Understanding Diamond Clarity


The clarity of a diamond is graded based on the number and size of blemishes, internal flaws called inclusions, and the way they affect the diamond's appearance. The fewer inclusions and blemishes a diamond has, the better its clarity grade will be. Clarity can have a significant impact on a diamond’s price (it’s one of the 4 Cs). However, many imperfections that affect a diamond’s clarity grade aren’t visible to the naked or unaided eye.

To provide shoppers with information about each diamond's clarity level, grading entities such as the Gemological Institute Of America (GIA) and American Gem Society (AGS) use diamond clarity charts to judge diamonds based on their appearance and assign each stone a clarity grade within a given range.

Diamond clarity scales range from I (meaning “included”) to FL (meaning “flawless”). Each clarity grade has subgrades that provide more information about the visibility of inclusions in the diamond.


FL/ IF (Flawless / Internally Flawless)

If you see anything at all on diamonds with a Flawless clarity grade, you can be assured that it is merely dust.

VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

The tiny pinpoints can only be seen under a powerful microscope. VVS1 size inclusions aren’t visible at this level of magnification. A regular photograph, even a highly magnified one, can only focus on one level of depth.

If a VVS-size inclusion is in a diamond, and the image is focused on a different layer of depth, there is no chance the pinpoint inclusion will be visible.

VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included – 2nd Degree)

Generally, you need a gemological microscope to identify a VVS2 inclusion since, often, the inclusion pattern is not one larger speck, but a few separate VVS1 sized spots that collectively equal a VVS2 clarity grade. Since each of the individual spots is too small to be seen with a jeweler’s loupe, one needs a microscope to identify them.

VS1 (Very Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

Unlike VVS2 clarity inclusions, a microscope is never needed to locate a VS1. A VS1 clarity inclusion is still quite small and will never be visible to the naked eye.

VS2 (Very Slightly Included – 2nd Degree)

VS2 Clarity inclusions are almost always clean to the naked eye.

SI1 (Slightly Included – 1st Degree)

A diamond's clarity grade is affected by a variety of inclusions. Clarity grades are rarely based on a concentrated inclusion (especially for SI1 and lower).

Usually, there are a number of smaller spots and clouds of tiny spots that make up the clarity grade. In these cases, since each individual inclusion is very small, the diamond looks clean to the naked eye.

SI2 (Slightly Included - 2nd Degree)

In step cuts such as Emerald and Asscher, an inclusion with SI2 clarity is likely to be visible to the naked eye. In other brilliant shapes (basically all the others), SI2 clarity inclusions are often visible to the naked eye.

Another common trait is a “spready” SI2. In these cases, since the SI2 is spread out all over the stone, and not concentrated in any one area, the diamond is usually eye-clean.

I1 (Included - 1st Degree)

I1 clarity inclusions are so obviously visible on step cuts (Asscher Cuts & Emerald Cuts) that you rarely see them produced.

As mentioned above, most clarity grades are comprised of several to many smaller inclusions spread out over the area of the diamond. In such cases, the I1 clarity inclusion will be much less noticeable to the naked eye, if at all.

Pro Tip - Some companies will try to trick you with an “SI3” clarity. That is a red flag, warning you to be wary. We talk about this more in-depth here.

If you’re not sure what to look for, confused by different clarity grades, or just want an expert to guide you through the process, don’t hesitate to contact us.