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  • Writer's pictureSimo R.

Diamond Buying 101 Part 2 - Clarity

When looking to buy a diamond for any reason, be it for a present, special occasion or just to show someone your appreciation, you will be quickly immersed in the world of numbers and letters that indicate a diamond's value. To help decipher some of these things I'm going to explain how diamonds are valued in the industry and what you should be looking for.

Firstly, what you should be looking for is what you can afford. Diamonds are amazing creations of nature and will always be held in high regard but you should never go overboard just to get 1 grade higher or something because the salesperson is pushing it on you. From my experience in the jewellery industry basically any salesperson will either be on commission or some kind of bonus system that will provide them a benefit for trying to upsell you. Resist their pressure and buy exactly what you know you can afford. A good jeweller will always be able to work with essentially any budget to find or create a beautiful piece of jewellery for any occasion.

When looking for a piece of diamond jewellery you may have heard of the 4Cs which are Cut, Clarity, Carat and Colour. The 4Cs have been around for many years and have become the standard on how we grade and buy diamonds and depending on the region of the world or who you are buying the diamond from there are a variety of systems to use when grading by these criteria. Nowadays however, I believe there should be 5Cs though with the emergence of origin tracking and lab created diamonds. The last C should be Creation (AKA origin).



Clarity of a diamond is one of the easiest for people to understand and relate to as the lower grades can be seen even to the untrained eye. Clarity is the grade given to a diamond depending on what kind of inclusions are visible under a 10X magnification like a jeweller's loupe. For the longest time all dark inclusions were called "carbon" and light ones were "ice" or "snow" but as testing techniques developed over time those terms aren't used as often nowadays.

Inclusions come in many natural gemstones and are sometimes referred to as the "fingerprint" of the stone as these inclusions can help identify the stone and even provide clues to where the stone comes from. Inclusions come in a variety of different types, some of the more common ones include:

  • Feathers - so named because they are white and feathery in appearance

  • Crystal inclusions, small minerals which can be a variety of different colours, from dark to light, found inside the stone

  • Clouds, which have a dust like appearance or a small cloud of pinpoint inclusions

When you're looking for a diamond it is always good to ask what the clarity is as it does make a difference but it isn't the most important factor. If you can see a black inclusion or something that doesn't look appealing then you can continue looking until you find something. Some lower grades for clarity can still look very clean or not very included to the naked eye while other higher grades can have inclusions that are very noticeable.

Just like the other grading elements in the 4Cs, there are different ways to indicate what the Clarity of the stone is. In Canada the most common grading system you'll probably hear of is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as they are one of the larger and well known labs in North America. The GIA clarity grades from highest to lowest are:

  • Flawless (FL)

  • Internally Flawless (IF)

  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS)

  • Very Slightly Included (VS)

  • Slightly Included (SI)

  • Included 1 - 3 (I1 – I3)

Below is a quick visual from GIA that shows the scale.

For the grades between VVS and SI they are usually separated into one of two grades (SI1 and SI2 for example) when the stones are of a larger size. Most of the time this separation occurs after the stone size is over 0.25ct but that may not always be the case. In the lower grades is where you will see the most difference as an I1 stone will have inclusions but they won't detract from the brilliance in the stone. An I2 stone will have some of the brilliance diminished due to the inclusions where an I3 stone won't have any of the brilliance left due to the amount and types of inclusions.

The image here shows what you might expect for the different grades of clarity in real diamonds. The images here simulate what you might see under a 10x magnification. Mainly, any diamonds that are the SI clarity grade or above are going to be sufficient to make sure most people can't see anything with their naked eye.

There are other grading systems used around the world including the American Gem Society (AGS) and the International World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO). Most of these other grading systems follow the GIA in how they are separated but the name may be slightly different. You may see things like Loupe Clean used instead of Flawless, Slightly Imperfect instead of Slightly Included and Pique or Imperfect instead of Included .

When looking at buying a diamond for any purpose you should also consider where it's being worn and how many people will see it. A good example of this might be that you can go to a lower clarity rating on a pair of earrings with smaller stones since they usually aren't inspected as closely as a larger stone in a pendant or ring where the inclusions might be more visible.

If your budget allows it, usually a good starting point is in the VS or SI range of clarity grades as they will be very difficult to see without magnification and any inclusions you might be able to see are small enough that they won't detract from the beauty of the stone. Don't be afraid to look at an I1 stone though, at they can be significantly less expensive and you can get some I1 stones that look beautiful.


If you are interested in getting your diamond appraised or even just graded or verified then visit us at 1612 Lasalle Blvd in Sudbury, Ontario, right next to Red Lobster and across from the Part Source. You can also contact us by email at or by phone at (705) 222-1221.

To read more about the services available check out our available services here.

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