The 4Cs: Clarity
"Mother Nature Cooks in a Messy Kitchen."
Clarity is how "clear" a diamond is. Diamonds are carbon. So when they're forming, carbon is under immense pressure and heat, which can result in a variety of foreign matter getting inside each rough diamond when forming. These foreign matters are called inclusions and blemishes. When diamonds have better clarity grades, it means that they are more purely carbon.
The effect of inclusions and blemishes (AKA clarity characteristics!) on the clarity grade is based on their:
Size. Generally, the larger and therefore more visible a clarity characteristic is (feather, pin point, cloud, knot, bruise, etc), the lower the diamond’s clarity grade will be.
Number. The more clarity characteristics there are can mean a lower grade, however their visibility is more important than their number.
Position. Inclusions are most visible when they're under the table. If there is an inclusion under the table and near the pavilion, the pavilion facets can act as mirrors and reflect multiple images of the inclusion. This is why we say "location, location, location!"
Nature. The type of a clarity characteristic tells you whether it’s an inclusion (internal) or a blemish (surface reaching), and if it poses any risk to the stone (if you hit it hard, will it crack or is it simply just an eye sore).
Color or Relief. Relief is the contrast between the inclusion and the stone. The more an inclusion differs in color from its host, the more obvious it is, therefore decreasing it's clarity grade. The greater the relief, the more it will affect the clarity grade. While most inclusions are white or colorless, there are black, brown, red, or sometimes even green inclusions. Call me a romantic, but I love the idea of a garnet inclusion in a diamond for an engagement ring if the giver's birthday is in January.
Step cut diamonds typically require a higher clarity grade than their brilliant cut counterparts as their faceting creates a 'hall of mirrors' effect. This means their inclusions can be bounced back and forth making one inclusion look like many more than are actually there. Brilliant cut diamonds CAN (but not always!) conceal various inclusions.
There is no "one size fits all" clarity characteristic for each grade -- clarity is a range, and one SI1 can be very eye clean compared to another SI1. It's so important to work with a jeweler you trust to find a diamond that is not only beautiful, but within your budget. I go through tens to hundreds of diamonds to prescreen for my clients to ensure I'm presenting the absolute best of the best. That way, you don't have to worry if an inclusion will corrupt the structural integrity of a diamond or wonder if there is a better VS1 out there for you.
As with all of the 4Cs, these features not only help you identify which stone is yours, but can help you understand how quality translates to price. If you have any other questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can assist further!