Diamond Clarity: A Sparkling Guide to the Grading System for Diamonds

Diamond Clarity: A Guide to Grading Diamonds

People love shiny objects and diamonds are the epitome of shiny. One key factor that determines a diamond’s value is its clarity. Let’s take a look at what diamond clarity means, how it’s graded, and how it applies to both kinds of diamonds, natural and lab-grown.

What is Diamond Clarity?

Diamond clarity refers to how clean or clear a diamond looks under 10x magnification. Most diamonds have tiny imperfections called inclusions. These can be small crystals, clouds, or feathers inside the diamond. Diamonds may also have external flaws called blemishes. The fewer and smaller these imperfections, the higher the clarity grade.

Diamond clarity refers to how clean or clear a diamond looks under 10x magnification.

A Brief History of Grading Diamond Clarity

People have valued clear diamonds for a long time, but formal grading systems are more recent. Here’s a quick timeline:

  1. Early 1900s: Jewelers used terms like “loupe clean” or “piqué” to describe clarity.
  2. 1930s: The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) started to develop standard grading methods.
  3. 1953: GIA introduced the modern diamond clarity grading scale.
  4. 1970s: Other labs created their own grading systems.


Today, several grading systems exist, but GIA’s is the most widely used.

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diamond clarity grading scale

Diamond Clarity Grading Systems

GIA Clarity Scale:

The GIA scale has 11 grades. From best to worst, they are:

  1. Flawless (FL)
  2. Internally Flawless (IF)
  3. Very, Very Slightly Included 1 (VVS1)
  4. Very, Very Slightly Included 2 (VVS2)
  5. Very Slightly Included 1 (VS1)
  6. Very Slightly Included 2 (VS2)
  7. Slightly Included 1 (SI1)
  8. Slightly Included 2 (SI2)
  9. Included 1 (I1)
  10. Included 2 (I2)
  11. Included 3 (I3)

Other Grading Systems:

  1. AGS (American Gem Society): Uses a 0-10 scale, with 0 being the best.
  2. EGL (European Gemological Laboratory): Similar to GIA but may be less strict.
  3. HRD (Hoge Raad voor Diamant): Uses a scale like GIA’s but with different terminology.

Understanding Clarity Grades

Let’s break down what these grades mean:

  • Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF): These diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification. They’re extremely rare.
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): These diamonds have tiny inclusions that are hard for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2): The inclusions in these diamonds are minor and can be seen with effort under 10x magnification.
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2): The inclusions are noticeable under 10x magnification but usually can’t be seen by the naked eye.
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3): These diamonds have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye and may affect the diamond’s brilliance.

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

Both natural and lab-grown diamonds can be graded using the same clarity scales. However, there are some differences:

Natural Diamonds:

  • Formed deep in the Earth over millions of years
  • Each diamond is unique, with its own set of inclusions
  • Inclusions can include other minerals, fractures, or growth patterns

Lab-Grown Diamonds:

  • Created in labs using advanced technology
  • Can be grown in weeks or months
  • May have different types of inclusions than natural diamonds
  • Often have fewer inclusions than natural diamonds

Clarity in Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds tend to have higher clarity grades than natural diamonds. This is because:

  1. The growing process is controlled, leading to fewer impurities.
  2. Lab diamonds grow faster, giving less time for inclusions to form.
  3. Manufacturers can stop the growth process if too many flaws appear.

However, completely flawless lab-grown diamonds are still rare. Most fall in the VS or SI range.

Factors Affecting Diamond Clarity

Several factors influence a diamond’s clarity grade:

  1. Size of inclusions: Larger inclusions have a bigger impact on the grade.
  2. Number of inclusions: More inclusions generally mean a lower grade.
  3. Position of inclusions: Inclusions in the center of the diamond are more noticeable.
  4. Nature of inclusions: Some types of inclusions are more visible than others.
  5. Color of inclusions: Dark inclusions are more noticeable than light ones.

Grading Diamonds: Clarity and Value

Clarity is one of the “Four Cs” that determine a diamond’s value. The others are Cut, Color, and Carat weight. Generally, higher clarity grades mean higher prices. However, the difference in price between two adjacent grades can be significant, especially at the high end of the scale.

Clarity in Different Diamond Shapes

The impact of clarity can vary depending on the diamond’s shape:

  1. Round Brilliant: This cut is good at hiding inclusions.
  2. Step Cuts (like Emerald and Asscher): These cuts tend to show inclusions more easily.
  3. Marquise and Pear: Inclusions at the tips can be more noticeable.

Clarity Enhancement

Some diamonds undergo treatments to improve their clarity:

  1. Laser drilling: Removes dark inclusions by drilling a tiny hole to the inclusion.
  2. Fracture filling: Fills cracks with a clear substance to make them less visible.

These treatments can improve a diamond’s appearance but may lower its value compared to untreated diamonds of the same clarity grade.

What Kind of Diamond are You Looking at? 

While it’s an important factor in a diamond’s value, it’s not the only one. Often times, a diamond that looks clean to the naked eye is a good choice, especially if you’re on a tighter budget. When buying a diamond, consider all the Four Cs together. Remember that a lower clarity grade doesn’t necessarily mean a less beautiful diamond. Many SI1 and SI2 diamonds look just as good as higher grades to the naked eye but cost less. Whether you choose a natural or lab-grown diamond, understanding clarity can help you make an informed decision and find a diamond that fits your preferences and budget.

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