorns the Royal Scepter in the Crown Jewels of the British Empire.

The diamond clarity is defined based on the number, size, colour, location, orientation and ultimately the visibility of inclusions present in the diamond.

a. Flawless or F: The rarest of rare diamonds, these super shiners are absolutely, heavenly perfect. There is not a single flaw on the stone, inside or outside.

b. Internally Flawless or IF: Rare, but not as rare as flawless pieces, these beauties are completely flaw-free on the inside. These might have extremely minuscule surface blemishes. However, their rarity ensures that demand and price for these shiners always stay at a peak.

c. Very Very Slightly Included or VVS1 and VVS2: Another highly in demand but not so easy to find gem-quality stones, VVS1 and VVS2 graded diamonds have extremely minuscule inclusions on the inside. Even under standard 10x magnification, only trained gemmologists would be able to detect these inclusions. Quite steeply priced stones, but nowhere in comparison to the first two.

d. Very Slightly Included or VS1 and VS2: Perhaps the most regularly demanded diamonds; VS1 and VS2 grade stones find maximum use in high quality fine jewellery. Diamonds in these grades fetch good prices as they only have very minute inclusions that are quite hard to detect under standard magnification.

e. Slightly Included or SI1 and SI2: The inclusions in this particular grade of diamonds are comparatively larger and may be visible to the naked eye. A vast majority of the diamonds mined would fall into this range and therefore these stones are available at highly competitive price ranges.

f. Included or I1, I2 and I3: The lowest rung in the diamond clarity grading ladder, I1, I2 and I3 diamonds have flaws that are clearly visible even to untrained, laymen eyes. These diamonds are normally used only in the lowest grade jewellery; some of them are also used for industrial purposes.

Hard Fact: 10 X magnifications is the standard magnification used for grading a diamond’s clarity. If inclusions or blemishes present in a diamond cannot be identified under 10 X magnification by a trained gemmologist, they do not count towards deciding the clarity grade of a diamond.

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