The 4 Cs: An In-Depth Look at Clarity

The 4 Cs: An In-Depth Look at Clarity

If you’ve been studying the 4 Cs of diamond grading – Cut, Carat, Color, and Clarity – you may find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the information. The truth is, while there is a lot of info out there, the more you understand about the basics, the easier it becomes to understand. For that reason, we’re going to take an in-depth look at clarity gradings for diamonds.

The Basics of Diamond Clarity

Of all the 4 Cs, clarity grades may arguably be one of the most difficult to understand. Most of the grading systems use standardized ratings today, but these ratings can be quite confusing if you don’t know the basics.

For starters, let’s define what diamond clarity means. If you think of the general definition of clarity, in terms of diamonds, it represents essentially how clear a diamond is. By that, we mean free from blemishes or inclusions, not in relation to the overall color of the diamond (which is graded on a separate color grade scale).

“Evaluating diamond clarity involves determining the number, size, relief, nature, and position of these (blemishes and inclusions), as well as how these affect the overall appearance of the stone,” explains the Gemology Institute of America (GIA).

An In-Depth Look at Clarity

To understand clarity grades, we need to take a look at what appraisers are looking at while assigning grading classifications. Clarity grades are derived from a thorough inspection by trained professional gemologists using high-powered magnification that allows them to peer at the diamond at a rate of 10 times its normal size.

Under this microscopic view, gemologists are able to determine the size and quantity of any included blemishes or inclusions each diamond may have. This examination allows them to see miniscule imperfections that are not seen by the naked eye, and then used to determine an overall grade for the clarity of that piece.

Understanding Diamond Grades

Depending upon which diamond grading organization has performed the appraisal, your diamond’s clarity grade can read either an alpha-numeric score or a number rating. GIA and AGS (American Gemological Society) are the two most trusted and commonly used diamond grading systems in the country and use very different rating systems.

The GIA grading system, the most widely used rating among jewelers, uses an alpha-numeric measure to grade the clarity of diamonds. Their system utilizes 6 broad categories of grades, the lower 4 of which can be further divided into more specific grade levels. These grades include:

  • FL (Flawless) – these diamonds have zero imperfections (no inclusions or blemishes)
  • IF (Internally Flawless) – these may have blemishes, but no visible inclusions
  • VVS 1 & 2 (Very, Very Slightly Included) – extremely small inclusions that are difficult to see under magnification
  • VS 1 & 2 (Very Slightly Included) – minor inclusions can be seen without much effort
  • SI 1 & 2 (Slightly Included) – inclusions can be seen easily under inspection
  • I 1,2 & 3 (Included) – inclusions are seen and obvious and will affect the diamond’s overall brilliance

The AGS uses a slightly different technique for grading diamond clarity. With their scales, AGS uses grades from 0 to 10 to rate each piece, with 0 being the best grade and 10 being the lowest. In comparison, a 0 grade is comparable to GIA’s FL grade, a 1 is equal to VVS1, 2 is equal to VVS2, 3 equates to VS1, 4 to VS2, 5 to SI1, 6-7 grades equal SI2, 8 is an I1, 9 is I2, and 10 is I3.

As confusing as this may be, most jewelers only offer one or the other grading certifications, so understanding what each rate means doesn’t have to be that complicated. Simply ask which method each retailer offers and study up on that particular method before purchasing your diamond investment.