4C's - Clarity
Few diamonds are perfect. Given their enormously violent birthing process in volcanoes millions of years ago, most diamonds have tiny remnants of their beginning or intruder minerals inside them. Thankfully, most of these inclusions, as they're called, are hidden from sight. It takes magnification to see them.

A clarity grade is an evaluation of the degree to which a diamond is free of blemishes and inclusions. Inclusions can be thought of as natural birthmarks on a diamond. Since no two diamonds have exactly the same inclusions, this property can also be described as an identifying characteristic.

How are diamonds clarity graded?
Grading diamonds for clarity is a process of hunting down microscopic imperfections and rating them for difficulty of discovery. The more difficult it is to find inclusions under 10x magnification- using a binocular microscope- the higher the clarity grade. Once these specks are found, their number, size, and location all play a role in deciding the clarity grade. Read more about Clarity Grading

What is the best clarity of a diamond?
Gemologists use an 11-grade scale - from 'FL' (Flawless), the highest, to 'I3', very noticeable inclusions - to grade clarity. Each grade down represents increased ease of detection. In short, grades stand for degrees of visibility.

Diamonds with no discoverable imperfections under 10x magnification earn a FL (flawless rating). If there is an oh-so-slight surface imperfection, it gets an IF (internally flawless) grade.

Next comes the VVS (very, very slightly included) grades, in which there are two, and the difference between them has to do with whether an inclusion is extremely difficult - VVS1, or merely very difficult - VVS2, to see.

Once the difficulty factor is reduced, diamonds receive grades of either VS 1-2 (very slightly) or SI 1-2 (slightly) included. If this sounds like gemological nit-picking, keep in mind that degrees of perceptibility can make enormous value differences.

Finally, there comes a point at which inclusions become noticeable to the naked eye. Diamonds with visible inclusions receive one of three I (included) grades. See Photomicrographs of each Clarity Grade


How do I know my diamond was graded correctly?
When buying diamonds, especially ones that have been mounted, always ask for a diamond certificate. Some manufacturers and retailers hide visible inclusions under prongs. You want a diamond that has no hidden surprises.

Make sure your diamond comes with a Grading certificate from a respected gemological laboratory, such as GCAL. GCAL is an independent laboratory, not affiliated with any jewelers, and has the consumers' best interests in mind. Read more about GCAL's Standards

Clarity grading is a subjective scientific procedure that depends on the skill and experience of the grader and reasonable variances are possible, but every effort is made to eliminate bias. GCAL utilizes consensus grading methodology and an exceptional quality control procedure to assure the most accurate, objective and consistent grading possible. Before GCAL gives a diamond its quality grades, each stone is individually examined by two experts and verified by a third senior expert. Every diamond is weighed, measured, examined, tested and photographed several times before a certificate is issued.

Is it worth the money to buy a diamond with higher clarity? This is a personal decision. If perfection is your style, then consider a diamond graded VS1 or higher. If you want a diamond at a good value without any inclusions visible under normal conditions, then consider a diamond graded VS2, SI1 or SI2. If you want big flash for little cash, then consider a diamond graded I1, I2 or I3.

At what point can inclusions be seen with the naked eye? Several factors influence which inclusions you can see with your naked eye - the quality of your vision, the lighting, the angle of view, the cut of the diamond. Generally speaking, diamonds graded SI1 and higher do not have eye-visible inclusions. Diamonds graded SI2 and I1 may or may not have inclusions that are visible without magnification. I2 and I3 diamonds have visible inclusions that even a bat can see.

Should I be concerned that a diamond with inclusions is a weaker diamond? No, except with diamonds graded I2 or I3, in which case durability becomes a concern. Diamonds graded I1 or higher are not 'weakened' by their inclusions.

Diamonds are not indestructible. Diamonds are the hardest natural material and can only be scratched by another diamond, but they can break if struck too hard. Read more About Diamonds

verify your GCAL certificate verify now


Each panel of a GCAL Certificate tells a story to the customer.
  • Panel 1

    Verifies the identification process

  • Panel 2

    Verifies the 4C's quality grading

  • Panel 3

    Illustrates the quality of cutting and proportions revealing the skill of the diamond cutter

  1. 1Gemprint
  2. 2Laser Inscription
  3. 34C's Grading
  4. 4Photomicrograph
  5. 5Hearts & Arrow
  6. 6Optical Brilliance
  7. 7Optical Symmetry
  8. 8Proportion Diagram