A diamond’s clarity refers to the amount of natural imperfections, known as inclusions, present in the interior of the diamond. The GIA system grades clarity based on the number, size, and location of these inclusions in relation to their visibility with the unaided eye. Shiny-rock reality check? Inclusions occur in almost every diamond on the market (they are created under years of pressure and heat, after all). Though most inclusions tend to be microscopic, some diamonds with grades nearing the lower half of the scale can have inclusions visible to the naked eye. Clarity ranges from Flawless and Internally Flawless (F and IF) to Included (I3), but a stone doesn’t have to be considered Flawless to look inclusion-free. Your perfect diamond could be Very Slightly Included (VS2) or Slightly Included (SI1) and still appear beautiful.
When considering clarity, Gottlieb warns against falling into the “Flawless” trap. “I always advise buyers to choose an ‘eye clean’ stone, which means that, to the naked eye, you cannot see any imperfections. These stones usually fall in the VS1, VS2, SI1 or SI2 range. One should also always keep in mind that depending on the location of an inclusion, once the diamond is mounted in a ring, it is very possible that any imperfection will be hidden by the setting.”
In addition, this component will matter more (or less) based on the kind of cut you choose. “Clarity is the first place you can compromise on a brilliant-cut stone (like a round diamond with multiple angles) because the faceting hides most imperfections very well.” All you’ll see is shine, shine and more shine. “That said, with a step-cut stone (like an emerald diamond with square angles that sit parallel to each other), clarity should be a top priority.” Either way, “no two stones will be exactly alike, so finding the right one for you is key.” Striking a balance between, cut, color and clarity will help you stay in line and on budget for your fourth C goals: carat weight.