When a gemologist values your diamond, they first establish the 4 C’s: carat weight, color, cut and clarity grade.
Clarity affects the appearance of the stone and refers to the presence, or lack of, imperfections in a diamond. But even if your stone appears to have no visible flaws, they may simply not be visible to the naked eye. Some imperfections only appear under magnification but nonetheless lower the clarity grade, which in turn lowers the stone’s value.
How do you determine a clarity grade?
There are eleven possible clarity grades, ranging from Flawless (the best) to I3 (the worst). Where a diamond falls on the scale is determined by:
- The number
- The size
- The location of inclusions or blemishes
What is an inclusion vs. a blemish?
Blemishes are external flaws and inclusions are internal flaws. Blemishes appear on the diamond’s surface and are typically scratches, nicks or chips. Diamonds are one of the hardest materials on the planet; but this does not mean that they are immune to damage. Inclusions commonly found in diamonds:
- Feather: break in the stone
- Crystal: small minerals inside the stone
- Cloud: small grouped together pinpoint crystals
- Bruise: small area where the stone was impacted, surrounded by small feathers
- Needle: needle-like crystal
Does it matter where the inclusion or blemish is?
The location of the inclusion or blemish in your diamond is very important in determining how it will affect value. Highly visible inclusions, located the center of the stone, are more detrimental to the price than inclusions that are more hidden.
Is it possible to improve my diamond’s clarity?
While there are treatments to improve your diamond’s clarity, this will lessen the value of your diamond. Despite improving the overall appearance of your diamond, diamond buyers give the best and most valuable offers on stones that are natural and untampered with. The reason is simple: rarity and value go hand in hand. A low clarity grade diamond is not rare. And a low clarity grade diamond that has undergone treatment to improve its clarity is not rare either.
The most common ways to improve clarity in a diamond are the following: fracture filling and laser drilling. Fracture filling is a temporary enhancement that hides the cracks in a diamond, but can be removed by boiling the stone in acid. Laser drilling is a permanent option that bleaches away inclusions, but involves drilling a small hole into the diamond. While jewelers are obliged to let you know if you are buying a diamond that has been enhanced in any way, that doesn’t always mean that they actually do. A diamond certificate issued by a reputable diamond-grading laboratory is the best way to ascertain whether a diamond has undergone treatment. The GIA however will not issue certificates for diamond that have undergone temporary treatments.