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Diamond Clarity Comparison — Stop Paying For Things You Can’t See

Unsure which clarity grade is right for you? See the most popular clarity grades side by side in this diamond clarity comparison.

By Stephanie Dore

Let’s be honest, diamonds don’t just “wake up like this,” even if you do. So what’s all the fuss over flawless? Celebs might be constantly singing the praises of their crystal-clear rocks, but there’s no way THAT MANY flawless diamonds are just lying around waiting for their moment in the sun. When it comes right down to it, flawless diamonds are very rare. And paying for one means dropping cold cash on something you’ll never even see.

While we’re all for transparency and think you should definitely know what you’re buying, diamond clarity is the most misunderstood of the four Cs—made worse by the overabundance of super-magnified diamond videos now available online. In the real world, we know there are more important Cs to cash in on. 

VVS2 Clarity Diamond at 40x Magnification
SI2 Clarity Diamond at 40x Magnification

The fact is, unless you’ve got superpowers, applying hand cream with your ring on is going to have more visual impact on the sparkle of your rock than it’s certified clarity grade. That’s not to say all inclusions are invisible, just that most are.

When gemologists are assessing diamond clarity, they’re looking at the number, size, relief, nature, and position of a diamond’s internal characteristics, called inclusions, and surface characteristics, called blemishes, as well as how they affect the overall appearance of the stone. In simpler terms, diamonds with the smallest and fewest characteristics get the highest clarity grades—and the price tags to match. So let’s take a look at what diamond clarity grades are really all about—and what they look like IRL.

STARTING FROM THE TOP

Internally Flawless Lab Grown Diamond

FL (flawless)

Exactly what you think it is. No inclusions or blemishes visible to a trained gemologist under 10x magnification.

IF (internally flawless)

Pretty darn close. No inclusions visible under 10x magnification, but could have minute blemishes limited to its surface only (still completely invisible to the naked eye).

Shop IF Diamonds

VVS2 Clarity Lab Grown Diamond

VVS1-VVS2 (very, very slightly included)

Inclusions so slight they are extremely hard for even a trained gemologist to see under 10x magnification. Really, you could spend hours searching.

Shop VVS Diamonds

VS1 Clarity Lab Grown Diamond

VS1-VS2 (very slightly included)

Inclusions are only visible with effort under 10x magnification—get out your jeweler’s loupe—but can still be characterized as minor.

Shop VS Diamonds

SI1 Clarity Lab Grown Diamond

SI1-S12 (slightly included)

Potentially still eye-clean (meaning the average human won’t spot inclusions with their naked eye), but inclusions will be noticeable under 10x magnification.

Shop SI Diamonds

THE NITTY GRITTY

When we talk about diamond clarity characteristics, it’s important to remember that not all inclusions are created equal, and some are less noticeable than others. 

Common inclusions in lab grown diamonds:

Pinpoints:

The world’s tiniest crystal (just like a diamond itself), barely visible under magnification

Needles:

An elongated crystal, like if you stretched a pinpoint out a bit

Clouds:

Many pinpoints hanging out together, like a microscopic, say, cloud…

Common inclusions in natural diamonds:

Feathers:

Often white—and feathery—in appearance, feathers are tiny breaks in the stone; much like cracked glass, they are often visible from a particular angle

Twinning Wisps:

A bit like a streak of cotton candy, this characteristic happens during diamond growth, when the crystal pattern changes, and often consists of a series of pinpoints, clouds, or crystals

Crystals:

Literally a microscopic mineral crystal trapped inside a diamond, which could include another diamond!

While some of these might sound scary, trust us, they’re actually pretty cool once you know what you’re looking at. Gemologists are known for geeking out about all the cool sights to see under a microscope. Inclusions can even be a great way to identify your diamond from all the rest. You know, in case it’s ever in a lineup.

Think of a diamond’s inclusions like a human fingerprint. With more than 20 different characteristic types, in any combination imaginable, no two diamonds will ever be alike. Want to learn more? Check out our complete guide to diamond inclusions.

PRINTS PLEASE

Now, think of a clarity plot—those little diagrams you’ll find on the grading certificates of most diamonds .75-carats or larger—like a tiny map of your diamond’s fingerprint. These diagrams can show you just how many characteristics your diamond has, along with what type, their scale compared to the overall diamond size, and where they’re located. 

A plot map of an SI2 clarity diamond showing the location of the inclusions on the top (crown) and bottom (pavilion) of the diamond.
A plot map showing the type and location of the inclusions on the top (left)
and bottom (right) for an SI2 lab grown diamond

The plotting diagram should have both a top-down and a bottom-up view of the diamond and might have different colored markings on it depending on type of characteristic. These include red for internal characteristics, and green for characteristics that reach the surface. If you don’t see a full diagram, your diamond grading certificate should note the types of characteristics present, which can still be a helpful identifier.

DIAMOND CLARITY COMPARISON: THE SHOWDOWN

Just to show you exactly what we mean about not overpaying for clarity, we thought we’d do a head-to-head matchup. Can you tell the difference? We sure can’t. But your wallet will.

VVS1 vs VVS2 Diamond Clarity Comparison

VVS1 Lab Grown Emerald
VVS2 Lab Grown Emerald

VVS2 vs VS1 Diamond Clarity Comparison 

VVS2 Lab Grown Emerald
VS1 Lab Grown Emerald

VS2 vs SI1 Diamond Clarity Comparison 

VS2 Lab Grown Emerald
S1I Lab Grown Emerald

SI1 vs SI2 Diamond Clarity Comparison 

SI1 Lab Grown Emerald
SI2 Lab Grown Emerald

FLAWLESS, FINE. INCLUDED? THAT’S COOL TOO.

Ultimately, if you simply must have a flawless diamond, then go for it! But in our humble opinion, clarity shouldn’t be at the top of your MVCs (most valuable Cs) list. Flawless clarity doesn’t mean you’re getting a bigger, more sparkly diamond. So we say keep cut, color, and carat—all of which you can see—prioritized and you’ll get more bang for your buck.

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STILL UNSURE?

Check out our diamond search where you can view 360-degree images of more than 10,000 diamonds and don’t forget to zoom out (because size can be deceiving), or book an appointment at our New York salon to view certified lab-grown and natural diamonds in person. 

Not finding what you’re looking for? Email us with what you’re looking for at hello@frankdarling.com. We’ll curate a list of 5-7 exclusive stones that are just right for you.