Diamond Clarity Scale: 10 Must Knows Before You Buy

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A diamond’s clarity plays a key role in determining the stone’s worth. The diamond clarity scale is a guide used to evaluate a diamond’s visual characteristics.

Clarity is one of the 4 Cs used by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to grade diamonds. The remaining 3 Cs are color, carat and cut. While all of the Cs are important, clarity is particularly significant as a diamond’s flaws often cannot be seen by the naked eye, as you will see below.

This article is an in-depth examination of the GIA’s diamond clarity scale. We break down clarity categorizations as well as visuals of the most common inclusion types – some of which you have to see to believe. Don’t miss the interactive diamond clarity scale slider below to easily compare the look of a flawless diamond versus the lowest clarity grade, included 3.

Diamond Clarity Scale Categories

The GIA diamond clarity scale is made up of 6 primary categories with 5 subcategories. In total, there are 11 specific grading classifications.

In order to measure a stone’s clarity, a gemologist will examine the stone under a magnification of 10x. The grades are based on the number of inclusions and blemishes visible in the diamond. Flawless being the highest clarity grade a diamond can receive, with Included 3 being the lowest. If you’re interested in learning more about inclusions, check out our complete overview of diamond inclusions.

diamond clarity scale

Flawless – FL

Flawless diamonds are classified as having no inclusions as well as no blemishes visible to a skilled grader under 10x magnification. These are extremely rare. So rare that fewer than 1% of diamonds fall into this category. With that said, the price of a flawless diamond will be much steeper than other diamonds with lesser clarity.

Internally Flawless – IF

Internally flawless is defined as having no visible inclusions under 10x magnification. However, there may be small blemishes visible under magnification. The presence of these blemishes under magnification is the detail that grades internally flawless just below flawless.

Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2)

VVS1

The Very, Very Slightly Included 1 category means that a diamond can have minute inclusions that are usually extremely difficult to see to even skilled graders under the 10x magnification.

VVS2

VVS2 is another classification for diamonds very high up in the diamond clarity scale. These diamonds have minute inclusions deemed very difficult to see under intense magnification.

Very Slightly Included (VSI1, VSI2)

VS1

VS1 indicates that a diamond has slight inclusions ranging from difficult to somewhat easy to see for a skilled grader using 10x magnification.

VS2

Minor inclusions that range from difficult to somewhat easy to see are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification.

Slightly Included (SI1, SI2)

Slightly Included is a general category that means noticeable inclusions in the diamond that are easy, or even very easy for a qualified grader to see under the 10x magnification. There are 2 subcategories of Slightly Included.

SI1

Slightly included 1 are diamonds that have inclusions deemed as easy to see when grading a diamond’s clarity. As with all diamond grading, these are done under the 10x magnification.

SI2

The slightly included 2 inclusions are classified as very easy to see under magnification during the grading evaluation.

Included (I1, I2, I3)

Included is the lowest category of diamond clarity grading. The included classifications mean that there are obvious flaws in the diamond that are visible to a skilled grader under 10x magnification. These inclusions will undoubtedly affect the transparency and brilliance of the stone, thus affecting the value.

There are 3 classes of included, although it’s very rare that a diamond with such obvious inclusions is produced.

I1

If you do find an included diamond, it’s likely to be an included 1. This grade is going to be less expensive than the others as it will have obvious flaws that can even be detected from the naked eye.

I2

Included 2 is a step below its predecessor. More blemishes and inclusions will be found in a diamond graded at included 2, thus degrading the value even further. Again, most diamond manufacturers will not produce a rock at this clarity level.

I3

Included 3 is the worst of the worst on the diamond clarity scale. These are the diamonds that have the largest inclusions and blemishes in the most undesirable locations. As mentioned above, these will rarely if ever get produced as their worth is simply not viable.

Best Vs Worst Diamond Clarity Examples

Below is an image of what equates to a flawless diamond. This stone is completely void of any inclusions or blemishes to the naked eye. Even under magnification a skilled grader cannot find any sort of flaw. A flawless diamond indicates a complete absence of inclusions or blemishes. This clarity category is at the top of the diamond clarity scale.

diamond clarity scale
Flawless

Compare the above flawless to the below Included 3. The below is the worst clarity rating a diamond can receive. Notice the red lines and the various small red circles. Those indicate inclusions seen in a diamond of this caliber.

diamond clarity scale
Included 3

If you want to see further diamond clarity examples, you are in the right place. The diamond clarity scale below showcases all of the clarity categories with pictures and interactive selection of each.

Interactive Diamond Clarity Scale

Use this interactive slider to view the various diamond clarity scale categories. You can move the slider to check out examples of the different diamond clarity grades described above.

Click around everywhere below! You will see some very cool interactive features.

Please be sure to fully check out the above guide.

All of the categories except for flawless have a + sign at the upper-right side of the diamond picture. Clicking this allows you to see a magnified look the grading to better understand what you can expect I’m diamond quality on a per category basis.

5 Key Factors To Clarity Grading

In order to fully understand diamond clarity, there are a few more elements you have to account for.

There are 5 distinct factors that diamond graders take into account when assessing and rating diamond clarity. These aspects all relate to the inclusions or blemishes that a diamond can have.

1. Size

The higher the diamond clarity grading, the rarer the diamond.

The size of the inclusion is a major factor in determining the diamond’s clarity. The larger the inclusion, the greater the effect on the diamond clarity.

2. Number

Another factor in the diamond clarity scale is the number of inclusions. A flawless diamond will have no inclusions, however this is extremely rare. An Included 3 will have numerous visible flaws that devalue the diamond.

3. Position

Position of the inclusion or blemish is an important factor playing into clarity of a diamond. If a defect is positioned directly in the center of the rock, that is less desirable than a toward an edge, where it’s less noticeable from first glance.

4. Nature

Nature refers to the specific type of flaw. Internal issues are referred to as inclusions. Blemishes are on the surface of the diamond, without intrusion to the interior. This risk with inclusions is certain types can pose a potential to chip later in the diamond’s life. This has to be taken into account when grading.

5. Color

Color refers to the imperfection and how much contrast it has compared to the diamond itself. The greater, the color disparity from the diamond, the higher the effect of the overall clarity grade.

In short the 5 diamond clarity factors are:

  1. Size – How big is the inclusion or blemish?
  2. Number – How many are there?
  3. Position – Where on the diamond is the inclusion or blemish located?
  4. Nature – What is it?
  5. Color – How easy is the diamond’s flaw to see? 

Conclusion

There is no question that diamond clarity is one of the most vital pieces in determining a diamond’s worth.

It takes special skill and know how to determine clarity. Prior to making a diamond purchase, there are numerous items that should be considered, with clarity being high on the list. If you are ever in doubt, ask your vendor for a diamond clarity scale or contact us directly.