The Clarity of a Diamond: Understanding Inclusions and Their Impact

Diamond clarity is a critical factor in determining the value and beauty of a diamond. During their formation deep within the Earth, most diamonds develop natural “inclusions” such as crystals, feathers, and other internal characteristics. These inclusions are a result of the extreme conditions under which diamonds are created and are unique to each stone.

What Are Inclusions?

Inclusions are internal imperfections that can vary in size, shape, and type. Common types of inclusions include:

  • Crystals: Tiny mineral crystals trapped inside the diamond.
  • Feathers: Small cracks or fractures within the diamond.
  • Clouds: Groups of tiny inclusions that can give a hazy appearance.
  • Pinpoints: Very small white or black dots inside the diamond.
  • Needles: Long, thin inclusions that resemble tiny needles.

How Clarity is Graded

Diamond clarity is assessed by examining the stone under 10-power magnification using a binocular microscope in good lighting conditions. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) clarity scale is the most widely recognized standard for grading diamond clarity. It ranges from Flawless (FL) to Included (I), with several intermediate grades:

  • Flawless (FL): No internal or external imperfections visible under 10x magnification.
  • Internally Flawless (IF): No internal imperfections, but minor surface blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
  • Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): Minute inclusions that are difficult to see even under 10x magnification.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): Minor inclusions that are somewhat easy to see under 10x magnification.
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): Noticeable inclusions that are easily visible under 10x magnification.
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3): Obvious inclusions that may affect transparency and brilliance.

The Rarity and Value of High-Clarity Diamonds

The fewer the inclusions, the rarer and more valuable the diamond. Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF) diamonds are extremely rare and command high prices. These diamonds are highly sought after for their purity and perfection. However, diamonds with slight inclusions can still be beautiful and valuable, especially if the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye.

The Impact of Inclusions on Diamond Appearance

While inclusions can affect the value of a diamond, they do not necessarily detract from its beauty. Many inclusions are microscopic and do not impact the diamond’s brilliance or fire. Some inclusions can be strategically placed where they are less noticeable, such as near the edges of the diamond, where they can be hidden by prongs or settings.

Federal Trade Commission Rules on Clarity

According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules, a diamond can only be labeled as “Flawless” if no internal or external imperfections are visible to a professional eye under 10-power magnification. This stringent standard ensures that consumers can trust the clarity grades provided by reputable jewelers and gemological laboratories.

Real-World Examples of Diamond Clarity

Here are some examples of how clarity grades impact diamond prices and appearance:

  • Flawless (FL): A one-carat flawless diamond can cost between $20,000 to $40,000, reflecting its rarity and perfection.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1): A similar one-carat VS1 diamond might range from $8,000 to $12,000, offering high quality with minor, less noticeable inclusions.
  • Slightly Included (SI1): A one-carat SI1 diamond can range from $4,000 to $6,000, balancing affordability with inclusions that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Choosing the Right Clarity for Your Needs

When selecting a diamond, consider how important clarity is to you compared to other factors like carat weight, color, and cut. If you prioritize perfection and rarity, a higher clarity grade may be worth the investment. However, if you seek a balance between beauty and budget, diamonds with lower clarity grades can still provide stunning brilliance and fire.


Understanding diamond clarity is essential for making an informed purchase. By knowing how inclusions affect a diamond’s value and appearance, you can select a stone that meets your aesthetic preferences and budget. Whether you choose a flawless diamond or one with minor inclusions, the beauty and brilliance of your diamond will shine through, making it a cherished piece for years to come.